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Steve Wozniak Co-Founds Blockchain-Based Energy Saving Firm in Malta

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of American tech giant Apple, has invested in a new blockchain-based company headquartered in Malta. Wozniak is now the co-founder of energy efficiency company Efforce, according to a report by Maltese news daily The Malta Independent on July 18.

Wozniak co-founded the company alongside Jacopo Visetti, who — according to his LinkedIn profile — works in the renewable energy and environment sector. According to this page, Visetti co-founded Efforce in January, 2018 — approximately one year and seven months ago. 

According Efforce’s LinkedIn page, the company provides the first blockchain-based platform focused on investing in energy efficiency, with its stated goal “to be recognized as the first and main platform in the world for tokenized energy savings.”

As per the report, Wozniak recently spoke about Efforce at the pre-launch for the Delta Summit, which is a blockchain conference held in Malta. 

Wozniak reportedly spoke about how he thinks blockchain will be a great boon to decreasing the public’s environmental impact without requiring people to change their habits. Wozniak also spoke on the local government’s pro-blockchain attitude as key to Efforce’s decision to launch in Malta.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Wozniak also co-founded a blockchain investment project in October 2018. He founded the venture capital fund EQUI Global to support investments in blockchain solutions.

BTC Price Reclaims $10K After US Lawmaker Says Bitcoin Can’t Be Killed

Bitcoin (BTC) has retaken $10,000 today following a moderately volatile month, according to data provided by Coin360.

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Bitcoin starting its parabolic advance in April which culminated in retaking the 5-figure mark in June for the first time since March 2018. At the time, BTC was on a slow-and-steady bull run that peaked just shy of $14,000 on June 26.

Since then, BTC has moved around a decent amount, dipping below $10,000 on July 2, retaking $13,000 on July 10, and slumping below $10,000 again on July 16.

Some analysts linked this week’s correction to technical reasons alongside the Libra hearings on Capitol Hill. Additionally, recent remarks from United States (U.S.) Secretary Treasury Steven Mnuchin who echoed president Donald Trump’s “not a fan of Bitcoin” comments could have also played a role. 

But the ongoing scrutiny of Facebook’s Libra project in Washington D.C. appears to be educating lawmakers about the key differences between Bitcoin and other so-called “cryptocurrencies.”

As reported by Cointelegraph, Blockstream chief strategy officer Samson Mow suggested that Facebook should have simply offered a BTC service instead of foraying into a new cryptocurrency with Libra. Mow remarked:

“Once Libra is compliant with every jurisdiction, it will just be a more complex PayPal governed by an association. Should’ve just used Bitcoin.”

U.S. representative says ‘there’s no capacity to kill bitcoin’

Meanwhile, U.S. representative Patrick McHenry said that he believes Bitcoin (BTC) can not be killed in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on July 17.

During the interview — when he was asked whether he believes politicians will allow cryptocurrencies to thrive — McHenry said:

“I think there’s no capacity to kill Bitcoin. Even the Chinese, with their firewall and their extreme intervention in their society could not kill Bitcoin.”

McHenry also pointed out that newer cryptocurrencies, backed by startups or corporations, are trying to replicate the success of Bitcoin’s decentralized, open-access network. He concluded:

“The essence of Bitcoin is what Libra and Facebook, and corporates are trying to mimic.”

As Cointelegraph reported, the United States’ Senate Banking Committee raised a wave skepticism over Facebook’s crypto project Libra during the first day of testimony on July 16. 

Ocasio-Cortez Criticizes Corporate-Controlled Money in House’s Libra Hearing

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addressed the control of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency in today’s United States House Committee on Financial Services hearing.

As per a recording of the event, provided by C-Span on July 17, Ocasio-Cortez addressed Calibra wallet CEO David Marcus, asking, “[Facebook] wants to establish a currency and act through its wallet as — at minimum — a payment processor. Why should these activities be consolidated under one corporation?”

Regarding the membership of the Libra Association, Ocasio-Cortez asked, “Were they [the members] democratically elected?” After Marcus answered that it was not, but was governed by membership standards, Ocasio-Cortez summed up Libra as “a currency controlled by an undemocratically-selected coalition of largely massive corporations.” 

From the issue of corporate control, the representative pivoted to an issue of monetary policy saying:

“You stated yesterday in front of the Senate Committee that you would be open to accepting 100% of your pay in Libra. In the history of this country, there is a term for being paid in a corporate-controlled currency … It’s called ‘scrip.’ The idea that your pay could be controlled by a corporation instead of a sovereign government. Do you think that there is any risk here? We’ve seen from scrip, to the issues with how Facebook handled our elections, we’re seeing a destabilizing in our public goods.”

Company scrip has been illegal as a form of payment in the U.S. for almost a century, as they were discluded from counting as “proper mediums of payments” with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. 

Ocasio-Cortez also questioned Marcus’ view on whether Libra, as well as currency in general, should be a public good. Marcus said that “sovereign currency should remain sovereign,” and stated it was not his place to determine whether Libra should be a public good.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon claimed that Libra will not be a threat to the financial giant in the foreseeable future.

Rep. Waters Opens Libra Hearing With Indictment of Facebook’s Past Mistakes

Today, lawmakers on the United States House of Representatives Financial Services Committee are meeting to discuss the possible effects of Facebook’s proposed Libra cryptocurrency project on the financial system. 

As a Cointelegraph respondent reports on July 17, committee chair Rep. Maxine Waters has opened the hearing with an indictment of Facebook’s past behavior. In her statement, Waters said that there was a, “demonstrated pattern of failing to keep consumer data private on a scale similar to Equifax.”

Waters also stated that Facebook, “allowed malicious Russian state actors to purchase and target ads,” which purportedly influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

Waters also emphasized that the committee will be discussing the “Keep Big Tech Out of Finance Act.” A draft of the bill recently surfaced, the goal of which would prevent large tech companies like Facebook from creating their own digital assets. The draft reads:

“A large platform utility may not establish, maintain, or operate a digital asset that is intended to be widely used as medium of exchange, unit of account, store of value, or any other similar function, as defined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.” 

Today’s hearing in the House of Representatives follows one in the Senate, wherein lawmakers grilled Facebook’s David Marcus regarding Libra. Amid questions of safety, compliance and consumer protection, Marcus stressed that the Libra project would seek proper approval and registrations with the relevant authorities, including the United States Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Bitcoin Dips Below $10,000 for the Second Time in July

The Bitcoin (BTC) price has dipped below the $10,000 price mark on July 16, while all top 20 coins by market cap are seeing significant losses.

Market visualization from Coin360

Market visualization from Coin360

Bitcoin has dipped below $10,000 threshold for the second time this month after the biggest cryptocurrency broke a multi-month high above $13,700 on June 26. After Bitcoin attempted another recovery to reach nearly $11,000 yesterday, the major coin has dropped to $9,616 at press time, down 8.22% over the past 24 hours. The biggest cryptocurrency is down more than 22% over the past 7 days.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin’s dominance on crypto markets has continued to surge, breaking new highs since April 2017. Over the past 24 hours, Bitcoin dominance increased by around 0.5% to reach 66.6% for the first time since mid-April 2019, according to CoinMarketCap.

Bitcoin 30-day price chart

Bitcoin 30-day price chart. Source: Coin360

Out of the top 20 coins by market cap, EOS has seen the biggest losses over the past 24 hours to press time, down more than 17% to trade at $3.6.

Ethereum (ETH), the top altcoin, has dipped below $200 earlier on the day for the first time since May 2019. At press time, ETH is down about 14% to trade at $201, according to Coin360

Total market cap dropped to as low as $261 billion at press time from $285 billion in the beginning of the day.

Bitcoin failed to hold the $10,000 support amid the hearing on Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project with the Banking Committee of the United States Senate.

In his opening remarks to the hearing, Senator Sherrod Brown expressed concerns over a potential threat of adopting a global cryptocurrency developed and controlled by Facebook, claiming that Facebook is “dangerous.” On the other hand, David Marcus, Facebook’s Head of Calibra, warned that if the United States fails to act on the issue, the world will eventually see another crypto initiative that would be controlled by someone else. He said

“If our country fails to act, we could soon see a digital currency controlled by others whose values differ radically from ours.”

Yesterday, American entrepreneur and crypto advocate John McAfee doubled down his prediction that Bitcoin will reach $1 million by 2020, despite the sinking price.

Keep track of top crypto markets in real time here

US Senators Grill Facebook on Privacy, Trust Issues in Libra Hearing

At the ongoing hearing on Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project with the Banking Committee of the United States Senate, lawmakers are interrogating Facebook on privacy and trust concerns. As a Cointelegraph correspondent reports on July 16, David Marcus, head of Facebook’s crypto wallet Calibra, is stressing the project’s trust and regulatory compliance, while some senators are not convinced.

Senator Jon Tester asked about Libra’s ability to make assurances against fraudulent purchases or loss of funds, along the line of credit cards or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Marcus responded that “we will do our best to resolve those types of issues and claims as quickly as possible.” Tester stated that “it is critical that that is resolved before it goes live.”

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio took a more critical stance towards the project, asking “Do you really think people should trust Facebook with their hard-earned money?” Marcus said that Facebook “will have no special privilege,” at which point Brown interrupted: “Mr. Marcus, you know better than that.”

Brown also asked Marcus if there is anything elected leaders can say that will convince Marcus and Facebook that the company should not launch Libra. Marcus responded, “If our country fails to act, we could soon see a digital currency controlled by others whose values differ radically from ours.”

When the Committee chair Mike Crapo asked Marcus why the Libra Corporation had chosen to register in Switzerland, Marcus assured the committee that they would also register with U.S. regulators. Marcus also said that social and financial data would be entirely separate on the Calibra Network, adding that “to earn people’s trust, we will have to have the highest standards in terms of privacy.”

Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren — who is known as a cryptocurrency critic — asked about Facebook’s willingness to allow data portability:

“If a Facebook user wishes to use a wallet other than Calibra, will you make it easy to allow the export of other data?”

In response, Marcus said, “Absolutely, Senator.” Warner followed up by asking for the same commitment for messaging apps Whatsapp and Messenger, on which Marcus hedged.

Sen. Warren concluded her remarks by saying “What Facebook’s been really good at is figuring out how to monetize people’s personal data […] I am not reassured by your statement that you can not see any reason right now why there would not be any data sharing between these platforms.”

The hearing on Libra with the U.S. House Financial Services Committee is scheduled for July 17, 2019. In a statement on the stablecoin, Committee chairwoman Rep. Maxine Waters commented on the lack of uniform regulation in the cryptocurrency market and said that regulators should view Facebook’s plans for Libra “as a wake-up call to get serious about the privacy and national security concerns, cybersecurity risks, and trading risks that are posed by cryptocurrencies.”

US Treasury Secretary Shares Trump’s Concerns on Crypto, Stresses Compliance

United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin shares President Donald Trump’s concerns on the use of cryptocurrency to finance illicit activity, and stresses the role of enforcing FinCEN regulations with respect to crypto-dealing organizations. Mnuchin made his remarks at a press conference on July 15.

Mnuchin called the use of cryptocurrencies to fund illicit activity a national security issue, saying that billions of dollars have been used for this purpose:

“Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have been exploited to support billions of dollars of illicit activity, like cybercrime, tax evasion, extortion, randomware, illicit drugs, human trafficking … This is indeed a national security issue.”

In response to a question from the press, Mnuchin further commented on the ostensible role of crypto as a means to finance crime, saying:

“I think to a large extent, these cryptocurrencies have been dominated by illicit activities and speculation.”

Secretary Mnuchin also echoed the Presidents’ latest Twitter posts on cryptocurrencies, saying: “As the President has said: ‘Bitcoin is highly volatile and based on thin air’” and “Treasury takes very seriously the role of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency.”

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, President Trump tweeted out a series of anti-crypto and anti-Bitcoin remarks on July 12, following his “Social Media Summit” for conservative personalities. Trump remarked that the value of crypto is “highly volatile and based on thin air” and that they can “facilitate unlawful behavior.”

According to Mnuchin, the Treasury has stressed — to Facebook and Bitcoin (BTC) users among others — that digital financial services are bound by the same Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism policies as traditional institutions such as banks.

Additionally, he said that any crypto transmitters must comply with the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and register with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN): a bureau of the Treasury. FinCEN is the federal regulator that implements the BSA in practice, and has authority over all money service transmitters — including cryptocurrency projects such as Libra.

Mnuchin also established the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s Working Group on Digital Assets, which reportedly includes key regulatory players such as the SEC, CFTC, and the Fed in addition to FinCEN. The idea of this group is to mitigate purported regulatory risks associated with cryptocurrencies.

Trump Banning Bitcoin Is Feasible But Highly Unlikely, Says Economist

United States president Donald Trump would cause a Bitcoin (BTC) price crash if he banned it, but the law would likely prevent him, economist and trader Alex Krueger concluded on Twitter July 15.

Trump, who announced his distaste for cryptocurrency in general last week, initially failed to impact market sentiment. A subsequent breakdown over the weekend sent Bitcoin below $10,000.

Publishing a dedicated thread on the chances of Trump banning the cryptocurrency, Krueger argued he could theoretically have some success.

By targeting entry and exit points for retail and institutional investors, the president would turn Bitcoin into an isolated, more illiquid asset as it is used by lay consumers. 

“Trump could also go after fiat onramps, by simply forbidding banks to service crypto exchanges, or by requiring banks to not service exchanges unless conditions XYZ are fulfilled (and make that practically impossible),” Krueger summarized.

In reality, however, Trump would need to convince Congress of the need to ban Bitcoin, and lawmakers could overturn his demands, even if they occurred via an executive order or similar emergency measures.

A ban is thus feasible but the probability of it becoming law is extremely low, Krueger concluded. 

His comments came several days after mainstream media suggested Trump had inadvertently made Bitcoin a campaign issue for the upcoming 2020 presidential elections. 

As Forbes noted, competing hopefuls, notably Andrew Yang, have long held an opposing view — that Bitcoin is in fact something to be embraced at national policy level.

Hacked Bitpoint Exchange Finds $2.3M in Stolen Crypto

Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Bitpoint has discovered over 250 million yen ($2.3 million) in cryptocurrency — part of a $32 million sum that was stolen last week, local English language daily The Mainichi reports on July 14.

According to The Mainchi, Bitpoint found the stolen cryptocurrency on overseas exchanges that were using a trading system provided by Bitpoint Japan. Bitpoint told The Mainchi that the recent discovery brings the total sum of lost founds down from 3.5 billion yen ($32 million) to 3.02 billion yen ($28 million).

The exchange was initially hacked on July 12. 2.5 billion yen ($23 million) of stolen funds belonged to customers while 1 billion ($9.2 million) belonged to the exchange. Hackers stole Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), Ether (ETH) and XRP from the exchange’s hot wallets.

Bitpoint suspended all services following the hack, while the exchange’s parent firm Remixpoint Inc. shed 19% following the theft. Remixpoint went untraded in Tokyo following the attack due to a reported glut of sell orders.

The recent incident involving Bitpoint follows a record-breaking hack of Japanese exchange Coincheck in January 2018, wherein $534 million of NEM tokens were stolen from Coincheck’s low-security hot wallet.

Bitpoint was one of several exchanges to receive a business improvement order from Japan’s finance watchdog, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), in June of last year. One of the FSA’s main concerns was the exchanges’ compliance with Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer requirements.

The agency also expressed concerns that customer funds were not being kept sufficiently separate from those of the exchanges.

Drafted “Keep Big Tech out of Finance” Act Surfaces Days Before Libra Hearings

A drafted bill entitled “Keep Big Tech out of Finance” has surfaced online, allegedly deriving from within the United States House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. The document’s metadata dates it July 12.

The bill’s provenance is unconfirmed, but crypto news site The Block quotes an inside source as saying it is with the Financial Services Committee. 

The document reads: 

“A large platform utility may not establish, maintain, or operate a digital asset that is intended to be widely used as medium of exchange, unit of account, store of value, or any other similar function, as defined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.” 

The alleged bill goes on to define “a large platform utility” as a tech company that earns annual global revenues in excess of $25 billion. 

Given that Libra is scheduled for hearings before the Senate Banking Committee on July 16 and with the House Financial Services Committee on July 17, this bill seems clearly designed to preempt congressional authority to take decisive action on the issue of Libra.

Libra has attracted commentary and criticism from many corners. Chair of the Financial Services Committee Maxine Waters initiated the congressional hearings on Libra on June 18 by calling for a moratorium on the project. As Cointelegraph reported at the time, Representative Waters wrote: 

 “Given the company’s troubled past, I am requesting that Facebook agree to a moratorium on any movement forward on developing a cryptocurrency until Congress and regulators have the opportunity to examine these issues and take action” 

The night of July 11, US President Donald Trump tweeted similar concerns about the lawfulness of crypto usage, expressing opposition to Libra, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as a whole, instead promoting the continued dominance of the US Dollar.

Brazilian State Launches Blockchain Platform for Government Contract Bids

In Brazil, the state of Bahia has launched a blockchain application to track the process of public bidding on government contracts, according to a report by Cointelegraph Brazil on July 12.

The blockchain-based solution, called Online Bid Solution (SOL) was reportedly developed by Cayenne Technology and Design. Bids will reportedly be completely transparent and secure due with the application of blockchain tech.

According to Bahia government, the intended beneficiaries of SOL appear to be the Brazilian agriculture industry. The solution is designed to help connect agriculture organizations in Bahia with suppliers and workers throughout Brazil, as well as provide transparency on the contract bidding process.The state of Bahia said that there are over 1,000 organizations projected to use SOL:

“The application, already available in the Play Store and the Apple Store, will be used by about 1,100 agricultural associations and cooperatives in the states of Bahia and Rio Grande do Norte, under the Bahia Productive and Governo Cidadão, financed through a loan agreement between the state governments and the World Bank.”

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, the Brazilian coffee farming cooperative Minasul announced plans to issue a blockchain token for coffee farmers. Farmers will reportedly be able to earn tokens as a reward for harvesting coffee beans, and use the proceeds to purchase a variety of goods. This is purportedly a useful economic system for the farmers, since this method of financing does not require registration in a notary’s office.

Ethereum-Based Augur Enhancement App Veil Closes Up Shop

The Ethereum-based predictions platform Veil is shutting down, according to an official Medium post on July 11.

As of July 11, no new markets will be added to the platform. Trading will be disabled entirely on July 24. Veil co-founder Paul Fletcher-Hill recommended that users redeem open positions, withdraw positions from active markets, and withdraw Veil Ether and convert it to Ether. 

Veil was a type of extension to the Ethereum-based predictions market Augur. Augur is a predictions market — that still exists — that uses smart contracts to let users create and bet on the outcome of any event with the cryptocurrency Ether. 

For instance, the top three bets listed on the Augur market, at press time, are “Will Novak Djokovic be the 2019 Wimbledon Men’s Singles winner?,” “Who will Win the The First Democratic Primary Debate?,” and “Will Serena Williams be the 2019 Wimbledon Women’s Singles winner?”

In April, Augur also added the option to use the stablecoin by MakerDAO, DAI, on its platform.

According to its website, Veil was intended to “bring Augur mainstream” and improve user experience by speeding up its transaction processes. Veil purportedly let users trade on the Augur marketplace faster via the 0x protocol, and provided instant settlement by allowing users to sell their shares to Veil before native finalization of Augur transactions on the blockchain.

In discussing the reasons Veil did not meet its success goals,  Fletcher-Hill noted a number of issues, including that the platform may not have been friendly enough to crypto novices:

“We didn’t offer a good onboarding experience. Crypto as a user base is still early, and we didn’t make it easy enough for users without crypto or a wallet to get started.”

Some other areas of concern he noted include not being decentralized, not being regulated, and perhaps trying to offer too many options as a broad-scale predictions market. Fletcher-Hill wrote:

“ultimately we failed to find a good fit between what we were building and the market as it exists today. … But today the community of users is small, and we think there are higher impact products and services we can build for the immediate future.”

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Augur came under fire from Reddit and major crypto exchange Binance due to having an apparent design flaw. The flaw apparently allows users to run scams, of sorts, by issuing predictions with unclear or contradictory conditions for resolution.

Binance also said that low liquidity, barebones functionality, complex mechanics, and an unclear approach to governance were additional issues it saw with Augur.