Community

Top 5 Cryptos This Week (Jan 26): HEDG, DASH, BSV, ETC, XTZ

The coronavirus outbreak that started in China has gradually spread to a number of countries across the world. This is creating panic among investors as the death toll continues to rise.

As a result, global equity markets and crude tumbled last week. Though cryptocurrencies also gave up some ground, they are currently attempting a relief rally and most major cryptocurrencies are trading in the green.

Previously, such unforeseen events did not offer large investors a cost-effective way to hedge their crypto portfolio. However, with the recent launch of Bitcoin options, institutional investors can now protect their portfolios using various options strategies. These services by reputed firms are likely to give confidence to the institutional investors to take the plunge into the crypto space.

Crypto market data weekly view. Source: Coin360

Crypto market data weekly view. Source: Coin360

The United Kingdom’s legendary Lancashire Cricket Club will use a blockchain-powered mobile tickets platform to sell tickets for all its domestic and international matches. By using the blockchain-based platform, the club aims to track ticket distribution and also get rid of fake tickets. Though these are baby steps, it shows how blockchain technology can be used to find new solutions to old problems.

After the initial fall due to coronavirus, can cryptocurrencies stage a comeback and will the top performers of the past seven days lead from the front? Let’s analyze the charts to find out.

HEDG/USD

Hedge Trade (HEDG) is the top performer of the past seven days with a rise of about 13%. This is relatively a new cryptocurrency but it has quickly climbed the ladder and is trying to break into the list of top-20 cryptocurrencies in terms of market capitalization.

HEDG USD daily chart. Source: Tradingview

HEDG USD daily chart. Source: Tradingview

The HEDG/USD pair hasn’t been around for long. Hence, we have used the daily chart to analyze it. The pair remained stuck in a range from late August to early December of last year. Thereafter, it broke out of the range on Dec. 5 and has not looked back since.

From an intraday low of $0.68654876 on Dec. 5, the pair rallied to a lifetime high of $2.67010910 on Jan. 24, a rise of 288.91% within a short period. This shows that the pair is backed by strong momentum.

Both moving averages are sloping up and the RSI is close to the overbought zone. The pair has not dipped below the 20-day EMA since Dec. 5, which shows that the bulls have the upper hand.

If the bulls can scale above $2.67010910, a rally to $3 is possible. Conversely, if the bears sink the price below the 20-day EMA, a drop to the 50-day SMA is likely.

DASH/USD

This is the third consecutive week that Dash (DASH) has been a top performer with a gain of about 10% in the past seven days. Let’s study its chart to see if the momentum can carry it higher.

DASH USD weekly chart. Source: Tradingview​​​​​​​

DASH USD weekly chart. Source: Tradingview

The pullback in the DASH/USD pair from the recent highs of $142.3419 was shallow as the bulls purchased the dip close to $90.2989, which is the 50% Fibonacci retracement level of the recent rally. This is a positive sign as it shows that buyers are keen to accumulate at lower levels.

However, we do not expect the pair to resume its up move in a hurry. We anticipate the price to remain range-bound for a few more weeks and digest the recent gains before resuming its up move.

On the upside, a breakout of $142.3419 is likely to attract buyers. Above this level, a rally to $180 is possible. Our bullish view will be invalidated if the bears sink the price below the $90.2989 to $77.7262 support zone.

BSV/USD

Bitcoin SV (BSV) has again found a place among the top performers. This is the fifth successive week that the altcoin has made the list, which shows that it continues to be favored by the bulls.

The price action in BSV has been volatile in the past few weeks as the market participants digested the various news reports on the legal case between Craig Wright and the estate of his former business partner Dave Kleiman.

As a number of questions regarding the court case still remain unanswered, volatility is likely to remain high, albeit in a smaller range. While it is difficult to predict the news flow, let’s study the chart to analyze the likely direction of the next move.

BSV USD daily chart. Source: Tradingview​​​​​​​

BSV USD daily chart. Source: Tradingview

After the hugely volatile price action in the week before, the past seven days saw a drop in volatility. The pair is likely to remain range-bound between $337.80 and $236 for the next few weeks. After the sharp up move of the past few weeks, we anticipate the BSV/USD pair to digest the gains.

If the bulls push the price above $337.80, the price might rise to $400 and above it to the lifetime highs.

Conversely, if the price dips below $236, it is likely to attract further selling by the traders who are stuck at higher levels. There is minor support at $222.950, which is the 61.8% Fibonacci retracement level of the recent rally, but if this support cracks, the decline can extend to $158.852.

ETC/USD

Ethereum Classic (ETC) rallied roughly 4% in the past seven days. On Jan. 22, The ETC Cooperative announced that Grayscale Investments, the world’s largest digital currency asset manager, will continue to donate up to one-third of Grayscale Ethereum Classic Trust’s annual fees to ETC Cooperative. The funding will help support the growth and development of the Ethereum Classic network.

ETC USD daily chart. Source: Tradingview

ETC USD daily chart. Source: Tradingview

The pullback from the recent highs of $12.040 found support close to $8 level, which is a positive sign. This shows that the buyers are keen to get in at lower levels. We expect the ETC/USD pair to consolidate near the top of the $10 to $3.40 range.

If the pair stays between $8 and $10, it will increase the possibility of an upward breakout. We anticipate a new uptrend to start on a close (UTC time) above $10. There is a minor resistance at $12.04, above which a move to $16.60 is possible.

Contrary to our assumption, if the price slips below $8, it is likely to weaken further and dip to the next support at $6. Such a move will keep the pair range-bound for a few more weeks.

XTZ/USD

Tezos (XTZ) has found a place among the top performers with a gain of about 4% in the past seven days. Though there has been no specific event that could be attributed to the rise, let’s analyze its chart to see if we spot any bullish setups.

XTZ USD daily chart. Source: Tradingview​​​​​​​

XTZ USD daily chart. Source: Tradingview

The XTZ/USD pair is range-bound between $1.65 and $0.82 for the past few months. This shows that the bulls buy when the price dips to the support of the range and exit their positions close to the highs.

For the past four weeks, the bulls have been attempting to keep the price above the 20-week EMA. Though successful, they have not been able to achieve a meaningful bounce, which shows a lack of buyers at higher levels.

If the price does not pick up momentum quickly and move towards $1.85, the bears will attempt to break below the moving averages. If successful, a drop to $0.82 is possible. The pair will start a new uptrend after it breaks above the $1.65-$1.85 resistance zone. On the other hand, a break below $0.82 will be a huge negative.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.

The market data is provided by the HitBTC exchange.

Litecoin Creator Proposes Miners Voluntarily Donate 1% for Development

Litecoin (LTC) founder Charlie Lee proposed mining pool donations as a new funding method for cryptocurrency development.  

“I think a better way to fund development is mining pools voluntarily donate a portion of the block reward,” Lee said in a tweet on Jan. 24, adding:

“How about Litecoin pools donate 1% (0.125 LTC) of block rewards to the @LTCFoundation? If every miner/pool does this, it amounts to about $1.5MM donation per year!”

With 1% donated on a consistent basis, Lee’s suggested solution would provide enough funding for Litecoin permanently going forward, Lee confirmed to Cointelegraph.

He explained:

“At current LTC price, 1% of block rewards is about 7x Litecoin Foundation’s yearly expenses. Even if a small percent of miners are generous enough to donate, the foundation would be able to put it to good use by funding developers to work on Litecoin Core, Mimble Wimble, LiteWallet, LN wallet, hosting the yearly Litecoin Summit, and pushing for adoption of Litecoin by merchants and users.”

Lee also confirmed such donations are voluntary, adding, “It wouldn’t be right if it wasn’t voluntary.” 

Funding issues

Garnering enough capital to run and operate a business can be difficult. The situation becomes more complicated when the business or project aims for decentralization. 

Rumors circulated in late 2019 regarding the Litecoin Foundation’s potential bankruptcy, which Lee denied in an Oct. 13 tweet. “Don’t listen to stupid fud and lies,” Lee said. “We have enough money to last 2 years.”

Lee’s 1% voluntary donation proposal comes after Bitcoin Cash (BCH) proponents Roger Ver and Jihan Wu suggested an “infrastructure funding plan,” requiring miners to pay 12.5% of block rewards to an operation in Hong Kong, Cointelegraph reported on Jan. 24. 

New concepts

In response to 51% attack concerns, Dogecoin merged its mining with Litecoin in 2014, enabling simultaneous mining of the two assets. Notably, this joint Litecoin and Dogecoin mining impacts Lee’s new mining pool donation concept. 

“Currently with merged mining of Dogecoin and other Scrypt coins, miners make 105%+ of block rewards,” Lee noted in a second tweet. “So 1% is a reasonably small amount to give back towards funding a public good.” 

Finally, Lee also toyed with the idea of miners choosing which Litecoin project their funds will go toward, asking the community for their opinions on his ideas as a whole.

“It’s important that miners can choose to support other Litecoin organizations as well,” he told Cointelegraph. “Miners should donate to the organizations that want to help out.”

Ripple CEO Hints at IPO, Says More Crypto Firms Will Go Public in 2020

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse predicts that initial public offerings (IPOs) will become more prevalent in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space in 2020.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday, Jan. 23, Garlinghouse reportedly hinted that Ripple would itself be one of those firms to seek a public flotation:

“In the next 12 months, you’ll see IPOs in the crypto/blockchain space. We’re not going to be the first and we’re not going to be the last, but I expect us to be on the leading side… it’s a natural evolution for our company.”

“Natural evolution”

An IPO refers to the process of offering the shares of a private corporation to the public in a new stock issuance. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as “going public,” or as “floating” corporate shares to the wider market.

The cryptocurrency industry has to date focused its energies on initial coin offerings (ICO), which evolved as an alternative issuance model for still-young, innovative firms that spared them many of the cumbersome legal and regulatory processes involved in a traditional IPO.

Yet as the space matures — and arguably, in the wake of the post-boom ICO rout, which saw many offerings exposed as either outright fraudulent or simply unsuccessful — some firms are now seeking to build confidence with mainstream investors by way of public listings on traditional stock exchanges, with all of the red tape and financial disclosures that implies.

This is a trend that Garlinghouse appears to believe will consolidate itself in the near future, even as some of the industry’s largest players have thus far struggled to meet the stringent requirements of an IPO. 

As an alternative to adopting a traditional flotation model, major crypto firms such as Blockstack have instead chosen to pursue compliant token sales, with the approval of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

Silvergate Bank — a California-based commercial bank focused on digital currency businesses — went public with an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange in Nov. 2019.

Facebook and Calibra’s David Marcus: The Problem of Global Unbanked Is “Unacceptable”

At the World Economic Forum panel discussing digital currencies, the conversation topics included Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). Calibra’s David Marcus highlighted that regardless of the nature of digital currency, these discussions are key to innovate cross-border payments and solve the issue of the unbanked.

Retail CBDCs for consumer access

Benoît Coeuré, head of the Bank of International Settlements’ Innovation Hub, revealed that as many as 80 percent of worldwide central banks are interested in CBDCs, primarily of the retail variety.

Marcus explained the difference between “retail” and “wholesale” CBDCs:

“Central banks could distribute the CBDCs in two possible ways. One is wholesale CBDCs, so through existing banks and the banking system, or retail going straight to consumers.”

However, Marcus argued that wholesale CBDCs make little sense in the context of the existing ecosystem, as citizens would be a further step removed and central banks themselves would not benefit from the change. He elaborated:

“The big question is, if you’re actually targeting wholesale distribution to banks, then what problem are you solving? You could probably have some efficiency gains, but banks currently have windows. The Fed, the ECB, they’re quite functional.”

He raised further concerns as to whether banks are technologically equipped to handle retail CBDCs, and the issues they would give to retail banks. He concluded by noting that there are “interesting hybrid models” whose development could solve some of the key issues outlined.

Efficient cross-border payments

As a proponent of a global currency not backed by specific states, Marcus went on to elaborate on the ultimate purpose of digital currencies:

“When we started this journey almost six months ago, the whole idea was not around a certain way of doing things, but more around [coming] together and [trying] to figure out how we solve a problem that is unacceptable — 1.7 billion people who are currently unbanked, another billion underserved.”

He pointed out the progress seen in telecommunications, where expensive international calls were replaced by internet-based communication apps. Marcus then continued:

“The same hasn’t happened with money. Some of the networks are 50 years old, the web is 30 years old. We still don’t have an easy, cheap, efficient way for people to have access to digital money and move it around. Personally I’m really excited that we’re having all these conversations now.”

Peter Schiff Bungled Wallet Password, Solving ‘Bitcoin Mystery’

Famous crypto skeptic and gold bug Peter Schiff said that his “Bitcoin mystery” is solved after realizing that he mistook the pin of his Bitcoin (BTC) wallet for the password.

In a tweet on Jan. 22, Schiff explained that he knows the pin of his wallet, but after the app was updated, he was logged out and he could not access his funds anymore. He also admitted that he never wrote down his seed phrase:

“My #Bitcoin mystery is solved. I mistook my pin for my password. When Blockchain updated their app I got logged out. I [tried] logging back in using my pin, which was the only ‘password’ I had ever known or used. I also never had a copy of my seed phrase. Honest but costly mistake!”

Many in the crypto community have criticized Schiff for making what they perceived as a rookie mistake. When Schiff initially announced that he lost the funds, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said, “I can’t believe I am about to say this, but maybe “stay in fiat”?

One Twitter user stated today that Schiff “should be the last person educating/warning people about Bitcoin. [He hasn’t] taken the time to learn even the most basic things about it!” Schiff, for his part, has defended himself, explaining:

“The most basic thing about Bitcoin is that it’s not money. It will not succeed as either a medium of exchange or a store of value. What the episode does show is how easy it is to lose your Bitcoin if you are confused about how wallets work.”

Schiff announced that he lost his Bitcoin on Jan. 19, at first convinced that his wallet was corrupted and that this was the reason why he lost access to his funds, stating, “I knew owning Bitcoin was a bad idea, I just never realized it was this bad!”

User-friendliness is important for adoption

The incident has attracted the cryptocurrency community’s attention to how the lack of user-friendliness in the ecosystem can result in lost keys and consequently, lost funds.

Zhao suggested his solution, saying that for most, keeping crypto assets on an exchange is safer than keeping the keys themselves.

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin also commented on the issue, saying that developers “can and should create better wallet tech to make security easier.” He then suggested turning to social recovery as a solution to the problem.

As Cointelegraph recently explained in an in-depth article dedicated to crypto asset recovery methods, the concept behind social recovery is to grant friends, family or even companies the right to restore access to a certain account.

Research: Ether Was the Cryptocurrency Most Correlated to Other Coins in 2019

Recent research shows that Ether (ETH) was the cryptocurrency most correlated to the rest of the crypto market in 2019.

In a report published on Jan. 22, the research arm of major cryptocurrency exchange Binance suggests that throughout 2019, ETH had an average correlation coefficient of 0.69. The paper, which compared correlation data of 20 top cryptocurrencies, reads:

“Ether (ETH) is the highest correlated asset. With an average correlation coefficient of 0.69 throughout 2019, it is consistently among the most correlated assets. The coefficient started at 0.69 in Q1 and rose to 0.72 in Q4 (Q2: 0.65; Q3: 0.74).”

Per the report, Ether was much less correlated in the first half of 2019 and became the most correlated in the second half. Interestingly, the paper points out that “programmable blockchains” such as Ethereum, NEO and EOS often showed higher correlations with each other than with non-programmable assets.

USD price correlation in the crypto market

Other crypto assets that have shown a high correlation with the rest of the market include Cardano (ADA), EOS, Litecoin (LTC), XRP and Binance Coin (BNB). Furthermore, the researchers observed that correlation is typically higher among cryptocurrencies with the highest market caps.

Comparison of quarterly average correlation coefficients for the five most correlated assets. Source: Binance

Comparison of quarterly average correlation coefficients for the five most correlated assets. Source: Binance

The assets with the lowest correlation to the rest of the market, on the other hand, are Cosmos (ATOM), with a correlation of 0.31, followed by Chainlink (LINK) and Tezos (XTZ) with respective coefficients of 0.32, 0.4. Overall, the median correlation between large cryptocurrencies slightly decreased over the last quarter of 2019

Binance’s effect on the crypto market

Another interesting phenomenon pointed out by the researchers is the “Binance Effect,” which refers to the fact that cryptos listed on Binance displayed higher correlations than with the assets not present on the exchange. The firm’s research also claims that, among the top ten cryptocurrencies by market cap, its own crypto asset Binance Coin is the one that has seen the highest returns.

Comparison of quarterly price changes for the ten largest assets by market cap. Source: Binance

Comparison of quarterly price changes for the ten largest assets by market cap. Source: Binance

While the correlation between crypto assets has been widely observed, the correlation between Bitcoin (BTC) and traditional assets — especially gold — is still subject to debate. Nonetheless, new data suggests that BTC is less correlated to gold than many believe it to be.

In the past, some also observed that Bitcoin had an inverse correlation to the stock market. As Cointelegraph explained in a market analysis piece at the end of October 2019, at the time this trend broke.

Japanese Ex-Central Banker: Libra Spurred Us to Take CBDCs Seriously

The former head of payments and settlements at the Bank of Japan (BOJ) says Facebook’s Libra galvanized central banks globally to look seriously into digital currency issuance.

A Jan. 22 Reuters report cited remarks by Hiromi Yamaoka, who reportedly oversaw the BOJ’s research into digital currencies as part of his erstwhile role and continues to communicate closely with international central bank policymakers. 

He is presently a board member at IT consultancy firm Future Corp.

The private-public debate

As reported yesterday, the central banks of Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, European Union, Sweden and Switzerland have just announced their creation of a group together with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) to jointly study central bank digital currencies (CBDC). 

Their initiative is symptomatic of increased private-public competition in determining the future of money, Yamaoka implied:

“The latest decision is not just about sharing information. It’s also an effort to keep something like Libra in check […] Major central banks need to appeal that they, too, are making efforts to make settlement more efficient with better use of digital technology.”

While projects such as Libra up the pressure on financial institutions to lower the costs of transactions, they also raise more fundamental questions about nation states’ control over currency issuance. 

Yet Yamaoka raised concerns both about central banks potentially stifling private-sector innovation, and of the benefits of using CBDCs to enhance the effectiveness of central bank measures:

“In the world of central bankers, the idea of using CBDCs to enhance the effect of monetary policy seems to have subsided somewhat. There are increasing doubts about the effect of negative interest rates as a policy tool. If so, do you want to issue CBDCs for the sake of deploying a policy with questionable effects?”

Most immediate is the pressure on central banks to survive the race for greater convenience and diversity in global payments and settlements. 

This diversity, rather than complementing institutions’ policy goals, is instead perceived by those who keep a tight rein on the present global system — most notably the Federal Reserve — as something to be checked, not embraced:

“If you want to make monetary policy effective, you need to ensure people keep using the currency you issue.”

The Bank of Japan and blockchain

As reported, the BOJ and Project Stella at the European Central Bank (ECB) have jointly conducted research into the potential use of blockchain technology to assume a key role in tackling institutional banking challenges. At the time of the project’s close, 2017, both concluded the technology had not sufficiently matured.

In fall 2019, the governor of the Bank of Japan warned of the prospectively “huge impact” Libra could have on society and stressed that international cooperation is of paramount importance as regards its regulation.

Venezuelan Team Working on Bitcoin Mesh Network Based on Offline Radios

A Venezuelan team is developing Locha, a decentralized mesh network that doesn’t rely on the internet to transact with Bitcoin (BTC). The system, based on radio waves, was born in response to frequent electricity and internet outages in Venezuela.

Locha Mesh is an open-source project led by Randy Brito, a member of the Bitcoin Venezuela organization.

It is developing two devices, named Turpial and Harpia, that would allow anyone to connect to the Bitcoin blockchain using long-range radio waves. Turpial is the simpler version of the radio transmitter, reported to work over distances of one to two kilometers in urban areas. Harpia is a more limited radio module to use with small computers such as a Raspberry Pi.

Both devices are developed to be portable and operate on battery power. Their application is not limited to BTC — any other blockchain like Monero could be integrated, or even messaging and file transfer systems like IPFS.

Realistic alternative to the Internet

Locha Mesh devices work by providing an alternate data transfer method to the internet. 

Their primary use case is for critical situations such as in Venezuela and Iran, where infrastructure issues or government restrictions often lead to protracted shutdowns of the Internet.

But while physical inability to transact is one aspect, censorship-resistance is another. Brito elaborated in a discussion with Monero community members:

“We are making something for the situations where you don’t have Internet at all, either due to lack of infrastructure, targeted censorship or in case you want to be completed anonymous so you don’t want to expose your home/phone IP address that is linked to your identity.”

Though it will sell its own devices, Locha aims to make it possible for tech-savvy enthusiasts to recreate a mesh-compatible transmitter. The software is open-source and accessible to all.

Roadblocks to adoption

One existing weakness of the Locha Mesh proposal is that it still requires internet access at some point in the network to connect to the worldwide cryptocurrency nodes. Though even during the internet shutdown in Iran some remained connected to the worldwide web, it is unclear whether a full Locha network would remain functional.

Speaking with Cointelegraph, Brito explained that the network wouldn’t necessarily rely on nodes connected to the internet via landline. Users with satellite dishes would also be able to act as gateways and retransmit the data within the Locha mesh.

When asked whether users in crisis-stricken countries like Venezuela would be able to afford and access the device, Brito replied:

“We don’t expect it to be that high on price, our aim is to make the Turpial device as portable and affordable as possible. It will be possible to buy them from any country, in places where it cannot be shipped to we’ll have plenty of documentation so people can build their own, and maybe some individuals would like to get some of our Turpial devices into those places we may not be able to reach ourselves.”

However, the team’s progress is still slow. A production-ready device is expected to be completed by Q2 2020, after which a further delay is expected for setting up manufacturing. The team is currently seeking funding, with Brito noting that additional resources would speed up development:

“We think so. With more funding we’d be able to get to a production-ready hardware and software sooner, just as we’ve been able to get to our own hardware revisions and the needed software-firmwares with the investments and donations we’ve received throughout 2019.”

Australian Financial Regulator Could Oversee Facebook’s Calibra Wallet

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) is seeking to oversee stablecoin projects like Facebook’s controversial stablecoin Libra.

In an official proposal to the Senate published on Jan. 20, APRA submitted a possible regulatory framework dedicated to fintech and regulatory technology (regtech) covering topics ranging from digital wallets to data protection. 

The proposed framework, “is intended not only to be fit for purpose for the current financial system but also be able to accommodate future developments and technological advances, such as proposals for global stablecoin eco-systems that have been the subject of significant attention in recent months.”

Overall, APRA admits that digital wallets are an increasingly important part of the financial system thanks to the growing popularity of mobile applications and online purchases. Still, the regulator sees two distinct types of digital wallets:

“Some, but not all, digital wallets hold stored value on behalf of customers and are pre-paid facilities. Others (such as Apple Pay) hold customers’ credit/debit card details and only facilitate payments from that nominated account.”

In the paper, APRA states that it would oversee digital currency wallets that are widely used for payments and value storage, such as Libra’s corresponding Calibra wallet, while excluding wallets that are mostly used to pass payments through, such as Apple Pay. 

For wallets that actually hold the user’s value, APRA has started developing a new principles-based prudential standard to simplify the regulatory requirements for new types of fintech businesses.

Data-driven regulatory approach

The regulator also claims that its data collection efforts provide opportunities for regtech to support the industry. 

APRA is collaborating with multiple other government agencies to develop a data governance approach. To facilitate this effort, it has set up a standing committee with the Reserve Bank of Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Securities and Investments Commission and Treasury to coordinate data collection activities across different agencies.

APRA’s collected data will be processed through an “end-to-end platform that allows improved analytical ability.” The regulator also set up an Innovation Lab dedicated to developing its data science capabilities using artificial intelligence, machine-learning, network analysis and natural language processing. 

Regulators are slow to soften on Libra 

Lawmakers have responded harshly to the Libra stablecoin’s debut and subsequent efforts to gain approval in different jurisdictions worldwide. As Cointelegraph reported at the end of December, Switzerland’s President Ueli Maurer said that — in its current form — Libra has failed and will not be approved, because central banks will not accept an asset backed by a basket of currencies. 

Still, the parties involved in the Libra are still actively pursuing its development despite regulatory malcontent. Recently, the Libra Association — the governing body of the stablecoin — announced that it has formed a new committee to guide the network’s technical development.

Maduro Announces Crypto Casino in Support of Petro and Public

Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela, announced on Friday the opening of a new crypto-run casino in a battered country where betting halls have all but gone extinct. 

A casino for relief

Maduro said Ávila National Park’s Hotel Humboldt will soon be home to an international casino that will operate with Petro (PTR), Venezuela’s state cryptocurrency, and that proceeds will fund the country’s public health and education sectors. 

The announcement comes less than a decade after Maduro’s mentor, former president Hugo Chavez, ordered the closure of all betting places as harbors of prostitution, drugs and crime. Since 2011, as the then-relatively-prosperous country has degraded, only a limited number of online platforms have allowed Venezuelans to gamble. 

What is this place, anyway?

While the casino seems to lack a name, Maduro’s enigmatic announcement comes with plenty of questions. He kept mum on the casino’s exact opening and whether the establishment, located in the “lungs of the city,” will give oxygen to similar venues. The logistics of how the casino will run — must guests use the Petroapp? Will the casino house crypto ATM’s? How will winners collect their spoils? — also remain a mystery. 

Perhaps the announcement’s most poignant question is how, in a country that now lags globally in education and suffers a gutted public health structure, will the crypto casino’s funds support dire public health and education needs?

Given the Venezuelan government’s history of not delivering on promises related to the Petro, Cointelegraph advises readers to approach news on the subject with skepticism.

The power of crypto

As Cointelegraph reported last week, Madura announced plans for Venezuela t sell the reserves — 4.5 million barrels of oil — of its state-run oil and gas company, PDVSA, for Petro. 

According to Maduro, the sale will help Venezuela “open roads to the new economy” and build a world of “peace and integration of peoples, their happiness and improvement.”

Report: Hamas, Iran-Tied Militants Intensify Bitcoin Fundraising Action

A militant group with ties to the Iranian regime and Hamas — the de facto ruling authority of the Gaza Strip in Palestine — is allegedly upping its Bitcoin (BTC) fundraising activities.

The spur for the increase is reportedly a slump in resources, compounded by Iran’s recent rejection of the group’s request for financial support. 

An analysis of the group’s activities was detailed in a cyber desk report from the IDC’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), as reported by the Jerusalem Post on Jan. 19.

“Irregular increase” in wallet activities

The ICD-ICT cyber desk report claims there has been an “an irregular increase in the scope of activity” of a BTC wallet address (1LaNXgq2ctDEa4fTha6PTo8sucqzieQctq) it ties to the fundraising activities of the Hamas and Iran-affiliated “al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades,” the military wing of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees (PRC). 

The PRC is a coalition of armed local groups, formed in late 2000, in opposition to what they perceive to be the overly conciliatory line taken by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah towards the Israeli regime. The al-Nasser Brigades were active in both the 2008-9 and 2015 wars in Gaza and clashed with Israeli forces in Nov. 2018 in response to the killing of a PRC militant. 

The Brigades were also responsible for the high-profile kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shilat in 2006, eventually freed as part of a prisoner exchange in 2011.

Brigades raised almost $24 million in Bitcoin

According to ICT’s findings, a thorough review of the transactions associated with the wallet revealed that it served a “a seemingly legitimate financial website by the name of cash4ps,” which ostensibly enables the Brigades to send and receive funds out of the Gaza strip whilst ensuring a degree of anonymity to donors and beneficiaries.

The report, which mapped the Brigade’s network of media platforms and various online fundraising strategies, ties the wallet address to a company allegedly identified as operating an account registered at the Islamic National Bank (INB). 

INB was blacklisted by the United States Treasury in 2010 due to its being controlled by Hamas, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization. It has also been declared illegal by the PA, the Palestinian Monetary Authority and the Palestinian Capital Market Authority.

As of Dec. 1 2019, ICT claims that the total transaction volume in the wallet had hit 3,370 Bitcoin ($29 million at press time), having performed thousands of transactions over a four-year period. 

ICT  identified the company’s two physical addresses in the Gaza strip, as well as a key figure purportedly behind the fundraising scheme, Ramadan Alkurd (a.k.a. Wesam Ismael), whose ties to Hamas they traced and documented. 

An ICT representative has advised the U.S. government to designate all the accounts identified in the report as terrorist-affiliated entities, and to implement more robust regulatory and legal measures for Bitcoin exchanges in cooperation with international allies.

Hamas’ financial isolation

Hamas’ financial isolation stems from its classification as a terrorist organization, in whole or in part, by several countries and international blocs — including the U.S. and the European Union

Having ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, Hamas comprises a social service arm “Dawah” and a militant faction “Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades,” the latter of which initiated this year’s Bitcoin fundraising appeal.

Russia, Turkey and China are among those who do not designate Hamas as a terrorist entity.

As reported, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades has likewise allegedly availed itself of Bitcoin contributions, according to investigations by blockchain intelligence firm Elliptic and others.

Peter Schiff Lost His Bitcoin, Claims Owning Crypto Was a ‘Bad Idea’

On Jan. 19, famous crypto skeptic and gold bug Peter Schiff claimed on Twitter that he has lost access to his Bitcoin wallet and that his password is no longer valid.

Schiff added that his BTC is now intrinsically worthless and has no market value. He also added that:

“I knew owning Bitcoin was a bad idea, I just never realized it was this bad!”

Getting to the bottom of the issue

After Schiff tweeted about his loss, the crypto community was quick to jump to the rescue. For example, co-founder and partner at Morgan Creek Digital Anthony Pompliano responding by asking if he forgot his password, to which Schiff has responded that, “My wallet forgot my password.”

Pompliano then asked Schiff to email him directly:

“The software just executes the commands that humans give it. It can’t ‘forget’ anything. Email me and I’ll try to help you recover the lost Bitcoin.”

However it looks like the BTC may indeed be gone for good, as Schiff responded:

“Eric Voorhees set up the wallet for me and even he thinks there is nothing I can do. But you’re welcome to try if you have any ideas.”

BTC price skepticism

Schiff is known for being an outspoken critic of cryptocurrencies. Just before the New Year, he claimed that unlike every other asset class, BTC was not rising toward the end of the calendar year.

In late November, Schiff claimed in a Twitter debate that the price of BTC would drop to $1,000 to “complete the pattern.”