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Japanese Official Calls for Urgent Development of Digital Yen to Counter China


Another Japanese lawmaker has publicly called for the swift development of the digital yen.

The head of the banking and finance systems research commission at Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, Kozo Yamamoto, said today that the country should create a digital yen in two to three years.

Reuters reported on Feb. 10 that Yamamoto said that plans for its central bank digital currency (CBDC) should be included in the government’s mid-year policy guidelines. He explained that digital currencies could quickly spread in emerging economies and help China — who is working on a CBDC — advance its digital hegemony. Because of this, he said that development of the digital yen must be quick:

“The sooner the better. We’ll draft proposals to be included in government’s policy guidelines, and hopefully make it happen in two-to-three years. […] If each country manages to control flows of money with their own (digital) currencies, that could prevent a big swing at a time of crisis and stabilize their own economy.”

Yamamoto’s remarks follow those of former economy minister and ruling party member Akira Amari, who said that he wants to issue a CBDC to counter China’s upcoming digital yuan. Yamamoto admitted that, while the spread of CBDCs may undermine the dollar’s supremacy, it could also stabilize emerging markets relying on the dollar such as Cambodia.

Japan’s push for digital currency research

Japanese lawmakers have recently called on their government to push for digital currencies to be placed on the G7’s agenda this year. Furthermore, at the end of January, the deputy governor of the Bank of Japan has said the institution must be ready to issue a CBDC should public demand surge in response to technical developments.

Meanwhile, the central bank of China recently completed the top-layer design and joint testing of the digital yuan.





Source Cointelegraph

Venezuelans Selling Petro on LocalBitcoins at Half the Official Price


Venezuelans are reportedly selling the state-launched Petro (PTR) cryptocurrency that was airdropped to them recently. Though the government claims to have fixed the value of one PTR at $60, the market price on LocalBitcoins is reported to be only half of that.

According to a Reddit thread, Venezuelans are turning to LocalBitcoins to sell their airdropped Petro amid disastrous economic conditions. This follows an airdrop to a claimed 6 million people in December.

The Reddit user claims that the government initially allowed the usage of Petro to buy products through a biometric app, but it soon shut it down as people flooded to the few stores that supported it.

Some government exchanges are reported to support PTR as well, but the exchange rate deviated too much from the “official” price.

The only option left for Venezuelans appears to be LocalBitcoins. Several listings can be found that accept Petro in exchange for Bitcoin or other currencies. However, all of them appear to be currently inactive. Several listings were still shown on the main page as late as Jan. 20.

Source: LocalBitcoins.com

Source: LocalBitcoins.com

Cointelegraph reached out to Ernesto Pinto, one of the sellers on LocalBitcoins for clarifications.

He confirmed that he does buy Petro from Venezuelans in exchange for Bitcoin (BTC). Pinto explained that the price was referenced from a local exchange, Amberescoin, which supported Petro. It amounted to 0.0036 BTC, or approximately $30 for one Petro.

But the sellers are struggling due to the excessive selling pressure from the airdrop. Pinto is unable to accept Petro, as he cannot complete the full exchange cycle and sell the Petro he received previously.

Pinto explained why:

“The majority want to sell it because of an airdrop, where 8 million people want Bolivars because the Bolivar makes it easier to purchase things.”

He also referred to a Telegram group where Venezuelans discuss and try to exchange Petros. One particular user in the chat asked for options in Maracaibo, the second-largest city in the country:

“Anyone who sells food, rice, flour, sugar etc. and accepts Petros in Maracaibo?”





Cointelegraph News

Central Bank of China Official Says Digital Yuan Will Be Different From Bitcoin


The People’s Bank of China’s (PBoC) deputy director Mu Changchun said that the digital form of the yuan will be different to Bitcoin (BTC) and stablecoins.

Chinese news outlet South China Morning Post reported on Dec. 22 that the head of the digital currency research institute at the PBoC said that China’s digital currency would be a digital form of the yuan with no room to speculate on its value, and without the backing of a basket of currencies. Mu explained:

“The currency is not for speculation. It is different to bitcoin or stable tokens, which can be used for speculation or require the support of a basket of currencies.”

Mu recently indicated that China’s new national digital currency would operate in a two-tier system, with the PBoC on top, and commercial banks allowed in the second tier of the centralized system. 

PBoC starts trials to restrict large cash transactions

In November, the People’s Bank announced that it intends to carry out a pilot with restrictions on large-scale cash transactions that will last for 2 years and will be implemented in phases in Hebei Province, Zhejiang Province and Shenzhen City. 

In the same month, Mu made it clear that China is not launching a war on cash by introducing its own digital currency. Rather, Beijing intends for the new currency to complement the paper yuan.

Real-world pilot of digital yuan

Meanwhile, China’s central bank is going full speed ahead towards launching a digital token to challenge the United States dollar as it is planning to conduct the first real-world test of its central bank digital currency before the end of 2019. Under the watchful eye of the PBoC, four major banks and major economic participants like China Telecom will reportedly test digital currency payments.





Cointelegraph News

US Fed Official Says 50% of Bitcoin Transactions Associated With Illegal Activity


A member of the United States Federal Reserve’s board of governors appears to believe that one in four people who use Bitcoin (BTC) are criminals. 

In a panel speech honoring Benoît Coeuré, a member of the executive board of the European Central Bank (ECB), Lael Brainard highlighted the perceived risks still posed by cryptocurrencies.

Brainard: crypto exchange security troubling

Specifically selected for the panel, which formed part of the “Monetary Policy: The Challenges Ahead” event in Frankfurt, Germany, was illicit activity involving Bitcoin.

According to Brainard, who cited an academic study from earlier this year, Bitcoin still contains a significant malicious user base.

“Only a third of the most popular exchanges require ID verification and proof of address to make a deposit or withdrawal. This is troubling, since a number of studies conclude that cryptocurrencies support a significant amount of illicit activity,” she told the audience.

Continuing, Brainard added that as much as 50% of all Bitcoin transactions were in some way conducted against the law: 

“One study estimated that more than a quarter of bitcoin users and roughly half of bitcoin transactions, for example, are associated with illegal activity.”

Calculating the incalculable 

The admonishing tone of the speech adds to the sea of misconceptions over Bitcoin’s real-world usage. As Cointelegraph reported, studies into transactions regularly produce opposing conclusions — others suggest that a lack of anonymity means genuine criminals still prefer cash.

Further difficulties lie in stating exactly how many people use Bitcoin, as a user can control an infinite number of addresses. 

The speech comes ahead of sweeping new cryptocurrency regulations coming into force in the European Union. For his part, Coeuré has remained highly critical of Bitcoin in particular, previously describing it as the “evil spawn of the financial crisis.”





Cointelegraph News

Coinbase Card Rolls out DAI as First Supported Stablecoin: Official


Coinbase Card, a crypto-powered Visa debit card from major crypto exchange Coinbase, now supports Dai (DAI), a stablecoin pegged to the United States dollar.

According to a blog post on Dec. 6, Dai is the first stablecoin that is available on Coinbase Card, alongside major cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Litecoin (LTC).

As 1 DAI is equivalent to $1, the addition of the stablecoin to the Coinbase Card aims to allow customers to spend crypto with less volatility, the announcement says.

Cointelegraph has requested comment from Coinbase’s team on why the company has decided to choose DAI rather than one of multitudes of U.S. dollar-pegged stablecoins. Coinbase has not responded as of press time. This article will be updated upon receipt of their commentary.

More than one new asset to spend

However, the addition of DAI is not just one more asset to spend but a tool intent on boosting global adoption of alternative payment methods, according to Coinbase’s head of growth marketing, JD Millwood. He wrote:

“It represents a small step on our big journey to make crypto accessible to all, through alternative payment options that suit our diverse customer base.”

Coinbase Card now supports a total of 10 cryptocurrencies

Launched in April 2019, Coinbase Card is a Visa debit card that allows users to spend cryptocurrencies to pay for goods as well as to withdraw cash from ATMs. Instantly converting customers’ crypto into fiat currency, the card was first rolled out in the United Kingdom. In June, the card was launched in six European countries including Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands.

According to the Coinbase’s official website, Coinbase Card now supports a total of 10 cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ether (ETH), Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash (BCH), XRP, Basic Attention Token (BAT), Augur (REP), 0x (ZRX), Stellar Lumens (XLM), and Dai.

Dai is different from major U.S. dollar-pegged stablecoins

Meanwhile, DAI is one of many stablecoin projects pegged to the U.S. dollar alongside controversial project Tether (USDT), Gemini Dollar (GUSD) and USD Coin (USDC).

However, DAI is different from a typical currency-backed stablecoin because it is not supported by bank accounts of reserve currencies but rather is generated by putting Ether into a CDP smart contract, as previously reported.





Source Cointelegraph

France to Test Its Central Bank Digital Currency in Q1 2020: Official


The central bank of France plans to pilot a central bank digital currency (CBDC) for financial institutions in 2020. François Villeroy de Galhau, the governor of the Bank of France, announced that the bank will start testing the digital euro project by the end of the first quarter 2020, French financial publication Les Echos reports Dec. 4.

The Bank of France confirmed the news on Twitter, noting that the announcement was made at a conference co-hosted by two major French financial regulators, the French Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority and the Autorité des marchés financiers.

Digital euro pilot won’t involve retail customers

According to the report, the digital euro pilot will only target private financial sector players and won’t involve retail payments made by individuals. Villeroy reportedly noted that a digital currency for retail customers would “be subject to special vigilance.”

As reported by Les Echos, the initiative intends to strengthen the efficiency of the French financial system, while ensuring trust in the currency.

Preventing Libra’s impact

Moreover, the project aims to assert France’s sovereignty over private digital currency initiatives like Facebook’s stablecoin Libra, Villeroy reportedly said.

Villeroy’s stance falls in line with previous statements by French finance minister Bruno Le Maire, who argued that regulators cannot allow the launch of Libra on European soil due to monetary sovereignty concerns.

According to some reports, France led the anti-Libra effort alongside Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

Villeroy calls on France to become the first country in the world to issue a CBDC

According to a tweet by the Bank of France, its governor emphasized that France should become the first country in the world to issue a CBDC and provide an exemplary model to other jurisdictions. He stated:

“I see the interest in rapidly advancing the issuance of at least one central bank digital currency in order to be the leading issuer globally and get the benefits associated with providing an exemplary central bank digital currency.”

France has emerged as a major adopter of blockchain tech and Bitcoin

Meanwhile, France has appeared to be at the forefront of adopting crypto and blockchain technology as its government has initiated and encouraged a number of industry-related projects.

In late November 2019, the first deputy governor of the Bank of France called for a blockchain-based settlements and payments systems in Europe. As reported by Cointelegraph on Nov. 20, the French Armies and Gendarmerie’s Information and Public Relations Center was validating judicial expenses incurred during investigations on the Tezos (XTZ) blockchain at the time.

Alongside developments in blockchain, France has also emerged as a major adopter of biggest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin (BTC). In mid-October, French crypto startup Keplerk relaunched its service to accept Bitcoin payments in over 5,200 tobacco shops in France. Previously, Cointelegraph reported that at least 30 French retailers plan to launch Bitcoin payments support at over 25,000 sales points by early 2020.





Source Cointelegraph

Former US Gov’t Official, Capital One Exec Joins Payments Startup C Labs


Cryptocurrency payment startup C Labs has hired former United States government official Jai Ramaswamy to oversee the company’s compliance strategy.

On Nov. 26, Coindesk reported that Ramaswamy had joined C Labs, the company responsible for Celo, which is an open platform that makes financial tools accessible to anyone with a mobile phone.

Ramaswamy’s credentials

Also a former managing vice president at major credit card company Capital One, Ramaswamy will reportedly oversee the company’s strategy on global regulations, risk and compliance. Ramaswamy said that he is interested in helping C Labs understand its overall risk profile.

His LinkedIn profile further reveals that before being hired by C Labs his previous stint at Capital One, Ramaswamy worked as the global head of anti-money-laundering (AML) at the Bank of America. 

Prior to that position, he was the chief of the asset forfeiture & money laundering section at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), where he led the department’s efforts to monitor virtual currencies used by criminal organizations and prosecute facilitation of criminal activity by exchanges.

As Cointelegraph reported in February, Celo hired fellow payment network Circle’s Chuck Kimble. Kimble was involved in the company’s stablecoin launch as head of strategic partnerships.

Celo secured $30 million for stablecoin-based smartphone payment plans

In April, Celo raised $30 million from well-known crypto investors Polychain Capital and Andreessen Horowitz. The blockchain platform will use an in-house digital token and stablecoin to facilitate cross-border payments, primarily focusing on the unbanked using smartphones. Co-founder of Celo, Rene Reinsberg, said at the time:

“We see big potential in letting people — directly on their smartphone — access basic financial services […] We are based on blockchain technology but for the average end user we try to abstract that away, to make the experience as easy as any other mobile app.”





Source Cointelegraph

French Central Bank Official Wants to Improve Financial System With Blockchain


The first deputy governor of the French central bank has called for distributed ledger technology (DLT)-based settlements and payment systems in Europe.

Speaking at the AFME Annual Capital Markets Technology and Innovation Conference on Nov. 21, Denis Beau, the first deputy governor of Banque de France, delved into the issue of policy frameworks that could potentially help to bring innovation and growth into Europe’s capital markets.

An important impact on the financial industry

Beau suggested that the implementation of blockchain-based solutions could have an impact on the financial industry, stating:

“The tokenisation of financial assets combined with the recourse to blockchain-based solutions and more broadly Distributed Ledger Technologies to store and transfer those assets could help answering market’s demands.”

Beau further specified that DLT could facilitate gross and delivery-versus-payment processes, cross-currency settlement, resilience, and recovery from operational incidents. 

The official proposed that the Eurosystem open itself to experimenting with the technologies in a bid to improve the conditions under which the central bank makes money available as a settlement asset. Beau concluded:

“We, at the Banque de France, are therefore quite open for experiments in that direction, together with the ECB and other central banks of the Eurosystem, in particular with regard to a wholesale Central Bank Digital Currency.”

Addressing potential risks

The deputy governor noted that the adoption of new technologies in the greater European financial system does not come without challenges, as they can run the risk of “disorderly approaches and heterogeneous adaptations of market infrastructures, in particular when it comes to the modalities of settlement.”

In mid-October, Beau stated that the traditional bank-based ecosystem could face significant changes due to the many technological developments, such as blockchain and DLT, explaining:

“With the emergence of so called crypto-assets […] and so called stablecoins, we may also see new settlement assets develop which may compete against and possibly, according to their promoters, replace commercial and central bank money as settlement assets at the center of our payment systems.”





Source Cointelegraph

Malware on Official Monero Website Can Steal Crypto: Investigator


The software available for download on Monero’s (XMR) official website was compromised to steal cryptocurrency, according to a Nov. 19 Reddit post published by the coin’s core development team.

The command-line interface (CLI) tools available at getmonero.org may have been compromised over the last 24 hours. In the announcement, the team notes that the hash of the binaries available for download did not match the expected hashes.

The software was malicious

On GitHub, a professional investigator going by the name of Serhack said that the software distributed after the server was compromised is indeed malicious, stating:

“I can confirm that the malicious binary is stealing coins. Roughly 9 hours after I ran the binary a single transaction drained the wallet. I downloaded the build yesterday around 6pm Pacific time.”

An important security practice

Hashes are non-reversible mathematical functions which, in this case, are used to generate an alphanumeric string from a file that would have been different if someone was to make changes to the file.

It is a popular practice in the open-source community to save the hash generated from software available for download and keep it on a separate server. Thanks to this measure, users are able to generate a hash from the file they downloaded and check it against the expected one.

If the hash generated from the downloaded file is different, then it is likely that the version distributed by the server has been replaced — possibly with a malicious variant. The Reddit announcement reads:

“It appears the box has been indeed compromised and different CLI binaries served for 35 minutes. Downloads are now served from a safe fallback source. […] If you downloaded binaries in the last 24h, and did not check the integrity of the files, do it immediately. If the hashes do not match, do NOT run what you downloaded.”

In general, blockchain development communities are vigilant in tracking possible vulnerabilities and maintaining network integrity.

In mid-September, the developer of Ethereum decentralized exchange protocol AirSwap’s developers announced a different important development for their project’s security. More precisely, they revealed the discovery of a critical vulnerability in the system’s new smart contract.

In order to incentivize network integrity, some organizations have founded bounty programs that reward so-called white-hack hackers for exposing vulnerabilities.





Source Cointelegraph

Chinese VeChain Tea Traceability Platform Gets Official Seal of Approval


A tea traceability platform powered by VeChain received an official endorsement from the Shuangjiang county government at its launch on Nov. 13. 

VeChain partnered with leading tea producers in the region to implement the traceability platform. The entire lifecycle of a tea brick from raw material to the consumer will be recorded on the VeChainThor blockchain, which customers can access by scanning a QR code or NFC tag with their smartphone.

The Pu’er Tea Traceability Platform is one of the first third-party platforms to index into the National Important Products Traceability System, put in place by the Chinese Central Government. A local Department of Commerce representative said:

“We should attach great significance to this tea traceability platform, sparing no efforts to ensure every tea brick has traceable origin, verified proper distribution and logistics, and authentic qualification, which can certainly raise the reputation of Yunnan tea globally.”

VeChain continues its meteoric rise

VeChain (VET) has had an impressive month so far, pumping over 60 in the last 30 days. Following the official endorsement of the tea traceability platform, the token is seeing gains of over 15%.

Ironically, founder Sunny Lu, speaking at the Blockshow Asia 2019 event yesterday, claimed that 99% of a token’s price is pure speculation, and not based on its value to society.

Chinese businesses seem to be falling over themselves to announce blockchain initiatives, following President Xi Jinping’s call to accelerate blockchain adoption last month. China-based Xinyuan Real Estate recently announced a blockchain-based platform to speed up real-estate innovation.





Source Cointelegraph