Russian Economic Development Minister Maksim Oreshkin has stated that while bitcoin has deflated like a “soap bubble,” it has impacted the world positively by boosting investment in new technologies. Speaking to the media on Wednesday at Russia Calling, an investment forum organised by VTB Capital, Oreshkin said that despite the woes of the crypto market, the conversation around it has successfully driven significant international interest in a vast number of projects in new fields, principally blockchain technology.

Giving his comments at the event, he said:

“You may recall what I said, for example, last year, when Bitcoin’s price jumped up to $20,000, and now it is lower than $4,000, we said very simple things. Bitcoin itself is a soap bubble, it deflated, that’s what happened. […] Unfortunately, many people were affected [because of their investments in cryptocurrency], but again, in terms of new technologies, new businesses, it gave a positive impetus.”

His line is in keeping with the general Russian state reaction to the growth of cryptocurrency. Until now, the legal status of crypto trading, ICOs, and mining have not been firmly established in the country, with Russian authorities doing little more than issuing vague disclaimers and investment advisories from time to time.

While a number of prominent voices have advocated blockchain adoption for reasons as varied as using a gold-linked cryptocurrency to protect its arms export industry to adopting DLT to eliminate customer abuse in the pension fund industry, this still remains far from happening. Thus far, the Russian state’s interest in bitcoin has been largely restricted to facilitating foreign missions in need of hard-to-trace cash.

In March, three draft bills aimed at correcting the regulatory gap were submitted of reading in Russia’s parliament, although the proposed laws included a clause that stipulated that Russia does not recognise digital financial assets as legal tender in the country. Despite this, it has been reported in the past that the country is examining the possibility of skirting US-imposed sanctions using cryptocurrency as a primary solution.

Speaking in June, President Vladimir Putin stated that while the state continues to look at the crypto “phenomenon” with great interest, it cannot at the moment issue or sanction the issue of such tokens since, by definition, they fall outside the regulatory scope of relevant government agencies. That notwithstanding, during this year’s FIFA World Cup which held in Russia, it was announced that hotels and selected hospitality spots would accept cryptocurrency as millions of fans from around the world arrived in Russia.

Credits to David Hundeyin

A Pakistani-American woman who bought bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies using fraudulently obtained credit cards before wiring the funds to ISIS has pled guilty to charges of offering financial support to a terrorist organization.

According to court filings, Zoobia Shahnaz made a couple of wire transactions last year to fronts for the Islamic terror outfit ISIS in China, Pakistan and Turkey. Besides the financial contributions to ISIS, Shahnaz was also planning to travel to join the terror group in Syria. She was intercepted at the JFK Airport in New York on her way to Istanbul, Turkey – a common entry point for ISIS recruits from the West.

Part of the amount that she wired to ISIS fronts was obtained by dishonest means. Per the prosecutors, between March and July last year, Shahnaz used ‘materially false pretenses, representations and promises’ to obtain a US$22,500 loan from a financial institution.

Credit Cards

Shahnaz also got multiple credit cards from various financial institutions including Discover, American Express, TD Bank and Chase Bank by false pretenses. She then used the credit cards to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies worth approximately US$62,000 from exchanges before converting them to cash.

“She also fraudulently applied for and used over a dozen credit cards, which she used to purchase approximately $62,000 in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies online,” a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice read. “She then engaged in a pattern of financial activity, culminating in several wire transactions totaling over $150,000 to individuals and shell entities in Pakistan, China, and Turkey that were fronts for ISIS.”

Shahnaz, who has been in custody since she was arrested last year in December, could be sentenced for up two decades in prison.

The case highlights the fact that fears that cryptocurrencies could be used to fund terrorism are overblown since despite using bitcoin to launder the money, Shahnaz had to resort to a wire transfer in her attempts to get the money in the hands of the terrorists.

Cash Rules in Terrorist World

As CCN reported in September, part of the reason why bitcoin has not proved useful to terrorists is that they are usually located in places that lack the infrastructure necessary to conduct cryptocurrency transactions. This has seen cash take an almost monopolistic hold as the most anonymous method of financing terror.

However, according to intelligence analyst, Yaya Fanusie, this could change in the future and there is a need for the U.S. government to ensure that Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer regulations are rigorously enforced.

“By preparing now for terrorists’ increasing usage of cryptocurrencies, the U.S. can limit the ability to turn digital currency markets into a sanctuary for illicit finance.”

Credits to Mark Emem

A blockchain-based trading platform that could assist oil majors and trading firms to drastically reduce costs is now operational.

Known as Vakt, the platform which was created last year by a consortium consisting of Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell and British Petroleum (BP), went live on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Other members of the consortium include global commodity trading firm Gunvor Group, Norwegian energy firm Equinor and energy trading firms Koch Supply and Trading Mercuria Energy Group. Financial institutions such as Societe Generale, ING and ABN Amro are also part of the consortium.

Next Feature? Financing

While the platform will initially digitize and centralize the paperwork generated by all the parties to a deal, a financing feature will be added when it is linked to Komgo, a financing platform that was unveiled earlier in the year.

“Vakt is the logistical arm…Once a deal is executed through our book of records, it gets pushed through Vakt,” Eren Zekioglu, a senior executive at Gunvor Group, said. “The next leg is the financing and the link-up with komgo gives access to several banks.”

Initially, the Vakt platform will be restricted to contracts for five crude grades from the North Sea. Plans are afoot, however, to include oil products from northern Europe and the United States.

Vakt is not the only blockchain platform that has been developed for the oil sector in the recent past. In March this year, CCN reported that the energy industry had invested approximately US$300 million in developing blockchain applications.

Ondiflo by ConsenSys and Amalto

Some of the blockchain platforms for the energy sector which have received prominent coverage include Ondiflo, an application aimed at digitizing and automating various oilfield services on the Ethereum blockchain. It was developed by blockchain software firm ConsenSys in partnership with software developer Amalto.

Specifically, the Ondiflo blockchain platform was designed to streamline and improve the order-to-cash processes in the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of the oil industry that are still heavily reliant on paper. Benefits of the platform include faster transaction times and an enhanced overall efficiency which would help cut costs in an industry with razor-thin margins.

“As one of our first ventures into the oil and gas supply chain industry, Ondiflo will offer a solution where all operators and service companies can benefit from digitization, automation and the seamless exchange of data and immutability of their records…” the co-founder of ConsenSys, Joe Lubin, said at the time.

Credits to Mark Emem

Huaren Capital had entered the Philippines’ business territory to expand its crypto mining business. But the Chinese firm has found another purpose on the sideways.

The crypto giant plans to launch a digitized version of Philippino Peso called “Digital Peso” in the first half of 2019, reported Inquirer. The coin, whose per unit value would likely be pegged to 1 Peso, would be a base currency of a proposed two-way remittance corridor between China and the Philippines.

Jeff Wang, the president of Huren Capital, confirmed the report during a press meet held on Wednesday, stating that they were speaking with potential partner-banks as well as Philippines central bank for their project. However, he refused to reveal the names of the banks, but recognize their plan for carrying the potential of reducing international transaction fees for the world’s third top remittance receiving country.

“In China, they have electronic payments systems like Alipay and WeChat Pay, so the transfer of funds is effortless,” Wang explained through a translator. “We understand in the Philippines, many Filipino citizens don’t have a bank account, and when they transfer funds from one country to another or from one place to another, there’s always a high remittance fee incurred, so we are working towards reducing that kind of cost for the average Filipino citizen.”

The blockchain tycoon also recognized Chinese people working in the Philippines as their potential customers, stating that the opportunities would also be open for them as much as they are open for the Filipinos.

Government Support

Huaren Capital has established its headquarters in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, following a successful visit of Chinese President Xi Jin Ping to the country. Wang established that the host government was open to their blockchain initiatives in the state and decided to put their company in their special economic zone.

“The Philippines regards blockchain innovation as a national strategy, providing a large number of preferential policies and services to related companies, and solving the regulatory problems faced by the blockchain industry,” he explained.

According to Wang, they are now seeking a regulatory approval for their digital peso project from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Also, they expect to finalize their partnerships with the local banks at the start of 2019 while aiming a full-fledged launch before June.

“We hope that this will bring the Philippines to the forefront of e-commerce around the world,” he added.

The country maintains circa $33 billion of remittance inflows every year, according to a World Bank report.

Credits to Yashu Gola

Large market cap cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) have dropped in value once again.

In the past 24 hours, the cryptocurrency market lost more than $6 billion, as its valuation dropped from $142 billion to $136 billion.

Bitcoin, which seemed to be demonstrating a fairly strong price movement in the last two days from November 28 to 29, experienced a $150 price drop, becoming vulnerable to falling below the $4,000 mark.

$3,700

Depending on the volume of the cryptocurrency, technical analysts see the price of Bitcoin in danger of dropping below $4,000 to around $3,600 to $3,800 in the short-term.

Alex Kruger, an economist and cryptocurrency trader, said on November 29, prior to BTC’s abrupt 3 percent drop, that a breakout of the $4,400 mark could potentially lead to BTC achieving $4,800 to $4,900.

Bitcoin failed to engage in an upward movement above the $4,300 mark, falling back down to $4,100. At the time, Kruger said:

“Looking for $4,800 – $4,900 if $4,400 gets breached. That’s the base of Nov 19 and right above 20EMA. Starting with 4800 interested in shorts. This was initially 4400, changed plan. Below $3,700 exit longs. Too soon to short the lows again, would like prior consolidation for that.”

The analyst stated that a bottom was established shortly after Bitcoin recovered beyond the $4,000 this past week, but emphasized that a proper bottom is yet to be formed by the dominant cryptocurrency that would allow it to breach major resistance levels in the $5,000 to $7,000 range.

“That’s a static/base trading game plan with rough levels. Decision making is actually dynamic. All of this is irrelevant for investors. Based on the macro landscape, IMO the bottom is not in, regardless of how great the chart may look,” he added.

Technical analysts like Mayne also suggested that the price of BTC will likely remain in the range between mid-$3,000 to mid-$4,000 throughout the foreseeable future, unless the asset initiates a major price increase within a 24-hour span, as it did on November 28 by recording a 13 percent price surge.

Tokens Bleed Out

Between November 28 and 29, as Bitcoin increased from mid-$3,000 to $4,200, both large and small market cap tokens recorded an average gain of 20 percent against the U.S. dollar.

Over the past 24 hours, tokens recorded losses in the range of 10 to 15 percent, nearly deleting all of their weekly gains.

0x (ZRX), Polymath (POLY), and Ziliqa (ZIL) are amongst the worst performing digital assets on the day, with ZIL recording a steep 14 percent decline in value.

In a period in which 0x and BAT are performing poorly against the U.S. dollar even with the listing by Coinbase that clears the assets from being considered as securities in the U.S. market, tokens are expected to continue seeing large losses in the short-term.

The U.S. federal court recently ruled a case in favor of an ICO project against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the case could lead investors to believe that high profile projects that have the resources to comply with local regulations could be protected from the SEC.

Credits to Joseph Young

A decentralized application (dApp) based on the Ethereum (ETH) network will begin rewarding residents of Manila, the Philippines, with ETH for cleaning up a heavily polluted beach in the capital city of the nation.

Joseph Lubin, an Ethereum co-creator and the CEO of ConsenSys, the largest blockchain software development firm in the world, said:

“In Manila, participants will be paid in ETH for spending a few hours cleaning up one of the most heavily polluted beaches in the world. Bounties Network and ConsenSys Impact are proving a new model where people fund causes directly without intermediaries.”

Why the Philippines is a Great Place to Start

Bounty has been recognized as a viable application of blockchain technology because participants are compensated transparently using the public ledger of a blockchain network.

Bounties Network, a dApp on Ethereum, enables anyone on the platform to create bounties and reward participants with ETH, supporting various causes and initiatives.

Recently, ConsenSys Impact, a subsidiary of the New York-based ConsenSys, introduced a non-profit initiative called “Bounties for the Oceans: Philippines Pilot – Sustained, Verifiable Plastic Cleanups” to promote the usage of the blockchain in the country.

“Plastic pollution costs the lives of 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals per year. Fish eat plastic, and we eat the fish. Plastic causes $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems each year. With Bounties for the Ocean, we are asking people everywhere to submit verifiable proof of their direct plastic cleanup contribution as a way of fostering widespread and long-term behavioral shift. Do not depend on centralized organizations, go out there and do it yourselves,” the program read.

The initiative comes in a time during which the Philippines recently re-opened Boracay, a popular tourist destination in the country known for its crystal-clear seawater, acclaimed diving spots, and distinctive white sugary and powdery sand after the island suffered from heavy pollution.

The Philippines is considered an ideal region to kickstart non-profit blockchain-based initiatives because the country has adopted cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin as a legitimate form of payment and the central bank officially recognized Bitcoin as a remittance method.

As a result, the usage of Bitcoin and other major cryptocurrencies like Ethereum has increased rapidly, facilitated by the work of local platforms like Coins.ph that have provided significant liquidity to local users.

Through partnerships with major commercial banks, remittance outlets, credit card companies, electric grid operators, and convenience stores, Coins.ph has allowed cryptocurrency users to deposit and withdraw digital assets through tens of thousands of physical locations. The platform, which remains as the biggest cryptocurrency application in Southeast Asia, now has over 5 million active users.

ConsenSys and Union Bank

In May, ConsenSys also secured a strategic partnership with Union Bank, one of the largest commercial banks in the Philippines, to conduct a real-time domestic retail payment system pilot test with five rural banks.

At the time, Union Bank technology and operations chief Henry Aguda said:

“With this [blockchain platform], they don’t have to spend anything. They just have to load the application i2i in their computers, tablets, or smartphones then they can transact bank-to-bank connected to blockchain.”

A large number of companies including Consensys and several high profile conglomerates in South Korea are working with individuals, businesses, and cryptocurrency ventures in the Philippines to help the local market sustain its exponential rate of growth.

Credits to Joseph Young

The Asia-Pacific Head of Trading at foreign exchange brokerage Oanda has predicted that bitcoin price will fall as low as $2,500, claiming the behavior of the asset over the past few months has not demonstrated to investors that a bottom is in.

Speaking on Bloomberg Markets: Asia, Stephen Innes stated that despite the pronouncements of “soothsayers”, the current situation remains a decidedly negative one for investors, who will consequently continue to sell or avoid buying bitcoin.

“Falling Knife”

Responding to a question about how low bitcoin will fall before bottoming, Innes remarked that for a variety of reasons, cryptocurrency remains an unattractive buy in the near term. The key factor behind this according to him is the atmosphere of uncertainty about where the market is headed as bitcoin continues to its protracted bear run.

In his words:

“What I’m really looking at here is the way coins have been trading over the last few months. It’s indicated that the bottom is not in so therefore I don’t think any mature investor is willing to catch this falling knife. And that tells me there is more room to go and as soon as we hit some of these key round figure inflection points like $3500 and $2500, the psychological impact will weigh on more inexperienced traders.”

Going further, he remarked that while he remains optimistic on blockchain as a long-term concern, the current atmosphere of uncertainty makes cryptocurrency unappealing in the near term to both experienced and inexperienced traders, which will have a knock-on effect on the bitcoin price.

This he said, is amplified by the continued reluctance of Wall Street to get fully involved in cryptocurrency investment, a tightening regulatory landscape and the recent Bitcoin Cash hash war, which collectively add up to produce the current situation.

Summing up his thoughts on the current state of the market, he said:

“Given the momentum we’ve had over the past year, this price action is not positive, and despite what soothsayers say, it’s not a good time to go in because we can’t quantify what we’re really buying at these levels so this is the issue I have with trying to understand coins at specific inflection points.”

While bitcoin continues its slide, falling a further seven percent on Tuesday morning, not all market participants are pessimistic. CCN also reported on Tuesday that NASDAQ, the world’s second largest crypto exchange has announced plans to launch a bitcoin futures market in Q1 2019.

Credits to David Hundeyin

Tron on Thursday rose up to 33.33% against the US Dollar as the crypto market headed for an extended upside action.

The TRX/USD tested a new weekly high at 0.016-fiat, according to data available at BitFinex, before correcting lower towards 0.0144-fiat, an intraday support. It should be more likely a bull flag formation, meaning the pair should continue trending upwards in near-term. However, there are still many crucial resistance levels to keep an eye on, beginning with 0.0162-fiat, a high established during the November 20 rebound attempt. It had strongly rejected the advances made by the bulls, a characteristic that could impact the ongoing rally as well.

TRX/USD 4H CHART | SOURCE: TRADINGVIEW.COM, BITFINEX

The chart is also forming an inverse head and shoulder pattern, with its interim neckline level corresponding with 0.016-fiat. However, there is a likelihood of price extending its bullish correction and test 0.0174-fiat as the next neckline resistance – and primary upside target for long traders.

The falling trendline in orange had capped the upside until very recently. With that broken, the TRX/USD is somewhat inside a false breakout zone. It means that the pair could still end it’s bullish action and go below the said trendline, continuing its downtrend. The Tron market should not expect a full breakout action unless the TRX/USD invalidates its 200-period simple moving average to the upside. The pressure, thus, falls on Tron’s market fundamentals that should maintain the investors’ interest in the project.

The RSI momentum indicator is above 80 which is considered a strong bullish area. The TRX/USD should consolidate above 60 to maintain the upside bias. Any downside correction below the said level would bring the bears back in the market. The Stochastic Oscillator is forecasting a similar scenario while trending in a positive territory.

The TRX/USD is now trading at 0.0156-fiat, up 8.33% from the said level.

Industrial Updates

The optimistic project updates have always worked for the Tron market albeit for shorter times. The ongoing TRX/USD rally also coincides with a couple of development updates made recently by founder Justin Sun. For instance, he tweeted recently about the growing number of decentralized applications being launched on the Tron blockchain. He boosted the optimism further by speaking about how the transaction volume on their decentralized exchange is hitting new highs.

“TRON’s official DEX has also seen strong growth with a daily transaction volume of over 100 million TRX. Based on the Bancor Protocol, the DEX receives lots of applications for token listings every day,” the update read.

The Tron team also released a new patchwork update called Odyssey 3.2 whose primary aim is to “solve the problem of simultaneous production block at the same witness.”

The hype around updates nevertheless could not overextend its stay, meaning a price drop would ensure sooner or later after day traders exit their longs on small intraday profits.

Hope the support levels hold well, should that happen.

Credits to Yashu Gola

The government of the United Arab Emirates has unveiled two national initiatives focusing on strengthening the position of the country globally in emerging technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence.

One of the programs that were launched during the second UAE Government Annual Meetings which took place in the capital Abu Dhabi was the AI and Blockchain Guide initiative, as initially reported by the Emirates News Agency. With this program, the goal is to offer a standardized definition of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence at the federal level.

The AI and Blockchain Guide, which will be offered to all the smart local entities across the seven emirates, will also focus on familiarizing the relevant authorities with the two technologies. This is important because the adoption of the two technologies will involve individuals drawn from across many sectors, some of who may not be technologically adept:

“The UAE is keen to adopt AI and Blockchain technologies in all the economic, health, educational and other vital sectors. It seeks to boost cooperation and forge partnerships between the various government, federal and local entities, international companies and startups in a bid to find effective and innovative solutions and make a positive impact,” UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, said.

Government Transactions on the Blockchain

According to the Emirates News Agency, the UAE aims to ensure that by 2021 half of its government’s transactions are conducted on a blockchain platform. The UAE has also set an ambitious goal of becoming the global leader with regards to AI adoption by 2031.

The other initiative that was launched is the National Programme for AI and Blockchain Capacity Building. The goal of the program which will be carried out in partnership with the higher education ministry is to provide scholarships and operate educational programs in the areas of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence. This will include rolling out educational programs that run for short periods of time for Emiratis in various professional levels.

The National Programme for AI and Blockchain Capacity Building will also identify the sectors and sub-sectors that will face job losses as a result of the adoption of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence and work towards reducing the number of workers in these fields. Additionally, the initiative will seek to retrain the affected workers allowing them to find alternative employment opportunities.

Private Sector Involvement

Besides the government, the private sector has also made contributions to the development and adoption of blockchain technology in the UAE. Early last year, leading healthcare firm NMC Healthcare partnered with UAE Telecom to store patient records on the blockchain within the Emirates.

Blockchain initiatives in the UAE have, however, not been restricted to the national level as the various emirates have also unveiled their respective projects. This includes Dubai which has partnered with IBM on a blockchain-based trade finance pilot among other initiatives.

Credits to Mark Emem

Steemit, a decentralized sharing system and distributed app designed to rewards content creators with crypto, will be laying off a massive chunk of its staff.

The company announced that it is cutting off 70% of its workforce, citing “the weakness of the cryptocurrency market, the fiat returns on our automated selling of STEEM diminishing, and the growing costs of running full Steem nodes.”

The team members who are remaining will shift their focus to reducing the costs of running and operating their servers by reducing the size of the Steemit blockchain, to also bring a reduction to their level of dependence on the Amazon AWS

In the press release, Ned Scott, founder, and CEO of Steemit, wrote:

“We still believe that Steem can be by far the best, and lowest cost, blockchain protocol for applications and that the improvements that will result from this new direction will make it far better for application sustainability. However, to ensure that we can continue to improve Steem, we need to first get costs under control to remain economically sustainable.”

Founded in March 2016, Steemit.com was one of the first decentralized applications to be launched, and it allowed users of the platform to submit content and get paid for their work. The Steemit coin (STEEM), which was started by the platform as a payment method, has also been hit hard, losing about 96% of its value since hitting an all-time high. It currently trades at $0.37, per CCN Price Index.

The idea of decentralized apps has been affected by the current volatile state of the crypto market, and Steem is just the attest of decentralized apps to be feeling the brunt of this bear market.

Another app which has been affected a great deal is Civil, a decentralized app which promised to pay journalists for the work they do. A wide array of companies developed payment programs for their writers based on the Civil platform. However, considering the fall of the cryptocurrency market, these organizations have been forced to pull back their endorsements.

Credits to Jimmy Aki