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Bitcoin Price Analysis: Bitcoin Tests Pivotal Resistance Levels Following Strong Rally

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin Price Analysis

After a strong rally from the $6,000s, bitcoin ultimately saw a near 100% growth in market value as it now sits atop its rally in the low $11,000s. Currently, the market is testing well-known, strong resistance levels and is seeing quite turbulent shakeouts and rallies as it decides what the next market move will be. On a macro view, we can see that bitcoin is testing the strength of the daily 50 EMA:

fig1Figure 1: BTC-USD, Daily Candles, Macro Trend

The red square at the top of the trend represents a macro distribution trading range that ultimately led to the decline in value of the last couple months. At the time of this article, we are currently testing the lower boundary of this trading range:

fig2Figure 2: BTC-USD, 4-Hour Candles, Retest of Distribution Trading Range

In a typical markdown phase of a market cycle, it is quite common for a distribution trading range to break down through the bottom, see a strong drop in price, and then see a rally that leads to a retest of the lower limits of the prior distribution trading range.

The markdown from the top of the market cycle has been well defined by the red, dotted channel sloping downward in the image above. This current rally has the price pushing beyond the limits of the channel and shows a break of the current downward trend.

One thing that should be noted however is that a breakdown of a downward trend doesn’t necessarily mean that it will become an uptrend. It’s entirely possible that a break from the downward trend could lead into a consolidation period that yields a new downward trend — we’ve seen this time and time again.

At the time of this article we are currently seeing turbulent swings in price as the market decides what its next move will be. At the top of this rally from $6,000 to the $11,000s, we see a trading range starting to form:

fig3Figure 3: BTC-USD, 30min Candles, Possible Trading Range

A bullish case for this trading range could be considered if we manage to break above it and find support on the top of the trading range. This sign of support would be a bullish signal to the market that we are no longer interested in lower values and that the market is ready to continue its markup campaign.

However, if we break above this trading range and fall back inside the trading range, it would be a very bearish sign that the we are actually forming another distribution trading range, indicating that the top of the current rally is over. At that point we could expect to begin a new markdown campaign in the following days and weeks.

Thus, this current resistance level is pivotal and will serve to mark either the end of the uptrend or the beginning of an even stronger move to higher values.

Summary:

  1. Bitcoin has seen a strong rally since it bottomed out around $6,000.
  2. Currently, it is finding turbulent market activity as it tests well-known and established resistance levels.
  3. If we manage to find support on the trading range outlined in Figure 3, this will be a strong indication of a continuation to higher highs. However, if pushing upward we don’t find support on the top of the trading range and manage to fall back inside the trading range, this is a strong bearish signal that a potential markdown in price is in store in the next few days and weeks.

Trading and investing in digital assets like bitcoin and ether is highly speculative and comes with many risks. This analysis is for informational purposes and should not be considered investment advice. Statements and financial information on Bitcoin Magazine and BTC Media related sites do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BTC Media and should not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation to buy, sell or hold. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Bitcoiner Faces Charges After Selling BTC to an Undercover Cop

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoiner Faces Charges After Selling BTC to an Undercover Cop

On February 9, 2018, officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, arrested Morgan Rockcoons (aka “Morgan Rockwell” or “Metaballo”), CEO at Bitcoin, Inc. and an entrepreneur behind several other bitcoin startups, at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Rockcoons was charged with money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, according to court records.

According to those same records, in Southern California, between December 30, 2016 and January 8, 2017, Rockcoons allegedly exchanged around 10 bitcoin (worth around $9,200, at the time) for $14,500 in cash with an undercover law officer. That officer allegedly told Rockcoons in advance that the cash came from the manufacture and distribution of “hash oil,” which contains tetrahydrocannabinol, a controlled substance at the federal level.

Money laundering happens when a person takes ill-gotten money and turns it into “clean” money that cannot easily be tracked back to its source. Thus, if Rockcoons knew the cash was dirty, but traded it for bitcoin anyway, that would constitute money laundering.

Rockcoons was also allegedly operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business in Southern  California “from a date unknown” through August 30, 2017. Money transmitters are required to register with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The warrant for the arrest was issued by the Chief Magistrate for the Southern District of California on November 8, 2017, which indicates it may have taken authorities three months to track down Rockcoons, possibly because he moved out of the original jurisdiction.  

A Different Story

In private messages with Bitcoin Magazine and a series of public tweets, Rockcoons, who is actively seeking donations to pay for his legal fees, which he expects to be between $150,000 - $300,000, tells a different story than what is reflected in court records.

Where the court document says that the the cash given to him was already dirty, he claims that bitcoin he sold to the buyer became dirty after it left his hands.

“Someone bought a machine that makes cannabis oil with the BTC they purchased from me,” he said to Bitcoin Magazine. “I guess I'm not allowed to sell Bitcoin as a U.S. citizen for cash especially if [responsibility for] what people do with that money lies on me.”

In communication with Bitcoin Magazine, Rockcoons said that the buyer told him via text message that the bitcoins would be used to buy a “medical hash machine.”

He added, “Buying equipment in California is not illegal especially medical equipment in a medical State that's been a medical state for 25 years. [A] controlled substance does not have anything to do with the equipment because CBD oil can be extracted from Cannabis and that doesn't have anything to do with Tetra Hydro cannabinol.”

Both Rockcoons’ tweets and his subsequent communication with Bitcoin Magazine seemed to imply, initially, that he had no idea he was selling bitcoin to a law enforcement officer.

According to Rockcoons, the exchange took place in November 2016 (not the first week of January, as listed in court records) while he was living in Northern California (not Southern California, as the records state).

Rockcoons said the buyer found him through LocalBitcoins, an online platform that facilitates direct selling of bitcoin. A user can register as a seller on the platform and be contacted by interested parties. Transactions are done in person or via online banking.

Rockcoons claimed on Twitter that he received $9,200 for the bitcoin, though court records allege the law officer gave him $14,500. Rockoons later told Bitcoin Magazine that he specified to the buyer he wanted less than $10,000, but the buyer insisted on sending him $14,500.

“They tried to entrap me,” Rockcoons told Bitcoin Magazine. “I asked for only less than $10,000, they sent me $14500 [or] refused to send anything and then I sent under $10,000 [worth of bitcoin] to follow the law.”


After agreeing to the terms of the sale online, Rockcoons claims he received a cash payment. He described this payment, in his communication with Bitcoin Magazine, as being received in an envelope sent through the mail. He has not replied to requests for clarification as to whether or not he met with the buyer in person, though he did say that he and the buyer communicated via text messages.


At the time of the exchange, he was camping in the Mendocino National Forest, where he was living in a tent and working on a new project, a voice-operated Bitcoin wallet. Rockcoons said he had been living in the Northern California wilderness since 2015; however, fire and floods were making it increasingly difficult to survive in the area. After another fire ravaged the land, he said he needed cash for evacuation emergencies.

“I was living like a mountain man, so I didn’t really need money but eventually I needed to buy food so I decided to sell some coin; when someone asked me to buy some I usually just always turn it down but I needed cash to eat,” he told Bitcoin Magazine.

He claims the fires were what eventually forced him to move back to Nevada.

Time in Jail

After his arrest in Las Vegas on Friday, February 9, 2018, Rockcoons was locked up over the weekend in Henderson Detention Center in Clark County, Nevada, for three days. He pled not guilty at a Federal Court hearing on February 12, 2018, and was then sent to Clark County Detention Center for two more days for an unrelated charge of failure to appear on a traffic ticket.

“I was in jail for five days with some of the scariest humans on Earth,” he said. “But I [taught] most of them how Bitcoin works, so it was worth it.”   

In his series of ongoing tweets since his release from jail on February 14, 2018, Rockcoons has been portraying the charges against him as an attack on Bitcoin.

It's not my mess, it's everyone on Earths [sic] battle now or you can kiss your access to BTC goodbye,” he wrote in one tweet.

This is a attempt to redefine the regulation and the law,” he told Bitcoin Magazine.

“Bitcoin is my religion,” he wrote in another tweet. “God says I can use bitcoin everyday.”

Rockcoons is also claiming he was targeted due to his relationship with the state and the federal government and his Bitcoin-related startups.

He is looking to others to join the “battle” with him, and he is even asking the the Bitcoin Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports Bitcoin adoption and education, to cover 15 bitcoin (worth around $150,000) of his legal costs.

“It seems to me the Bitcoin Foundation has been absent from the Bitcoin Community during troubling times, this would be a good opportunity to show face and show the community that you're here for all of us," he tweeted.


Rockcoons’ arraignment is on February 22, 2018 at the San Diego Superior Court in California. He has hired Las Vegas criminal attorneys David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld to represent him. He says he plans to pay them in bitcoin.


(Note: Shortly before publishing this article, Rockcoons blocked the writer from viewing his Twitter account.)

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Open Source Community KDE Receives $200,000 in Bitcoin from The Pineapple fund

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The post Open Source Community KDE Receives $200,000 in Bitcoin from The Pineapple fund appeared first on CCN

Today open-source community KDE received $200,000 from The Pineapple Fund. KDE is an open-source community that creates free software for both desktop and portable systems. For Linux systems, KDE is well-known for its Plasma desktop and applications including Dolphin file manager and Kontact – a personal information suite. The software is used by millions of

The post Open Source Community KDE Receives $200,000 in Bitcoin from The Pineapple fund appeared first on CCN

Israel Confirms It Will Tax Bitcoin as Property

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Israel has confirmed that it will treat cryptocurrencies as taxable assets in a new circular published on Monday.

HashChain Technology Acquires Blockchain Company NODE40

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

HashChain Mining Operation Acquires NODE40 Blockchain Technology Company

HashChain Technology Inc. (HashChain) has acquired the blockchain technology company NODE40 for $8 million USD and 3,144,134 common shares of stock in HashChain (TSXV: KASH) (OTCQB: HSSHF).

HashChain is a Canadian-based crypto-mining company that currently operates 100 Dash mining rigs and is in the process of setting up nearly 4,000 more to mine bitcoin. By locating in Canada, they are able to take advantage of both the very low electrical rates for power and the cool climate for data center cooling.

Having recently gone public on the TSX Venture Exchange, the company was looking to diversify their business beyond crypto-mining and have now acquired NODE40, a company that develops Software as a Service (SaaS) products related to cryptocurrency.

HashChain CEO and Founder Patrick Gray said, “The acquisition of the NODE40 Business is an important next step of creating a global blockchain technology company."

On the hardware and mining side, NODE40 runs a managed service for running your own Dash masternode. Masternodes get paid 45 percent of the monthly block reward as incentive for providing services to the network.

On the software side, NODE40 provides the SaaS product NODE40 Balance (Balance), which determines accurate valuations for each input/output involved in a user’s transaction by using cryptocurrency transaction history and analyzing the blockchain. Once a value is assigned to each transaction, then Balance will report the users’ current total asset value, income and any realized gains or loses.

"Cryptocurrency accounting and reporting for tax purposes is a major concern in the industry at the moment,” said Gray. “The recent Coinbase subpoena from the IRS highlights the significant need for the software developed by NODE40."

The acquisition was finalized on February 15, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

More Than Just Bitcoin: Blockchain Has Value Across Multiple Industries

Entrepreneur, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Beyond cryptocurrency, the new ledger technology offers huge benefits for health care, crowdfunding and the cloud

Op-ed: How Decentralized Protocols Are Threatening Traditional Business Models

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Op-ed: How Decentralized Protocols Are Threatening Traditional Business Models

Corporates, suits and CEOs of traditional companies beware: decentralized protocols powered by blockchain technology are redefining your traditional business models, and you should be worried. Business models of the future are not created equal, and they certainly don’t play by the same rules. In the Venn Diagram of traditional business and decentralized protocols, there are a few overlaps and many differences.

Traditional Businesses vs. Decentralized Protocols

Boiled down to the most simple terms, all traditional businesses are organizations that charge customers a certain price (usually denoted in fiat currency) in exchange for a certain product or service. Starbucks charges $3.28 for a quad, grande, decaf Americano. Netflix charges a monthly $10.99 for unlimited Nicolas Cage streaming. Lover’s charges $20 to “spice things up” in the bedroom.

Ultimately, all traditional businesses –– no matter the product or service –– are driven by the quest for profit. Business owners are incentivized to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and scale carefully to maximize cash flows for shareholders.

The key stakeholders of traditional business are customers, business owners/employees and business financiers.

A decentralized protocol powered by blockchain technology is a network — a network framed by cryptography, distributed ledger technology, decentralization and consensus methods –– but a network nonetheless. The networks created by decentralized protocols aren’t structured like the networks created by any traditional business model.

Decentralized protocols aren’t driven by the need to create future cash flows for shareholders. Instead, they are programmed to facilitate commercial interactions between humans in a frictionless manner. A protocol’s incentives are aligned to benefit users and to achieve the smallest margins possible.

The key stakeholders of decentralized protocols are customers, protocol “community maintainers” and (occasionally) protocol financiers.

Customers

Customers benefit from the traditional business they choose to interact with. For a price specified by the business (in fiat currency), they are entitled to a product or service.

Similarly, customers benefit from the protocol they choose to interact with. For a price specified by the protocol, they are entitled to a product or service.

Generally, protocols are powered by utility tokens. For example, the fictional Planes Protocol facilitates coast-to-coast trips in a Tesla-of-the-skies (electric planes) for 1 PLN token. The PLN token is a medium-of-exchange. Nick, a businessman from Seattle, must pay 1 PLN token for a flight from Seattle to Miami. The plane operator is entitled to 99 percent of the PLN token fee and the Planes Protocol claims the other 1 percent.

Business Owners and Employees

Traditional business owners and employees must be compensated for their work. After all, there is a price to pay for food, water and shelter. Business owners pay themselves with portions of their revenue and pay their employees salaries for their work.

Because protocols are decentralized, the concept of “business owner” does not apply. Instead, protocols are cultivated by those designated as “community maintainers.” Whether the protocol founder is designated as the “community maintainer” is up to the community.

Protocols can facilitate commercial interactions between humans “at cost,” as long as they are generating enough in network fees to cover all required upkeep costs. For example, these can include a centralized unit to guarantee customer satisfaction and hiring of developers, project managers or anyone else necessary to keep the network alive and well. Therefore, a protocol’s margins can be much lower than that of a traditional business.

If a “greedy” protocol is programmed with transaction fees that are unreasonably high, anyone can “fork” the protocol (by using a modified copy of the original open-source code) and create a competing network with lower transaction fees. This will continue until price reaches a near-free equilibrium.

Protocol founders can reward themselves with a certain percentage of all tokens ever minted for creating the protocol; similarly, “community maintainers” are rewarded for their efforts via the protocol’s tokens on an ongoing, salary-style basis. These tokens usually have a related fiat value and can be redeemed on publicly traded exchanges.

Side note: Utility tokens are not a panacea. They face various problems such as publicly traded speculation and token velocity. A utopian, token-centric future will not happen overnight. There is much work to do.

Business Financiers

Many business owners or entrepreneurs traditionally rely on risk-tolerant financiers with capital. In the 1500s, enterprising trade voyagers relied on wealthy financiers to support their journeys. If trade voyagers were successful, financiers earned the lion’s share of the voyagers’ profits.

In 2018, Silicon Valley startup founders relinquish equity/control over their company to venture capitalists (modern day trade financiers) in exchange for seed funding. If startups are successful, venture capitalists earn a return proportional to their shares of the company.

It is important to note that capitalism and traditional business models work well. There are millions of happy customers across a variety of industries. But, in some cases, decentralized protocols provide cheaper access to products or services and better-aligned incentives for all stakeholders.

Founders of protocols have flexibility. Because they are creating a new network powered by utility tokens, they can afford to bypass traditional debt/equity financing.

While 16th century merchants and past Silicon Valley founders played by the rules of their financiers, founders of decentralized protocols are freed from this sort of pressure. Protocols can crowdfund capital by pre-selling their protocol’s utility tokens to accredited VCs and, in some cases, to the general public. Protocols can also give discounted tokens to developers for their skills.

Key Takeaway: Traditional businesses and protocols are not created equal. And decentralized protocols certainly don’t play by the same rules as traditional businesses.

Shifting the Value Paradigm

So, what might value creation in the future even look like? And how does a legacy business survive the decentralized future?

Corporate decision-makers must recognize and understand that:

  • This is a true instance of the often-overlooked “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Traditional business models cannot be confused with or compared to protocols of the future.
  • Decentralized protocols of the Web 3.0 will not automatically dethrone legacy businesses. And, in some cases, traditional business would not benefit from decentralization. Protocols will not gain the necessary network effects for widespread adoption unless their value proposition is an order of magnitude better than current business models.
  • If your corporation operates on the basis of artificial scarcity or “middlemen economics,” you’re ripe for disruption.

Most decentralized protocols still require certain aspects of centralization to guarantee customer satisfaction. Sorry, libertarians, but certain things must maintain a degree of centralization.

Practical Example: Uber vs. Ride, a Fictional, Decentralized Ride-Sharing Protocol.

In 2018, Uber has 3 key competitive advantages in the ride-sharing market:

  1. Legacy Network: ~ 40 million total monthly, active riders; ~ 1.5 million total drivers
  2. Customer Satisfaction Guarantee: a centralized company able to provide riders/drivers with personalized troubleshooting. For example, when a driver complains that a college student threw up in his Uber, the centralized Uber troubleshooting authority reprimands the rider in the form of a citation and makes the driver whole.
  3. Brand Name Recognition: Uber has achieved ultimate “verb” status. On par with “Googling” something.

However, in 5–20 years, Ride will inevitably come along and attempt to win over Uber’s users and drivers. Ride won’t be structured like Uber’s traditional business model. Its goal won’t be to create future cash flows for Ride shareholders. Instead, the protocol will focus on facilitating transactions between riders and drivers in a frictionless, decentralized manner. Ride’s incentives will be aligned to benefit riders and drivers.

Because Ride isn’t driven by the quest for profit, it doesn’t have to charge drivers ~20 percent for each ride. Instead, they can charge users/drivers fractional transaction fees (by means of the RIDE utility token) for interacting with the protocol. These transaction fees are used to maintain and secure the Ride protocol.

The Ride protocol will raise money by pre-selling their utility tokens via decentralized crowdfunding. The protocol will provide an order of magnitude improvement over Uber’s network, executed by the right team and the right investors. Because of this, Ride will amass a significant network effect, user base and brand name recognition. Of course, the Ride protocol will likely still have aspects of centralization to provide customer satisfaction.

So, How Can Companies Like Uber Survive in 2025?

There are two options:

  1. “Reverse ICO,” or create a decentralized protocol for the service you provide.
  2. Slowly go bankrupt as market share is taken away by your competitors, who are decentralized protocols.

Decentralization will be just one of many difficult topics to bring up at a board meeting. After all, artificial intelligence and automation are advancing every year. Shrinking margins, employee layoffs and re-trainings are also implicit with decentralization. (Maybe it’s best to recruit your interns to volunteer this information to the board, in case this inevitability isn’t well-received by your shareholders.)

Legacy companies are presented with an incredible opportunity to participate in the next evolution of business models and commercial interactions between people. Choose to embrace the future or fall as a victim to social darwinism: the choice is up to you.

This is an opinion piece by Erik Kuebler. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Media or Bitcoin Magazine.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

How Much Caution is Necessary in Business? 3 Lessons From the Crypto Craze.

Entrepreneur, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

People are investing their hard-earned cash in Bitcoin, Ethereum and Other Cryptocurrencies. Should they

Bitcoin climbs back above $11,000

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Screen Shot 2018 02 19 at 15.48.58

  • The price of bitcoin climbed back above $11,000 per coin on Monday afternoon.
  • Having lost more than half its value between November and late January, bitcoin has staged a strong rally over the last week or so.
  • "This recovery is being led and carried primarily by Japan," said Mati Greenspan, a senior market analyst at trading platform eToro.


LONDON — The price of bitcoin climbed back above $11,000 per coin on Monday afternoon during thin trading.

With Americans celebrating Presidents' Day, trade quieter than usual but that hasn't stopped investors buying into the cryptocurrency as it continues to bounce from recent lows.

By 3.50 p.m. GMT (10.50 a.m. ET), bitcoin is trading at $11,139 — up around 7% from its previous close.

Bitcoin lost more than half its value between November and late January but has staged a strong rally over the last week or so, appreciating from around $8,000 on February 13 to more than $11,000 on Monday.

"This recovery is being led and carried primarily by Japan," Mati Greenspan, a senior market analyst at trading platform eToro, said in an email.

"Traders in the land of the rising sun are no fools. They allowed the prices to drop when it got to the top and now they're buying up the bottom.

"The crypto market is also celebrating some positive updates from Europe, of all places. The European banks have been notoriously harsh on Bitcoins and everything Blockchain. Over the weekend the Swiss government has come out with some clear-cut groundbreaking regulations on how to handle ICOs."

Elsewhere in the crypto space, it emerged that Poland's central bank has paid YouTube stars to talk down cryptocurrencies.

According to Business Insider Poland, the Narodowy Bank Polski (NFB) spent around 91,000 zloty (£19,430; $27,300) on a marketing campaign designed to attack the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies. The money was spent on platforms including Google and Facebook, but was also used to pay a Polish Youtube partner network called Gamellon.

The Gamellon network reportedly represents many of Poland's top YouTubers, including popular prankster Marcin Dubiel.

In December, Dubiel published a video titled "STRACIŁEM WSZYSTKIE PIENIĄDZE?!" — which loosely translates as "I LOST ALL MY MONEY?!"

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: A $445 billion fund manager explains what everyone gets wrong about the economy

Why Bristol-Myers Squibb made a $1.85 billion bet on a cancer drug (BMS)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Cancer immunotherapy

  • Bristol-Myers Squibb is paying Nektar Therapeutics $1.85 billion for a promising cancer drug. 
  • As part of the deal, $1 billion of that cash is upfront in exchange for 35% of the global profits for the drug, known as NKTR-214.
  • NKTR-214 is a kind of cancer immunotherapy treatment known as an interleukin-2 agonist, and the hope is to use it in combination with other treatments to boost the body's immune reaction to cancer. 


Bristol-Myers Squibb is making a billion-dollar bet on an experimental cancer drug that goes after the body's immune system.

The drug, NKTR-214, is being developed by Nektar Therapeutics. BMS and Nektar have partnered over the drug in the past, when looking to see how the drug works in combination with BMS's drug Opdivo. 

As part of Wednesday's deal, $1 billion of that cash is upfront in exchange for 35% of the global profits for the drug. The drug is currently in clinical trials testing out how the drug works in combination with Opdivo in people with certain types of cancer including breast and kidney. 

It's a high price tag, making it one of the largest up-front fees a pharmaceutical company has paid for a single drug. 

The hope is that the drug can enhance the work that the checkpoints are doing, and in turn getting it to work in more people, expanding the field of immuno-oncology. 

"We now have a third validated I-O mechanism that has demonstrated a clinical benefit in patients, and holds significant potential to expand the benefits that these immuno-oncology agents can bring to patients with cancer," BMS CEO Giovanni Caforio said in a release. 

Boosting cancer immunotherapy

Some of the biggest cancer treatment successes in the past few years have come from a relatively new field called cancer immunotherapy, in which the body's immune system is manipulated to treat the disease.

Opdivo and Yervoy — drugs owned by BMS that the company will study in combination with Nektar's drug — are known as checkpoint inhibitors, drugs that tell the immune system to take the foot off the brakes and go after cancer cells it might not have otherwise attacked.

NKTR-214, on the other hand, is aimed at activating proteins that signal the body's immune system, specifically ones known as IL-2. The hope is by going after IL-2, the body might produce more T cells that'll go after cancer cells, ultimately helping patients get cancer-free. In the car analogy, NKTR-214 is essentially aiming to put more gas in the engine for when the brake gets released. 

Finding new ways to enhance the body's reactions to cancer cells is key to getting cancer immunotherapy to work in more people.

So far, treatments like the checkpoint inhibitors have had a lot of success treating some patients, but not all

SEE ALSO: The search for new Alzheimer's treatments just faced another setback — here's where researchers are looking now

DON'T MISS: Bristol-Myers Squibb just claimed 'a breakthrough in cancer research' — but there's a catch

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Ken Rogoff on the next financial crisis and the future of bitcoin

A hot startup could be the perfect model for the JPMorgan-Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway healthcare initiative

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Jeff Bezos

  • The news that JPMorgan, Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway are forming a new independent nonprofit venture aimed at lowering healthcare costs for their employees has people looking at employer-sponsored health plans in a new light.
  • The details of the new venture have been limited, which has left a lot of room for speculation about how it could play out.
  • One way would be for the companies, which already act as their own insurance companies, to form their own sorts of plans that fit their employees — from warehouse workers to Wall Street bankers. 
  • An example of a new health insurer working with employers in this ways is called Collective Health.

 

A new nonprofit healthcare venture from business giants Amazon, JPMorgan, and Berkshire Hathaway has generated a lot of interest in a certain type of health plan: the self-insured employer health plan. 

If you're an employee with a self-insured employer, it means that when you're an employee going to a doctor's appointment, your employer is ultimately footing the bill for the MRI you receive, rather than a health insurer.

The insurance companies are there in the middle to handle the logistics of getting the claim from one place to another, which means you might not realize your employer's footing the entire bill on the other end. Employers pay insurance companies for their services on a per member, per month basis. More than half of the non-elderly population is covered by an employer-sponsored plan, and almost 80% of large companies are self-insured

"I tell people, JPMorgan Chase already buys a $1.5 billion of medical, and we self-insure," JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon told Business Insider. It's why his company, along with Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway, two other massive self-insured employers, are looking for new options. "Think of this, we're already the insurance company, we're already making these decisions, and we simply want do a better job," Dimon said. 

There are a few ways that could play out.

The three companies could simply use the lives they cover to negotiate for better prices. Or, they could go in and create their own alternative health plan built around their priorities, like giving them more information via their phones or introducing more integrated wellness programs. 

The wheels on this are already turning. For example, Collective Health, a startup that's raised $119 million from investors including Peter Thiel's Founders Fund and GV since getting its start in 2013, works with employers to build out plans that fit their needs, adding technology with the hope of making things like submitting claims and reading bills easier than it tends to be. 

Collective Health co-founders Ali Diab & Dr. Rajaie Batniji

A case study: Collective Health

Chief Health Officer Dr. Rajaie Batniji cofounded Collective Health with CEO Ali Diab, who was working in technology, including working on the search team at Yahoo. At the same time, Batniji was going the academic route, getting a PhD in healthcare financing.

"I was taking the academic route thinking I'd make the system better by writing papers about it," Batniji said.  

Mobile   Plans @2x

Like many startups with tech founders, the idea started out with a bad experience with the existing healthcare system. Diab was hospitalized in 2013 with an intestinal condition. While recovering, he kept getting bills that weren't exactly bills, and confusing statements about what was covered and wasn't. 

They wanted to answer the question: "Can we provide a better user experience layer?" As they started to look into it, they realized they couldn't just add something on top: They'd have to go in and act as the plan. "You have to recreate the whole stack," Batniji said. 

To start, they decided to tackle the employer-sponsored health plans. The employers already act like "mini health insurance companies," which means they can often move faster to adopt new technology than other plans can, Batniji said. 

Collective Health's clients include tech companies Zendesk, Palantir, eBay, and Pinterest. In total, it covers about 125,000 members, consisting of employees and their dependents. 

Batniji said there'd be some worries that because employees would regularly be able to access their health information, they might start to over-use it. So far, that hasn't been the case. Batniji said Collective Health has seen fewer ER visits, unnecessary imaging has gone done, and there's been an increase in behavioral health visits. 

Collective Health also helps connect services companies might want to provide for their employees, integrating them into the plan. For example, an employer would like to cover therapy appointments for all employees, even if the therapist is out of network. If one company handles fertility benefits really well, that can be plugged in as well. Collective Health acts like a landing page, so that you have everything in one place from being able to search for doctors and facilities that are in network to what kind of breast pump is covered by your plan. 

Batniji has one piece of advice to share with the teams at Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan as they try to lower costs and improve healthcare for their employees: "I think it's important for them to prioritize just like we did where you build and where you partner," he said.

For Collective Health, that meant building out a system that lets them to connect to any medical network, but deciding to partner on determining the networks of doctors their plans include.

SEE ALSO: We asked Jamie Dimon why JPMorgan is forming a new healthcare company with Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway — here's what he said

DON'T MISS: A bunch of people are betting that a 70-year-old health system could hold the key to fixing out-of-control healthcare costs

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The Cryptocurrency Hedge Fund that Operates Out of a Dorm Room

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The post The Cryptocurrency Hedge Fund that Operates Out of a Dorm Room appeared first on CCN

Trace Capital is not your average cryptocurrency hedge fund. The venture, which currently manages approximately $300,000 for a small group of around 15 investors, uses an algorithm to predict the price movements of large-cap cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. The algorithm has proved moderately successful, and Trace Capital’s founders have already received buyout offers. … Continued

The post The Cryptocurrency Hedge Fund that Operates Out of a Dorm Room appeared first on CCN

The Cryptocurrency Hedge Fund that Operates Out of a Dorm Room

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The post The Cryptocurrency Hedge Fund that Operates Out of a Dorm Room appeared first on CCN

Trace Capital is not your average cryptocurrency hedge fund. The venture, which currently manages approximately $300,000 for a small group of around 15 investors, uses an algorithm to predict the price movements of large-cap cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. The algorithm has proved moderately successful, and Trace Capital’s founders have already received buyout offers. … Continued

The post The Cryptocurrency Hedge Fund that Operates Out of a Dorm Room appeared first on CCN

Sidechains: Why These Researchers Think They Solved a Key Piece of the Puzzle

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Sidechains and Why These Researchers Think They Solved a Key Piece of the Puzzle

New blockchains are born all the time. Bitcoin was the lone blockchain for years, but now there are hundreds. The problem is, if you want to use the features offered on another blockchain, you have to buy the tokens for that other blockchain.

But all that may soon change. One developing technology called sidechains promises to make it easier to move tokens across blockchains and, as a result, open the doors to a world of possibilities, including building bridges to the legacy financial systems of banks.

In October 2017, Aggelos Kiayias, professor at the University of Edinburgh and chief scientist at blockchain research and development company IOHK; Andrew Miller, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Dionysis Zindros, researcher at the University of Athens, released the paper “Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof-of-Work” (NiPoPoW), introducing a critical piece to the sidechains puzzle that had been missing for three years. This is the story of how they got there.

But, first, what exactly is a sidechain?    

Same Coin, Different Blockchain

A sidechain is a technology that allows you to move your tokens from one blockchain to another, use them on that other blockchain and then move them back at a later point in time, without the need for a third party.  

In the past, the parent blockchain has typically been Bitcoin, but a parent chain could be any blockchain. Also, when a token moves to another blockchain, it should maintain its same value. In other words, a bitcoin on an Ethereum sidechain would remain a bitcoin.  

The biggest advantage of sidechains is that they would allow users to access a host of new services. For instance, you could move bitcoin to another blockchain to take advantage of privacy features, faster transaction speeds and smart contracts.  

Sidechains have other uses, too. A sidechain could offer a more secure way to upgrade a protocol, or it could serve as a type of security firewall, so that in the event of a catastrophic disaster on a sidechain, the main chain would remain unaffected. “It is a kind of limited liability,” said Zindros in a video explaining how the technology works.

Finally, if banks were to create their own private blockchain networks, sidechains could enable communications with those networks, allowing users to issue and track shares, bonds and other assets.

Early Conversations

Early dialogue about sidechains first appeared in Bitcoin chat rooms around 2012, when Bitcoin Core developers were thinking of ways to safely upgrade the Bitcoin protocol.

One idea was for a “one-way peg,” where users could move bitcoin to a separate blockchain to test out a new client; however, once those assets were moved, they could not be moved back to the main chain.  

“I was thinking of this as a software engineering tool that could be used to make widespread changes,” Adam Back, now CEO at blockchain development company Blockstream, said in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine. “You could say, we are going to make a new version [of Bitcoin], and we think it will be ready in a year, but in the meantime, you can opt in early and test it.”

According to Back, sometime in the following year, on the Bitcoin IRC channel, Bitcoin Core developer Greg Maxwell suggested an idea for a “two-way peg,” where value could be transferred to the alternative chain and then back to Bitcoin at a later point.

A two-way peg addressed another growing concern at the time. Alternative coins, like Litecoin and Namecoin, were becoming increasingly popular. The fear was these “altcoins” would dilute the value of bitcoin. It made sense, Bitcoin Core developers thought, to keep bitcoin as a type of reserve currency, and relegate new features to sidechains. That way, “if you wanted to use a different feature, you wouldn’t have to buy a speculative asset,” said Back.

To turn the concept of sidechains into a reality, Back along with Maxwell and a few other Bitcoin Core developers formed Blockstream in 2014. In October that year, the group released “Enabling Blockchain Innovations with Pegged Sidechains,” a paper describing sidechains at a high level. Miller appears as a co-author on that paper as well.

How Sidechains Work

One important component of sidechains is a simplified payment verification (SPV) proof that shows that tokens have been locked up on one chain so validators can safely unlock an equivalent value on the alternative chain. But to work for sidechains, an SPV proof has to be small enough to fit into a single coinbase transaction, the transaction that rewards a miner with new coins. (Not to be confused with the company Coinbase.)

At the time the Blockstream researchers released their paper, they knew they needed a compressed SPV proof to get sidechains to work, but they had not yet developed the cryptography behind it. So they outlined general, high-level ideas.

The Blockstream paper describes two types of two-way pegs: a symmetric two-way peg, where both chains are independent with their own mining; and an asymmetric two-way peg, where sidechain miners are full validators of the parent chain.

In a symmetric two-way peg, a user sends her bitcoins to a special address. Doing so locks up the funds on the Bitcoin blockchain. That output remains locked for a contest period of maybe six blocks (one hour) to confirm the transaction has gone through, and then an SPV proof is created to send to the sidechain.

At that point, a corresponding transaction appears on the sidechain with the SPV proof, verifying that money has been locked up on the Bitcoin blockchain, and then coins with the same value of account are unlocked on the sidechain.

Coins are spent and change hands and, at a later point, are sent back to the main chain. When the coins are returned to the main chain, the process repeats. They are sent to a locked output on the sidechain, a waiting period goes by, and an SPV proof is created and sent back to the main blockchain to unlock coins on the main chain.  

In an asymmetric two-way peg, the process is slightly different. The transfer from the parent chain to the sidechain does not require an SPV proof, because validators on the sidechain are also aware of the state of the parent chain. An SPV proof is still needed, however, when the coins are returned to the parent chain.

The Search for a Compact Proof

In a sidechain, a compact SPV proof needs to contain a compressed version of all the block headers in the chain where funds are locked up from the genesis block through the contest period, as well as transaction data and some other data. In this way, an SPV proof can also be thought of as a “proof of proof-of-work” for a particular output.

Inspiration for the compact SPV proof comes from a linked-list-like structure known as a “skip list” developed 25 years ago. In applying this structure to a compact SPV proof, the trick was in finding a way to skip block headers while still maintaining a high level of security so that an adversary would not be able to fake a proof.

In working through the problem, Blockstream showed an early draft of its sidechains paper to Miller, who had been mulling over compact SPVs for a few years already.

In August 2012, in a post on a BitcoinTalk forum titled “The High-Value-Hash Highway,” Miller described an idea for a “merkle skip list” that a Bitcoin light client could use to quickly determine the longest chain and begin using it. In that post, he described the significance of the data structure as “absolutely staggering.”

When Miller read through the Blockstream draft, he spotted a vulnerability in the compact SPV proof described in the paper. Discussions ensued, but they “couldn’t find a way to solve that problem without compromising efficiency,” Miller said.

Miller’s non-trivial contributions to the Blockstream paper ended up being a few paragraphs in Appendix B that describe the challenges in creating a compact SPV proof.

It should “be possible to greatly compress a list of headers while still proving the same amount of work,” the section reads, but “optimising these tradeoffs and formalising the security guarantees is out of scope for this paper and the topic of ongoing work.”

That ongoing work remained stuck for three years.

Compact SPV

During that ensuing time, researchers at IOHK began taking a more serious interest in sidechains. Plans were taking shape for Cardano, a new proof-of-stake blockchain that IOHK had been contracted to build.

Cardano would consist of two layers: a settlement layer, launched in September 2017, where the money supply would be kept, and a smart contract layer. Those two layers would be two sidechain-enabled blockchains. In this way, the settlement could remain simple and secure from any attacks that might occur on the smart contract layer. But if IOHK was to get Cardano to work as intended, it needed to solve sidechains.

In February 2016, Kiayias, then a professor at the University of Athens, and two of his students, Nikolaos Lamprou and Aikaterini-Panagiota Stouka, released “Proofs of Proofs of Work with Sublinear Complexity” (PoPoW).

The paper was the first to formally address a compact SPV proof. Only, the proof described in the paper was interactive; whereas, to work for sidechains, it needed to be non-interactive.

In an interactive proof, the prover and the verifier enter into a back-and-forth conversation, meaning there could be more than one round of messaging. In contrast, a non-interactive proof would be a simple, short string of text that would fit neatly into a single transaction on the blockchain.

The PoPoW paper was presented at BITCOIN’16, a workshop affiliated with the International Financial Cryptography Association’s (IFCA) Financial Cryptography and Data Security conference. Miller, who was at the conference, approached Kiayias and shared an idea for making the protocol non-interactive.

It was a “nice observation,” Kiayias told Bitcoin Magazine, but making the proof secure was “not obvious at all” and would require significant work.

Zindros, who had just started working on his PhD under Kiayias, was also at the conference, and he needed a topic for his thesis. Kiayias saw a good fit, “so we pressed on, the three of us, and adapted the PoPoW protocol and its proof of security to the non-interactive setting,” Kiayias said.

In October 2016, Kiayias officially joined IOHK, and a year later, Kiayias, Miller and Zindros released “Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof-of-Work,” introducing a compact SPV proof five years after sidechains had first been talked about on Bitcoin forums.

“If it were interactive, I don’t know if it would have worked; with a non-interactive proof, it is really smooth,” Zindros told Bitcoin Magazine.

More Work to Be Done

Even with NiPoPoW, sidechains are still not fully specified. Several questions remain, including, how small can the proofs be made? After a transaction is locked up on one chain, how much time needs to pass before it can be spent on the other? And, will it be possible to move a token from a sidechain directly to another sidechain?

“A lot of theory still needs to be defined,” IOHK CEO Charles Hoskinson said in speaking to Bitcoin Magazine.

Also, while NiPoPoW is designed to work for proof-of-work blockchains, some believe that if blockchains are to take their place in the world on a grand scale, the future rests in proof-of-stake protocols like Ouroboros, Algorand or Snow White, which promise to be more energy-efficient than Bitcoin.

In particular, if Cardano, which is based on Ouroboros, is to work according to plan, IOHK researchers still need to discover a non-interactive proof of proof-of-stake (NiPoPoS).

Hoskinson is confident. “We can definitely do that,” he said. “We can definitely have a NiPoPoS. The question is how many megabytes or kilobytes is it going to be? Can we bring it down to 100 KB? That is really the question.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Sidechains: Why These Researchers Think They Solved a Key Piece of the Puzzle

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Sidechains and Why These Researchers Think They Solved a Key Piece of the Puzzle

New blockchains are born all the time. Bitcoin was the lone blockchain for years, but now there are hundreds. The problem is, if you want to use the features offered on another blockchain, you have to buy the tokens for that other blockchain.

But all that may soon change. One developing technology called sidechains promises to make it easier to move tokens across blockchains and, as a result, open the doors to a world of possibilities, including building bridges to the legacy financial systems of banks.

In October 2017, Aggelos Kiayias, professor at the University of Edinburgh and chief scientist at blockchain research and development company IOHK; Andrew Miller, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Dionysis Zindros, researcher at the University of Athens, released the paper “Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof-of-Work” (NiPoPoW), introducing a critical piece to the sidechains puzzle that had been missing for three years. This is the story of how they got there.

But, first, what exactly is a sidechain?    

Same Coin, Different Blockchain

A sidechain is a technology that allows you to move your tokens from one blockchain to another, use them on that other blockchain and then move them back at a later point in time, without the need for a third party.  

In the past, the parent blockchain has typically been Bitcoin, but a parent chain could be any blockchain. Also, when a token moves to another blockchain, it should maintain its same value. In other words, a bitcoin on an Ethereum sidechain would remain a bitcoin.  

The biggest advantage of sidechains is that they would allow users to access a host of new services. For instance, you could move bitcoin to another blockchain to take advantage of privacy features, faster transaction speeds and smart contracts.  

Sidechains have other uses, too. A sidechain could offer a more secure way to upgrade a protocol, or it could serve as a type of security firewall, so that in the event of a catastrophic disaster on a sidechain, the main chain would remain unaffected. “It is a kind of limited liability,” said Zindros in a video explaining how the technology works.

Finally, if banks were to create their own private blockchain networks, sidechains could enable communications with those networks, allowing users to issue and track shares, bonds and other assets.

Early Conversations

Early dialogue about sidechains first appeared in Bitcoin chat rooms around 2012, when Bitcoin Core developers were thinking of ways to safely upgrade the Bitcoin protocol.

One idea was for a “one-way peg,” where users could move bitcoin to a separate blockchain to test out a new client; however, once those assets were moved, they could not be moved back to the main chain.  

“I was thinking of this as a software engineering tool that could be used to make widespread changes,” Adam Back, now CEO at blockchain development company Blockstream, said in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine. “You could say, we are going to make a new version [of Bitcoin], and we think it will be ready in a year, but in the meantime, you can opt in early and test it.”

According to Back, sometime in the following year, on the Bitcoin IRC channel, Bitcoin Core developer Greg Maxwell suggested an idea for a “two-way peg,” where value could be transferred to the alternative chain and then back to Bitcoin at a later point.

A two-way peg addressed another growing concern at the time. Alternative coins, like Litecoin and Namecoin, were becoming increasingly popular. The fear was these “altcoins” would dilute the value of bitcoin. It made sense, Bitcoin Core developers thought, to keep bitcoin as a type of reserve currency, and relegate new features to sidechains. That way, “if you wanted to use a different feature, you wouldn’t have to buy a speculative asset,” said Back.

To turn the concept of sidechains into a reality, Back along with Maxwell and a few other Bitcoin Core developers formed Blockstream in 2014. In October that year, the group released “Enabling Blockchain Innovations with Pegged Sidechains,” a paper describing sidechains at a high level. Miller appears as a co-author on that paper as well.

How Sidechains Work

One important component of sidechains is a simplified payment verification (SPV) proof that shows that tokens have been locked up on one chain so validators can safely unlock an equivalent value on the alternative chain. But to work for sidechains, an SPV proof has to be small enough to fit into a single coinbase transaction, the transaction that rewards a miner with new coins. (Not to be confused with the company Coinbase.)

At the time the Blockstream researchers released their paper, they knew they needed a compressed SPV proof to get sidechains to work, but they had not yet developed the cryptography behind it. So they outlined general, high-level ideas.

The Blockstream paper describes two types of two-way pegs: a symmetric two-way peg, where both chains are independent with their own mining; and an asymmetric two-way peg, where sidechain miners are full validators of the parent chain.

In a symmetric two-way peg, a user sends her bitcoins to a special address. Doing so locks up the funds on the Bitcoin blockchain. That output remains locked for a contest period of maybe six blocks (one hour) to confirm the transaction has gone through, and then an SPV proof is created to send to the sidechain.

At that point, a corresponding transaction appears on the sidechain with the SPV proof, verifying that money has been locked up on the Bitcoin blockchain, and then coins with the same value of account are unlocked on the sidechain.

Coins are spent and change hands and, at a later point, are sent back to the main chain. When the coins are returned to the main chain, the process repeats. They are sent to a locked output on the sidechain, a waiting period goes by, and an SPV proof is created and sent back to the main blockchain to unlock coins on the main chain.  

In an asymmetric two-way peg, the process is slightly different. The transfer from the parent chain to the sidechain does not require an SPV proof, because validators on the sidechain are also aware of the state of the parent chain. An SPV proof is still needed, however, when the coins are returned to the parent chain.

The Search for a Compact Proof

In a sidechain, a compact SPV proof needs to contain a compressed version of all the block headers in the chain where funds are locked up from the genesis block through the contest period, as well as transaction data and some other data. In this way, an SPV proof can also be thought of as a “proof of proof-of-work” for a particular output.

Inspiration for the compact SPV proof comes from a linked-list-like structure known as a “skip list” developed 25 years ago. In applying this structure to a compact SPV proof, the trick was in finding a way to skip block headers while still maintaining a high level of security so that an adversary would not be able to fake a proof.

In working through the problem, Blockstream showed an early draft of its sidechains paper to Miller, who had been mulling over compact SPVs for a few years already.

In August 2012, in a post on a BitcoinTalk forum titled “The High-Value-Hash Highway,” Miller described an idea for a “merkle skip list” that a Bitcoin light client could use to quickly determine the longest chain and begin using it. In that post, he described the significance of the data structure as “absolutely staggering.”

When Miller read through the Blockstream draft, he spotted a vulnerability in the compact SPV proof described in the paper. Discussions ensued, but they “couldn’t find a way to solve that problem without compromising efficiency,” Miller said.

Miller’s non-trivial contributions to the Blockstream paper ended up being a few paragraphs in Appendix B that describe the challenges in creating a compact SPV proof.

It should “be possible to greatly compress a list of headers while still proving the same amount of work,” the section reads, but “optimising these tradeoffs and formalising the security guarantees is out of scope for this paper and the topic of ongoing work.”

That ongoing work remained stuck for three years.

Compact SPV

During that ensuing time, researchers at IOHK began taking a more serious interest in sidechains. Plans were taking shape for Cardano, a new proof-of-stake blockchain that IOHK had been contracted to build.

Cardano would consist of two layers: a settlement layer, launched in September 2017, where the money supply would be kept, and a smart contract layer. Those two layers would be two sidechain-enabled blockchains. In this way, the settlement could remain simple and secure from any attacks that might occur on the smart contract layer. But if IOHK was to get Cardano to work as intended, it needed to solve sidechains.

In February 2016, Kiayias, then a professor at the University of Athens, and two of his students, Nikolaos Lamprou and Aikaterini-Panagiota Stouka, released “Proofs of Proofs of Work with Sublinear Complexity” (PoPoW).

The paper was the first to formally address a compact SPV proof. Only, the proof described in the paper was interactive; whereas, to work for sidechains, it needed to be non-interactive.

In an interactive proof, the prover and the verifier enter into a back-and-forth conversation, meaning there could be more than one round of messaging. In contrast, a non-interactive proof would be a simple, short string of text that would fit neatly into a single transaction on the blockchain.

The PoPoW paper was presented at BITCOIN’16, a workshop affiliated with the International Financial Cryptography Association’s (IFCA) Financial Cryptography and Data Security conference. Miller, who was at the conference, approached Kiayias and shared an idea for making the protocol non-interactive.

It was a “nice observation,” Kiayias told Bitcoin Magazine, but making the proof secure was “not obvious at all” and would require significant work.

Zindros, who had just started working on his PhD under Kiayias, was also at the conference, and he needed a topic for his thesis. Kiayias saw a good fit, “so we pressed on, the three of us, and adapted the PoPoW protocol and its proof of security to the non-interactive setting,” Kiayias said.

In October 2016, Kiayias officially joined IOHK, and a year later, Kiayias, Miller and Zindros released “Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof-of-Work,” introducing a compact SPV proof five years after sidechains had first been talked about on Bitcoin forums.

“If it were interactive, I don’t know if it would have worked; with a non-interactive proof, it is really smooth,” Zindros told Bitcoin Magazine.

More Work to Be Done

Even with NiPoPoW, sidechains are still not fully specified. Several questions remain, including, how small can the proofs be made? After a transaction is locked up on one chain, how much time needs to pass before it can be spent on the other? And, will it be possible to move a token from a sidechain directly to another sidechain?

“A lot of theory still needs to be defined,” IOHK CEO Charles Hoskinson said in speaking to Bitcoin Magazine.

Also, while NiPoPoW is designed to work for proof-of-work blockchains, some believe that if blockchains are to take their place in the world on a grand scale, the future rests in proof-of-stake protocols like Ouroboros, Algorand or Snow White, which promise to be more energy-efficient than Bitcoin.

In particular, if Cardano, which is based on Ouroboros, is to work according to plan, IOHK researchers still need to discover a non-interactive proof of proof-of-stake (NiPoPoS).

Hoskinson is confident. “We can definitely do that,” he said. “We can definitely have a NiPoPoS. The question is how many megabytes or kilobytes is it going to be? Can we bring it down to 100 KB? That is really the question.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Sidechains: Why These Researchers Think They Solved a Key Piece of the Puzzle

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Sidechains and Why These Researchers Think They Solved a Key Piece of the Puzzle

New blockchains are born all the time. Bitcoin was the lone blockchain for years, but now there are hundreds. The problem is, if you want to use the features offered on another blockchain, you have to buy the tokens for that other blockchain.

But all that may soon change. One developing technology called sidechains promises to make it easier to move tokens across blockchains and, as a result, open the doors to a world of possibilities, including building bridges to the legacy financial systems of banks.

In October 2017, Aggelos Kiayias, professor at the University of Edinburgh and chief scientist at blockchain research and development company IOHK; Andrew Miller, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Dionysis Zindros, researcher at the University of Athens, released the paper “Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof-of-Work” (NiPoPoW), introducing a critical piece to the sidechains puzzle that had been missing for three years. This is the story of how they got there.

But, first, what exactly is a sidechain?    

Same Coin, Different Blockchain

A sidechain is a technology that allows you to move your tokens from one blockchain to another, use them on that other blockchain and then move them back at a later point in time, without the need for a third party.  

In the past, the parent blockchain has typically been Bitcoin, but a parent chain could be any blockchain. Also, when a token moves to another blockchain, it should maintain its same value. In other words, a bitcoin on an Ethereum sidechain would remain a bitcoin.  

The biggest advantage of sidechains is that they would allow users to access a host of new services. For instance, you could move bitcoin to another blockchain to take advantage of privacy features, faster transaction speeds and smart contracts.  

Sidechains have other uses, too. A sidechain could offer a more secure way to upgrade a protocol, or it could serve as a type of security firewall, so that in the event of a catastrophic disaster on a sidechain, the main chain would remain unaffected. “It is a kind of limited liability,” said Zindros in a video explaining how the technology works.

Finally, if banks were to create their own private blockchain networks, sidechains could enable communications with those networks, allowing users to issue and track shares, bonds and other assets.

Early Conversations

Early dialogue about sidechains first appeared in Bitcoin chat rooms around 2012, when Bitcoin Core developers were thinking of ways to safely upgrade the Bitcoin protocol.

One idea was for a “one-way peg,” where users could move bitcoin to a separate blockchain to test out a new client; however, once those assets were moved, they could not be moved back to the main chain.  

“I was thinking of this as a software engineering tool that could be used to make widespread changes,” Adam Back, now CEO at blockchain development company Blockstream, said in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine. “You could say, we are going to make a new version [of Bitcoin], and we think it will be ready in a year, but in the meantime, you can opt in early and test it.”

According to Back, sometime in the following year, on the Bitcoin IRC channel, Bitcoin Core developer Greg Maxwell suggested an idea for a “two-way peg,” where value could be transferred to the alternative chain and then back to Bitcoin at a later point.

A two-way peg addressed another growing concern at the time. Alternative coins, like Litecoin and Namecoin, were becoming increasingly popular. The fear was these “altcoins” would dilute the value of bitcoin. It made sense, Bitcoin Core developers thought, to keep bitcoin as a type of reserve currency, and relegate new features to sidechains. That way, “if you wanted to use a different feature, you wouldn’t have to buy a speculative asset,” said Back.

To turn the concept of sidechains into a reality, Back along with Maxwell and a few other Bitcoin Core developers formed Blockstream in 2014. In October that year, the group released “Enabling Blockchain Innovations with Pegged Sidechains,” a paper describing sidechains at a high level. Miller appears as a co-author on that paper as well.

How Sidechains Work

One important component of sidechains is a simplified payment verification (SPV) proof that shows that tokens have been locked up on one chain so validators can safely unlock an equivalent value on the alternative chain. But to work for sidechains, an SPV proof has to be small enough to fit into a single coinbase transaction, the transaction that rewards a miner with new coins. (Not to be confused with the company Coinbase.)

At the time the Blockstream researchers released their paper, they knew they needed a compressed SPV proof to get sidechains to work, but they had not yet developed the cryptography behind it. So they outlined general, high-level ideas.

The Blockstream paper describes two types of two-way pegs: a symmetric two-way peg, where both chains are independent with their own mining; and an asymmetric two-way peg, where sidechain miners are full validators of the parent chain.

In a symmetric two-way peg, a user sends her bitcoins to a special address. Doing so locks up the funds on the Bitcoin blockchain. That output remains locked for a contest period of maybe six blocks (one hour) to confirm the transaction has gone through, and then an SPV proof is created to send to the sidechain.

At that point, a corresponding transaction appears on the sidechain with the SPV proof, verifying that money has been locked up on the Bitcoin blockchain, and then coins with the same value of account are unlocked on the sidechain.

Coins are spent and change hands and, at a later point, are sent back to the main chain. When the coins are returned to the main chain, the process repeats. They are sent to a locked output on the sidechain, a waiting period goes by, and an SPV proof is created and sent back to the main blockchain to unlock coins on the main chain.  

In an asymmetric two-way peg, the process is slightly different. The transfer from the parent chain to the sidechain does not require an SPV proof, because validators on the sidechain are also aware of the state of the parent chain. An SPV proof is still needed, however, when the coins are returned to the parent chain.

The Search for a Compact Proof

In a sidechain, a compact SPV proof needs to contain a compressed version of all the block headers in the chain where funds are locked up from the genesis block through the contest period, as well as transaction data and some other data. In this way, an SPV proof can also be thought of as a “proof of proof-of-work” for a particular output.

Inspiration for the compact SPV proof comes from a linked-list-like structure known as a “skip list” developed 25 years ago. In applying this structure to a compact SPV proof, the trick was in finding a way to skip block headers while still maintaining a high level of security so that an adversary would not be able to fake a proof.

In working through the problem, Blockstream showed an early draft of its sidechains paper to Miller, who had been mulling over compact SPVs for a few years already.

In August 2012, in a post on a BitcoinTalk forum titled “The High-Value-Hash Highway,” Miller described an idea for a “merkle skip list” that a Bitcoin light client could use to quickly determine the longest chain and begin using it. In that post, he described the significance of the data structure as “absolutely staggering.”

When Miller read through the Blockstream draft, he spotted a vulnerability in the compact SPV proof described in the paper. Discussions ensued, but they “couldn’t find a way to solve that problem without compromising efficiency,” Miller said.

Miller’s non-trivial contributions to the Blockstream paper ended up being a few paragraphs in Appendix B that describe the challenges in creating a compact SPV proof.

It should “be possible to greatly compress a list of headers while still proving the same amount of work,” the section reads, but “optimising these tradeoffs and formalising the security guarantees is out of scope for this paper and the topic of ongoing work.”

That ongoing work remained stuck for three years.

Compact SPV

During that ensuing time, researchers at IOHK began taking a more serious interest in sidechains. Plans were taking shape for Cardano, a new proof-of-stake blockchain that IOHK had been contracted to build.

Cardano would consist of two layers: a settlement layer, launched in September 2017, where the money supply would be kept, and a smart contract layer. Those two layers would be two sidechain-enabled blockchains. In this way, the settlement could remain simple and secure from any attacks that might occur on the smart contract layer. But if IOHK was to get Cardano to work as intended, it needed to solve sidechains.

In February 2016, Kiayias, then a professor at the University of Athens, and two of his students, Nikolaos Lamprou and Aikaterini-Panagiota Stouka, released “Proofs of Proofs of Work with Sublinear Complexity” (PoPoW).

The paper was the first to formally address a compact SPV proof. Only, the proof described in the paper was interactive; whereas, to work for sidechains, it needed to be non-interactive.

In an interactive proof, the prover and the verifier enter into a back-and-forth conversation, meaning there could be more than one round of messaging. In contrast, a non-interactive proof would be a simple, short string of text that would fit neatly into a single transaction on the blockchain.

The PoPoW paper was presented at BITCOIN’16, a workshop affiliated with the International Financial Cryptography Association’s (IFCA) Financial Cryptography and Data Security conference. Miller, who was at the conference, approached Kiayias and shared an idea for making the protocol non-interactive.

It was a “nice observation,” Kiayias told Bitcoin Magazine, but making the proof secure was “not obvious at all” and would require significant work.

Zindros, who had just started working on his PhD under Kiayias, was also at the conference, and he needed a topic for his thesis. Kiayias saw a good fit, “so we pressed on, the three of us, and adapted the PoPoW protocol and its proof of security to the non-interactive setting,” Kiayias said.

In October 2016, Kiayias officially joined IOHK, and a year later, Kiayias, Miller and Zindros released “Non-Interactive Proofs of Proof-of-Work,” introducing a compact SPV proof five years after sidechains had first been talked about on Bitcoin forums.

“If it were interactive, I don’t know if it would have worked; with a non-interactive proof, it is really smooth,” Zindros told Bitcoin Magazine.

More Work to Be Done

Even with NiPoPoW, sidechains are still not fully specified. Several questions remain, including, how small can the proofs be made? After a transaction is locked up on one chain, how much time needs to pass before it can be spent on the other? And, will it be possible to move a token from a sidechain directly to another sidechain?

“A lot of theory still needs to be defined,” IOHK CEO Charles Hoskinson said in speaking to Bitcoin Magazine.

Also, while NiPoPoW is designed to work for proof-of-work blockchains, some believe that if blockchains are to take their place in the world on a grand scale, the future rests in proof-of-stake protocols like Ouroboros, Algorand or Snow White, which promise to be more energy-efficient than Bitcoin.

In particular, if Cardano, which is based on Ouroboros, is to work according to plan, IOHK researchers still need to discover a non-interactive proof of proof-of-stake (NiPoPoS).

Hoskinson is confident. “We can definitely do that,” he said. “We can definitely have a NiPoPoS. The question is how many megabytes or kilobytes is it going to be? Can we bring it down to 100 KB? That is really the question.”

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

The head of a Eurozone central bank has been detained in an anti-corruption raid

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Latvian central bank governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs

  • Latvia's central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics detained and questioned by anti-corruption police in the Baltic state.
  • Latvia's Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis confirmed that Rimsevics had been detained on Sunday.
  • "(Rimsevics’ arrest)... is about demanding a bribe of no less than 100,000 euros," the head of Latvia’s anti-corruption unit said.
  • Rimsevics sits on the European Central Bank's Governing Council, alongside the likes of ECB President Mario Draghi, and German Bundesbank boss Jens Weidmann.


The head of Latvia's central bank has been detained and interviewed by anti-corruption police in the country.

Ilmars Rimsevics, the governor of Latvijas Banka was detained on Sunday, and pictures on Latvian state television reportedly showed him arriving at the headquarters of the country's anti-corruption agency, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau. Rimsevics' home and offices at the Bank of Latvia were both raided by officers.

The investigation centres on an accusation of bribery, the head of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau said.

"(Rimsevics’ arrest)... is about demanding a bribe of no less than 100,000 euros," Jekabs Straume told reporters, according to a report from Reuters.

As a eurozone central bank governor, Rimsevics sits on the European Central Bank's Governing Council, alongside the likes of ECB President Mario Draghi, and German Bundesbank boss Jens Weidmann.

Latvia's Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis confirmed that Rimsevics had been detained on Sunday, saying that the arrest does not pose any threat to national stability.

"There are no signs that there is any threat to the Latvian financial system," Kucinskis said in a statement.

Latvijas Banka was also keen to stress that it continues to function as normal, tweeting on Sunday: "Latvijas Banka continues its business as usual, i.e., maintaining the infrastructure of interbank payment systems, ensuring cash to the economy, businesses and general public, managing currency and gold investments, to the full extent and according to the best quality standards."

"We want to reiterate that the performance of tasks entrusted to Latvijas Banka is not affected, and tomorrow the national central bank will resume its activities in the usual routine. This also means that all usual services will be provided to businesses and the general public," a further tweet added.

Latvia's banking system has been under scrutiny in recent months, with several banks investigated, according to a BBC report.

Last summer, for instance, two lenders were fined by the authorities "for allowing their clients to circumvent international sanctions preventing payments to North Korea," according to the same BBC report.

In a separate incident on Monday, ABLV Bank, the country’s third biggest lender was told by the ECB to stop all payments.

The order comes after the bank's liquidity position suffered following accusations of involvement in money laundering by the US Treasury.

"ABLV has institutionalized money laundering as a pillar of the bank’s business practices," the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FCEN) said in a statement.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Ken Rogoff on the next financial crisis and the future of bitcoin

Hot tech stocks have 'lost their shine' among millennials after mixed earnings

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

millennials

  • Some of the hottest tech stocks have "lost their shine" among millennials, according to data from the stock trading app Stockpile.
  • AMD and Square slipped on the app's ranking of most-traded stocks, falling to 13th from 10th place, and 21st from 15th, respectively.
  • Tech stocks have had a mixed earnings season.


The lukewarm earnings season seems to have tempered millennials' enthusiasm for some of the hottest tech stocks. 

After the market selloff, shares of some of the biggest tech names have fallen out of favor with young investors, according to data from stock trading app Stockpile, which is popular with millennials. This comes on the heels of lackluster earnings data and a jobs report that showed the fastest rise in hourly wages since 2008 and hinted at inflationary pressures ahead.

AMD and Square seem to "have lost their shine" with investors, according to a Stockpile spokesperson. AMD is now the 13th most traded stock on the app — which allows users to trade in fractional shares — down from 10th place. Square moved lower to the 21st place from 15th.

AMD reported an earnings beat across the board, though investors showed some signs of disappointment over its handling of the Spectre CPU flaw. The subsequent patches to fix the issue affected its chips' performance by as much as 30%. Meanwhile, Square, which is set to report earnings on Feb. 27, announced it would allow bitcoin trading on its platform though critics question how CEO Jack Dorsey could manage to run both Square and Twitter.

The high-flying FAANG stocks still enjoyed positions among the top 10 most-traded stocks on Stockpile, though Apple's and Facebook's positions slipped. 

Facebook beat Wall Street estimates, though it said that users were spending fewer hours a day on its platform. Amazon enjoyed a blockbuster quarter while Apple disappointed investors because of its slower iPhone sales. Netflix posted a good earnings quarter, reporting a healthy pace of subscriber growth despite already being in most US homes. But Alphabet's Google missed estimates over higher traffic acquisition costs and higher expenses to reach smartphone users.

Notably, Stockpile data revealed that shares of Snap, Tesla, and Ford were rising in popularity in the trading app in the past seven days. Snap reported an explosive first quarter, Tesla showed stronger-than-expected earnings results, and Ford missed on earnings, though investors saw positive signals in its joint venture with Chinese firm Zotye and autonomous driving partnerships with Lyft and Domino's Pizza.

Here's a list of millennials' top 15 most-traded stocks on Stockpile:

  1. Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC)
  2. Amazon (AMZN)
  3. Tesla (TSLA)
  4. Apple (AAPL)
  5. Snap (SNAP)
  6. Alphabet Class A (GOOGL)
  7. Disney (DIS)
  8. Netflix (NFLX)
  9. iShares Core Growth Allocation ETF (AOR)
  10. Facebook (FB)
  11. Nvidia (NVDA)
  12. Ford (F)
  13. AMD (AMD)
  14. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A)
  15. Alibaba (BABA)

Read more about why Apple may be moving past the iPhone and how that might actually be a good thing.

SEE ALSO: Apple's 'defining moment' is here — and it may mean moving past the iPhone

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Microsoft President Brad Smith says the US shouldn't get 'too isolationist'

Hot tech stocks have ‘lost their shine’ among millennials after mixed earnings

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

millennials

  • Some of the hottest tech stocks have "lost their shine" among millennials, according to data from the stock trading app Stockpile.
  • AMD and Square slipped on the app's ranking of most-traded stocks, falling to 13th from 10th place, and 21st from 15th, respectively.
  • Tech stocks have had a mixed earnings season.


The lukewarm earnings season seems to have tempered millennials' enthusiasm for some of the hottest tech stocks. 

After the market selloff, shares of some of the biggest tech names have fallen out of favor with young investors, according to data from stock trading app Stockpile, which is popular with millennials. This comes on the heels of lackluster earnings data and a jobs report that showed the fastest rise in hourly wages since 2008 and hinted at inflationary pressures ahead.

AMD and Square seem to "have lost their shine" with investors, according to a Stockpile spokesperson. AMD is now the 13th most traded stock on the app — which allows users to trade in fractional shares — down from 10th place. Square moved lower to the 21st place from 15th.

AMD reported an earnings beat across the board, though investors showed some signs of disappointment over its handling of the Spectre CPU flaw. The subsequent patches to fix the issue affected its chips' performance by as much as 30%. Meanwhile, Square, which is set to report earnings on Feb. 27, announced it would allow bitcoin trading on its platform though critics question how CEO Jack Dorsey could manage to run both Square and Twitter.

The high-flying FAANG stocks still enjoyed positions among the top 10 most-traded stocks on Stockpile, though Apple's and Facebook's positions slipped. 

Facebook beat Wall Street estimates, though it said that users were spending fewer hours a day on its platform. Amazon enjoyed a blockbuster quarter while Apple disappointed investors because of its slower iPhone sales. Netflix posted a good earnings quarter, reporting a healthy pace of subscriber growth despite already being in most US homes. But Alphabet's Google missed estimates over higher traffic acquisition costs and higher expenses to reach smartphone users.

Notably, Stockpile data revealed that shares of Snap, Tesla, and Ford were rising in popularity in the trading app in the past seven days. Snap reported an explosive first quarter, Tesla showed stronger-than-expected earnings results, and Ford missed on earnings, though investors saw positive signals in its joint venture with Chinese firm Zotye and autonomous driving partnerships with Lyft and Domino's Pizza.

Here's a list of millennials' top 15 most-traded stocks on Stockpile:

  1. Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC)
  2. Amazon (AMZN)
  3. Tesla (TSLA)
  4. Apple (AAPL)
  5. Snap (SNAP)
  6. Alphabet Class A (GOOGL)
  7. Disney (DIS)
  8. Netflix (NFLX)
  9. iShares Core Growth Allocation ETF (AOR)
  10. Facebook (FB)
  11. Nvidia (NVDA)
  12. Ford (F)
  13. AMD (AMD)
  14. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A)
  15. Alibaba (BABA)

Read more about why Apple may be moving past the iPhone and how that might actually be a good thing.

SEE ALSO: Apple's 'defining moment' is here — and it may mean moving past the iPhone

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Microsoft President Brad Smith says the US shouldn't get 'too isolationist'

Coinbase. Ripple. Uphold? Greg Kidd Defends His Boldest Bet

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Exuberant investor Gregg Kidd outlines his plans for Uphold, a profitable crypto startup that's largely flown under the radar until now.

Poland's central bank is accused of funding a YouTube 'smear campaign' against cryptocurrencies

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Polish youtubers

  • Poland's central bank accused of hiring YouTubers to "start a smear campaign" against cryptocurrencies.
  • The Narodowy Bank Polski spent around 91,000 zloty (£19,430; $27,300) on a marketing campaign designed to attack the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies.
  • That campaign reportedly included money for a video by Marcin Dubiel, one of Poland's most popular YouTubers.


A bizarre battle is emerging in the world of cryptocurrencies after Poland's central bank was accused of hiring YouTubers to "start a smear campaign" against cryptocurrencies in the country.

According to the Polish press, the Narodowy Bank Polski (NFB) spent around 91,000 zloty (£19,430; $27,300) on a marketing campaign designed to attack the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies. The money was spent on platforms including Google and Facebook, but was also used to pay a Polish Youtube partner network called Gamellon.

The Gamellon network reportedly represents many of Poland's top YouTubers, including popular prankster Marcin Dubiel.

In December, Dubiel published a video titled "STRACIŁEM WSZYSTKIE PIENIĄDZE?!" — which loosely translates as "I LOST ALL MY MONEY?!"

In the satirical video, Dubiel invests all his money in a fake cryptocurrency called Dubielcoin, gets rich, but then sees its value plunge and loses everything. It has racked up over 500,000 views.

The video can be seen below (you'll need to speak Polish to understand the details, but the jist of the plot is fairly obvious):

Polish technology blog Spider's Web reports that Dubiel's video was paid for by the NFB, but was not marked as being a paid promotional video.

The video is tagged under the hashtag #uważajnakryptowaluty, which translates as "Watch out for cryptocurrencies" and is associated with a website set up by the NFB to warn of the dangers of investing in cryptocurrencies.

Other YouTube videos appearing under the hashtag include "10 differences between money and cryptocurrency that you need to know" by the Planeta Faktow channel, which has had 510,o00 views.

According to the website money.pl, the central bank acknowledged that it "carried out a campaign on the issue of virtual currencies in social media," in a letter dated February 9.

Narodowy Bank Polski did not respond to an email from Business Insider asking for comment in time for publication.

The campaign has caused an uproar in the crypto community, with one analyst calling the central bank's actions "low down and dirty."

Mati Greenspan, a senior market analyst at trading platform eToro, said in an email: "It's one thing to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) or talk it down if it's bothering you, I can respect that. But to start a smear campaign using social influencers and not disclose the payments, that's just low down and dirty."

Central banks and regulators from South Korea to the UK have warned of the potential dangers of investing in cryptocurrencies.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Ken Rogoff on the next financial crisis and the future of bitcoin

S&P: Warnings that cryptocurrency could crash the global financial system are 'much ado about nothing'

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Actors Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher attend the screening of Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions' 'Much Ado About Nothing' on June 5, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by )

  • S&P Global Ratings: Cryptocurrencies would have "an insignificant effect on global financial stability if its value were to collapse."
  • "If the value of cryptocurrencies dropped substantially, we expect retail investors would endure most of the impact."
  • But blockchain technology "could have a meaningful and lasting impact" on banking.


LONDON — S&P Global Ratings has dismissed fears about cryptocurrency's potential to crash the global financial system, saying concerns are "much ado about nothing."

In a note published on Monday, the ratings agency said cryptocurrencies would have "an insignificant effect on global financial stability if its value were to collapse" and are not a threat to banks.

"In our opinion, in its current version, a cryptocurrency is a speculative instrument, and a collapse in its market value would be just a ripple across the financial services industry, still too small to disturb stability or affect the creditworthiness of banks we rate," credit analyst Mohamed Damak and his team wrote.

Exchange operators Cboe and CME Group last year launched bitcoin futures, offering institutional investors exposure to cryptocurrencies for the first time. The Futures Industry Association (FIA) complained at the time that the high volatility of bitcoin could create financial risks for clearing houses that hadn't properly been assessed or consulted on.

ECB board member Yves Mersch last week warned of the "growing risks of contagion and contamination of the existing financial system" by cryptocurrencies.

But Damak and his team write: "If the value of cryptocurrencies dropped substantially, we expect retail investors would endure most of the impact." S&P suggested that a price crash could be likely as the market has "many characteristics of a traditional bubble."

The president of the World Bank, the head of the Bank for International Settlements, and the ECB's Mersch have all likened bitcoin to a Ponzi scheme in recent weeks.

Bullish on blockchain

Despite playing down the importance of cryptocurrencies, S&P is bullish on the prospects for blockchain, the technology that underpins bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain technology, also known as distributed ledger tech, allows for a shared database that is near instantly updated, meaning all parties can see the same version. It uses complex cryptography and group authentication to police the editing of the ledger.

Damak and his team wrote: "Blockchain technology... could be a positive disrupter for various financial value-chains. If widely adopted, blockchain could have a meaningful and lasting impact on the celerity, traceability. and cost of financial transactions."

They added: "The creation of a cryptocurrency backed by a central bank that gives citizens direct access to this central bank's ledger is potentially a game-changer to banks as we know them. This does not mean that banks will disappear but it would mean significant changes in the way they do business."

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Here’s a great explanation of what the blockchain is from the person tasked with explaining it to the world

S&P: Warnings that cryptocurrency could crash the global financial system are 'much ado about nothing'

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Actors Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher attend the screening of Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions' 'Much Ado About Nothing' on June 5, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by )

  • S&P Global Ratings: Cryptocurrencies would have "an insignificant effect on global financial stability if its value were to collapse."
  • "If the value of cryptocurrencies dropped substantially, we expect retail investors would endure most of the impact."
  • But blockchain technology "could have a meaningful and lasting impact" on banking.


LONDON — S&P Global Ratings has dismissed fears about cryptocurrency's potential to crash the global financial system, saying concerns are "much ado about nothing."

In a note published on Monday, the ratings agency said cryptocurrencies would have "an insignificant effect on global financial stability if its value were to collapse" and are not a threat to banks.

"In our opinion, in its current version, a cryptocurrency is a speculative instrument, and a collapse in its market value would be just a ripple across the financial services industry, still too small to disturb stability or affect the creditworthiness of banks we rate," credit analyst Mohamed Damak and his team wrote.

Exchange operators Cboe and CME Group last year launched bitcoin futures, offering institutional investors exposure to cryptocurrencies for the first time. The Futures Industry Association (FIA) complained at the time that the high volatility of bitcoin could create financial risks for clearing houses that hadn't properly been assessed or consulted on.

ECB board member Yves Mersch last week warned of the "growing risks of contagion and contamination of the existing financial system" by cryptocurrencies.

But Damak and his team write: "If the value of cryptocurrencies dropped substantially, we expect retail investors would endure most of the impact." S&P suggested that a price crash could be likely as the market has "many characteristics of a traditional bubble."

The president of the World Bank, the head of the Bank for International Settlements, and the ECB's Mersch have all likened bitcoin to a Ponzi scheme in recent weeks.

Bullish on blockchain

Despite playing down the importance of cryptocurrencies, S&P is bullish on the prospects for blockchain, the technology that underpins bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain technology, also known as distributed ledger tech, allows for a shared database that is near instantly updated, meaning all parties can see the same version. It uses complex cryptography and group authentication to police the editing of the ledger.

Damak and his team wrote: "Blockchain technology... could be a positive disrupter for various financial value-chains. If widely adopted, blockchain could have a meaningful and lasting impact on the celerity, traceability. and cost of financial transactions."

They added: "The creation of a cryptocurrency backed by a central bank that gives citizens direct access to this central bank's ledger is potentially a game-changer to banks as we know them. This does not mean that banks will disappear but it would mean significant changes in the way they do business."

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Here’s a great explanation of what the blockchain is from the person tasked with explaining it to the world

CoinPoint Holds Successful Bitcoin Cash Party in London

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

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This is a paid-for submitted press release. CCN does not endorse, nor is responsible for any material included below and isn’t responsible for any damages or losses connected with any products or services mentioned in the press release. CCN urges readers to conduct their own research with due diligence into the company, product or service mentioned

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Cryptocurrency Market Stabilizes at $500 Billion, Bitcoin Records 5% Gain

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The post Cryptocurrency Market Stabilizes at $500 Billion, Bitcoin Records 5% Gain appeared first on CCN

After falling to $10,350 on February 18, the price of bitcoin has rebounded to $11,050, recording a 5 percent daily gain, positively affecting the entire market with its momentum. Bitcoin Preparing Bull Run The daily trading volume of bitcoin and the global cryptocurrency market has been relatively strong over the past 24 hours, as nearly

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BitStarz Adds Ethereum (ETH) and Dogecoin (DOGE) Support

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The post BitStarz Adds Ethereum (ETH) and Dogecoin (DOGE) Support appeared first on CCN

This is a submitted sponsored story. CCN urges readers to conduct their own research with due diligence into the company, product or service mentioned in the content below. Thursday, Feb 15, 2018 – With an undeniable eye for expansion, BitStarz Casino is showing that it’s a true trailblazer, as it now accepts both Ethereum (ETH) and

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Bottom Confirmed? Bitcoin at 20-day High Near $11K

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin seems to have found a bottom below $6,000, although a long-term bull revival is still not certain, according to the price charts.

Cryptocurrency Insurance: More Companies Join The Bandwagon

CryptoCoins News, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The post Cryptocurrency Insurance: More Companies Join The Bandwagon appeared first on CCN

The rise of theft, fraud, and hacking associated with bitcoin trading has pushed insurance firms to offer insurance packages to investors in the digital currency space. Several insurers have decided to venture into offering insurance covers for different companies dealing with cryptocurrency. The risks involved are quite high, but the market is ripe for insurance

The post Cryptocurrency Insurance: More Companies Join The Bandwagon appeared first on CCN

Sir Philip Green could sell Topshop to the Chinese — but MPs are worried about a repeat of BHS

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Sir Philip Green attends the TopShop Spring/Summer 2018 show at London Fashion Week in London, Britain September 17, 2017.

  • Sir Philip Green is reportedly in talks with China's Shangdong Ruyi about a partial or full sale of Arcadia, which owns Topshop, Burton, and Miss Selfridge.
  • Influential Labour MP Frank Field is worried about what a sale could mean for the company's pension scheme, which is in deficit.


LONDON — Retail tycoon Sir Philip Green is said to be considering selling some or all of his Arcadia empire to a Chinese buyer.

The Sunday Times reports that Green is in talks with Chinese textiles giant Shandong Ruyi about a possible sale. Arcadia owns brands such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge, and Burton and has over 2,800 stores and 26,000 employees.

Sir Philip and his wife Tina bought Arcadia in 2002 for £850 million. The group performed well during the 2000s but has faltered in recent years due to the rise of online shopping. The company rely on a strong High Street presence and has struggled to adapt to the pace of digital-only rivals such as ASOS and Boohoo.com.

Arcadia wrote off £100 million due to declining store values and falling sales in its latest set of accounts. The Greens' net worth also fell by over £400 million over the last year due to the collapse of BHS, which they owned until 2015, and declining High Street sales.

Green has long been rumoured to want to sell Arcadia but has been distracted by the BHS scandal for much of the last two years.

BHS collapsed in 2016 and Labour MP Frank Field doggedly pursued Green over the large pension deficit left by the retailer. An MPs report into the chain's collapse was highly critical of Sir Philip and MPs voted to strip the tycoon of his knighthood, although nothing came of the motion. Sir Philip eventually agreed to pay £363 million to rescue BHS' pension fund.

MPs have already voiced concern about the possibility of a sale of Arcadia, which also has a large pension deficit. The group has a deficit of around £1 billion on a "buy out" basis, according to The Sunday Times.

Field, who chairs the Work and Pension's Select Committee, told the Daily Telegraph: "The committee will be writing to try to ascertain how this might affect the pension funds, because they are in deficit. There is a repayment plan in operation. What is going to be promised to the pensioners if there is a sale?"

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Ken Rogoff on the next financial crisis and the future of bitcoin

The incredibly complex Italian election is just 2 weeks away — here’s a simplified version of what you need to know

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

PLEASE DO NOT USE

  • Italy's 2018 general election is just over two weeks away.
  • The country's electoral system is notoriously complex, and a coalition government is almost guaranteed.
  • New electoral laws come into force for 2018's election.
  • The vote is full of intrigue, with the rise of the populist Five Star Movement, and the return of Silvio Berlusconi among major talking points.
  • Business Insider highlights some of the key issues in the election.


LONDON – Italy's general election — to be held on March 4 — is a hugely significant event, not just for the country, but for Europe as a whole.

Italy's politics has always had something of an air of chaos about it. More than 60 different heads of government since the Second World War, a political system where majority government is nigh on impossible, and a ranking as a "flawed democracy" point to the problems Italy faces.

This year's election is no different in that regard, and Business Insider decided to pick out some of the more intriguing and sometimes downright strange features of Italy's election.

The Five Star Movement

5-Star movement leader Luigi Di Maio speaks during the final rally for the regional election in Palermo, Italy, November 3, 2017. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Founded in 2009, Five Star is leading in virtually every poll, and could gain the largest number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Italy's parliament.

The party's policies don't fit neatly into the traditional left-right political spectrum, something it is keen to emphasise. It is variously anti-establishment, Eurosceptic, anti-immigration and pro-green. The "Five Stars" refers to its five flagship issues: publicly owned water, sustainable (eco-friendly) transport, sustainable development, right to internet access, and environmentalism.

Five Star's popularity has led it to moderate its stance on certain issues, and install a new leader, the 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio, who replaced Five Star's founder, comedian Beppe Grillo, in October 2017.

Doing so has allowed the party to gain even more popularity, and move in just eight years from a protest movement to a viable political force.

Di Maio's story is not that of an archetypal politician. He grew up in Naples, dropped out of university, and prior to becoming Five Star leader had never held a professional job. A headline in the Daily Telegraph prior to his election described him as a "former waiter."

Discussing Five Star in an interview with the Washington Post in November 2017, Di Maio said: "The movement was born out of the failure of both parties on the left and right."

"The real problem in Italy is that there are many citizens who don't identify with these parties because they fail to defend the values and interests of different parts of the country."

How does the election work?

italy senate

Italy's general election is run via a combination of both First Past the Post and Proportional Representation. The Chamber of Deputies, akin to the UK's House of Commons, has 630 seats, with 232 of those elected by FPTP, and 386 by PR. The remaining 12 seats are assigned to politicians voted for by Italians living overseas.

A similar split is evident in the upper house of the Italian parliament — the Senate of the Republic — with 102 members of the senate elected via FPTP, and 207 via PR. Six senators are elected by overseas voters.

Those deputies and senators elected by PR are done so via a list-based system.

Previously, Italy's electoral laws gave an automatic majority in parliament to any party securing 40% of the vote, but that rule has now been abolished. However, any party, or coalition of parties, is likely to be able to govern reasonably effectively.

Several parties are consistently in broad coalitions, and pool their resources to form electoral blocs based on their ideological stances. For example, Italy's current government, led by technocrat Paolo Gentiloni, has ministers from four different parties. 

As an indication of quite how complex Italy's politics are, the graphic below sets out the relationships between Italy's main governing branches:

How does Italian politics work

2018's election is the first vote in which the rules laid out above, which were only passed into law last October by the incumbent government, are in force. Gentiloni's government came to power late in 2016 after Italians rejected a referendum on reforming the electoral system put forward by then prime minister, Matteo Renzi.

Renzi staked his individual reputation on the vote, and was forced to resign, leading to Gentiloni's government. After a few months in the wildnerness, Renzi returned as leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), and wants to once again be prime minister in 2018. As it stands, his chances look fairly slim, with the PD polling an average of around five points behind Five Star.

The return of Silvio Berlusconi

Forza Italia party leader Silvio Berlusconi (L) waves to supporters next to local candidate Nello Musumeci during a rally in Catania, Italy, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

Another unique quirk of Italy's election in 2018 is the return of four-time prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud in 2013, and was sentenced to four years in prison. Three of those years were pardoned, and because of his age, Berlusconi was spared jail in favour of unpaid community work.

Berlusconi's conviction means that he is no longer eligible to hold any legislative office in the next six years, creating a unique situation where he can remain the leader of his party, the right-wing Forza Italia party, but will not be able to hold any sort of office if the party gets into a government coalition.

Despite his conviction, Berlusconi is still wildly popular among many Italian voters, and Forza Italia is set to win roughly 18% of the popular vote. The party has a coalition agreement with the Lega Nord, a party on the far-right of the political spectrum. 

Led by Matteo Salvini, the Lega Nord is strongly anti-immigration, pledging to effectively close Italy's borders, as well as wanting to repatriate 100,000 immigrants per year. Along with being strongly anti-EU, the party also wants to crack down on crime, reopen brothels, and improve relations with Russia. It is currently polling at around 13%.

Who is actually going to win?

As it stands, the Five Star Movement is likely to be the biggest individual party with around 28% of the vote. That does not, however, necessarily mean it will lead the next government. Five Star has ruled out a coalition in the past, and although its stance on ruling in tandem with other parties seems to be softening, that it will be able to strike a coalition agreement is not guaranteed.

In second place is Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party, on roughly 23%. While that's well behind Five Star, the PD has the advantage of having previous coalition partners to work with in a centre-left alliance. That alliance would include parties called More Europe, Together Italy and Popular Civic List, and will likely command around 30% of the vote.

Behind them is the combination of Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the Lega Nord, although with the support of minor parties on the right like Brothers of Italy and Us with Italy, there is a chance that a Berlusconi led alliance could hit 40%.

Here's the current standing in the polls (a key of the major parties can be seen below):

OpinionPollingItalyGeneralElection2018

Five Star; Yellow — Democratic Party; Red — Forza Italia; Blue — Lega Nord; Green

In reality though, Italian voters are a fairly fickle bunch, and allegiances could switch rapidly in the weeks before the election, especially when faced with the economic reality facing Italy right now.

JPMorgan Asset Management's Karen Ward put the point concisely in January when she told Business Insider that Italy's current economic performance — which is stronger than it has been in many years — suggests that parties like Five Star and the Lega Nord are unlikely to cause as big an upset as some expect.

"When people get to the ballot, if the economy has been strong in the last few months, they sort of decide in the end not to rock the boat, and simply stay with those that are seen to delivering this recovery," Ward said.

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NOW WATCH: Ken Rogoff on the next financial crisis and the future of bitcoin

The Oddball Bromance Between Blockchain and Real Estate

Inc, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

You can sell your house for bitcoin. Or you can upload the legal ownership of the property to a blockchain. What does that mean, and why would anyone want to do it? The answer is complicated.

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