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Bitcoin (BTC, XBT) known as digital currency or electronic cash, virtual cash, hierarchical coding algorithm cash released by Satoshi Nakamoto as an open-source software in 2009.
Bitcoin can be used directly through an Internet-connected device without going through a financial institution.
More information: http://bitcoin.org
“I think it is working. There will be other currencies like it that may be even better, but in the meantime there's a big industry around bitcoin.
You know, people have made fortunes out of bitcoin, some people have lost money out of bitcoin.”
Dash Passes Litecoin and Monero to Claim Number 4 Cryptocurrency StatusView detail
CEO Says Bitcoin ‘Unsexy’ As BlockPay Adds DASH To CurrenciesView detail
Bitcoin Price Next Milestone: Beating Gold PermanentlyView detail
Analysis has found that investment in Australia’s FinTech startups rose last year compared to the rest of the world.View detail
Bitcoin Price Reaches $1220 All-Time High, Pounces CNY 8000 LevelView detail
Meet Bitcoin Mining Capital In The Making - Chinese Province SichuanView detail
If Bitcoin ETF Gets Approved, Ethereum Classic ETF Will FollowView detail
Taiwan Plans To Restrict Cash Purchases In Criminal CrackdownView detail
West Virginia Considers Criminalizing Bitcoin Money LaunderingView detail
Is Bitcoin Halal? How Cryptocurrency Conforms with Islam and ShariaView detail
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Deep State Uses Encryption to Subvert Trump AdministrationView detail
We Don’t Need Blockchain: R3 Consortium After $59 Million ResearchView detail
India Government U-turns on Banned 1000 Rupee ComebackView detail
Bitcoin Price Recovers in China Making Up For Huobi, OKCoin Withdrawal SuspensionView detail
Bank of Canada Says Bitcoin Needs Regulation, Market DisagreesView detail
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BTCC’s Bobby Lee: Why Chinese Bitcoin Miners Are Not Happy With SegWitView detail
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Bitcoin Price Climbs Up As P2P Bitcoin Trading Soars in China, VenezuelaView detail
This week one year ago, Dash was the #7 ranked cryptocurrency with a market cap of about $23 mln. This number grew steadily over the course of the year, finishing out the year with a market cap of $69 mln and maintained #7 ranking. Over the course of 2017 so far, however, Dash’s growth has significantly picked up steam, exceeding $100 mln over January. This month Dash has risen to a nearly $200 mln market cap, currently with a value of over $27 and 0.23 Bitcoin at present time.
Dash has gone up several rankings in the cryptocurrency charts
Over the last several weeks, Dash has jumped three spots in the cryptocurrency rankings, overtaking Ethereum classic earlier this month and dislodging Monero and Litecoin over the last 24 hours. Placing it firmly in the top five cryptocurrency rankings, slightly behind Ripple.
However, Ethereum maintains its place as the most valued non-Bitcoin cryptocurrency with a heavy lead, worth as much as the next several cryptocurrencies combined.
Eric Sammons, a consultant for Dash, believes this rise in the rankings to be a reflection of market faith in its future potential as a digital currency:
“As with all altcoins - and even Bitcoin to some degree - Dash's price reflects the market's belief in its future potential. Dash has moved beyond the initial stage of its lifecycle and has proven it will be around for the long haul. We can see that both in its development roadmap, which ambitiously aims to become a decentralized "Paypal 2.0," and well as its ability to update and improve, as seen in its recent successful upgrade to version 12.1. Add to that a proven governance system, and it's easy to see why people are bullish on Dash.”
Dash’s rising popularity against Bitcoin’s scaling issues
Unlike other top cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Monero, whose use derives from providing different functionality than Bitcoin, smart contracts and a completely private Blockchain respectively, Dash’s features and use cases position it in direct competition for use as a digital cash.
In this regard, Bitcoin’s scaling issues have posed a problem for some, with transaction backlogs and fees growing, causing momentary spikes of interest in scaling solutions such as Bitcoin Unlimited that aim to restore this cash-like efficiency,
According to Tao of Satoshi, founder of the Dash Nation Slack community and a cryptocurrency vlog, Cash Alternative TV, Dash’s current rise is attributable to an increasing awareness of Bitcoin’s scaling problems:
“What you are seeing right now is the realization by some people that Bitcoin may not offer the complete digital currency solution that they were expecting. Long delays in development, transactions piling up leading to long wait times and high fees, and the lack of governance mechanism has left a sour taste in people's mouths. Dash has implemented a plan to scale as a currency without encountering these problems, and that is starting to be recognized by the digital currency community at large. It is presenting itself as a more worthy investment and I am sure we will see further growth in time as Dash continues to prove itself.”
Despite scaling issues, however, Bitcoin continues to perform quite well. Over the last few days, the cryptocurrency frontrunner reached an all-time high of over $1,200, edging ever closer to the price of gold, which Bitcoin may soon replace as the world’s reserve store of value. Its use in this regard has led to a flurry of peer-to-peer trading in restrictive countries.
The collaboration is only the latest in a series of high-profile gains for the coin, which is trading at all-time highs of $26 Friday.
Munich-based BlockPay’s POS tool facilitates cryptocurrency as a payment method, providing stiff competition to card companies through its lack of merchant fees.
Although the platform supports Bitcoin and Ethereum among others, CEO and co-founder Christoph Hering said in a press release that Bitcoin was “unsexy” for everyday use.
“The slow transaction speed, the high transaction fees and the speculative nature of Bitcoin make it very unsexy for everyday consumption,” he commented. “We added Dash because we see a huge potential in the very active Dash community and in the underlying scaling technology of Dash.”
The comments appear to be ironic, given the trading price of the top altcoins - including DASH - increased only due to Bitcoin hitting unseen highs.
Nonetheless, enthusiasm in the asset is showing no signs of wavering, as BitMEX CEO Arthur Hayes demonstrated when DASH launched on the exchange last week.
DASH and BlockPay’s relationship meanwhile goes back some time, having received an initial release in August last year.
The Bitcoin price could soon surpass gold’s on a permanent basis supposing they both continue with their current market performance.
Gold hit a three-month high of $1260 at the end of business day on Thursday, Feb. 23, as a steady flow of safe-haven demand from traders and investors continued worldwide while Bitcoin topped $1170 around the same time. Civic CEO Vinny Lingham, gives Bitcoin about a month or less to consolidateits price in the $1300 range.
It’s Trump, not China
A report says ongoing uncertainty and some anxiety regarding the new US president and his administration’s new and potentially aggressive policies continue to support the gold market. Similarly, the latest rally in the Bitcoin market has been described by an analyst at Lux Research Inc., Mark Bünger, as likely unconnected to China but rather to some of the policies of US President Donald Trump.
It is worth noting that the Trump factor is pinned on the documents - minutes of the Jan. 31-Feb. 1 session of the Federal Open Market Committee - released on Wednesday that shows that the Federal Reserve could be giving a strong indication that another interest hike could come sooner due to some of the changes brought by the new administration.
That Bitcoin has been going more mainstream as additional companies have now been accepting it as a form of payment, according to equity strategist at Miller Tabak, Matt Maley, on CNBC's "Trading Nation," will support its push to overtake gold.
The media hype trailing the all-time high record in the Bitcoin price has gone far and wide in the last few days. The noise is likely to reach even further than could be captured because a rise in the price of Bitcoin has been known to magnetize new users. Gold isn’t as new to court similar attention.
ETF factor, France uncertainty
There is a likelihood that the first Bitcoin exchange traded fund or ETF could be approved. When it does get the approval on March 11, Bitcoin has been tipped to gain value.
Also, Chinese Bitcoin exchanges which contribute significantly to the global trading of the currency have had some aspects of their operations restricted pending their upgrade of the KYC/AML system. A slight change in Bitcoin price is expected as soon as they resume full operation.
Global political uncertainty particularly in the case of France’s far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, of the National Front Party, ahead of the coming presidential election is also key to determine if and when Bitcoin price will beat gold’s.
In a report from KPMG, The Pulse of FinTech Q4 2016 it found that total FinTech investment in Australia increased to $US656 million across 25 deals in 2016 compared to $US185 million across 23 deals in 2015.
It appears that authorities are beginning to realize the potential that FinTech can play in helping financial inclusion. So much so, that they are recognizing that improving the efficiency of banking services can systematically boost the performance of the economy.
It is because of this that could be one reason why government and financial regulators are now making huge efforts to support the creation of FinTech hubs in addition to helping them with the regulatory environment and the challenges it presents.
To demonstrate this, Australia’s Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) announced last year that it was signing a first-of-its-kind blockchain agreement with the British Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) enabling financial technology companies in Australia and the U.K. to have greater support from financial regulators.
Not only that, but from December 2012 for the next 12 months all eligible businesses will be able to test different financial or credit services without first needing to apply for an Australian Financial Services License or Australian Credit License. It is hoped that this will help to further push the FinTech agenda in Australia.
Global FinTech Investment Drops
Analysis by KPMG shows that there was a 47.2 percent drop in global FinTech investment in 2016 to $US24.7 billion.
Despite this, venture capital investment remained strong in 2016, totalling $13.6 billion across 840 deals. This is a seven percent increase from 2015, even as deal flow dropped by around 100 rounds.
As can be seen 2016 was considered a tough year for the FinTech environment. The Brexit vote, the U.S. presidential election, a slowdown in China, and fluctuations in the exchange rate globally are some of the factors that prompted investors to be more cautious in their investments.
Yet, while a number of regions experienced some saturation within more developed financial technology areas such as in payments and lending, KPMG predict that increased interest will be seen in other areas. Over the next 12 months, insurtech, regtech, artificial intelligence, and data and analytics are likely to draw further growth.
It may have been a tough 2016, but the sector will continue to be an attractive sector in the future for its many benefits.
Earlier today, on Feb. 24, Bitcoin price reached its new all-time high global average price at $1,220. Major markets including Japan and South Korea demonstrated substantially higher premiums, presenting an arbitrage opportunity for traders.
On Bitstamp and other major US exchanges including Kraken and Bitfinex, the Bitcoin price was traded in the range of $1,175 to $1,220, as shown in the Bitstamp Bitcoin price chart above. Bitcoin price continued to demonstrate an increasing trend since its recovery from the suspension of Bitcoin withdrawals of OKCoin and Huobi.
Within the Chinese exchange market, which has weakened due to the migration of traders from regulated exchanges to Japan and peer-to-peer trading platform such as LocalBitcoins, leading Bitcoin exchanges including OKCoin saw large surges in trading volumes and Bitcoin price.
Even OKCoin, which demonstrated a massive decline in trading volume after its one-month suspension of Bitcoin and Litecoin withdrawals, broke the 8000 Chinese yuan margin.
Some markets such as India, Japan and South Korea that usually present a five to 10 percent premium in comparison to the average global Bitcoin price facilitated Bitcoin trades in the range of $1,220 to $1271.
The Japanese Bitcoin exchange market led by leading exchange BitFlyer controls 45.7 percent of the global Bitcoin exchange market, a market share larger than that of China and the US combined. Japanese Bitcoin trading platforms facilitated trades at $1,230 per Bitcoin at its peak today, with a $10 premium.
Indian Bitcoin exchanges including Zebpay revealed that Bitcoin price surpassed the previous all-time high trading margin set in India. Zebpay noted that at today’s peak, Bitcoin was traded at 84,756 Indian rupees, or $1,271, four percent higher than the global average Bitcoin price.
In the short run, Bitcoin price will most likely demonstrate an increasing trend due to extensive mainstream media coverage and rising number of panic buyers purchasing Bitcoin to avoid economic uncertainty. With the Japanese Bitcoin exchange market and its leading exchange BitFlyer presenting itself as a regulated global Bitcoin powerhouse, analysts expect Bitcoin price to continue its rising trend.
Dennis Davitt, the portfolio manager at Harvest Volatility Management, noted in an interview with CNBC that the era of governments attempting to demonstrate their authority over Bitcoin is nearly over, as people are beginning to understand the decentralized nature and safe haven asset like characteristics of Bitcoin.
Sichuan, a province of China, is transforming into a global Bitcoin mining capital primarily due to its cheap electricity, low population density and cold climate.
China’s southwestern provinces, such as Sichuan, are seeing an exponential growth of Bitcoin mining facilities and centers as companies continue to search for mountainous regions with high altitude to cool down mining equipment without allocating additional resources.
According to major local publications, including the China Money Network, more than 20 mining companies and 10,000 Bitcoin miners are located within Sichuan’s Mabian Yi Autonomous County, a cold and mountainous region with just over 215,000 residents and Kangding, a region within Sichuan well known for its natural beauty.
Decreasing electricity costs
One of the major reasons behind the rapid growth of mining companies within the Sichuan province is the decreasing electricity costs, as mentioned by various respected Bitcoin experts including Andreas Antonopoulos and Chandler Guo in the past.
In an interview with Ether.Camp, Bitcoin miner and investor Chandler Guo revealed that electricity in China has become so cheap due to rising supply and decreasing demand that electricity companies are coming to local miners to purchase ASIC chips and mining equipment to allocate unconsumed electricity to Bitcoin mining
From the perspective of electricity companies, it is an intelligent and resourceful method of profiting from a surplus of electricity, as they receive Bitcoin in return which is highly liquid especially within a market like China which operates a well developed and regulated Bitcoin exchange market.
“Today, the energy companies are jumping on the Bitcoin mining business. Before that, we [miners] bought electricity from them [energy companies] to mine Bitcoin. Today, the seller who is selling electricity to us, they’re mining Bitcoin by themselves. [Energy companies] don’t sell electricity to us, they buy mining equipment from us. A lot of energy companies are becoming Bitcoin miners. Even small energy companies can buy at least 1 to 2 petahashes.”
Another major issue which miners and mining facilities struggle to deal with is noise resulting from high intensity and performance mining equipment. A manager of Mabian Tianjia Network Technology, a Chinese mining company, stated that mining facilities are migrating to remote regions with a limited number of residents so that they won’t have to deal with noise complaints.
"This room has 1,500 Bitcoin mining machines, our largest in this location, and can produce nearly 10 Bitcoins every day," said a manager at Tianjia.
With a cold climate, very cheap electricity and low population density, remote provinces in China such as Sichuan are transforming themselves into global Bitcoin mining hubs.
There is a lot of upbeat in the crypto community ahead of the upcoming Security and Exchange Commission's set date to determine, the faith of Bitcoin ETF just a couple of weeks away. Many believe it will pass at all cost to open a new frontier of traditional investors getting involved in the pioneer cryptocurrency.
Experts have predicted ETF will be a recipe to rally Bitcoin's price to all-time best. Moreso, another anticipation is that it will bring in its wake more legitimacy for the landscape. Even though people are optimistic but the ones familiar with how SEC operates think it's a low probability event.
Nevertheless, the interesting development that has escaped the attention of many people is, which cryptocurrency alongside Bitcoin stands to gain in an event where the ETF is given the green light.
ETC’s exchanged traded funds
It will be recalled that Barry Silbert's Grayscale was among the three entities which filed with the SEC to get his current Bitcoin Investment Fund that's currently traded on the OTC market to the NYSE.
Preceding this, Silbert announced creating an Ethereum Classic investment which he, however, aims to publicly list as well on the OTC market. It, therefore, stands to reason Barry Silbert will also apply to list his ETC investment fund as well on the NYSE as a next step if his Bitcoin fund gets approved.
Also worth mentioning Grayscale, the Digital Currency Group, in fact, the largest Venture Capital in the crypto space, is responsible for these two funds currently, the Bitcoin Investment Trust which everyone with a brokerage account can access, that currently has a 200 mln market cap and the newly announced Ethereum Classic fund which will be the second coin after Bitcoin to get its own traded fund.
Silbert tells Cointelegraph:
"We filed an S-1 with the SEC for the Bitcoin Investment Trust, which currently trades publicly under symbol GBTC on the OTCQX market. If/when approved, it will trade on the NYSE. Separately, we also made public our plans to launch an investment product for Ethereum Classic. That fund is being modeled after the Bitcoin Investment Trust and will also be launched as a private investment vehicle open to accredited investors (as opposed to a publicly traded ETF)."
Will ETC price increase after it?
The cryptocurrency venture capitalist also mentioned that If the ETC fund is successful, his outfit would eventually look to have the fund quoted on the OTCQX and maybe one day move it up to the NYSE, like what he aims to do with the Bitcoin Investment Trust. All efforts to get him to comment on the impact the fund will have on ETC price proved futile.
"I wouldn’t dare speculate on something like that," he retorted. But JuicyG of Coin Chat Club thinks the price would rise provided people understand the implications for ETC but regardless if the price rises or not on the announcements it will certainly have positive implications on the price later on.
"I think it stands to reason ETC will benefit since it's the next cryptocurrency in line when it comes to getting its own exchange-traded fund. SEC approval will open the door to other cryptocurrencies getting their own exchange-traded fund," JuicyG offered.
Taiwan is becoming the latest country to launch a war on cash, banning its use for transactions involving real estate and ‘luxury’ goods.
As Zerohedge reports quoting the Economic Daily News, an unidentified government minister stated there would likely be an outright ban on using cash to pay for such items. Their actual cost, he said, would not play a factor.
“With the goal of strengthening the prevention and control of money laundering, Taiwan's Ministry of Justice plans to promote large-scale transactions without cash. The first wave may lock real estate, luxury cars and jewelry transactions,” he said.
The main impetus behind the move is allegedly to crack down on criminal activity and money laundering.
Targeting criminals - including terrorists - with cash shake-ups has become somewhat vogue in recent times. India, Pakistan and Venezuela have either withdrawn large numbers of banknotes or are currently doing so, ostensibly for the purposes of national security.
These markets have all provided excellent opportunities for Bitcoin since the cash policy was initiated, with users flowing into the cryptocurrency as a backup haven.
“The Ministry of Justice’s internal data shows that criminal groups’ assets [...] are especially rich in gold, diamonds and real estate,” the Taiwan source continued. “Real estate transactions are considered high-risk money laundering transactions.”
West Virginia lawmakers are considering a new bill which would make money laundering in cryptocurrency a criminal offense.
West Virginia House Bill 2585, which has already gained wide support from representatives, is now sitting before the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.
In the text, the bill’s eleven sponsors make specific reference to cryptocurrency as one of the means by which money laundering could occur.
The bill states, “laundering through financial transactions” and “transportation, transmission, or transfer of proceeds” are two areas set to receive additional legislation.
“‘Cryptocurrency’ means digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds and which operates independently of a central bank.”
Also, mooted is forfeiture of any proceeds resulting from asset seizure should parties fall under the jurisdiction of the new laws.
Cryptocurrency assets could thus be legally confiscated by law enforcement.
West Virginia is one of a number of US states tweaking their approach to cryptocurrency at present. Cointelegraph reported this week that California is currently considering a bill which would make it illegal to purchase charity raffle tickets with cryptocurrency in an unusual amendment.
At the same time, North Dakota lawmakers have opted for a general hands-off approach to crypto regulation until the requirements of business in the state become more apparent.
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, according to Pew Research Center, there are about 1.6 bln Muslims in the world and they make up roughly 23 percent of the world’s population.
The majority of the world’s Muslims live in Asia Pacific in countries like Indonesia and India even though traditionally areas of the Middle East and Northern Africa are traditionally associated with Islam.
Fintech according to Sharia
There are unique needs of Muslims when it comes to banking and finance.
The Islamic Canonical Law, popularly known as Sharia is based on the teachings of the Quran and prohibits certain activities such as acceptance of specific interest which is considered usury (Riba) or investments in businesses which are contrary to Islamic acceptance for example alcohol.
Recent interest in Islamic banking has risen with even the International Monetary Fund’s executive board holding the first ever discussion on Islamic Banking.
Fintech and developments around Blockchain have been taking the world by the storm. The rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and developments in Blockchain have also touched the Islamic world.
In fact, the UAE has already got a Bitcoin exchange by the name of BitOasis and they also offer services like a Bitcoin Wallet. BitOasis also offers services in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. There are also services in the APAC region like Bitcoin Indonesia and Coinbox in Malaysia that offer Bitcoin-related services.
What does Islam think about Bitcoin
According to the paper “Bitcoin in Islamic Banking and Finance” by Charles W. Evans,
“The relationship between a distributed, autonomous Blockchain management systems (BMS) like Bitcoin—also referred to as a 'virtual currency'—and Islamic Banking and Finance (IBF). It shows that a BMS can conform with the prohibition of riba (usury)—as Bitcoin does—and incorporate the principles of maslaha (social benefits of positive externalities) and mutual risk-sharing (as opposed to risk-shifting). With regard to maslaha, the world's unbanked number in the billions and represent the majority of the world's adults.”
Is Bitcoin Halal? Yes but modern currencies are not
In order to deeply understand this topic, we talked with Matthew J. Martin of Blossom Finance, a fintech startup based in Indonesia.
Blossom Finance offers microfinance services that help entrepreneurs and small businesses. Matthew is a Muslim American based out of Indonesia and has worked with fintech startups like Boku and Xoom in the past. He told us that Bitcoin can be considered both a currency and a payment network and this distinction is important because the Sharia principles that apply vary.
“As a payment network, Bitcoin is halal. In fact, Bitcoin goes beyond what more conventional closed banking networks offer. Unlike conventional bank networks which use private ledgers where there's no guarantee that the originator actually owns the underlying assets, Bitcoin guarantees with mathematical certainty that the originator of the transfer owns the underlying assets. Conventional banks operate using the principle of fractional reserve, which is prohibited in Islam.”
What is more Bitcoin may be more Halal than modern fiat money. Matthew puts it quite clearly as he remarks, “Bitcoin is more halal than any currency in wide circulation today but probably still falls short of the strict and narrow definition of money in Islam. Modern sovereign currencies are based on debt with usury - this is strictly prohibited in Islam. Therefore, all modern money is not halal. Bitcoin, on the other hand, is not based on debt - it's based on a proof of work - and this is at least not haram (impermissible).”
SurBitcoin, the largest Bitcoin exchange in Venezuela, will officially resume fiat-to-Bitcoin trading by next week after solving its disputes with a major Venezuelan bank, Banesco.
On Feb. 3, for the first time since its launch in August 2014, SurBitcoin suspended trading for all of its users as Banesco, Venezuela’s largest bank with a market share of 14.2% percent, abruptly shut down the bank account of SurBitcoin. The bank told operators of SurBitcoin that Venezuelans aren’t allowed to utilize the national currency, the Bolivar, to trade Bitcoin.
For over three weeks, SurBitcoin was forced to suspend its operations and temporarily put an end to fiat-to-Bitcoin trading whilst attempting to come to a resolution with Banesco. The temporary suspension of SurBitcoin coincided with the local government’s crackdown on Venezuelan Bitcoin miners, who were arrested for utilizing the country’s resources, such as electricity, for mining Bitcoin.
A few mining centers, including a major establishment in Valencia, were shut down and dismantled by local authorities and tension arose between Bitcoin companies, users, miners and the local government.
At the time, in a letter to its users, SurBitcoin reassured traders on the platform that the exchange will be able to resume services within a few weeks, as soon as the exchange updates its infrastructure with new improvements and security measures in order to be compliant with local regulations on financial institutions and money transmitting companies.
Exactly 19 days since the announcement of the suspension, SurBitcoin announced that the exchange will be able to resume fiat-to-Bitcoin trading for all of its users by next week. SurBitcoin emphasized in an official statement on its social media account that the exchange received an approval from Venezuelan bank Banesco to operate within a week.
What this means for Venezuelan Bitcoin
While the suspension of SurBItcoin and resumption of its services have been treated like normal conflicts between a bank and Bitcoin company, the approval SurBitcoin was granted by Banesco carries larger value than many people would imagine.
Over the past few months, the Bitcoin industry and market of Venezuela were in fear of government crackdown. Local authorities, police and law enforcement agencies were recklessly and ruthlessly locking Bitcoin miners and business operators in jail without offering a reason behind their actions.
Bitcoin exchanges including SurBitcoin were also targeted by the local government as there exists no proper regulations, policies or framework established within the Venezuelan financial industry that can be applied to Bitcoin businesses. Thus, until today, the legality of Bitcoin exchanges and Bitcoin trading has been unclear.
The approval of SurBitcoin granted by Banesco can be understood as an approval of Bitcoin exchanges in general. Bitcoin exchanges like SurBitcoin will be able to operate within Venezuela if they coordinate and cooperate with local banks and financial institutions and implement industry-wide Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering systems.
The Trump administration has faced a series of embarrassing leaks from rogue officials encrypting their communications, leading allies in Congress to call for a crackdown on encryption in government.
Encrypting may be a weapon of Deep State, the term coined by the media to refer to a state within a state. Some experts suspect that it exerts control over public policy regardless of which political party is currently in power. Its members from intelligence and high bureaucracy guide policy in their own interests through leaking or other means of internal dissent.
During the opening weeks of the Trump administration, a stream of leaks appeared as to various activities by the president and administration officials. It ranged from relatively innocuous personal habits to serious infractions, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s unauthorized communications with Russia.
Multiple reports have surfaced that White House staffers are using Confide, an end-to-end encrypted messaging app, in order to cover their tracks when leaking information to the press.
The Trump administration’s struggles with internal encryption use
Since its beginning, the Trump administration has dealt with friction within the government itself. In the early days of the administration, it ordered a media blackout for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to reevaluate its official position on climate change. This led to the rise of rogue social media accounts run by EPA employees in defiance of the gag order to continue to disseminate information, some of which were later shut down.
To deal with this division of priorities in the federal government, federal employees have reportedly turned to encryption to communicate amongst themselves to discuss strategies for resisting White House edicts. In response to this attempt to obfuscate federal employees’ communications, Republicans in Congress have demanded details into the use of encryption by federal workers.
Encryption crackdown looms
As the internal struggle within the US government continues over control of agency employee communications, the greater global issue of a government crackdown on encryption threatens to become an increasing issue this year.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has maintained a stance siding with law enforcement on data access matters, coming out against end-to-end encryption and in favor of backdoor access to encrypted apps for law enforcement agencies. Following his initial pick by the Trump administration, downloads for Edward Snowden-endorsed encrypted messaging app Signal saw a rapid increase.
In Europe, the war on encryption is already much further along. The UK passed a law late last year, the Investigatory Powers Bill, which legalized mass surveillance on its citizens. A provision in this bill also effectively banned end-to-end encryption by mandating that telecommunications operators “remove electronic protection” when asked to do so by authorities. Germany and France are pushing for the EU to restrict the use of end-to-end encryption, and the German Federal Intelligence Service has already obtained funding to develop technology capable of cracking encryption used by apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp, signaling that a full war against encryption may not be far off.
R3 Consortium’s decision to seemingly abandon Blockchain technology altogether has garnered ridicule from cryptocurrency circles.
In a presentation on its Corda platform, the distributed database technology startup, which features some of the world’s largest corporations and banks, said it “didn’t need” a Blockchain.
This lack of need R3 described as a “pertinent feature” of Corda.
R3 has been moving away from involvement with Blockchain for some time. Its language has more recently changed from being a “Blockchain startup” to a “Blockchain-inspired startup,” as director Clemens Wan described it at the Construct conference in January.
"We found that we didn't want a Blockchain, we wanted to be Blockchain inspired,” he said.
Commentators reacted to the startup’s latest tone with thinly-veiled criticism. The Blockchain research process R3 undertook is reported to have cost $59 mln, money which resulted in no Blockchain being necessary.
Bitcoin Think editor Beautyon described the findings on Twitter as R3 “conceding defeat.”
Elsewhere, Vaultoro exchange co-founder Joshua Scigala said the private Blockchains R3 was originally championing as “idiotic and inefficient.”
The presentation creators’ inability to even spell the word ‘Blockchain’ correctly is perhaps a telling sign that the startup’s journey with the technology has come to faded end.
R3 was originally designed to investigate and roll out distributed ledger technology to global banking, leveraging Blockchain technology in a private, centralized environment to harmonize and add efficiency to a range of internal and external processes.
Nonetheless, the consortium remains buoyant about the future of so-called distributed ledger technology - or private, centralized Blockchains - saying that 2017 would be the year such technology sees its mainstream pilot.
Indians continue to face cash shortages after a government U-turn means fewer new banknotes will enter into circulation than promised.
Just a day after the central bank said the 1000-rupee note would reenter the economy after it was withdrawn in currency reforms three months ago, Secretary of Economic Affairs Shaktikanta Das stated there were “no plans” for reintroduction.
Sources told Cointelegraph that the lack of notes in circulation is creating major problems as ATMs and other outlets run out of cash.
Das added that the issue was “being addressed” but requested somewhat ironically that Indians only withdraw as much money as they need.
“Enough cash is available,” he said.
Cointelegraph reported Tuesday that the 1000 note was to make a comeback and that production was already in progress, although no date had been set for its reintroduction.
Preference is now likely being given to smaller notes due to reports of difficulties getting change for transactions in India’s overwhelmingly cash-based economy.
Meanwhile, Bitcoin usage in the country continues its steady trend upwards. Data from Coin Dance for LocalBitcoins shows week-on-week increases, with recent exceptional peaks in line with those witnessed in many markets worldwide.
Bitcoin price has fully recovered since the temporary Bitcoin withdrawal suspension on Huobi and OKCoin traders, having increased from $980 to $1,123 within two weeks.
On Jan. 18, Huobi and OKCoin were requested by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) to overhaul their know your customer, hereinafter KYC, and anti-money laundering, hereinafter AML, regulation. Local publications including the Shanghai Observer reported that the PBoC told the two exchanges they were in violation of local regulations and failed to meet industry-wide standards.
Three weeks after the PBoC made its initial request to Huobi and OKCoin for a KYC and AML system upgrade, OKCoin and Huobi officially suspended Bitcoin and Litecoin withdrawals for one month. Depending on the upgrade, the two exchanges stated that the suspension could either be cleared before the one month period or could potentially last longer than the original one-month timeline.
On Feb. 9, when Huobi and OKCoin released their official statements, Bitcoin price plunged overnight from $1,054 to $988. While the Chinese market showed resilience to the PBoC-OKCoin and Huobi controversy at first, the US market and its leading exchange such as Bitfinex and Kraken began to demonstrate the rapid resurgence of panic sellers and traders.
Since then, Bitcoin price has continued to recover and is very close to reaching its all-time high price. Bitcoin has already surpassed this year’s all-time high price established in late January. Although the Bitcoin price recovery can be attributed to the exponential growth of the Japanese Bitcoin exchange market, Cointelegraph revealed that peer-to-peer Bitcoin trading has been on the rise.
Almost immediately after withdrawals on Huobi and OKCoin were disabled, LocalBitcoins China trading volumes began to surge, surpassing all-time high trading values at $5.8 mln weekly trading volume.
Today, Bitcoin price officially hit its third highest weighted average price, surpassing this year’s peak. Based on the current price trend, Bitcoin price is presumed to increase if no major events that could potentially lead to the demise of Bitcoin’s value emerge in upcoming weeks.
Bitcoin exchanges including major Chinese trading platform BTCC are already celebrating Bitcoin’s highest rally since the beginning of 2017.
Recently, researchers from the Bank of Canada insisted “private digital currencies like Bitcoin” need regulation to succeed. The market, however, seems to disagree.
To begin with, researchers at the Bank of Canada made a fundamental error in studying and evaluating Bitcoin if they considered Bitcoin as a “private digital currency.” The Bitcoin network is an open peer-to-peer protocol where there is no central authority or governing entity. Looking at Bitcoin as a centralized and private network is a severely flawed technical perspective.
Unlike actual “private digital currencies” like Blockchain tokens being developed by leading banks and financial institutions, the Bitcoin network is maintained by miners across the globe who contribute computing power to verify transactions and developers within an open source development ecosystem wherein anyone can contribute to the development of Bitcoin.
Bitcoin doesn’t need regulation
Bitcoin doesn’t need regulation to survive or prosper. Central authorities including the Chinese government chose to regulate Bitcoin because they prefer to oversee the Bitcoin market rather than having it operate in underground markets that are significantly more difficult to regulate.
Companies operating within the Bitcoin industry such as Bitcoin exchanges, service providers and development firms are struggling to deal with inefficient and impractical regulations specifically in regions such as New York that require startups to obtain an expensive license to operate.
Know your customer and Anti-money laundering policies are also impractical for Bitcoin exchanges to comply with, as exchanges are pressured to transform their infrastructures into a centralized architecture in order to meet the demands of central authorities.
In China, when the People’s Bank of China halted withdrawals of OKCoin and Huobi users, two of the largest Bitcoin exchanges in the country, the majority of traders moved on to LocalBitcoins, a peer-to-peer trading platform wherein people directly trade Bitcoin without the presence of a third party service provider or mediator.
Researchers at the Bank of Canada are likely describing Bitcoin as a “private digital currency” as they are developing on an altcoin of their own called Project Jasper.
Developers of Jasper want to offer an impression to the general public that centralized Blockchain networks like Project Jasper demonstrate virtually no differences to decentralized networks like Bitcoin. However, the global Bitcoin market has already evolved to a point where most users and people have developed an awareness of Bitcoin as a decentralized currency and open network.
A part of the white paper released by the Bank of Canada read:
“Government issued digital currency will not drive out existing private digital currencies, and government intervention will be required for privately issued and government-issued digital currencies to be a uniform currency.”
Already, Blockchain consortia including R3 have given up on developing centralized Blockchain platforms and networks due to serious security issues and potential compromisations. Instead of attempting to mislead the general population regarding the concept of Bitcoin, the Bank of Canada should attempt to describe benefits of private digital currencies.
Louisiana’s capital, Baton Rouge, has received its first bitcoin ATM, joining the ranks alongside New Orleans, which received its first bitcoin ATM last June from Coinsource.
According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, the one-directional transaction machine was installed by Will Haynie, a New Orleans day trader who operates bitcoin ATMs with his brother. They installed a Genesis Coin ATM at American Market, located at 5251 Nicholson Dr., where users can purchase bitcoin for cash, but not receive cash for their bitcoin.
Haynie is reportedly planning on installing a second machine in either Shreveport or Baton Rouge in the future.
According to the day trader, the currency has been targeted toward the younger generation, noting that the Baton Rouge bitcoin ATM has been fixed near the Louisiana State University campus.
Yet, while Baton Rouge has received its first bitcoin ATM it remains unclear as to how much of a market exists for the digital currency within the capital.
It remains to be seen how successful the machine will be in Baton Rouge despite Haynie claiming that his ATMs have provided solid traffic so far.
America’s Largest Operator
In August, Coinsource became America’s biggest bitcoin ATM operator. At the time, it had brought its number of installed machines to a total of 42 across seven states.
Now, that number extends to over 80 machines across nine states, according to Coinsource.
With a steady increase in the number of ATMs across America it illustrates how much of a market is out there for the currency’s use.
The nine states where Coinsource bitcoin ATMs can be found include: California, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Tennessee. The state with the most machines are found in New York, which currently accounts for 22.
As growing customer demand continues, Coinsource have stated that they will continue rolling out new terminals to meet its customers’ needs.
Coinsource, however, is not the only bitcoin ATM provider. According to CoinATMRadar, there are now 1,012 bitcoin ATMs installed around the world so far in 2017.
Bitcoin’s Price Increase
At the moment, the price of one bitcoin costs $1,090, according to Coin Market Cap.
With bitcoin’s price steadily increasing one can assume that more people on the side lines will be keen to invest in the currency.
And while the U.S. certainly dominates the bitcoin ATM market with 73.02 percent, the price of bitcoin and the popularity it is gaining around the world shows that the currency and the market it’s aimed at is now going away anytime soon.
While some altcoins have been hyped for having the potential to turn the cryptocurrency market around in the coming years, CEO of BTCC Bobby Lee says Bitcoin will drive the growth of other digital currencies.
In a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on Saturday, Feb. 18, he stated:
“My opinion is that the industry worldwide should first focus on Bitcoin.”
Lee is certain that the attention of the crypto world should be on Bitcoin. “Yes, altcoins may have some exciting features, but it’s hard enough to get Bitcoin adopted. In my opinion, Bitcoin will lead digital currencies in revolutionizing finance. We need to work hard to get Bitcoin accepted in mainstream society first!”
What is good for China
Going by the series of spot checks on the operations of Bitcoin exchanges in China by the PBoC, the BTCC CEO says he doesn’t know exactly what the bank really wants but guessed it would be “what’s good for China” with an assurance that his exchange, being pro-regulation not just in China but worldwide, will continue to work with the PBoC by supporting their requests and recommendations.
However, compared to 2013/2014, he thinks the PBoC is spending more effort on its latest moves and believes the bank “will have a strong say in how the Bitcoin exchange industry evolves in coming years.”
He also touched on miners’ refusal to adopt SegWit saying it has nothing to do with whether or not they are Chinese. He said that the lack of opportunities among the community generally for collaboration and discussion to work out the differences is a major reason precluding Chinese miners from embracing SegWit.
Making SegWit activation happen has been a thorny and complicated issue more so considering accusations from both sides.
“It is hard to educate people about complicated topics and it takes an exponentially larger amount of time when more people are involved. Bitcoin is already complicated. SegWit and the scaling debate are even harder and more complicated. We need more time for better communication and understanding,” Lee says, reiterating his previous sentiment that he expects to see SegWit activated first, followed by a real hardfork for a block size increase rolled out afterward, hopefully in 2017.
Responding to a question on whether privacy-focused altcoins will be available on Chinese exchanges, he added that he has not heard many requests for “privacy-focused” altcoins from the Chinese community and Bitcoin seems to strike the right balance between transparency and privacy with its pseudo-anonymous features.
He was also asked about bringing confidential transactions to Bitcoin, however, that means publicly traded companies can keep their financial activities private. Bobby Lee’s answer was that this “is not the highest priority for Bitcoin right now.”
Lee argued that the situation, where many miners and ASIC makers are located in China, does not mean that Bitcoin mining is exclusive only to the Chinese. He said that the fact that most dog and cat owners may be female doesn’t mean that only women are allowed to have them.
The vice president of a Russian state bank has likened Bitcoin to “positive bacteria” that exist inside humans and are essential for life.
Speaking in an interview with Russian newspaper Kommersant, Vnesheconombank’s Vice President Nikita Smirnov added that Bitcoin was hitherto “the only successful implementation of Blockchain technology currently in existence.”
“Viruses are negative bacteria,” he said. “But Bitcoin in many sense represents positive bacteria which meet a person’s specific needs […] and allows him to exist.”
“Bitcoin is the world’s only Blockchain technology to have achieved wide usage and which continues to exist after years of people trying to beat it down but has not failed,” he continued.
The unlikely praise of Bitcoin, as well as Blockchain, sees Smirnov adopting a contrasting stance to fellow Russian banks, notably major player Sberbank.
Earlier this month, the bank’s Chief Herman Gref stated that he foresaw state-level Blockchain implementation within the next two-and-a-half years, while another spokesman considered it might happen even sooner.
Vnesheconombank, meanwhile, is also active in the Blockchain arena, currently preparing to unveil to customers what it describes as a “Blockchain-based B2B ecosystem.”
LocalBitcoins trades have surged in China amid fears of a regulatory crackdown similar to Venezuela.
During the week of Feb. 18th, trading on LocalBitcoins.com, a platform for peer-to-peer localized cryptocurrency trading, has grown exponentially. This increase is from about 6.6 mln yuan the week before to over 36 mln, an almost sixfold increase. This is a particularly noteworthy increase when compared with December’s average of under three mln and rarely over one mln a year ago.
Venezuela, meanwhile, has experienced a growth of LocalBitcoins trading of nearly tenfold over the last year as its citizens attempt to find economic relief in the middle of a crisis.
Fear over People’s Bank of China regulations drove traders underground
Trading activity in China has historically affected the Bitcoin price, and fears that the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) would impose further regulations on exchanges prompted those exchanges to halt withdrawals, which was accompanied by a significant dip in Bitcoin’s price. This, in turn, led droves of traders to LocalBitcoins, seeking to find a safe haven against a potential government crackdown. However, it appears for the time being that those fears have subsided with an announced regulatory alliance with Bitcoin exchanges, causing the Bitcoin price rally to reach new heights.
Peer-to-peer Bitcoin trading is up across the board in restrictive countries
China has not been the only country to see a recent spike in localized Bitcoin trading as a result of governmental policy. Venezuela, a country plagued by an economic crisis including food shortages has also seen a large increase in LocalBitcoins trading this year as citizens attempt to acquire sound money in the midst of a government sting operations.
Earlier this month, the Venezuelan government arrested several Bitcoin miners as part of a continuing crackdown on cryptocurrency users, exchanges and miners. Charges have varied from cybercrime and financing terrorism to stealing electricity. The Venezuelan Bitcoin exchange SurBitcoin also suspended its operations when its bank account was shut down, prompting its owner to encourage Bitcoin trading on LocalBitcoins.
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