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Coinbase joins NGO's efforts using crypto to help Haitians impacted by earthquakes, civil unrest

Major crypto exchange Coinbase has given a $150,000 grant to Hope for Haiti as part of a pilot program aimed at providing financial assistance to Haitians experiencing social and economic hardship. In a Tuesday announcement, Hope for Haiti said Coinbase would be making the $150,000 contribution to its pilot project with financial inclusion-driven firm Emerging Impact and the Celo Foundation. According to Celo, the project utilizes the Celo Dollar (cUSD) and Emerging Impact’s Umoja platform to provide cash-based assistance to mothers affected by some of the traumatic events in the Caribbean nation.Haiti has been struck by four major earthquakes in the last 12 years, including a magnitude 5.3 quake on Monday, which reportedly left two people dead and 200 homes destroyed. However, the island nation’s capital city of Port-au-Prince was also significantly damaged by a magnitude 7 earthquake in 2010, followed by prolonged civil unrest that was, in part, connected to the current pandemic and the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July.At Least Two Killed In Haiti Quake, 200 Houses Destroyedhttps://t.co/4R5yzdmmrV pic.twitter.com/pgHDEOLIoy— Channels Television (@channelstv) January 25, 2022Coinbase’s charitable arm, Coinbase Giving, provided the funds to be used for the benefit of roughly 1,500 Haitian people — those families with children enrolled in Hope for Haiti’s community nutrition program. The impacted individuals should be able to use the funds for goods and services at more than 30 participating merchants in Haiti, with the option for the vendors to cash out the digital funds using local money management service MonCash.“This initiative with Hope for Haiti and Emerging Impact is particularly exciting because of how it uses blockchain-based technology to promote more efficient and effective giving, hopefully serving as an inspiration for ideas across the cryptoeconomy and philanthropic sectors,” said Coinbase Giving’s head Dominique Baillet.Related: Blockchain folk hero Nandy Martin hopes to build a better community for Haitians in MiamiMany individuals and charitable organizations have employed crypto as a means of getting money into the hands of those who need it most following a natural disaster or are in a country experiencing political turmoil. After many in the Philippines were displaced or injured following typhoon Rai hitting the region in December 2021, the play-to-earn gaming group Yield Guild Games raised $1.4 million to help victims. Similarly, in the wake of the Texas Winter Storm in February 2021, some local disaster relief groups announced they would be accepting crypto donations.

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Former CFTC chair Chris Giancarlo joins Digital Asset's board

Chris Giancarlo, who served as chair for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission until 2019, will be joining the board of directors for blockchain startup Digital Asset.In a Tuesday announcement, Digital Asset said Giancarlo would be providing counsel on asset tokenization, distributed ledger technology, and the possible impact of regulatory developments on the crypto space. The former CFTC chair is currently working as senior counsel at the Willkie Farr & Gallagher law firm and co-founded the Digital Dollar Project, a non-profit organization aimed at generating data to inform U.S. lawmakers on developing a central bank digital currency, or CBDC.“We are on the precipice of a digital economic transformation that will necessitate safe and secure ways for businesses to interconnect and share assets,” said Giancarlo.I’m excited to join the board of @digitalassetcom at this critical stage in emerging #web3 evolution. https://t.co/NXJW9dtafk— Chris Giancarlo (@giancarloMKTS) January 25, 2022During his time as CFTC chair, Giancarlo also served as a member of the U.S. Financial Stability Oversight Committee, the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets and the executive board of the International Organization of Securities Commissions. Many in crypto and blockchain referred to him as “Crypto Dad” for supporting digital assets during his five years at the CFTC, including overseeing the launch of regulated Bitcoin (BTC) futures and advocating for a “do no harm” approach to blockchain regulation.Giancarlo was replaced as chair by Heath Tarbert in July 2019, for whom current CFTC commissioner Rostin Behnam took over in 2021 as acting chair before being confirmed by the Senate in December. Though no longer serving in an official capacity for any U.S. government agency, the Crypto Dad was on the board of directors at BlockFi for four months in 2021, and recently joined blockchain investment firm CoinFund as a strategic advisor.Related: Chris Giancarlo: U.S. risks becoming ‘backwater’ without central bank digital currencyDigital Asset has raised more than $300 million through funding rounds since its founding in 2014, most recently raising $120 million in a Series D financing round in April 2021. The firm has acquired firms in the crypto and blockchain space including Hyperledger, Bits of Proof, Blockstack and Elevence.

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Amex CEO hints at exploring ways to allow credit card holders to redeem points for crypto

American Express credit card holders may one day be able to redeem points for cryptocurrencies, but the company has no immediate plans to issue a crypto-linked credit card.In a Tuesday interview with Yahoo! Finance, Amex chief executive officer Stephen Squeri said credit card holders were “probably not gonna see a Amex crypto-linked card anytime soon” but the company was already involved in using cards for stablecoins, and monitored for central bank digital currency developments from the U.S. government. The CEO said he considered major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) as “more of an asset class” like gold, but did not think they would facilitate payments in the same way as credit cards given their price volatility.“You don’t have the service with [crypto], you don’t have the dispute rights with it, you’re not getting rewards, and you’re not extending credit,” said Squeri. “All of those values that occur within a credit card do not lend themselves to cryptocurrency.”He added:“We’re exploring other ways, potentially, to redeem your membership rewards points, but I don’t think you’re going to see an American Express card linked to cryptocurrency anytime soon.”Visa and Mastercard seem to be ahead of Amex when it comes to partnering with firms for crypto benefits from card holders’ purchases. In January 2021, crypto exchange Gemini released its own credit card allowing users to earn up to 3% back in BTC. In 2020, BlockFi announced it had partnered with Visa to let cardholders receive 1.5% of their purchases back in BTC.Related: Crypto credit cards could be the missing link to mass adoptionThe benefits aren’t limited to card holders based in the United States — as is sometimes the case for travel and hotel rewards. In December, Mastercard announced it would be launching a crypto-linked payment card across the Asia-Pacific region, enabling users to convert digital assets into fiat.

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Fitch Ratings warns of risks crypto miners pose to US power supply

Global credit rating agency Fitch Ratings is warning public power utilities across the United States to mitigate the risk crypto mining could post their production of power.In a Monday notice, Fitch Ratings said that only utilities in states like Washington, which have excess generation capacity, may be capable of meeting the power requirements of many crypto mining operations. The agency claimed that though some crypto mining firms can become “the largest customer in a rural service territory,“ the operations typically bring in “very little additional economic benefits” from jobs or boosting the local economy.“The volatile and unregulated nature of crypto mining and the large influx of load requests led a number of Washington utilities to adopt new practices beginning in 2014 to mitigate exposure to crypto mining entities, including crypto-currency load moratoriums, evolving rate structures to capture the departure risk of a high-risk industry, and defined customer concentration limits,” said Fitch Ratings.In Texas, where many mining operations have set up shop following an exodus of firms in China, Fitch Ratings suggested utilities companies invest in new facilities, sign long-term power purchase agreements, or obtain power through market purchases in real time to handle the additional load. However, each option carries financial risk which may eventually be passed on to residents:“Crypto mining operations are price-sensitive entities that may be quickly scaled back or shut down if mining becomes uneconomical.”Many crypto mining companies are seeking the most cost-effective area to mine tokens, with some U.S. States, including Texas and Washington, offering more favorable conditions than others. Canadian mining firm Bitfarms announced in November that it was planning to build a data center in Washington State, citing its “cost-effective electricity” and production rates. Whinstone, later acquired by Riot Blockchain, set up shop in Texas, taking advantage of the state’s wind turbines and deregulated power grid.Related: Texan Bitcoin mining power demands could jump 5 times by 2023Fitch Ratings has previously issued warnings related to the use of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) in local economies. In August, shortly before El Salvador implemented its Bitcoin Law making the crypto asset legal tender, the agency warned of the volatility and operational risks for citizens using crypto, adding that local insurance companies would likely be hesitant to adopt BTC for claims or benefits payments.

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SEC rejects MicroStrategy's Bitcoin accounting practices: report

Business intelligence firm MicroStrategy reportedly acted contrary to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s accounting practices for its crypto purchases.According to a Bloomberg report, a comment letter from the SEC released Thursday showed the regulatory body objected to MicroStrategy reporting information related to its Bitcoin (BTC) purchases based on non-GAAP, or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. The business intelligence firm has been reporting it used these methods of calculating figures for its BTC buys excluding the “impact of share-based compensation expense and impairment losses and gains on sale from intangible assets” — essentially, negating some of the effects of the volatility of the crypto market.GAAP rules are seemingly not designed for reporting the value of cryptocurrencies. However, MicroStrategy has purchased 124,391 BTC as of Dec. 30, representing more than $4.7 billion in value across several buys totaling roughly $3.8 billion since August 2020. The company reported it used non-GAAP practices to exclude “cumulative impairment losses” from the cost and based the value of its holdings on the market price of 1 BTC at 4:00 EST on the last day of each period.MicroStrategy said following a BTC purchase in July 2021 that it “believes that these non-GAAP financial measures are also useful to investors and analysts in comparing its performance across reporting periods on a consistent basis.” The SEC reportedly said MicroStrategy should “remove this adjustment in future filings.”Related: MicroStrategy CEO won’t sell $5B BTC stash despite crypto winterThe report came as shares of MicroStrategy fell more than 17.8% in the last 24 hours to reach a six-month low price of $375. The drop may have been affected by BTC also falling to a six-month low as the crypto asset dipped under $38,000.

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Crypto-loving anti-vax group seeks like-minded talent to live in African 'paradise'

A group of people who have claimed they refuse to take any of the COVID-19 vaccines — at a time when the number of cases around the world is at an all-time high — is reportedly looking for a cryptocurrency expert to join them in Africa.According to a Friday report from Vice, the group of anti-vaxxers is building a “community” off the coast of southeastern Africa and plans to hire private chefs, television presenters, and crypto experts. The company behind the group, Liberty Places, is a self-described real estate firm based out of the archipelago of Zanzibar. It has previously posted to social media regarding its plans to use “the latest technologies from blockchain to solar energy” in addition to criticizing the use of masks in fighting the pandemic. In spite of our view this morning; knowing that testing, masks, lockdowns, social distancing are now a structural norm in Europe and will return every year of your life, is ample enough reason to plan an exit! pic.twitter.com/aino9GsoUD— Liberty Places Ltd (@liberty_places) January 16, 2022Vice reported the group had praised Zanzibar for not implementing “mask mandates, social distancing measures or lockdowns, nor has it enforced any requirement for mandatory vaccines,” describing the island as “free from meddling bureaucracy.” The comments come at a time when the 7-day average number of new cases of COVID-19 is more than 3 million, and many public health officials and lawmakers continue to call for the use of social distancing, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated and boosted when possible.Many countries around the world are still closed to short-term visitors, with others that aren’t requiring a combination of proof of vaccination, quarantining at a hotel, and a negative COVID-19 test. For visitors from the United States, Tanzania stands out as a country that allows tourists to enter with only a negative test — no mandatory quarantine or vaccination requirement. There is inconsistent data on the number of new cases in the country, but the limited size of Zanzibar makes it unlikely to be able to accommodate millions of anti-vaxxers so locals concerned about the virus could still practice social distancing.Related: Tanzania’s Zanzibar reportedly exploring ways to adopt cryptoTanzania’s central bank banned crypto in November 2019, but it has reportedly explored overturning its decision following comments from President Samia Suluhu Hassan in June urging the central bank to prepare for Bitcoin (BTC) and digital assets. The country is also reportedly planning to introduce a digital shilling after neighboring countries announced initiatives exploring CBDCs.Cointelegraph reached out to Liberty Places, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

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Former Binance US CEO Catherine Coley is still missing, and no one seems to be talking

Around the time Binance.US announced former Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks would be leading the crypto exchange, former CEO Catherine Coley effectively dropped off the face of the digital world.Coley, who had regularly posted updates on Binance.US and her personal life to her Twitter account, has been inactive on the social media platform since April 19. Her job experience on LinkedIn ends with her two years as CEO of Binance.US, which she left in June 2021, and her online silence has led at least one news outlet to reach out to San Francisco authorities to determine if she had been reported missing — as of October, the answer was “no.”Major figures in crypto also noticed the absence of Coley. Ripple chief technology officer David Schwartz said in July that the former Binance.US CEO had not responded to his messages, but he had not tried to reach her by calling. Sam Fischer, a representative for Binance.US, told Cointelegraph said that the exchange had no information on Coley “beyond the fact that she left Binance.US.”Related: Most Crypto Users Think QuadrigaCX CEO Faked Own DeathNaturally, rumors have been floating around Crypto Twitter, speculating that Coley has met an untimely end, is alive and well and vacationing in Puerto Rico, or is forced to be quiet due to some kind of unsorted legal matter related to her departure from Binance.US — none of which Cointelegraph has been able to confirm. One of her last public statements on social media in April reported high levels of traffic on Binance.US, but she also addressed attendees of the LA Blockchain Summit in October 2020. Curious… Has anyone heard from Catherine Coley? We had a conversation last December before she left but nothing since and I have tried. I along with others have expressed concern about what happened to her. She also has listed her 2 yr experience with Ripple. I pray she’s okay.— Jackie P (@JackieP323) September 20, 2021Before her disappearance, Coley was one of the most prominent names in the crypto space. As a young female leader of a major exchange, she made Forbes Magazine’s list of 40 under 40 as an influential entrepreneur in 2020. Cointelegraph reached out to Catherine Coley, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

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Canadian restaurant chain reports earning 300% gains on BTC investment to weather pandemic

More than a year after a Canada-based Middle Eastern restaurant chain converted its fiat cash reserves into Bitcoin, the owner reported the move helped save the business during the pandemic.According to a Tuesday report from Canadian news outlet Toronto Star, when Tahini’s restaurant owners Aly and Omar Hamam and their cousin Ahmed decided to convert the company’s savings into Bitcoin (BTC) in August 2020 because it offered “a much better alternative to saving cash,” the price of the crypto asset was roughly $12,000. Aly Hamam reported the business had benefited from the initial crypto investment. “We made the move to the corporate balance sheet on a Bitcoin-standard back in August of 2020, and since then, we’re up more than 300 percent on our initial investment,” said Hamam. “It’s really done its job of protecting us against inflation and it worked as we intended it to.”The BTC price rose to an all-time high of more than $67,000 in November before dropping to $41,729 at the time of publication. Despite the company’s sales dropping 80% in a week at the start of the pandemic, Hamam said the crypto investment had allowed them to expand from three restaurant locations to nine at a time when many in the industry are facing financial difficulties, and it planned to increase that number to up to 25 by the end of the year.“We keep a working capital for about three to six months in cash, and then the rest all goes into Bitcoin,” said Hamam. “So, whenever we have an expansion, we’re not forced to sell our Bitcoin to fund that expansion. We try to operate conservatively, where we never have to sell our Bitcoin and we just keep accumulating on our treasury.”#Bitcoin is hope for both big and small businesses alike— Tahinis Restaurants (@TheRealTahinis) January 19, 2022None of Tahini’s locations in Ontario currently accept BTC or other cryptocurrencies for payments, but they are each home to a Bitcoin ATM, allowing patrons to purchase tokens before, during, or after meals. At the time of the initial investment — the amount of which is still unclear — Hamam hinted the business would continue to use Bitcoin as a reserve asset indefinitely if there wasn’t “a need for fiat.”“We’re going to continue to strive to make the best food that we can… and with Bitcoin, we’re also wanting to help people financially.”Related: Landry’s Restaurant Group to introduce Bitcoin loyalty programWhile restaurants like Tahini’s don’t seem to be the target of regulators in the Canadian province, it isn’t always the same story with local crypto firms. The Ontario Securities Commission has cracking down on crypto exchanges operating in the region, including Binance, OKEx, Bybit, KuCoin and Polo Digital Assets. On Jan. 14, Bitfinex announced it would be closing the accounts for Ontario-based customers who have no balances on the platform, while many users “will no longer have access to any services” starting on March 1.

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Tom Brady's NFT platform Autograph raises $170M to scale operations

The nonfungible token (NFT) marketplace Autograph co-founded by Super Bowl champion Tom Brady has announced it closed on a $170 million funding round.In a Wednesday announcement, Autograph said Andreessen Horowitz, or a16z, and VC firm Kleiner Perkin co-led the $170-million Series B round with contributions from crypto investor Katie Haun’s firm, Nicole Quinn of Lightspeed Venture Partners, and San Francisco-based venture firm 01A. The company said it planned to use the funds to scale its NFT technology and hinted at a series of partnerships aimed at expanding its user base.In addition to the funding round, Haun, a16z general partner Arianna Simpson, and Kleiner Perkins partner Ilya Fushman will join Autograph’s board of directors, with a16z general partner Chris Dixon joining the firm’s board of advisors. According to the new members, Autograph will continue to aim for mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies and NFTs.Big news on the @Autograph front. We are pumped to add some really knowledgeable people in the Web3 space to our team. This thread from @cdixon includes some great context on our business. #ToTheMoon https://t.co/Xsmws3KQ05— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) January 19, 2022Since its launch in August 2021, Autograph has partnered with major names in sports and entertainment, often for NFT collections. In December, Brady dropped a series of ​​digital collectibles representing moments from his football career, including cleats and a jersey, from the NFL combine. The marketplace also features NFTs from tennis star Naomi Osaka, skateboarder Tony Hawk and others.Related: Touchdown! Goal! Knockout! Crypto and sports collide in 2021Andreessen Horowitz has been behind some of the biggest funding rounds for crypto and blockchain projects as well as its own crypto-focused funds dedicated to expanding the size and marketability of blockchain projects. The firm’s portfolio includes Coinbase, Compound, Maker and many others.

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Crypto IRA iTrustCapital raises $125M, pushes valuation over $1B

Cryptocurrency individual retirement account and 401(k) provider iTrustCapital said it had raised $125 million in a growth equity investment, making its valuation reach $1.3 billion.In a Wednesday announcement, iTrustCapital said it had completed a $125 million Series A growth equity investment led by New York-based VC firm Left Lane Capital. The company said it planned to use the funds for expanding its existing product and service line in addition to exploring strategic acquisitions.”We are equally excited to partner with iTrustCapital to help support their mission to provide access to cryptocurrency and other alternative investment products through self-directed IRAs,” said Left Lane Capital board member Matthew Miller. “iTrustCapital serves clients that seek long-term, tax-advantaged exposure to cryptocurrency as an asset class.”Providing access to 25 cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), and Cardano (ADA) in addition to physical gold and silver, iTrustCapital allows United States-based investors to incorporate crypto investments into their retirement portfolios. The company reported it had reached more than $4.5 billion in total transaction volume, with its client base including many working professionals from 45 to 65 years old.Related: Crypto IRA integrates Coinbase Custody as trade volumes top $1.5BMany investment platforms based in the U.S. have attempted to attract investors by offering tax-free options for holding or mining crypto. Under current U.S. tax law, income is often the only taxable source of funds for many who file returns, with many able to use questionable but legal methods to avoid paying the government. In June 2021, ProPublica reported PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel had used a Roth IRA — an account generally not taxed — to invest $2,000 more than 20 years ago and turn it into a $5 billion fund. Offering “tax-advantaged” access to crypto through IRAs, iTrustCapital seems to be aiming for a similar way to reduce potential tax payments using crypto investments.

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'The risks outweigh the benefits' of a Swiss CBDC, says SNB governing board member

Andréa Maechler, a member of the governing board for the Swiss National Bank, or SNB, has reportedly altered her position on the central bank issuing a digital franc. According to a Tuesday report from Reuters journalist John Revill, Maechler said officials at the country’s central bank “believe the risks outweigh the benefits” when it comes to CBDCs. The governing board member said having the general public use a digital franc in day-to-day transactions would likely not help promote financial inclusion in Switzerland, where almost all the working population already have access to bank accounts.”This does not mean the SNB is not interested in CBDC, but our focus is to look at the role that wholesale CBDCs could play,” said Maechler, adding the central bank needed to consider privacy concerns and the potential for the digital currency to be used for illicit transactions.The governing board member’s statement comes following the SNB announcing it had integrated a wholesale CBDC into the banking systems of five commercial banks in Switzerland. At the time, Maechler seemed to encourage the rollout, saying “central banks need to stay on top of technological change“ in an effort to ensure monetary and financial stability.Testing the introduction of a wholesale CBDC was part of the second phase of Project Helvetia, an initiative aimed at preparing central banks for distributed ledger technology-based tokenized financial assets. During the fourth quarter of 2021, the SNB integrated the wholesale CBDC into the existing systems and processes of Citi, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Hypothekarbank Lenzburg and UBS.Related: Bitcoin briefly flippens Swiss franc after rally to new ATHSwitzerland was also a testing ground for many crypto projects and products in 2021. In September, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority approved one of the first crypto funds to operate in the country, the Crypto Market Index Fund. The SIX Swiss Exchange currently lists several crypto exchanged-traded products in addition to its own plans to launch a digital asset marketplace and central securities depository.

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Coinbase partners with Mastercard for NFT marketplace purchases

Credit card company Mastercard has announced users for Coinbase’s upcoming nonfungible token marketplace will be able to use their cards to make purchases as part of a new partnership.In a Tuesday blog post, Mastercard executive vice president of digital asset and blockchain products Raj Dhamodharan said under the agreement, NFTs would be considered “digital goods” and able to be purchased using a credit card. The measure is aimed at allowing non-crypto natives to get into NFTs without using a wallet and buying Ether (ETH) or other tokens. “Cryptocurrency enthusiasts are used to this process,” said Dhamodharan. “But for most people, it’s not simple, it’s not intuitive. We think it should be much easier. That will ensure NFTs can be for everyone […] Getting more people involved safely and securely is perhaps the best way to help the NFT market thrive.”Since Coinbase first announced its NFT marketplace — under the planned name “Coinbase NFT” — in October, more than 1 million people have signed up to be on the waiting list. The crypto exchange plans to make the NFT platform available to U.S. users before opening it up to ones in other countries. Related: AI-generative art predicted to be next trend for NFT sectorFollowing growth and interest in the NFT sector in 2021, major crypto exchanges FTX and Binance launched their own NFT marketplaces prior to Coinbase’s October announcement. In June, Binance launched an NFT platform aimed at “providing the highest liquidity and cheapest fees for users.” FTX followed in September with a platform exclusively for United States-based customers.According to a recent report from DappRadar, there may be a higher demand for NFTs in 2022 following the surge the previous year. The platform reported that NFT trades generated $10.7 billion in the third quarter of 2021 to $11.9 billion in Q4, with the first ten days of 2022 “looking strong.””Despite the volatile cryptocurrencies cycles, NFTs maintain a stagnant positive trend,” said DappRadar analyst Pedro Herrera. 

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