Iran halts authorized crypto mining to save energy for winter

Iran previously put a temporary blanket ban on crypto mining amid historically peak periods for power demand in summer.
Amid Iran’s energy consumption increasing during the winter, local energy authorities have decided to halt operations of authorized cryptocurrency mining centers.
Mostafa Rajabi Mashhadi, chairman of the board and managing director of Iran Grid Management Company (Tavanir), announced that Iran is shutting down crypto mining centers again to reduce liquid fuel consumption in power plants amid decreasing temperatures.
Mashhadi said that Iranian authorities took this action to reduce energy consumption last month, The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) reported on Dec. 25.
“The Energy Ministry has been implementing measures since last month to reduce the use of liquid fuels in power plants, including cutting licensed crypto farms’ power supply, turning off lampposts in less risky areas, and stringent supervision of consumption,” he said.
The executive emphasized the importance of saving energy in the country, calling on citizens to reduce their electricity and gas consumption as much as possible as well. According to local reports, 70% of the fuel consumed in Iran is used for heating buildings. The new energy-saving measures are reportedly expected to cut energy consumption by at least 40%.
While enforcing restrictions on authorized crypto mining operators, the Iranian government has also been working to combat illegal crypto miners. In late November, local energy authorities announced that they had in total seized 222,000 mining devices used for illicit mining crypto since the industry regulations were established.
Iran is one of the world’s biggest crypto mining countries, accounting for an estimated 4.5% to 7% of the global Bitcoin (BTC) hash rate. The country previously put a temporary blanket ban on crypto mining in summer, citing historically peak periods for power demand due to hot temperatures. The ban was subsequently lifted in September as the Iranian power grid became more stable.

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UK Inflation Hits 10-Year High After Bank Of England Says Bitcoin Could Become Worthless

  • The inflation rate in the UK has risen 5.1% to hit a 10-year high.
  • Crypto enthusiasts proffer Bitcoin to hedge against inflation.
  • The UK central banker, The Bank of England, remains unreceptive to Bitcoin.

The United Kingdom has been hit by surging inflation figures. According to data published by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), the inflation rate is at a 10-year high. For November, the consumer price index, which is a key measure of inflation, climbed 5.1% month-on-month, up from 4.2% in October.

The major causes for the rise that the ONS points to for the larger than normal rate spike were increases in the price of transportation, food, clothing, and footwear.

The inflation figure has been published at a time when the Bank of England’s (BoE’s) Monetary Policy Committee is scheduled to meet to decide if it is going to move to tighten its monetary policy. It remains uncertain if a decision will be reached to begin quantitative easing in the economy as the meeting was planned for before the emergence of the Omicron variant, hence analysts are split over what the BoE’s decision should be.

Bitcoin can come to the rescue

Meanwhile, Bitcoin proponents have taken the rising inflation rate to point out that the country should be more open to the pioneer cryptocurrency. Their proposal is simply that Bitcoin will act as an inflation hedge to protect the wealth of investors in the future.

This has long been one of the thesis for investing in the benchmark cryptocurrency as its limited supply means that it should rise in value when fiat currencies such as the pound and dollars are inflated due to having unlimited supply.

However, it is highly unlikely that the key decision-makers of the UK including the BoE will be more receptive to Bitcoin anytime soon. The central bankers continue to consider cryptocurrencies with wary distrust. The BoE’s stance on the industry is that cryptocurrencies do not meet the requirements to be considered as currencies, hence they prefer to refer to them as crypto assets.

Just this week, the governor of the BoE, Andrew Bailey, once again reiterated that banks and other regulated financial firms under its purview should be cautious in holding crypto assets as they were highly volatile and lacked regulatory clarity.

Consequences of rising inflation and the case for Bitcoin

Despite the cold shoulder of the BoE, cryptocurrency adoption has continued to grow in the UK as its proponents recognize the power it holds to alleviate inflation concerns.

In general, inflation has several implications for the finance of individuals. It affects day-to-day budgeting and savings, borrowing, and investing. With extreme inflation, the purchasing power of money becomes reduced greatly. It also does not make a lot of sense to save in times of high inflation as the value of the money saved is likely to lose value over time. This is why investors seek inflation hedge assets such as Bitcoin to preserve the value of their wealth in times of inflation.

Australia to Introduce New Regulatory Laws

As some top economies across the world are working to bring clarity on crypto regulations, Australia joins the bandwagon. As per the latest report, Australian lawmakers will soon create a licensing framework for cryptocurrency exchanges.
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has recently welcomed this move saying that Bitcoin and other digital assets would emerge under a financial licensing scheme for crypto trading platforms. Speaking of this development, Mr. Frydenberg said:

“Australia has an opportunity to be among the leading countries in the world in leveraging this new technology. Recent surveys have found that up to 17 percent of Australians currently own cryptocurrency, with that figure likely even higher among young Australians.”

The Australian Treasurer said that he will begin talks on the licensing framework of crypto from early 2022. Besides, they will also be regulating crypto custodians i.e. businesses who hold digital assets on behalf of their consumers.

Crypto businesses in Australia are also supporting this move. BTC Markets chief executive Caroline Bowler said: “It would be a crushing shame to not have our regulation keep pace with international peers such as Singapore, Canada and Britain”.

Australia’s Own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also spoke about the possibility of having a central bank digital currency (CBDC) and doing pilot testing before the end of 2022. However, he advocates for the cash industry saying that the Australian CBDC should be replacing physical banknotes.
Besides, the country is looking to broaden the scope of laws for online transactions providers. Tech giants like Google and Apple are making rapid penetration in the payments market. Furthermore, there’s a fast emergence of buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) providers ike Afterpay Ltd. operating without any direct supervision. Speaking of this, Treasurer Frydenberg said:

“If we do not reform the current framework, it will be Silicon Valley that determines the future of our payment system. Australia must retain its sovereignty over our payment system.”

Why This CEO Thinks The US Government Is Already Mining Bitcoin

Whit Gibbs, the CEO of U.S.-based Bitcoin (CRYPTO: BTC) mining marketplace Compass Mining, believes the U.S. government may already be mining Bitcoin.

What Happened: In a Dec. 1 episode of Anthony Pompliano’s Best Business Show, Gibbs explained how nations around the world have strategically begun embracing Bitcoin.

When asked what it would take for the U.S. to start mining Bitcoin, Gibbs said: “The United States is already mining. Maybe.”

“I know they might have 10 or 20 megawatts running somewhere in the Midwest, to test it out maybe,” he said.

“It’s hypothetically speaking but it’s a matter of national security, right, when it comes to Bitcoin mining,” added the Compass Mining CEO.

In his view, Bitcoin is the future financial instrument that will eventually have a number of things built on top of it.

“Nations would have to be absolutely out of their mind to not be getting some exposure to the underlying infrastructure that supports it [Bitcoin]. The U.S., I think, is on the front foot,” said Gibbs.

“We had a lot of conversations with the government in DC [and] state governments to help them educate them, but they are very forward-thinking when it comes to supporting that.”

Several publicly listed Bitcoin mining companies have generated lucrative profits in the last year as the digital asset’s price reached new highs. Last month, Marathon Digital Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: MARA) CEO Fred Thiel estimated that Bitcoin’s price would have to fall by 80% for the firm to stop making money from its crypto mining operations.

BTC Price Action: At publication Monday afternoon, Bitcoin was trading at $49,206.57, up 0.42% in the last 24 hours.

Photo by Ewan Kennedy on Unsplash

Bank of America Sees Opportunity

Bank of America’s strategist says that the metaverse is a massive opportunity where cryptocurrencies will be widely used as currencies. “I definitely believe this is a massive, massive opportunity,” he said.

Bank of America’s Metaverse Prediction

Bank of America’s strategist, Haim Israel, told the Insider Tuesday that the metaverse is a massive opportunity for blockchain technology. In addition, he expects it to take cryptocurrency mainstream.
Israel is Bank of America’s managing director of research and a global strategist. He is also head of the global thematic research team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He detailed:

I definitely believe this is a massive, massive opportunity … You need the right platforms … that is definitely going to be a big opportunity for this entire ecosystem.

The Bank of America strategist predicted that the metaverse is where “we’re going to start using cryptocurrencies as currencies,” emphasizing that it will be where people finally start using cryptocurrencies widely for transactions.
However, the director of research believes that existing cryptocurrencies are likely to be too volatile for this purpose, expecting some types of stablecoins to come to dominate.
The metaverse gained much attention in October when social media giant Facebook changed its name to Meta. A parcel of real estate on virtual reality platform Decentraland was recently sold for $2.4 million and Republic Realm paid $4.3 million for a property in The Sandbox metaverse on Tuesday.
The Bank of America strategist also predicted that traditional payments companies will be much more interested in cryptocurrencies if they become widely used in the metaverse. “I see a lot of collaboration between the two,” he opined.
Earlier this month, global investment bank Morgan Stanley said that the metaverse is the next big investment theme. Last week, Grayscale Investments published a report stating that the metaverse is potentially a $1 trillion business opportunity.

Vladimir Putin: Crypto Volatility Is Colossal

Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a warning against the risky and highly volatile nature of cryptocurrencies.

What Happened: Speaking at the Russia Calling Investment Forum, Putin said the development of cryptocurrency should be “closely monitored,” reported Russian publication Lenta.

“It is not backed by anything, the volatility is colossal, so the risks are very high. We also believe that we need to listen to those who talk about those big risks,” he said.

In October, Putin said cryptocurrencies can be used as a “store of value” but as of now, it was still too early.

“In order to transfer funds from one place to another, yes, but to trade, especially to trade in energy resources, in my opinion, is still premature,” said Putin at the time.

A November report from the Bank of Russia revealed that total annual volumes of crypto transactions in Russian exceed $5 billion each year.

Russians prefer to trade crypto on Binance, according to data from SimilarWeb, which reported that Russia accounts for the second-largest amount of traffic after Turkey on the crypto exchange.

Price Action: The market-leading digital asset Bitcoin (CRYPTO: BTC) was trading at $57,000, down 0.94% in the last 24 hours. The coin had a daily trading volume of $36 billion.

Photo by Executium on Unsplash.

FBI seized roughly $2.3 million in cryptocurrency

FBI seized roughly $2.3 million in cryptocurrency tied to ransomware attacks

(CNN)-US law enforcement officials in August seized roughly $2.3 million in cryptocurrency tied to ransomware attacks committed by a Russian resident, according to a court document unsealed Tuesday.

Aleksandr Sikerin, whose last known address was in St. Petersburg, Russia, is affiliated with a notorious ransomware gang known as REvil that has cost US businesses millions of dollars, the Justice Department alleged in a complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas Dallas Division.
The cryptocurrency account, or “wallet,” that is now under the FBI’s control is “traceable to ransomware attacks committed by Sikerin,” the complaint states.
The seizure is part of an ongoing US law enforcement effort to stymie the sources of funding for Russian and Eastern European cybercriminals following a series of damaging ransomware attacks on US infrastructure. It comes as the White House continues to appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to take action against hackers operating from Russian soil.
Bleeping Computer, a cybersecurity news outlet, first reported the news.
The Justice Department this month announced the seizure of more than $6 million in ransom payments allegedly made to another alleged REvil operative, Russian national Yevgeniy Polyanin. Polyanin allegedly conducted about 3,000 ransomware attacks, including some on law enforcement agencies and municipalities throughout Texas.
But the seizures are just a fraction of what REvil members have pocketed from their computer intrusions. From April 2019 to July 2021, victims in the US and elsewhere paid extortionists more than $200 million following hacks committed with the REvil ransomware, according to the new complaint.
The law enforcement offensive against REvil and other ransomware gangs has leaned heavily on private firms. Cybersecurity company McAfee more than two years ago identified some of the cryptocurrency accounts used by various people linked with REvil, and documented how the hackers split their ill-gotten gains.
Despite the crackdown, some alleged ransomware operators appear to be living comfortably in Russia, which does not have an extradition agreement with the US. The FBI wanted poster for Polyanin says he is “believed to be in Russia” and “possibly” in the Siberian city of Barnaul.
While the FBI and Secret Service track accused cybercriminals, the Treasury Department has taken aim at the services the hackers use to launder ransom payments. The department in September sanctioned Suex, a cryptocurrency exchange that US officials accused of doing business with hackers behind eight types of ransomware.
photo :
Attorney General Merrick Garland listens to FBI Director Christopher Wray speak during a news conference on ransomware cyberattacks at the Department of Justice in Washington on November 8, 2021

Turkish President’s war with Bitcoin and the fall of the lira

Despite the financial chaos in Turkey, Michael Saylor believes Turks could “thrive” if they convert their TRY to BTC.
The Turkish lira – Turkey’s national currency – has been in a state of freefall for the last three months and has lost around 35% of its value against the US dollar. This has been the result of the President’s somewhat controversial policies and decisions, the latest of which led to a 15% daily drop against USD.
In September, President Recep Erdogan also declared war on bitcoin, aiming to pave the way for implementing the digital lira. Since then, Turkey has suffered significant economic setbacks, while the primary cryptocurrency has increased its price by nearly 40%. As such, MicroStrategy’s Michael Saylor advised locals to convert their fiat currencies to bitcoin to save themselves in the monetary chaos reigning inside their country’s borders.

Turkey Financial Crisis Worsens

The financial situation in Turkey is concerning, to say the least, and its main issues are coming from the crash of the Turkish lira. On November 23, it plunged to a historic low level of 13.44 against the greenback. This was a decrease of 15% for a single day.
The major descend has been causing inflation, which is currently around 20%. Basic goods and services for Turks (a population of approximately 85 million) have soared in price, while their local currency salaries got severely devalued.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the controversial policies which some governments executed also caused rising inflation. The mass printing of the US dollar, for example, has increased the rate in the States to nearly 6%. Still, the situation in Turkey seems far worse.
Having a national currency that loses its value daily could mean that the state will have further difficulties fighting the mass pandemic and restoring its economy.
Speaking about the coronavirus, it is worth noting that the country is one of the worst affected by a number of new cases and recorded fatalities. So far, more than 75,000 people have lost their lives, while nearly 30,000  new cases daily.
The economic and health crisis in the state is so severe that the tech giant – Apple – temporarily suspended online sales of its devices inside Turkey’s borders. It remains unclear when the company will restore these services.

Erdogan’s Controversial Laws

Many consider that President Erdogan and his controversial orders fueled this financial anarchy. Tim Ash – Senior Emerging Markets Strategist at Bluebay Asset Management – is among those:

“Insane where the lira is, but it’s a reflection of the insane monetary policy settings Turkey is currently operating under.”

The aforementioned 15% drop of the lira against the dollar came after President Erdogan doubled down on his policy to cut down rates in order to win his “economic war of independence.” These aggressive cycles aim to increase exports, investments in the region, and jobs. So far, though, there has been a little-to-no success, and Erdogan’s actions have received massive backlash from the opposing parties.

Turkey and Bitcoin

It was April 2021 when the local government prohibited cryptocurrency investors from utilizing their holdings for payments. The authorities also disallowed them to employ digital assets “directly or indirectly in the provision of payment services and electronic money issuance.”
Instead of pushing the locals away from cryptocurrencies, the restrictions had the opposite effect, and the Bitcoin Google searches in the country hit an all-time high.
In September, President Erdogan fired another shot at the digital asset industry by declaring war on BTC. True to his authoritative rule, he wanted to clear the path for a central bank digital currency, which would be under total control by the government.

“We are in a war against Bitcoin,” he said back then. “Because we will continue on the road with our money, which is our fundamental identity in this matter.”

Similar to what happened in April, people’s interest in bitcoin and the alternative coins surged while the Turkish lira went on a downtrend against the dollar and other national currencies. At the same time, bitcoin skyrocketed to an all-time high, and even though it has retraced slightly since then, it’s still well ahead against the greenback, while the lira is not.

Embrace BTC If You Want to ‘Thrive’

Turkey and its local currency might be in a knockdown state, but bitcoin can help the residents get back on their feet. That is what Michael Saylor – MicroStrategy’s CEO and a prominent BTC bull – opined recently.

This is not the first time when Saylor has aired his thoughts on a macroeconomic level. Not long ago, he praised El Salvador’s decision to accept bitcoin as a legal tender.
Saylor certainly knows a thing or two about converting a substantial portion of his capital (or his company’s) into bitcoin. His personal BTC stash and MicroStrategy’s holdings currently are worth more than $5 billion.

Crypto Exchange OKEx Is closing In South Korea

OKEx cryptocurrency exchange has said it will terminate its South Korea-based business, following the introduction of an updated Anti-Money-laundering (AML) in the country.
The exchange’s spokesperson said OKEX chose to resign rather than try to fight the tough regulatory regime which would make it impossible to continue operating in South Korea.
According to the spokesman, the new AML law which comes into effect on March 25 will make it hard for crypto-businesses to navigate the local cryptocurrency market.
OKEx has notified its South Korean clients that they should have withdrawn their crypto and fiat funds by latest April 7.

South Korea’s Regulatory Atmosphere is Becoming Crypto-Hostile

South Korea’s financial markets regulator (FSC) enforces the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) guidelines or standards on virtual assets and Virtual Assets Services Providers (VASPs).
The FSC announced in January 2021 its plan to revise its AML law, titled, ‘Enforcement Decree of the Act on Reporting and Using Specified Financial Transaction Information‘ which would see crypto exchanges regulated under the country’s Special Act.
The new amendment requires crypto businesses to register with the Financial Intelligence Unit (KoFIU), giving existing businesses six months to comply with the new changes, once the law starts to implement. There are also strict guidelines on implementing systems for strict KYC adherence, Information Security Management System (ISMS), and AML screening.
VASPs are required to comply with customer identity verification procedures as well as flagging down accounts with suspicious activities. The Financial Services Commission said:
“The authorities will carry out inspection and supervision on VASPs with regard to their compliance of AML requirements from the time of business registration.”

FSC to Implement New Penalty Rules for Crypto Firms

OKEx’s announcement comes a day after the government approved the law on March 22. After the approval, OKEX said that it would temporarily end deposit and trading services for the Korean Won (KRW), to systematically prepare for the new obligations outlined in the amendment.
Earlier in the month, the FSC said that it would penalize crypto firms for not adhering to the new regulation with fines ranging from $26,000 to $100,000, based on the size of the startup as well as its level of breach.
“The revision proposal introduces new penalty standards on VASPs, simplifies and integrates existing penalty rules, and improves rules on penalty abatement to provide relief for small scale financial enterprises.”
Source of News:

Senate Banking Committee chair seeks information from stablecoin issuers

The senator said he had “significant concerns with the non-standardized terms applicable to redemption of particular stablecoins” in separate letters to eight crypto firms.

Sherrod Brown, the chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, has called on several crypto firms to release information related to consumer and investor protection on stablecoins.
According to a Tuesday announcement, Brown sent notices to Coinbase, Gemini, Paxos, TrustToken, Binance.US, Circle, Centre, and Tether requesting information on stablecoins by Dec. 3, suggesting that he and other lawmakers may be preparing to hold a later hearing on the subject. The senator said investors “may not appreciate the complexity and distinct features and terms of each stablecoin,” with crypto platforms not always providing users with the same protections afforded to someone purchasing coins directly from an issuer.
“I have significant concerns with the non-standardized terms applicable to redemption of particular stablecoins, how those terms differ from traditional assets and how those terms may not be consistent across digital asset trading platforms,” said Brown in the eight respective letters.
The notice requests basic information on purchasing, exchanging and minting stablecoins, as well as the number of tokens in circulation and how often users exchange them for U.S. dollars. Brown’s notices to Coinbase, Centre, and Circle requested information on USD Coin (USDC), Gemini on GUSD, Paxos on Pax Dollar (USDP), TrustToken on TrueUSD (TUSD), and Tether on USDT. He added that the companies should define the market conditions that would make it difficult, if not impossible, to redeem stablecoins for fiat.

Brown’s request from the crypto firms follows a report from the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets suggesting that stablecoin issuers in the United States should be subject to “appropriate federal oversight” akin to that of banks. The group posited that legislation was “urgently needed” to address risks posed by stablecoins.
U.S. regulators have previously cracked down on stablecoin issuers Tether and Bitfinex for allegedly not always backing their USDT with reserves. The firms were required to pay $18.5 million in damages to the state of New York and submit to periodically reporting their reserves. Following the settlement, Tether reported a large number of its reserves consisted of commercial paper.
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