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Pablo Escobar’s Brother Says New Crypto Will Fund ‘Impeach Trump’ Effort

Having allegedly been blocked from fundraising on GoFundMe, the brother of deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar has launched a cryptocurrency apparently targeting the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Revealed on a new website, escobartrump.org, the new token has been dubbed the ESCOBAR and is an ethereum ERC-20-based stablecoin it claims will be pegged to the U.S. dollar. The project was founded by Escobar’s elder brother, Roberto.

The website further claims:

“The token came to existence as a tool to raise money for the Impeach Trump Fund cause, where a GoFundMe fundraiser was shut down and censored. Thanks to cryptocurrencies, there are no boundaries to be censored!”

The project is currently holding an ICO pre-sale of 200 million tokens, which launched Wednesday and runs until May 10. Altogether the Escobar estate hopes to sell 1 billion ESCOBARS, according to its white paper. By June, the website claims, the stablecoin will be redeemable for dollars via a company in Belize.

Olof Gustafsson, CEO at Escobar Inc., told The Next Web that the plan had been to raise $50 million via the GoFundMe campaign they’d titled “ByeByeTrump.” But after their campaign was blocked on the platform, they’d decided to immediately launch the token, he claimed.

Gustafsson went on to say:

 “After raising $10 million in just 10 hours we were shut down by GoFundMe and within 24 hours launched the ESCOBAR stablecoin cryptocurrency to avoid anyone censoring us again. We believe the Trump Administration [sic] or President Trump shut us down.”

The GoFundMe claims are yet to be confirmed, said TNW, although it published a screenshot provided by Escobar Inc. purporting to be the campaign page with $10 million donated.

On another site for its Trump impeachment campaign, Roberto Escobar is openly described as the former co-founder of the Medellín drug cartel alongside Pablo, “where Roberto used to be the accountant responsible for over $100 billion in profits.”

Escobar Inc. previously released another crypto called dietbitcoin that seems to have flopped. The website for sales of that token is currently classed by Google Chrome as a security risk to visitors.

Whether this latest cryptocurrency touted by the co-founder of a drugs cartel will do any better remains to be seen. Crypto investors should, of course, carry out extensive due diligence before investing in any coin.

Donald Trump image via Shutterstock

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2018 Was the Reality Check. 2019 Starts the Crypto Comeback

Micah Winkelspecht is CEO and founder of Gem, a crypto portfolio app company based in Los Angeles.

The following is an exclusive contribution to CoinDesk’s 2018 Year in Review

2018 year in review

If 2017 was the year of irrational exuberance, 2018 became the year of reality checks when the market sputtered and crashed. I predict that this year will see a return back to first principles as we rethink many of our assumptions about how this is all supposed to go down. The truth is, we just don’t know yet.

I also believe that 2019 will see the return of bitcoin dominance, although it may take a major world market downturn to spur it on.

As the global markets deflate, that will also bring down the price of bitcoin and keep them low because the deflation will cause investors to move out of perceived risky investments into more stable investments, and bitcoin is currently still considered a very risky investment.

But when governments begin to do helicopter drops of freshly printed money to try to recover their failing economies, that’s when bitcoin will begin to be seen as something more akin to gold.

1. The Real Promise of ICOs

The crazy bull market of 2017 and early 2018 and the glorification of initial coin offerings (ICOs) had such a disorienting effect. We had a great migration away from the principles and values of a decentralized economy to a get-rich-quick scheme across the board.

People got really sucked in.

I believe that ICOs are actually very promising when done right. The most exciting and powerful thing we have learned from the success of Bitcoin is that crypto has the unique ability to align all stakeholders (users and investors alike) around a common mission through shared incentives and direct participation.

Crypto makes users feel invested in the success of a project, and it creates a powerful network effect. The challenge is that we’ve seen more speculators than actual users.

2. The First Breakout Killer App

This is the year we will make that difficult transition from speculation to use as the industry matures from adolescence into adulthood. And I don’t mean adoption for the sake of adoption but instead, real products delivering real value.

We will see the first proof point of a project, that breakout killer app where users are aligned within the token economy, so that they actually feel like they own a piece of the project. And I think that it will probably come from a place we didn’t expect, like gaming. I think we’ll see a really interesting breakout dapp in games, like a Tamagotchi.

And then we’ll see a couple more breakout successes out of it, because games really bridge the gap beyond just the technical users into a much larger class of early adopter users that span beyond this very insular technical crowd. They’re already used to this idea of digital assets.

They’re already spending hours and hours trying to collect digital goods. It’s a natural fit.

3. The Emergence of Stablecoins

We’ll start to see stable coins really bridging that gap to mass adoption.

We’ll see a class of Venmo style payment applications and other kinds of creative new financial products that leverage stable coins to counteract the perceived volatility problems that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have. It’s not necessarily the original vision of crypto, but it is a great gateway to getting people comfortable with digital assets, and the tools are the same.

So it will also have a very positive effect on the increased adoption of Bitcoin and other networks.

4. Finding a Middle Ground

We are reaching a bit of a hybridization point where projects are finding success in the middle ground, where they’re not so much the Libertarian dream of total decentralization, and they’re also not the highly centralized systems that run the world today. And that’s ok, because neither of those extremes serve businesses or users very well.

But we are seeing an emergence of a hybrid with things like delegated proof-of-stake and Hashgraph which has a known set of validators and is more decentralized than a centralized system, but not as decentralized as a proof-of-work network like Bitcoin.

There are clear tradeoffs in these networks, but they have a good chance of success in reaching businesses who need to be able to scale, who need to have a dependable framework to work on and they’re decentralized enough for those needs.

So, I think EOS, HashGraph, or even Stellar can start to serve that need.

There’s no clear winner here yet. And until there is a clear winner, it’s unlikely that you’ll see large organizations move serious money into the space. They’ll dabble.

What Will it Take?

Something in this industry needs to drive the demand. You can have all the supply in the world, but if you don’t have the demand, it’s not going to get us anywhere.

I’m bearish on the short-term outlook for enterprise adoption of blockchain technology. For all of its potential (and there is incredible potential), most large companies would rather play innovation theater than invest serious capital in reinventing their businesses. Real change in the enterprise is a long game.

The exciting stuff that’s going on right now is the innovation and competition that’s happening on the public networks and on dapps.

People are trying a little bit of everything. And nobody has any idea what’s going to work. And that’s great because we’ll find the answer much faster that way than waiting around for a Fortune 500 company to figure it out.

We’re much more likely to discover use cases that we didn’t even think about because of the permissionless nature of public blockchain systems and permissionless development.

Crypto gives us an open platform where anybody, anywhere around the world can write a program that will potentially change the world.

That is the ultimate dream of crypto.

Have an opinionated take on 2018? CoinDesk is seeking submissions for our 2018 in Review. Email news [at] coindesk.com to learn how to get involved. 

Ray of light via Shutterstock

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Bitfinex Opens Trading of USD-Pegged Tether Against USD

Cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex has announced it will support trading of USD denominated stablecoin Tether (USDT) against fiat USD from Friday.


Bitfinex Hedging A Hedge

The curious decision, which the exchange revealed in a blog post just hours before the pair went live, appears to be the first of its kind in the cryptocurrency industry.

Each unit of USDT is notionally backed by 1 USD, and the stablecoin is designed to be used as a cryptographic hedge against volatile assets without the need to convert into fiat.

The exchange rate of USDT 00, in reality, tends to fluctuate slightly around $1. For example, this year saw Tether price drop to as low as $0.85 during a period of high volatility.

Bitfinex’s tacit admission that USDT is insufficient as a stable alternative to USD is made all the more unusual by the fact that the platform and Tether share the same CEO.

“Today, adding margin trading on USDT/USD pair will not only allow for more efficient price discovery, but in an important move for risk management, unlock the ability to hedge the exposure taken on stablecoins,” officials wrote in the blog post.

Along with a dedicated lending market, USDT will be available as collateral for margin positions.

Tether-Bitfinex Media Rumors

The move comes days after an investigation by Bloomberg allegedly put to rest rumors that Tether did not hold full USD reserves for its token supply.

Such rumors had abounded during 2018 since both Tether and Bitfinex received subpoenas from US regulators late last year and had grown to include accusations the latter was insolvent.

Last month, Tether succeeded in switching banking partners to Bahamas-based Deltec, capping separate scrutiny of the financial buoyancy of its original banking partner Noble Bank.

A wealth of both USD and other stablecoins has come to market in recent months, with exchanges adding multiple assets in a bid to provide users with options against rapidly declining major crypto tokens.

What do you think about Bitfinex launching trading of Tether against USD? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock

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2019 Will Be a Big Year for Stablecoins

Philippe Bekhazi is the CEO of XBTO Group, a cryptocurrency trading firm.

The current wave of stablecoin issuances is a result of the current bear market in underlying crypto assets, leading to upwards of 50 stablecoins on offer today.

Given an increasing media focus and heightened industry attention, it’s important to take both a step back and share our views on how things are likely to evolve over the next few years – arguably with the greatest velocity of change and boundless opportunities than any time since 2014.

Most importantly, we’ll shine a light on what’s truly at stake as Stablecoins come of age and emerge as a crypto instrument in their own right.

The state of play

A stablecoin is quite simply a representation of a stable collateralized asset blockchain largely used to hedge against the decline and volatility across general crypto collateral prices, which are certainly at an amplified state.

As such, they should be and generally are backed by real assets, such as a bank account backed one-for-one by U.S. dollars, euros, other fiat currencies, or even gold. They have no appreciation value and only reflect the performance of the underlying asset.

They can also be used as a mechanism to move value around in stable terms, and technically even for payments, although the speed of the underlying blockchain may be a limiting factor for time-sensitive transactions, for the time being.

While it may seem counterintuitive, it’s important to understand that stablecoins are crypto only by design to satisfy the tokenization process and ensure no double spend or on-chain rehypothecation takes place. Furthermore, most stablecoins, while sitting on a decentralized public blockchain, are centralized. Some simply are centralized assets representing a currency or commodity in a custodian account, while others are backed by crypto collateral or rely on algorithmic central bank style logic to create stability.

Taking the baton

One of the reasons for the recent expansion in stablecoin offerings is a lack of trust in the existing, long-term incumbent, Tether.

As the first stablecoin to be created, Tether enjoyed first-mover advantage but also bore the brunt of the growing pains associated with this new endeavor. As such, it sits on the slowest blockchain and has made a few miscalculations, specifically in failing to secure a third-party auditor (or a credible attestation) and demonstrate a steady bank account.

This is by no means a direct slight at Tether as many crypto businesses globally have endured similar banking challenges. For all its speedbumps, Tether has proven to be very useful for the industry as a trailblazer in the space and they will continue to occupy an important part of the landscape.

That said, there are naturally challengers to the incumbents, and newer entrants such a PAX, GUSD and USDC are among these next-generation stablecoins that were designed to enhance the stablecoin ecosystem, provide a “better” counterparty risk product and help take this crucial crypto cog to the next level.

These aren’t the only players in town and there is room for many of the other offerings on tap. While there clearly will be some natural attrition and consolidation, many can survive and thrive due to the differentiation they bring to users, the growing pie of stablecoin stakeholders and use cases and their ability to solve for legacy technology issues.

Cracking the code

Scaling of the underlying blockchain technology is key to unlocking one of the major problems behind current offerings. Most of them sit on a relatively slow ethereum blockchain (using ERC20 standard tokens), or in the case of Tether, the Omni protocol that sits on top of bitcoin.

They are not very user-friendly for laymen to utilize in everyday situations either, prohibiting the onset and velocity of payment mechanisms.

While we cannot predict which blockchain technology will emerge strongest, we are encouraged that there is real competition to garner the highest network effect through a combination of speed, security and decentralization – and there will be at least a few competing public blockchains up to the task.

Sidechains may very well be the solution to scaling payments and could be very useful for stablecoins. That being said, the centralization inherent in incumbent payment systems does provide advantages that cannot be replicated in true decentralized systems.

There is currently no guaranteed endpoint or victor, but the key to cracking the code lies within the optimal point where sufficient levels of decentralization and security meet maximum transaction throughput to support demand.

We believe that significant technology breakthroughs, necessitated by the expanding ecosystem around stablecoins, put us a lot closer to that realization next year.

Passing the torch

The key takeaway for current and future issuers is to differentiate themselves and find a way to attain the aforementioned network effect.

To accomplish this, such issuers will need to rely on optimized technology, service providers, algorithms and network endpoints to make transactions cheaper and faster, with less friction. At the end of the day, the utility of a stablecoin is its ease of use – either through payment, speculative purposes or remittances.

Whereas Visa, Mastercard and American Express have huge networks to offer their customers, stablecoins will find a uniform way to transact across borders and technologies, all the while maintaining a fast and secure architecture, the impact of which will produce greatly amplified ramifications for digital assets globally.

In the not-too-distant future, there will also be ways to remit stablecoins nearly instantaneously with low settlement risk and on a real-time gross settlement basis. In order to get there, and since most centralized fiat-backed stablecoins typically rely on one issuer, one bank account, one auditor, and are tied to one jurisdiction’s laws, we need a better defined global legal and tax framework to govern such borderless assets.

While these are typically handled between G20 member organizations and at the OECD level, blockchain technology itself may become a solution. This is also a ripe issue for one of the emerging digital asset trade groups or Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs) to tackle head-on, given its importance to the underlying health and growth of our industry.

Clearing the way

Furthermore, a clearinghouse of stablecoins that allows for the immediate quasi-fungibility between stablecoins will also become a necessity to maintain a frictionless mode of interchange among these coins (which are effectively mostly IOUs). This clearinghouse could be similar to a check-clearing process between banks but at a far more efficient pace.

Longer-term, the Holy Grail is for know-your-client (KYC) and anti-money-laundering (AML) checks and balances (or revised and potentially more adapted versions) to become enmeshed and intertwined within the blockchain so stablecoins can efficiently be used for all kinds of applications – from paying for a cup coffee to remitting money across borders.

While not all of these things will come to pass in 2019, it is shaping up to be a pivotal year for further innovations across many applications in the stablecoin sphere – which in turn will have a multiplier effect across the digital asset community and further disrupt traditional banking and money transfer intermediaries.

Currencies on scales image via Shutterstock

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Stablecoin Purchases Surged Amid Wednesday’s Crypto Market Drop

The crypto market took a turn for the worse on Wednesday when it lost nearly $30 billion in total market capitalization – but not every asset struggled to find buyers.

In fact, certain stablecoins like USD-C, TUSD and DAI each witnessed a more than 200 percent increase in 24-hour trading volume amid the broader market sell-off as traders flocked to what they may have perceived to be safer alternatives in an effort to escape market volatility.

The surge in stablecoin trading volume isn’t exactly surprising, given their main use case is to provide cryptocurrency users with the ability to convert volatile crypto positions into anti-fragile or ‘stable’ alternatives.

Due to regulatory constraints, USD or other fiat currencies are not readily available on most exchanges, thereby leaving stablecoins as an option.

For much of the history of the cryptocurrency market, one stablecoin – Tether (USDT) – has ruled the roost but this past year welcomed several more competitors like USD-C, PAX and GUSD, just to name a few.

Bitcoin’s breakage of the psychological support level of $6,000 on Nov. 14 was enough of a shock to turn the broader market risk-averse, which turned out to be the ultimate test for the younger stablecoins as it revealed which are becoming the most preferred – particularly during times of extreme market volatility.

Best performers

The graph below depicts the increase in 24-hour trade volume of the six largest USD-pegged stablecoins by market capitalization from before the market dump, early Nov.14, to after on Nov. 15.

USD Coin (USD-C), the regulated stablecoin backed by blockchain startups Circle and Coinbase, is the newest of the bunch yet witnessed the most notable uptick amid the market rout.

USD-C’s 24-hour trading volume surged nearly 400 percent from just over $5 million on the morning of Nov 14 to more than of $25 million by the next day, representing its highest level of volume in a 24-hour window to date.

The token’s performance also pushed it into the world’s 50 largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, according to CoinMarketCap.

It’s also worth noting the largest cryptocurrency exchange by adjusted volume, Binance, announced it will be listing USD-C this week, so its soon-to-increase availability could be a factor in making it a more attractive option to buyers.

The worst performer of the bunch in terms of 24-hour volume increase was the Paxos Standard Dollar (PAX). That said, PAX’s volume increased 50 percent from $45 million to $75 million within the time period.

The Gemini Dollar (GUSD) saw the least trading volume over the span, with a trade flow of $2 million and $3.5 million on Nov. 14 and 15, respectively.

USDT is still king

Although Tether was just the 4th best performer in terms of percent volume increase, its share of the trading volume in the six-member stablecoin market went largely unchanged between the start and conclusion of this week’s sell-off.

Those market-share changes are reflected in the table below:

According to data from CoinMarketCap, USDT’s 24-hour volume was 97 percent of the $2.6 billion in total stablecoin volume on November 14th.

Further, USDT held its ground on that front, seeing 96.9 percent of that volume the next day, when the total surged more than 100 percent to $5.5 billion.

Tether even began to lose its dollar-parity during the market sell-off – falling as low as $0.95 on the Kraken exchange – yet the closest competitor to USDT in terms of volume market share was PAX, at just 1 percent of the total stablecoin volume on Nov. 15.

CoinMarketCap data further reveals that USDT is tradeable on 400 cryptocurrency markets while PAX is available on just 35 – so by that measure, it’s not exactly a fair fight when considering USDT’s overall reach.

Disclosure: The author holds BTC, AST, REQ, OMG, FUEL, 1st and AMP at the time of writing.

Balloons image via Shutterstock; graph data via CoinMarketCap