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German State Announces Plan to Establish European Blockchain Institute

North Rhine-Westphalia has announced that it is founding the European Blockchain Institute in Dortmund later this year.

The government of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) announced plans to establish the European Blockchain Institute to research blockchain technology in a press release on May 13.

According to NRW Economics Minister Andreas Pinkwart, the European Blockchain Institute will be founded in the city of Dortmund later this year, inside the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML).

The press release says that critics of blockchain have voiced concern over the amount of energy consumed by mining bitcoin (BTC). Pinkwart addressed these concerns and praised the benefits of blockchain tech, saying:

“This technology can be safe, decentralized, affordable and, when used properly, not too energy-intensive.”

According to the press release, Europe is behind the United States in blockchain advancements and “has to catch up,” which is a goal that NRW hopes to lead the way in achieving.

As reported by Cointelegraph, Ripple’s Director of Regulatory Relations Ryan Zagone commented at Consensus 2019 on the need for the U.S. to lead the way in implementing blockchain and crypto infrastructure:

“There is a broad discussion in Washington around 5G being dominated by foreign firms and the U.S. being reliant on foreign technology and foreign expertise… With blockchain and crypto, I think there’s a recognition now that these will be part of our future infrastructure… It’s important both for national security and from an economic perspective, that the U.S. is a leader in that.”

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British Royal, US Ambassador Say Tech, Blockchain Can Help Fight Human Trafficking

Dignitaries and experts at a conference in Vienna noted the potential of new tech like blockchain in fighting human trafficking.

Princess Eugenie of the United Kingdom and United States anti-human trafficking Ambassador John Richmond recently spoke in favor of using new technology like phone apps and blockchain to address human trafficking, Reuters reports on April 8.

At a conference in Vienna, Austria hosted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), experts noted that increased internet usage has expanded the ability of traffickers to exploit potential targets.

However, Princess Eugenie — the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth — reportedly noted that technology could also help fight trafficking. Eugenie, who founded the Anti-Slavery Collective in Britain in 2017, said:

“I have learned about how blockchain is having a huge impact on supply chain management, and how an app in Britain can help the public report modern slavery at car washes.”

Eugenie was referring to an initiative by Coca Cola and the U.S. Department of State, and the Safe Car Wash App. The former began in March 2018, and aims to use blockchain technology to create a secure worker registry. The partnership aims to address the problem of forced labor by using blockchain’s validation and digital notary capabilities to create a secure registry for workers and their contracts.

The Safe Car Wash App recently found nearly 1,000 cases of slave labor at car washes in the U.K. The app was launched by the Church of England  and the Catholic Church in England and Wales last June, and allows users to enter their location and enter various indicators of the presence of slave labor, such as whether the establishment only accepts cash, or workers seem fearful.

Citing the Global Slavery Index by human rights group Walk Free Foundation, Reuters reports that there are 136,000 slave laborers in the U.K., which is 10 times higher than in 2013.

Anti-human trafficking Ambassador Richmond noted that technology itself cannot stop human trafficking, saying, “There is not an algorithm or app that is going to stop human trafficking.” Richmond did note however:

“But there are tech tools that can help people to do their job better. This is the slow, grinding, day-in, day-out work that can help make a difference.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would form a commission to study how cryptocurrencies and online marketplaces can be used to facilitate sex and drug trafficking.

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Ripple Co-Founder Gives $25 Million Donation in XRP to San Francisco University

Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen has donated $25 million to San Francisco State University’s College of Business through RippleWorks.

Chris Larsen, co-founder of San Francisco-based technology company Ripple, and his wife Lyna Lam have donated $25 million in XRP to a university in California, according to an official announcement on April 5.

Larsen and Lam contributed $25 million worth of XRP tokens to San Francisco State University’s (SFSU) College of Business through RippleWorks, a private foundation that provides practical support to promising social entrepreneurs.

The university will direct the funds to support students studying global entrepreneurial and fintech ecosystems. According to SFSU, the donation is the largest single contribution made in cryptocurrency to a university in the United States. University President Leslie E. Wong said:

“This groundbreaking gift will position the College of Business as an evolving, distinctly diverse and industry-relevant epicenter of business innovation and entrepreneurship. Chris, Lyna and Rippleworks are innovators, and their gift will inspire our students to creatively and strategically approach the business and tech landscapes to become the next generation of entrepreneurs and global business leaders.”

The move follows Ripple’s formal social impact program dubbed “Ripple for Good” which launched last September. The program was set to operate in collaboration with RippleWorks, and to pool $25 million from the firm together with $80 million in donations to invest in projects focused on education and financial inclusion.

Ripple has previously made similar donations. Last June, the company unveiled their University Blockchain Research Initiative consisting of a $50 million donation to 17 universities globally to support education in blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

In March of last year, Ripple donated $29 million XRP to support U.S. public schools, fulfilling funding requests from teachers via DonorsChoose charity fund. The donated money was set to equip more than 30,000 classrooms across all 50 states.

XRP is currently the third-largest altcoin in terms of market capitalization. The coin has gained a solid 8.32 percent over the past 24 hours at press time, and is currently trading at $0.361. Looking at the coin’s weekly chart, XRP is up by nearly 17 percent.

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Crypto Tax Software CryptoTrader.Tax Integrates With TurboTax

A cryptocurrency tax software startup has integrated with major tax filing software TurboTax.

Cryptocurrency-focused tax software CryptoTrader.Tax has integrated with leading American tax software Intuit TurboTax, according to a press release on April 4.

The integration will purportedly allow users to export tax calculations from CryptoTrader.Tax to the TurboTax filing software, which will supposedly make the filing process easier. CryptoTrader.Tax co-founder David Kemmerer said:

“You simply import your cryptocurrency trades into the platform using the technology we have built. The software will automatically crunch your capital gains and losses numbers and generate the necessary tax documents including the IRS form 8949.”

The announcement comes ahead of the April 15 deadline for filing taxes in the United States. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) — the agency responsible for collecting taxes and pursuing tax evaders — classifies cryptocurrencies as property when calculating taxes. As such, filers need to report the original cost, the fair market value of the coin in U.S. dollars when it was traded, and the amount of gain or loss incurred from the transaction.

Earlier this year, major American cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase added resources for customers in the U.S. to claim crypto trades on their taxes. In addition to adding an educational guide on crypto and taxes, Coinbase has also integrated TurboTax, allowing users to automatically import transactions into a crypto-specific section of TurboTax Premier.

In February, TurboTax itself partnered with CoinsTax, LLC to offer cryptocurrency tax calculation to its services. The new service will be available for those who purchased 2018 premier and above versions, and will allow users to import trading data directly from major exchanges, such as Coinbase, Gemini, and Poloniex.

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US Blockchain Firm Partners with Sustainable Construction Firm to Design Data Centers

Blockchain Holdings Capital Ventures partnered with SG Blocks to develop decentralized data centers.

United States-based Blockchain Holdings Capital Ventures (BHCV) has partnered with SG Blocks, which uses cargo shipping containers in construction to develop its multi-container data centers, according to press release on April 1.

The blockchain company, which focuses on real estate, energy and technology companies, will be SG Blocks’ sole partner in designing decentralized data centers. The first prototype is expected to appear in Q4 2019.

BHCV eventually plans to open a distribution channel to scale data center production, of which the company is aiming to produce 150–200 by 2020. The majority of the centers will be fixed, but the company will also going to develop mobile ones. The latter will purportedly be cheaper to launch and more flexible. For instance, a mobile data center can be placed in remote areas in order to cut energy costs.

SG Blocks, founded in 2007, develops sustainable construction solutions using cargo shipping containers. Among its clients are Starbucks, Marriott, Taco Bell, Aman, Equinox and several branches of the U.S. military.

In other blockchain-related real estate news, three Swiss companies — Blockimmo, proptech company Elea Labs Ltd. and digital assets service firm Swiss Crypto Tokens Ltd. — recently conducted a blockchain-based real estate transaction of 3 million Swiss francs ($2.98 million). The deal consisted of 18 apartments and a restaurant.

In February, the County Auditors’ Association of Ohio formed a working group to study the use of blockchain for the effective transfer of property deeds. It will examine how blockchain can increase the efficiency and management of real estate transactions and the transfer of land titles across multiple counties.