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Today’s Highlights on Bitcoin, Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies

Ripple Surges After Teaming up with MoneyGram on Cryptocurrency-enabled Payments (CNBC)
U.S. money transfer giant MoneyGram is teaming up with blockchain firm Ripple to test payments using the latter’s cryptocurrency XRP. MoneyGram, based in Dallas, Texas, will use the XRP cryptocurrency to speed up and reduce the cost of transferring money through Ripple’s payment network xRapid. XRP was seen surging on the news, and flew almost 15 percent higher to $2.22 at 9:55 a.m. ET, according to Coinmarketcap data. The move marked a recovery following downward pressure across most major cryptocurrencies Thursday after reports of South Korea preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading.

Bitcoin Prices Drop As South Korea Considers Banning Cryptocurrency Exchanges (Los Angeles Times)
Bitcoin slumped to its lowest level since Christmas Day as South Korea’s justice minister reiterated his proposal to ban local cryptocurrency exchanges, fueling concern that a crackdown will erode demand for digital coins in one of the world’s biggest markets. The minister’s comments to reporters Thursday were later downplayed by a spokesman for President Moon Jae-in, who said that the proposal is one among several and that nothing has been finalized. Korea’s government unveiled multiple options for cryptocurrency exchange regulation Dec. 28, including allowing trading to continue under tighter supervision.

In The World of Cryptocurrency Buzz, Blockchain Is The Real Winner (CNBC)
The investment world hasn’t seen a party quite like bitcoin and cryptocurrency until 2017. Bitcoin rose about twentyfold in value last year, ethereum surged more than 11,200 percent and ripple, the rising new coin, skyrocketed almost 10,000 percent. Consumed by the growth, many investors are seeing the cryptoworld only in the lens of price movements. But for those who aren’t interested in buying and selling and managing cryptocurrency portfolios, there’s another way to invest in the space – learning and investing in the blockchain technology.

China’s Largest Cryptocurrency Thrives Despite Intense Crackdown (Bloomberg)
A digital coin from China that takes its name from a character in The Matrix has become one of the world’s most valuable cryptocurrencies. And it’s done so by defying many of the principles that underpinned bitcoin’s meteoric rise. NEO has surpassed $12 billion in market value, ranking 12th globally despite hailing from a country that’s banned digital coin issuances in one of the world’s harshest crackdowns on crypto-speculation. But founder Da Hongfei, 37, thinks Beijing is mostly done and he can focus on developing his underlying technology.

Kodak Leads Surge of Companies Exploiting Bitcoin Buzz (The Guardian)
Kodak hit headlines this week when the company announced a plan to launch “photo-centric cryptocurrency to empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management”. In other words, the venerable camera company is getting in on the bitcoin hype. Shares in Kodak, which had been largely flat for the previous three months and steadily declining for the five years before that, more than doubled in the following 24 hours, as the company insisted that it was not simply pumping out “hot buzzwords”.

Ethereum Dives as One of the World’s Biggest Cryptocurrency Markets Considers a Bill to Ban Trading (CNBC)
South Korea’s justice minister said on Thursday that a bill is being prepared to ban all cryptocurrency trading in the country. That news is a major development for the cryptocurrency space, as South Korea is one of the biggest markets for major coins like bitcoin and ethereum. According to industry website CryptoCompare, more than 10 percent of ethereum is traded against the South Korean won – the second largest concentration in terms of fiat currencies behind the dollar. Meanwhile, 5 percent of all bitcoin are traded against the won.

The Bitcoin/Crypto-Currency Fallacy (Forbes)
I’ve only written about Bitcoin on this blog once before, four years ago. To me, it was a sideshow, although I admit that it’s underlying technology – blockchain – is rich with potential. My opinion about Bitcoin – and now its johnny-come-lately imitators and competitors – remains largely unchanged. In accordance with Carl Menger’s subjective theory of value, the market prices of “crypto-currencies” still will depend on how much value individuals choose to attach to it. Also, Bitcoin and the others still have the speculative potential to produce mind-boggling profits.

Warren Buffett Watcher Echoes Warning on Bitcoin: ‘We’re Probably Near the Top of a Bubble’
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is right about cryptocurrencies, and the price of bitcoin will be much lower in the near future, a veteran investor told CNBC on Thursday. Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, warned on Wednesday the recent craze over bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies won’t end well. But Buffett added he would not take a short position on bitcoin futures. “I wouldn’t bet against Warren,” said John Rogers Jr., chairman and CEO at Ariel Investments. “At the same time, I continue to see everywhere I go, everyone’s talking about [cryptocurrencies]. College students, business school students.”

This Event Is a Bitcoin Conference But You Can’t Buy Tickets to It With Bitcoin (Fortune)
A bitcoin conference has stopped accepting the cryptocurrency because of “network congestion and manual processing” – that is, because taking bitcoin payments was too slow and labor-intensive. “We have, and always will, accept cryptocurrencies for our conferences, up to fourteen days before the event. However, due to the manual inputting of data in our ticketing platforms when paid in cryptocurrencies, we decided to shut down bitcoin payments for last minute sales due to print deadlines,” the North American Bitcoin Conference said in a statement on its website. “Hopefully, next year there will be more unity in the community about scaling and global adoption becomes reality.”

Crypto Companies Cashing in on the Name of Bitcoin’s Founding Fathers (
Bitcoin is a powerful brand. Even uttering its name – or that of its underlying technology, blockchain – can be enough to revive tired companies and send stock prices soaring. But Bitcoin isn’t the only name strategically deployed for marketing purposes: companies are also shamelessly cashing in on the name of the cryptocurrency’s founding fathers.

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