The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will reportedly partner with blockchain-based telemedicine and telepsychology firm doc.com to expand free basic healthcare services across Eastern Africa. News of the partnership was shared with Cointelegraph in an email on Dec. 26.

In an officially sealed letter signed on Dec. 20 by Amado Philip de Andres, Regional Representative for UNODC’s Regional Office for Eastern Africa (ROEA), de Andres wrote that the organization is “willing to cooperate […] in a new partnership.” Doc.com is a tech firm that offers blockchain-based 24/7 telemedicine and telepsychology platforms, allowing users to tokenize their personal data and sell it in return for access to the services.

Via the UN partnership, the company now reportedly plans to roll out both its platforms to the African market by the second quarter of 2019.

Up until now, the company has reportedly operated in 20 countries, most recently opening an office in the United States. Its data and healthcare service ecosystem uses an ERC20-compatible token dubbed “MTC,” which is currently tradable on several crypto exchanges, such as Singapore-based Coinbene and Kucoin.

According to statistics on the company website, over 130,000 users have to date used its telemedicine services and almost 70,000 have used its doc.com, “Emotions,” telepsychology platform.

Doc.com also reportedly plans this year to expand its services across a wider range of U.S. states, to launch its tokenized telemedicine service in the United Kingdom by March 2019, and to branch out to the Asian market, starting with India, by the end of 2019.

Aside from these expansion plans, the company states it plans to launch its in-house mainnet by Q1 2019 to replace its existing Ethereum-based ERC20 token system. It will also launch a subsidiary blockchain-based veterinary services system, dubbed “doc Pets,” in the U.S. by Q2 2019.

As previously reported, blockchain has been gaining increasing traction across healthcare and related sectors that involve highly sensitive data. In the field of genomics, several initiatives are harnessing the technology’s potential to provide a secure and equitable means of not only monetizing and managing the circulation of existing data, but of incentivizing its generation.

Earlier this month, a group of major U.S. healthcare companies formed an alliance to trial blockchain solutions that would improve data integrity and security and reduce costs — the latest of a series of similar approaches being developed globally.

For its part, the UN has long been exploring multiple –– largely humanitarian –– use cases for blockchain, beginning with its use of the Ethereum blockchain to transfer coupons based on cryptocurrencies to refugees in Syria, followed by a blockchain-based digital identity system designed to combat child trafficking globally.

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A governmental committee in India has reportedly suggested that cryptocurrencies be legalized in the country, English-language local media TheNewIndianExpress (TNIE) reported on Dec. 26.

According to the article, an unnamed senior official who reportedly attended the panel’s meetings on cryptocurrencies stated:

“There is a general consensus that cryptocurrency cannot be dismissed as completely illegal. It needs to be legalized with strong riders.”

Previous Indian government panel meetings had reportedly suggested a complete ban on cryptocurrencies in the country earlier in December, stating that “any kind of dealing in such currencies should be treated as ‘illegal.’”

India’s government reportedly set up this most recent second inter-ministerial committee, which is led by Subhash Chandra Garg, the Department of Economic Affairs secretary, after the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) ban on banks dealing with crypto businesses and persons in April of this year.

While a previous committee had recommended a total crypto ban in March 2017, the new committee, TNIE writes, was set up to deal with the conflicting opinions on the RBI ban.

According to the TNIE, the committee has already had two meetings, and the next one is expected to take place in January.

This committee includes members of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, RBI, Securities and Exchange Board of India and the revenue secretary.

The official also noted that the members of the committee “have also taken inputs from cryptocurrency exchanges and experts,” concluding by stating that they will work on the legal aspects with India’s law ministry.

As Cointelegraph reported at the beginning of the current month, G20 countries have called for the taxation of cryptocurrencies and regulation preventing their use for money laundering, according to a document stipulated during a Buenos Aires summit.

Some of the members of the second Indian governmental committee, such as the RBI executive director Ganesh Kumar and Ministry of Finance officials, participated in those G20 meetings. Because of this, according to the article, “they are expected to include insights they gained from the global deliberations in their report.”

In October, news broke that the developers of India’s first Bitcoin (BTC) “ATM” were arrested on criminal charges. According to local mainstream media, the two — who are also founders of India’s first crypto exchange Unocoin — were booked for criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery.

A press statement from India’s Central Crime Branch noted that since the ATM had not been approved by the government, it should not have been called an ATM. Prashant Mali, a cyber lawyer, explained that if “kiosk” had been written instead of “ATM,” the installation would have fallen into a grey area of the law.

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Having launched GiveCrypto.org earlier this year to make direct cryptocurrency transfers to people living in poverty, Brian Armstrong — CEO of US crypto exchange giant Coinbase — has now promised to give a huge chunk of his fortune away to charitable causes.

“This year, I started my first philanthropic effort, GiveCrypto.org, which makes direct cash transfers to people living in poverty. I’m excited about the potential for this organization to help people, but I’m still early on my journey of discovering how to have the most impact via philanthropy.”

Per a report on CNBC, Armstrong signed the Giving Pledge, becoming the first cryptocurrency entrepreneur to pledge to donate the majority of his wealth for the greater good.

The Giving Pledge is a campaign started in 2010 by billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, which seeks to encourage the world’s wealthiest to use their fortune to help make the world a better place. According to a Wealth-X report published on Business Insider, the total value of pledges made to the charity could be worth as much as $600 billion by 2022.

He joins other billionaires including Tesla’s Elon Musk, businessman Michael Bloomberg, and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, all of whom have dedicated the majority of their wealth to giving back. Zuckerberg, who joined the pledge when it was launched, promised to give away 99% of his Facebook shares during his lifetime.

Armstrong runs Coinbase, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchange whose valuation was recently placed at $8 billion after the completion of its last investment round. According to Forbes, Armstrong is worth $1.3 billion as a co-founder. The recent downturn in the market, which saw trading volumes drop on most trading platforms, will see Armstrong’s net worth dip, but he still can’t be far off the $900 million to the $1 billion range.

“Once a certain level of wealth is reached, there is little additional utility from spending more on yourself. One’s ambition begins to move outwards. I’ve always admired founders and leaders whose ambition to improve the world supersedes any goal related to personal wealth,” Armstrong explained on the Giving Pledge website.

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Oásis Supermercados, a supermarket chain store in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has made it known that it now accepts payment in the form of bitcoin cash (BCH), Litecoin(LTC), and bitcoin core (BTC). By doing this, it has joined the growing list of businesses in Brazil which now receives payments in the form of digital currency.

Oasis Supermercados Start to Accept Cryptos

Oasis Supermercados has announced that, since 18th of December 2018, its customers can now make payment for products using Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Bitcoin. Once a customer selects which crypto to pay through, the system receives the digital coins and converts them to its equivalent in FIAT using a crypto payments processor called Coinwise. After three days, the payment processor will send Brazilian reals to the supermarket.

In Brazil, the acceptance of cryptocurrencies as payment for services rendered is now becoming a norm. However, this move by the supermarket a very important one.

A co-manager of the store, Douglas Andrade disclosed that Thiago, who is also his brother and co-manager developed the notion of accepting virtual currency at the supermarket after seeing a video on the subject and taking a further step of consulting a cryptocurrency brokage firm for more enlightenment.

He explained further that cryptocurrency purchase is similar to paying using credit cards, in a statement which reads:

“The client says which cryptocurrency he wants to pay, the operator types in reals and the system immediately converts to that crypto. Then just get the QR code and you’re done,”.

Training of Employees

The supermarket chain which consists of 2 stores with 90 employees out of which 20 are cash operators has a yearly turnover of up to $6.45 million (25 million reals). All the workers have received lessons on how to manage cryptocurrency purchases.

So far, no virtual currency payment have been completed since the payment method got launched, the public has however shown significant interest.

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Republicans in Congress are working on a new bill that will introduce new sanctions against the nation of Iran. The bill is designed to put “maximum financial pressure” on Iran and put an end to its plans for a national crypto asset.

Known as the “Blocking Iranian Illicit Finance Act,” the document was introduced by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Congressman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin. According to Cruz, Obama’s “disastrous” nuclear deal with Iran gave the Iranian government billion dollars which he alleges they used for illicit purposes.

Will Iran Lose Its Access to Crypto?

In a statement, he says:

“The Obama Iran nuclear deal gifted the Ayatollahs with hundreds of billions of dollars and reconnected them to the global financial system, which they used to launder even more money and fund even more terrorism. Undoing that damage requires imposing maximum pressure against the Iranian regime. Effectively disconnecting Iran from the global financial system, which this bill does, is a necessary next step.”

Congressman Gallagher offered similar sentiment when describing the bill’s abilities and purpose, stating:

“Withdrawing from the JCPOA was only the first step in ratcheting up pressure on the Iranian regime. We now have an important window to impose maximum economic pressure and degrade the Iranian regime’s ability to export violence across the region. [The bill’s] message is clear: Iran must pay a steep price for its aggressive and destabilizing behavior, and the United States will never tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

The United States exited its nuclear deal with Iran last May, approximately three years since it first came to fruition under President Obama. The U.S. has since worked to impose further economic sanctions on Iran to potentially prevent the government from abusing international monetary systems. To avoid these sanctions, Iran has mentioned that it was looking into producing its own national cryptocurrency.

Two Countries Hit with Financial Restrictions

Last November, Russia – also facing sanctions from the U.S. – signed a deal with Iran’s blockchain lab to potentially build a counter-actor to the international payment system SWIFT, used by banks worldwide. Earlier in the month, SWIFT announced that it was cutting off the service to varying banks throughout Iran. An official statement read:

“In keeping with our mission of supporting the resilience and integrity of the global financial system as a global and neutral service provider, SWIFT is suspending certain Iranian banks’ access to the messaging system. This step, while regrettable, has been taken in the interest of the stability and integrity of the wider global financial system.”

Are you for or against the bill? Post your comments below.

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United States lawmakers have introduced a bill to levy further sanctions on Iranian financial institutions and the development and use of the national digital currency. HR 7321 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mike Gallagher on Dec. 17.

In a bid to combat money laundering and terrorism-related activities, the “Blocking Iran Illicit Finance Act” calls for sanctions on the Iranian financial sector and on the development and use of the national cryptocurrency.

The act specifically prohibits transactions, financing or other dealings related to an Iranian digital currency, and would also introduce sanctions on foreign individuals engaged in the sale, supply, holding or transfer of the digital currency.

The act also calls for a report to Congress on the government of Iran’s progress in developing a sovereign digital currency. A corresponding bill was introduced in the Senate by former presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz on Dec. 13.

The U.S. government introduced sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program in 2005, while the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act in 2010. The sanctions affected the financial sector of the country, barring financial institutions of Iran from directly accessing the U.S. financial system.

The sanctions were lifted in 2015 after the country agreed to dial down its nuclear program to meet standards set out by International Atomic Energy Agency in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

However, in May 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that America would withdraw from the JCPOA that was brokered under his predecessor President Barack Obama. Sanctions were subsequently reintroduced.

Many Iranians have turn to cryptocurrency as a way to skirt sanctions. In May, Mohammad Reza Pourebrahimi, the head of the Iranian Parliamentary Commission for Economic Affairs, referred to cryptocurrencies as a promising way for Iran to avoid U.S. dollar transactions, as well as a possibly replace the SWIFT interbank payment system.

As Cointelegraph reported earlier in December, Iranians are turning to Bitcoin (BTC) mining due to economic difficulties. Despite the recent crash in crypto markets and fluctuations in the national rial currency caused by sanctions, Iranian people are still reportedly managing to gain profits from mining Bitcoin.

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A major business school in South Korea is now offering a master’s degree in cryptocurrency. Crypto MBA is a one-and-a-half-year program that covers topics such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, smart contracts, crypto funds, Dapp planning, game theory, and how to write persuasive whitepapers. Meanwhile, the government is working on follow-up crypto regulations.

Also read: Indian Supreme Court Moves Crypto Hearing, Community Calls for Positive Regulations

Crypto MBA

South Korean Business School Launches Crypto MBA ProgramSeoul School of Integrated Sciences and Technologies, often known as Assist, announced on Friday that it is now offering a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. The new course is “a master’s degree program in blockchain, cryptoeconomics and token economy courses from technological, cryptoeconomic and business strategic perspectives,” the school described.

Claiming that it has “launched the world’s first crypto MBA course for a business graduate school,” Assist wrote:

The mission of Assist business school’s Crypto MBA program is to remedy the lack of academic research and systematic education currently available in the industry, despite a high level of social interest in the blockchain and cryptocurrency.

South Korean Business School Launches Crypto MBA ProgramThe professional graduate school has been offering master’s degrees and doctorate degrees in business administration since 2004. Its website claims that the school “has been evaluated as the no. 1 graduate school for business administration,” noting that large corporations such as LG Electronics, KT, Doosan Infracore, and Korea Electric Power Corporation continuously use its courses.

Crypto Curriculum and Regulation

South Korean Business School Launches Crypto MBA ProgramAccording to Friday’s announcement, “The curriculum includes Bitcoin, Ethereum, smart contract, cryptology, EOS, deep learning and system dynamics mechanisms. The cryptoeconomics curriculum consists of digital currency studies, microeconomics, macroeconomics, behavioral economics and theory on currency finance, game theory and mechanism design.” In addition, students will learn about “management mechanisms, strategic statistics, digital financial accounting, digital marketing strategies, crypto funds, Dapp planning and writing strategy for the persuasive whitepaper.”

South Korean Business School Launches Crypto MBA ProgramThe South Korean government is currently working on additional crypto regulatory measures following the implementation of the real-name system in January. Initial coin offerings (ICOs) have been banned domestically since September last year. However, a number of lawmakers have introduced several bills to regulate them.

Recently, a fintech startup filed a complaint with the country’s constitutional court alleging that the government’s ICO ban is unconstitutional.

Crypto Classes on the Rise

While Assist offers an actual MBA degree in crypto, a growing number of business schools worldwide have added crypto classes including Stanford Graduate School of Business, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University Mcdonough School of Business. Cnbc previously reported that these top schools “are expanding classes in digital currency and blockchain to keep up with demand from students and their future employers.”

South Korean Business School Launches Crypto MBA ProgramStanford’s business school, ranked number one globally by the Financial Times this year, added a course called “Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Technologies.” The school’s website describes, “The course covers all aspects of cryptocurrencies, including distributed consensus, blockchains, smart contracts and applications. We will focus in detail on Bitcoin and Ethereum as case studies.”

Wharton, ranked number one by Forbes, added a class in the fall called “Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and Distributed Ledger Technology,” while Georgetown offers an elective that teaches topics such as the history and evolution of fintech, blockchain technology, and their applications.

What do you think of the Crypto MBA program? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Despite market capitalisation dropping to a low point since Q4 2018, the number of crypto ATMs globally has been on a steady rise. Coin ATM Radar released a statement which further confirmed that there has been a massive increase in interest of cryptos.

209 New Crypto ATMs Worldwide

According to the statement, 209 new ATMs were installed across the world in November alone. This is despite the fall in the value of Bitcoin. It further revealed information on the close down of 68 previously opened kiosks which brings the total number of tellers to 141. This indicates a positive sign for the industry and investors looking for reasons to stay invested in various virtual currency in the next year.

It is important to note that, although teller kiosks do not have the same storage status as institutional investments, neither are they approved by the Exchange Traded Fund or by major advertisement channels like Facebook, they still serve as an indication of which direction crypto adoption is heading towards.

For some crypto enthusiast, the fall in value and price of virtual currency indicates a not so bright future for the industry and innovation of the technology created while for others, it is just “an indistinct background of broader adoption of a transaction using virtual currency and Bitcoin.”

2,243 Crypto ATMs Operational Within the U.S

With 2,243 crypto ATMs operational within the U.S alone, and many more being available globally, it is quite obvious that more people are now getting involved with cryptos.
Data compiled by Coin ATM Radar showed that there was a 59 percent increase in the number of accepted altcoins by crypto ATMs’ by November.

Also, with over 13 million users, the popular U.S. based cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase has been able to make a major impact in increasing crypto exposure for casual investors by adding more altcoins to its meagre selection over the last month.

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Scrypt-based crypto asset Flash is releasing a new “human ATM” functionality in regions of Africa and South America that have seen their national fiat currencies fall victim to inflation. The function will provide peer-to-peer trading in countries like Venezuela that have little to no access to traditional banking services and must instead rely on cryptocurrencies to provide for their people.

Human ATM is available through Flash’s mobile wallet. In addition, Flash offers applications that allow customers to house multiple cryptocurrencies from bitcoin and Litecoin to Dash and Ethereum. At press time, as many as 800 different merchants throughout Africa will adopt Flash in the coming months, according to the company’s marketing director James Hinton.

Providing Crypto to Everyone Who Needs It

The human ATM feature allows customers to load maps of individuals offering in-person trades via their mobile phones. People can purchase or sell their cryptocurrencies in person, then have the units transferred to phone-specific wallets. The service will allegedly give all users in countries like Venezuela 24-7 access to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether.

At the time of writing, Flash is supported by several small cryptocurrency exchanges, though it has garnered the attention of larger ventures like the Einstein Exchange in Canada. The currency also boasts over 600,000 active addresses around the world.

Flash was built with the unbanked in mind, though other applications offer similar features. As Flash allows one to keep multiple forms of crypto, Coindex allows users to keep track of their full crypto portfolios. The platform provides mobile users with a dashboard that combines all their wallets into one space, so they can see the progress of their crypto investments and better understand their financial gains. Users can also pre-select specific coins they’re potentially interested in to see how their prices are performing.

Lastly, the application also informs users of any forthcoming or ongoing initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Connecting Crypto to the World

In a related story, Flash has also announced a recent partnership with Crowdforce, based in the African nation of Seychelles.

Crowdforce provides cryptocurrency-based payment options to over 8,000 separate vendors, meaning all registered companies have the option of providing Flashcoin payments to their employees.

Is the human ATM a feature you would use? Why or why not? Post your comments below.

This post is credited to livebitcoinnews

A team that includes representatives from the Bank of Israel has issued a formal request for information about Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), published on its website Dec. 18.

The request — the goal of which is, as per the title, the “Regulatory Coordination of Virtual Assets”— states that “the regulators of the Israeli financial system believe that there is room to renew and strengthen cooperation and coordination among all regulators and the public” regarding DLT.

Besides the country’s central bank, the team reportedly includes representatives from the country’s Securities Authority, the Ministries of Finance and Justice, the Tax Authority, the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority and various other local regulatory bodies.

The document asks for information pertaining to barriers to the development of the local DLT industry. The text inquires explicitly about problems encountered by local DLT companies, fundraisers, investors and consumers dealing with virtual assets as examples.

Moreover, the request inquires about the risks inherent in the use of virtual assets and the opportunities of DLT in the finance industry. Lastly, the statement also asks how DLT can help address issues regarding Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and terrorism financing.

As per the statement, interested parties are invited to submit relevant information until Dec. 31, 2018.

As Cointelegraph reported at the beginning of November, an Israeli study group exploring digital currency options has recommended that the country’s central bank not issue its own cryptocurrency.

At the beginning of December, Ehud Barak, a former Israeli Prime Minister, compared digital currencies to Ponzi schemes. He reportedly stated that “he would never invest” in crypto as “Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies [are] a Ponzi scheme.”

This post is credited to cointelegraph