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Treasury Chief Says Crypto Is A “National Security Risk”

Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin | 7/25/17 (Official White House Photo by Ricky Harris)

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A new jab was thrown against Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies from the US government after statements from the U.S. Treasury Secretary branded the industry as a “national security threat.”

Facebook’s announcement of Libra has brought crypto and blockchain technology in the center stage, as governments around the world have heightened their scrutiny on the alternative financial system that the industry is offering.

Government executives and high ranking officials have raised concerns on the volatility of the technology, and how it is being used by malicious actors to facilitate illegal transactions such as money laundering and illegal drugs.

Now, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin chimed in the conversation and echoed earlier apprehensions versus Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. The Secretary warns that Bitcoin, as well as, Facebook’s plans for Libra, pose a “national security issue” for the United States.

“This is indeed a national security issue,” Mnuchin told reporters at a press conference yesterday. “Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have been exploited to support billions of dollars of illicit activity like cyber crime, tax evasion, extortion, ransomware, illicit drugs, and human trafficking,” adding that Facebook’s Libra “could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financiers.”

Mnuchin echoed other politicians stance on Facebook’s Libra venture and said that he was “not comfortable” by the idea of it.

Trump vs. Crypto

In a series of tweets on last week, the POTUS said that he is not a “fan” of cryptocurrencies, asserted that America has only one currency, criticized bitcoin, as well as told Facebook that they need a banking charter if they want to launch their newly announced crypto-based money called Libra.

Trump said cryptocurrencies are not money, and “Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity.”

“If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations,” said the president.

Related: Trump Vs. Crypto: Dollar Is The Only Currency Of The USA

According to the President, the dollar is the only currency in America, and Libra, among other cryptocurrencies, are not “real money.”

“We have only one real currency in the USA, and it is stronger than ever, both dependable and reliable. It is by far the most dominant currency anywhere in the World, and it will always stay that way. It is called the United States Dollar!” Trump said in a tweet.

Trump’s anti-crypto stand was agreed upon by Mnuchin saying that “the president does have concerns as it relates to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies—those are legitimate concerns that we have been working on for a long period of time.”

Democrats vs. Crypto

Joining Trump’s army against cryptocurrencies and Facebook’s Libra plans are Democrats from the Senate who recently circulated a draft proposal that bans big tech companies from issuing digital money.

The bill, which was bluntly named as “Keep Big Tech Out Of Finance Act,” circulates among Democrats majority that leads the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, proves that the US government is not joking about its position against Libra and other similar ventures in the future.

Read More: Democrats Move To Ban Big Techs From Issuing Digital Money

According to the proposed bill, no tech company should be allowed to issue any form of financial services. “A large platform utility may not establish, maintain, or operate a digital asset that is intended to be widely used as a medium of exchange, unit of account, store of value, or any other similar function, as defined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” reads a copy of the bill obtained by Z6Mag.

Furthermore, while the bill does not specify any company, it clearly refers to Facebook, and it’s planned blockchain-based currency, Libra. The “large platform utility” is defined as a technology company with “[an] annual global revenue of $25,000,000,000 or more” and one that is “predominately engaged in the business of offering to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties.” This definition seems to be crafted to include Facebook rather than exclude other companies.

It is also worth noting that the proposed legislation also prohibits “large platform utilities” from affiliation with “persons who are a financial institution.” This further includes Facebook’s proactive workaround against possible future laws that may prohibit them from owning Libra.

Nonetheless, the bill is still in its earliest phase yet, and many could happen to move forward. For it to become a law, it still has to withstand the possible opposition by Republicans in both the House and the Senate.

A consumer tech and cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama. I also own a cybersecurity blog called Zero Day.

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Apps

‘Mahmee’ is a startup that wants to help new mothers through an app

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Photo: Mahmee website
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Mahmee aims to help new mothers to safeguard their health through an app that connects them to healthcare services and other resources to help women — especially women of color — prevent post emotional and physical health complications.

Founded in 2014, Mahmee is a HIPAA-secure care management platform that makes it easy for payers, providers, and patients to coordinate comprehensive prenatal and postpartum healthcare from anywhere.

The United States is one of the countries with the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, where thousands of women, especially women of color, experience pregnancy-related complications just before or in the year after childbirth. The annual maternity-related death in the U.S. reaches 700 deaths every year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

This is the reason why Melissa Hanna, CEO of Mahmee and a co-founder, along with her mother, Linda Hanna, put up the business in order to health women to get better access to postpartum and prenatal healthcare. Linda Hanna has been a long-time nurse and lactation consultant, making her see the reality of maternal health in the country – which contributed to their drive to put up their business.

“We believe that comprehensive maternal healthcare is ongoing education and support that addresses the unique intersection of the physical and emotional aspects of pregnancy, postpartum and parenthood, as each individual experiences them,” reads the website of Mahmee.

The service the startup is offering includes an app that connects new mothers to doctors, health care professionals, and motherhood experts. Mothers can sign up on their own and get access to a team of experts, including maternity coaches, nutritionists, and lactation coaches. If their healthcare professional also has an account in the app, the patient and the healthcare professional can share information with each other through the app.

In 2019, the app already has more than 1,000 providers and organizations in its network. In July, the app received $3 million in new funding to grow its team. A huge portion of the new funding comes from the tennis superstar, Serena Williams, who last year shared her horrifying near-death experience after she gave birth to her daughter.

“The idea for Mahmee came about from watching my mom work in this field for years and years and realizing that there was a limited set of tools available to professionals like herself to create the impact that she wanted to have on mothers’ and babies’ lives,” said Melissa Hanna, CEO of Mahmee.

“And after watching her build out very successful programs for hospitals and health systems and all sorts of different experiences in the inpatient setting, we started talking about what could be done in the outpatient setting when patients are home with their families,” she added.

Melissa said in an interview that through the years, Mahmee has been helping new mothers who are experiencing prenatal anxiety and supporting them in preparing for their childbirth experience in the hospital. Some of those that they have helped experience postpartum bleeding and depression.

“In the past 12 months, we’ve had patients who’ve experienced severe blood loss and postpartum hemorrhaging. We’ve worked with families and with mothers that are experiencing prenatal anxiety and supporting them in preparing for their childbirth experience in the hospital. There have been patients who have experienced postpartum depression; in some cases, some very severe postpartum psychosis symptoms,” she said.

Furthermore, Melissa echoed the problem and how black women are the most affected by it. She said that there is a discrepancy on how black mothers and infants are being taken care of in the hospital.

“What we’re seeing now is the crisis of maternity and infant health care come to the surface because the stats around black mother and black infant mortality and morbidity are so inexcusable. There’s a huge discrepancy in how patients are cared for,” she added.

Melissa said that Mahmee also practices what is called “culturally competent care,” where “from day one our team is getting trained on how to listen to families’ concerns actively, and specifically to read between the lines of the things that are being shared by new mothers.”

In the end, Melissa and her mom only hoped for a future where new mothers are safe and well taken care of – no matter what color their skin is. And they hope that Mahmee, as an app, can democratize access to necessary healthcare attention to every mother in the United States.

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Startups

TuSimple self-driving trucks is the future of cargo delivery

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Cargo and mails have been delivered inside Arizona by self-driving trucks that people don’t even know about as UPS has only announced this week that they have been using TuSimple, a self-driving car startup, to move cargo around the state for quite some time.

The announcement comes with the disclosure that UPS has also made a funding venture to help the startup. Since May, TuSimple autonomous trucks have been hauling UPS loads on a 115-mile route between Phoenix and Tucson.

The shipping and cargo company confirms that this is the first time that they have used TuSimple’s autonomous trucks to deliver mails across the state.

TuSimple is a shipping and cargo startup that prides itself with autonomous and self-driving trucks, which, according to their website, would cut the average cost of shipping in a tractor-trailer by 30 percent. “Our proprietary AI is capable of long-distance highway driving, and complex surface street driving – enabling fully autonomous deliveries from one depot to another,” read’s TuSimple’s website.

They also advertise that they have road-safe autonomous trucks designed with an AI that is trained to respond to road incidents in the shortest possible time.

“At highway speeds, 1000 meters provides 35 seconds of time to react, enabling the system to make the safest and most efficient driving decisions,” reads the startup’s website. “Our perception system is designed to identify objects and obstacles, even in adverse weather conditions.”

The promising pitch of the startup has awakened the interest of huge shipping and cargo companies like UPS. In an announcement about their funding for the startup, UPS Ventures managing partner, Todd Lewis, said the venture arm “collaborates with startups to explore new technologies and tailor them to help meet our specific needs.”

The startup is also what shipping companies are looking at as a solution to the declining number of truck drivers in the United States.

“Long-haul routes with short turnaround times, such as this 22-hour journey, are well suited for self-driving trucks because they are normally accomplished with driving teams of two. Driving teams are challenging to recruit due to overnight driving requirements, the need to share close quarters with another person and a significant truck driver shortage,” said TuSimple in a press release.

In the partnership announcement from UPS, the shipping giant said that TuSimple has been helping them understand how to get to Level 4 autonomous driving where a vehicle is fully autonomous and able to reach a particular location. Right now, the TuSimple self-driving trucks still have an engineer and a safety driver tagging along the trip, but UPS is hopeful that with the help of the startup and the backing of huge shipping companies, they will be able to find a way to automize their delivery trucks fully.

Right around the time that UPS announced its partnership with TuSimple, the same deal was made between the startup and the United States Postal Service (USPS) to have a two-week pilot operation to deliver mail between Phoenix and Dallas, a 1,000-mile trip.

The pilot operation with USPS will involve five round trips totaling over 2,100 miles, estimated at about 45 hours of driving, and will pass through major interstates spanning Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

The partnership with huge shipping companies could help the San Diego-based startup be more commercialized, the founder said. “Performing for the USPS on this pilot in this particular commercial corridor gives us specific use cases to help us validate our system, and expedite the technological development and commercialization progress,” Dr. Xiaodi Hou, ‘TuSimple’s founder, said in a statement.

“It is exciting to think that before many people ride in a robo-taxi, their mail and packages may be carried in a self-driving truck,” added Dr. Xiaodi Hou.

The startup aims to be the pioneer in providing autonomous trucks to serve shipping companies in the U.S., and it aims to boost the shipping industry as well.

“TuSimple is aiming to boost the $800-billion U.S. trucking industry by increasing safety, reducing carbon emissions and transportation costs, and optimizing logistics for fleet operators. With a 1000 meter vision range, TuSimple autonomous trucks are safer because they can see more and react faster than humans – rain or shine, day or night,” reads a press release.

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Alibaba’s Joe Tsai buying Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center for $3.5 billion

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Joe Tsai buys Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center
Photo: RISE | Flickr | CC BY 2.0
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Joe Tsai is reportedly buying the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center for around $3.5 billion. The agreement could be announced as soon as Friday.

The Taiwan-born Tsai is among the 18 co-founders of Alibaba. He currently sits as the executive vice-chairman of the company. Forbes estimates his worth to be around $9.9 billion. He is Alibaba’s second-largest shareholder after Jack Ma. The Yale-educated businessman is presumed to take on an even bigger role once Ma steps down from Alibaba. 

The deal would give Tsai control of the Brooklyn Nets. In May 2018, Tsai was able to buy 49% of the Brooklyn Nets from Mikhail Prokhorov for $1 billion.  

Upon closing the deal last year, Prohorov welcomed Tsai into the organization and said: “We are excited to have Joe as a partner. He brings tremendous global experience, a passion for basketball, and shares our vision for the development of the Nets”

In last year’s deal, Tsai was given the option to buy the remaining stake of the team in 2021. However, it seems that the deal would be coming earlier than expected. Prohorov currently owns 59% of the basketball franchise. 

If the deal between Tsai and Prohorov has been finalized, this would give the former full ownership of the team — two seasons earlier than anticipated.  With the team’s valuation of $2.35 billion, this deal would make it the highest price ever paid for a sports team franchise in history.  

The current record is held by David Tepper and Tilman Fertitta. Tepper bought the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in 2018 for $2.2 billion. In 2017, the owner of multi-brand corporation Landry’s, Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets for the same amount.  

The ownership of the Brooklyn Nets is not the only deal that Tsai is reportedly making with Prokhorov. In a separate deal, Prokhorov is selling his stakes in the Barclays Center to Tsai. The arena is where the Nets play during their home games. This follows the NBA’s preference for the team and the arena where they play to be under one ownership. If both deals are combined, it would amount to a record-breaking $3.5 billion.

Joe Tsai is no stranger to sports team ownership. Before buying his stakes of the Nets, Tsai bought box lacrosse team — San Diego Seals. In January 2019, he headed a group that bought the WNBA’s New York Liberty from The Madison Square Company. A month after, Tsai joined The Raine Group and The Chernin Group in investing in a new lacrosse league — the Premier Lacrosse League.  

With the Nets deal, this would make Tsai as the eight richest sports team owner in the world. In the NBA, he becomes second only to the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Steve Ballmer.  

The change in the principal owner of the Brooklyn Nets comes after the team’s good run in the NBA last season. The team made it to the playoffs for the first time in four years.  

Before the new NBA season starts, the Brooklyn Nets have already gotten the services of two free agents — Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.  With the addition of the pair to the team roster, attendance is expected to increase. Last season, the Nets ranked 14th in terms of attendance with an average 14,941 per game. 

While Tsai’s take over of the Nets is still subject for approval by the NBA, this move is seen as something positive and beneficial to and for the league. The NBA is currently growing at a rapid speed in China. To add, Joe Tsai is part of NBA China’s board. NBA China conducts the league’s business in the country.  

With the NBA’s growth in the country, it has become such a massive business. The NBA has become China’s most popular sports league. With its growing fanbase, the NBA has also expanded its reach by opening NBA stores in China. In April of this year, the NBA opened its biggest official store outside of North America in Beijing.

Dubbed as the “Joe Tsai effect,” the Brooklyn Nets will be joining the Los Angeles Lakers in the 13th edition of the NBA China Games. The two teams will play two preseason games in Shanghai and Shenzhen in October.

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