Daily Archives: August 2, 2021

Dobie: Reading the tea leaves of infrastructure – Newsday

Posted: August 2, 2021 at 1:56 am

I generally am an optimist. Except when I'm not. Swinging between pessimism and the sunny side of the street doesn't make me a realist, either.

I suspect I'm not alone in lurching from one frame of mind to another these days. Such are the range of inputs we receive.

Take infrastructure, for example.

Should one be optimistic after a bipartisan group of United States senators five Democrats, five Republicans and another 10 or so similarly delineated colleagues agreed on the rough parameters of spending some $1.2 trillion on infrastructure? And after the White House signaled its apparent agreement? And after two-thirds of all senators twice voted to continue with the process?

Or should one be pessimistic after some of the more liberal Democrats in the House voiced their frustration that favored projects and initiatives particularly those regarding climate change were not in the bill? And that they might be ready to play the disruptive role for their party that the Freedom Caucus did for Republicans not so long ago? And that there is no shortage of House Republicans eager to foil any initiative favored by President Joe Biden? And that they and their GOP senatorial colleagues are being egged on in obstinacy by former President Donald Trump? And that some Republicans are mouthing concerns about fiscal restraint after four years of obliviousness?

Or should one be more of a realist, calm down, take note of the midterm elections looming next year, and realize that infrastructure projects are typically embraced by constituents? And that being able to take credit for delivering money and jobs is an easy sales pitch? And that Senate Minority Leader and chief obstructionist Mitch McConnell seems to have made the calculation that a solid infrastructure package could help him regain control of the Senate next year?

I dearly want to believe in this blush of bipartisanship. I want to believe that this could work like muscle memory, that having succeeded once will make it easier to repeat the action, that working together to bring home an infrastructure package could lead to some kind of comprehensive immigration reform and some common sense gun control legislation supported by the vast majority of Americans. I want to believe this could be the start of something and not merely a unicorn moment.

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But then I think about how one party is attempting to undermine a different kind of infrastructure the one girding our free and fair elections and how many of its members are still in thrall to a warped and fictional view of the last election and the events of Jan. 6, and about how so many people are still refusing to do the right thing in the fight against COVID-19, and I'm back to thinking that it will be a miracle of mutual benefit if this infrastructure bill makes it to the finish line.

A wise co-worker once remarked that one never knows what another person really thinks or believes, only what they say they think or believe, a maxim exceedingly apt for Washington. So we read the tea leaves and wonder, and hope.

At times like these, my grandfather used to look for a patch of brightness in a stormy sky, and he always seemed to find one. I see it, too.

Or do I?

Columnist Michael Dobie's opinions are his own.

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Dobie: Reading the tea leaves of infrastructure - Newsday

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Love thy neighbor and mask up – San Antonio Report

Posted: at 1:56 am

Regular readers know I recently enjoyed a family road trip to New Mexico, and what did we do there to celebrate our newfound freedom and respite from a long season of pandemic sheltering? Why, we went to the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe to see the current exhibition on pandemic masks.

#mask: Creative Responses to the Global Pandemic is a remarkable demonstration of how the states artists, many of them Indigenous New Mexicans, have used art to explore history, public health equity, and politics, and to encourage individual mask use as a demonstration of humanitys hope and care for one another.

The exhibition reminds us that the first pandemic masks emerged in the mid-14th century with face coverings featuring elaborate, birdlike beaks that could be filled with herbs and greens thought to keep out the bubonic plague ravaging Europe. There are some great inspirations on exhibit for Da de los Muertos and Halloween if you happen to visit. The exhibit will be open until early 2023.

We were maskless the day my family, all of us fully vaccinated, toured the museum and its far-ranging collection of folk art. Alas, we are maskless no more. The latest guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for vaccinated people to wear masks in indoor public places where the coronavirus, especially the highly contagious delta variant, is spreading at substantial or high levels. Local officials agree we are again in a state of emergency.

So long as unvaccinated people behave as if they are somehow safe from infection or spreading it, we should err on the side of caution. That means taking an unwanted step back and agreeing to mask up once again. This pandemic, public health officials have been telling us all along, is not over.

I unmask if I am in a reasonably uncrowded indoor space, like the San Antonio Report offices, with people who are vaccinated, but otherwise I am masking up. Of course, even that might have to change if the variant continues to spread unchecked.

You should mask up in public indoor spaces or crowded outdoor spaces, too. Not because I am telling you to do so, or lecturing here. You should do it for yourself, your spouse, your children, your elders, your co-workers. If ever we needed a Love Thy Neighbor moment, it is now.

If enough of the unvaccinated population can be reasoned with and persuaded to reassess their vaccine hesitancy, their fears of unintended side effects, or their misguided political convictions, we can deal more quickly with this spike than past ones. If we fail to convince the minority to join the majority of protected San Antonians and Texans, we are in for troubled times that inevitably will interfere with social and economic recovery.

Gov. Greg Abbott, why not underscore the import of mask use and restore an emergency order requiring public indoor mask use? Personal responsibility is a noble thought, but 40% of the adult population is not listening.

The moment is key. Starting this month, hundreds of thousands of Bexar County students will return to school, and with the tens of thousands of adult educators. Many of those students are under 12 and not yet eligible for the vaccine. They are vulnerable, and they also are capable of spreading the virus. Yet Abbott has prohibited Texas schools from requiring masks. I dont get it.

Bexar County hospitals and intensive care units have filled up, yet again, with COVID-19 victims who are unvaccinated and now intensifying a public health crisis. Public health workers yet again are being asked to save the lives of people who acted selfishly and ignored the pandemic as not their problem.

Fiscal conservatives should note that the cost to taxpayers of the average hospitalized COVID-19 patient who is uninsured is $34,000 to $45,000, with out-of-network charges reaching as high as $73,000. That says nothing about the multitrillion-dollar government spending necessitated by the pandemic and economic shutdown.

Mask use, by comparison, seems like an affordable path back to pandemic recovery.

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Sex trafficking isn’t what you think: 4 myths debunked, and 1 way to prevent exploitation – Kansas Reflector

Posted: at 1:56 am

The idea that sex trafficking is an urgent social problem is woven into American media stories, from reports of Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetzs alleged trafficking of teenage girls to debunked QAnon conspiracy theories about a sexual slavery ring run through online retailer Wayfair.

The common perception of sex trafficking involves a young, passive woman captured by an aggressive trafficker. The woman is hidden and waiting to be rescued by law enforcement. She is probably white, because, as the legal scholar Jayashri Srikantiah writes, the iconic victim of trafficking usually is depicted this way.

This is essentially the plot of the Taken movies, in which teenage Americans are kidnapped abroad and sold into sexual slavery. Such concerns fuel viral posts and TikTok videos about alleged but unproven trafficking in IKEA parking lots, malls and pizza shops.

This is not how sex trafficking usually occurs.

Since 2013, I have researched human trafficking in the Midwest. In interviews with law enforcement, medical providers, case managers, victim advocates and immigration lawyers, I found that even these frontline workers inconsistently define and apply the label trafficking victim especially when it comes to sex trafficking. That makes it harder for these professionals to get trafficked people the help they request.

So here are the facts and the law.

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 provides the official legal definition for sex and labor trafficking in the United States.

It makes trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age a federal crime.

In short, to legally qualify as sex trafficking, a sex act involving an adult must include force, fraud, and coercion. This could look like someone a family member, a romantic partner or a market facilitator colloquially described as a pimp or madam physically abusing or threatening another adult into sex for money or resources.

With minors, any and all sexual exchanges that is, trading sex for something of value like cash or food are considered sex trafficking.

Data on human trafficking is notoriously messy and difficult to measure. Survivors may be hesitant to disclose their exploitation out of fear of deportation, if they are undocumented, or arrest. That leads to underreporting.

One way to approximate how many people are being trafficked in the United States is to consult federal grant reports, as suggested by anti-trafficking nonprofit Freedom Network USA.

For example, the federal Office for Victims of Crime served 9,854 total clients some of whom identified as trafficked, others who showed strong indicators of trafficking victimization between July 2019 and June 2020. The Department of Health and Human Services Office on Trafficking in Persons served 2,398 trafficking survivors during the 2019 fiscal year.

Data from the same office also shows that 25,597 potential victims of sex and labor trafficking were identified through calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Again, this data is incomplete if survivors have not accessed these particular resources or called these specific hotlines, they are not represented here.

As with other sexual crimes, like rape, sex trafficking survivors often experience violence at the hands of someone they know, not a complete stranger.

A study from Covenant House New York, a nonprofit focused on homeless youth, found that 36% of the 22 trafficking survivors in their survey were trafficked by an immediate family member, like a parent. Only four reported being kidnapped and held against his or her will.

Often, trafficking victims are younger transgender people or teens experiencing homelessness who exchange sex with others to meet their basic needs: shelter, economic stability, food and health care. Trafficking frequently looks like vulnerable people struggling to survive in a violent, exploitative world.

They are creating sexual solutions to nonsexual problems, says San Francisco-based researcher Alexandra Lutnick.

Under U.S. law, these youths are trafficking victims, because of their age. But they may reject the label, preferring terms like survival sex work or prostitution to describe their experiences.

Trafficking victims engaged in survival sex may well be arrested rather than offered help like housing or health care. If they cannot prove force, fraud, or coercion, or if they refuse to comply in a criminal investigation, they risk shifting from victim to criminal in the eyes of law enforcement. That can mean prostitution charges, felony offenses or deportation.

Such punishments are most commonly used against Black, Indigenous, queer, trans and undocumented sex-trafficking survivors. Black youths are disproportionately arrested for prostitution offenses, for example, even though legally any underage commercial sex is sex trafficking.

Legally and in other meaningful ways, sex work and sex trafficking are different.

Sex work is consenting adults engaging in transactional sex. In almost all U.S. states, it is a criminal offense, punishable with fines and even jail sentences.

Sex trafficking is nonconsensual, and it is generally treated as a more severe crime.

Most sex workers groups acknowledge that sex work is not inherently sex trafficking but that sex workers can face force, fraud and coercion because they work in a criminalized, stigmatized profession. Sex workers whose experiences meet the legal standards of trafficking may nonetheless fear disclosing that to police and risking arrest for prostitution.

Conversely, sex workers can be mistakenly labeled by police and advocates as trafficked and find themselves in the custody of law enforcement or social service agencies.

Based on my research, reducing sex trafficking requires changes that might prevent it from occurring in the first place. That means rebuilding a stronger, supportive U.S. social safety net to buffer against poverty and housing insecurity.

In the meantime, trafficking victims would benefit from efforts by frontline workers to combat the racism, sexism and transphobia that stigmatizes and criminalizes victims who dont look as people expect and are struggling to survive.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Lynn Hastings Deputy special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator Briefing to the Security…

Posted: at 1:56 am

[As Delivered]

28 July 2021

Mister President,

Members of the Security Council,

I brief you today as the UN and its partners are providing urgent assistance to Gaza in the wake of the recent round of hostilities.

Beyond the human tragedy for both Palestinians and Israelis, and the physical damage of eleven days of fighting, the economic impact of the escalation in May has further exacerbated the existing humanitarian crisis andseverely weakened Gazas economy.

On 6 July, the UN, the World Bank and the European Union released the Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA). According to this assessment, damages in Gaza are estimated at between USD 290 380 million, while economic losses may reach nearly USD 200 million. The social sector was hit hardest, significantly weakening the safety net of the most vulnerable. The immediate and short-term recovery and reconstruction needs are estimated between USD 345 485 million.

The same day, a technical meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee was held to align donors efforts to help address both the aftermath of the May escalation and the significant fiscal crisis facing the Palestinian Authority.

Mister President,

International efforts coordinated by the United Nations to implement the humanitarian response and stabilize the situation on the ground in Gaza are well underway. Thus far, some 45 million dollars of a requested 95 million has been raised for the consolidated humanitarian flash appeal published by the UN in May.

I thank the donors for their generous support and urge additional contributions so that the numerous pressing needs can be addressed. The United Nations and its partners stand ready to implement urgently needed recovery and reconstruction initiatives in coordination with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, Egypt, Qatar and other regional and international partners.

On 28 June, fuel deliveries for the Gaza Power Plant resumed through the Kerem Shalom crossing under the existing United Nations framework through UNOPS with support from Qatar. Electricity supply is now roughly 14 hours per day, critical for Gaza and its residents.

On 24 June, Israeli authorities expanded the Gaza fishing zone from six to nine nautical miles and then again on 12 July, to 12 nautical miles. Additional restrictions on the import and export of certain goods were also lifted. However, on 25 July, the fishing zone was restricted again to six nautical miles, following the launch of incendiary balloons from the Strip.

In this context, further steps are needed.

It is essential that Israel implement additional measures to allow unhindered entry of all humanitarian assistance, including materials to implement the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan and the Flash Appeal.

Beyond the immediate humanitarian needs, without regular and predictable entry of goods into Gaza, the capacity of the UN and our partners to deliver critical interventions is at risk, as are the provision of basic services, the livelihoods of people and the wider Gaza economy. In this context, the trilateral Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism with the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations established in 2014 and operated by UNOPS remains best placed to enable the entry and accountable delivery of a wide range of essential imports from Israel.

Further, for any durable stability, movement and access in and out of Gaza must be improved. Taking into consideration its legitimate security concerns, Israel should ease restrictions on the movement of goods and people to and from Gaza, in line with UN Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), with the goal of ultimately lifting them. Hamas and other armed groups must stop the launching of incendiary devices, rockets and mortars and end the militant build up.

Looking ahead, and with additional donor support, existing UN humanitarian cash assistance or other programmes could quickly be scaled up to reach tens or hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza.

While urgent humanitarian interventions can provide crucial relief in the short-term, any sustainable future in Gaza requires political solutions. I again reiterate the need for the return of a legitimate Palestinian Government to the Strip.

Mister President,

The Palestinian Authoritys (PA) fiscal situation continues to be a source of significant concern. The budget gap is expected to be well over USD 1 billion for the current budget year and the Palestinian financial sector is exposed to serious liquidity risks.

Compounding the PAs financial situation, on 11 July, the Israeli Security Cabinet approved the freezing of some 600 million Israeli Shekels from the clearance revenues Israel collects on behalf of the PA. The funds will be deducted in monthly installments, in line with Israeli Knesset legislation from 2018, which authorizes the withholding of funds equal to the amount that Israeli authorities determine have been paid by the PA over the preceding year to security prisoners and detainees and to the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called the measures contrary to signed agreements and unjust.

To address these challenges, the PA must implement much needed reforms, including to the so-called prisoner payment system, and to strengthen the rule of law and accountability. Enhanced cooperation between Israel and the PA to address outstanding financial challenges on key fiscal and economic files will also be critical.

Mister President,

Violence continued across the Occupied Palestinian Territory throughout the reporting period.

In Gaza, while the cessation of hostilities reached between Israel and Hamas in May largely held, militants launched 13 incendiary balloons towards Israel, with several causing fires. In retaliation, Israeli Defense Forces fired 18 missiles against what it said were Hamas targets in the Strip, resulting in damage but no injuries.

On 22 July, a Palestinian was killed and some 14 others injured in an explosion in Az-Zawiya marketplace in Gaza City. The Israeli Security Forces (ISF) said the incident was an internal matter and that Israel had not been involved. Hamas has reportedly opened an investigation.

In the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, clashes, attacks, search and arrest operations, and other incidents resulted in the death of four Palestinians, including a child, and injuries to 638 Palestinians, including 46 children and seven women. Five Israeli security personnel were injured during these events.

On 25 June, Israeli forces shot, injured and detained a Palestinian who they said was planning to carry out a stabbing attack near the settlement of Yitzhar in the northern West Bank.

On 3 July, a Palestinian man was shot and killed by ISF in the village of Qusra near Nablus, following clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians. According to the ISF, the man was shot after throwing an object that exploded near Israeli soldiers.

On 14 July, a Palestinian man was shot and injured by ISF after reportedly trying to enter the settlement of Yitzhar with a knife.

On 18 July, clashes broke out between Palestinians and the ISF in and around the Holy Sites, ahead of visits by hundreds of Jewish visitors observing the commemoration of Tisha BAv. I reiterate that the status quo in Jerusalems Holy Sites must be upheld and fully respected, and call upon community, religious and political leaders on all sides to refrain from provocative action and rhetoric in the interest of peace and stability.

On 23 July, ISF shot and critically injured a 17-year-old Palestinian boy during clashes in the village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank. The boy later died of his wounds. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the boy was shot in the stomach by an ISF foot patrol. ISF said a soldier had opened fire after stones had been thrown towards him, threatening his life, and that it would investigate the incident.

Also on 23 July, a Palestinian man was reportedly shot and killed by Hamas security forces while driving through a checkpoint in Gaza City.

Meanwhile, settlers and other Israeli civilians in the occupied West Bank perpetrated some 36 attacks against Palestinians, resulting in 13 injuries and damage to property. Palestinians perpetrated 47 attacks against Israeli settlers and other civilians, resulting in eight injuries and damage to property.

On 26 June, settlers attacked Palestinians in the village of al-Mughayyir, near Ramallah. Israeli forces intervened, resulting in the injury of 18 Palestinians.

I underscore that all perpetrators of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice.

I also call on Israeli security forces to ensure the protection of Palestinians, in line with Israels obligations under international humanitarian law.

Mister President,

Following the death of political activist Nizar Banat on 24 June, Palestinians held demonstrations across the occupied West Bank. In Ramallah, on 26 June and 5 July, Palestinian Security Forces beat protestors and indiscriminately fired tear gas and stun grenades. On 26 June, Palestinian Security Forces also failed to stop violent acts by groups of non-uniformed persons, reported to be associated to security personnel, resulting in violence targeting journalists and human rights monitors, including a UN staff member. Women present at the demonstrations reported sexual harassment and gender-based threats on social media afterwards.

I call on the Palestinian Authority to ensure that the death of Nizar Banat and all allegations of use of disproportionate force against protestors by Palestinian Security Forces are investigated in a thorough, transparent and independent manner and those responsible held to account. The Palestinian people must be able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly. Arbitrary and politically motivated arrests must cease.

Mister President,

On 2 July, Israeli settlers, comprising some 50 families, left the illegal outpost of Evyatar following an agreement reached with the Israeli Government that IDF troops would re-establish a presence at the site. According to the agreement, the Israeli Civil Administration will conduct an accelerated land survey to determine land status. Areas found not to be privately owned by Palestinians will be declared state land and subsequently made available for building a religious school and staff residence. Any existing structures found to be outside state land will be demolished.

Following the evacuation, near-daily clashes continued during the reporting period between Palestinian residents of the nearby village of Beita and Israeli settlers and security forces, resulting in the death of a Palestinian, injury to some 460 others and damage to structures.

I reiterate that all settlements are illegal under international law. Settlement-related activities must cease as they undermine the prospect of achieving a viable two-State solution in line with UN resolutions, international law and prior agreements.

Mister President,

Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and other structures continued throughout the reporting period.

Overall, Israeli authorities demolished or seized 113 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C of the occupied West Bank and 16 in East Jerusalem, displacing 177 Palestinians, including 38 women and 102 children, and affecting 1,934 others. The demolitions were carried out due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

During the reporting period, Israeli authorities demolished 31 structures in the Bedouin community of Humsa al Bqaia in Area C of the occupied West Bank. Some 18 of the structures demolished or confiscated were provided by donors following previous demolitions in February 2021. As a result, seven Palestinian families, comprising 54 people, including 30 children, were again displaced. Despite repeated calls by the international community, Israeli authorities have continued to instruct the residents to move to a different location, citing the communitys presence in an Israeli-declared firing zone.

During the reporting period, Israeli forces confiscated at least 49 structures in another West Bank herding community, Ras al-Tin, resulting in the displacement of 84 Palestinians, including 53 children and 14 women.

I urge Israel to cease the demolition and seizure of Palestinian property throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law, and to allow Palestinians to develop their communities.

Mister President,

Turning to the region, on the occupied Golan, the ceasefire between Israel and Syria has been generally maintained despite the continued violations of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement by the parties. On 1 June, the IDF said that they had carried out a retaliatory attack on a military outpost of the Syrian armed forces west of the ceasefire line. Early on 17 June, UN personnel observed an IDF tank on the Alpha side fire ten rounds towards al-Qahtaniyah in the area of separation. UNDOF continues to liaise with the parties to remind them of their obligations to respect the terms of the Disengagement Agreement and prevent escalation of the situation across the ceasefire line.

In Lebanon, and ahead of the first anniversary of the Beirut port explosion on 4 August, the United Nations reiterates the need for an impartial and transparent investigation into the explosion to ensure accountability. The United Nations looks forward to swift formation of a new Government able to address the countrys crisis following the appointment of Mr. Najib Miqati as Prime Minister-designate on 26 July. Meanwhile, the situation in the UNIFIL area of operations remains tense, as demonstrated by the rocket fire from Lebanon towards Israel and the artillery response by Israel on 20 July. UNIFIL continues to liaise with the parties to de-escalate tensions.

Mister President,

I remain concerned about the financial situation of UNRWA. As of today, the projected shortfall under its Programme Budget amounts to USD 100m. The Agency also faces an imminent cash flow crisis which risks impacting the smooth opening of the school year for half a million girls and boys in Gaza. The absence of a fully funded Programme Budget also undermines UNRWAs capacity to conduct much needed humanitarian and early recovery activities in Gaza. I appeal once again to all donors, including those from the Arab region, to sustain the funding levels of past years and advance disbursements of funds as much as possible to avoid a disruption of essential services and humanitarian aid.

Mister President,

Following the explosive violence across the OPT and Israel in May, on June 30th, some 200 Israeli and Palestinian womens organizations and activists released a joint statement calling for immediate action, based on the principles of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, to achieve long term solutions to the conflict.

Noting the particular importance of protecting women from all forms of violence, and ensuring womens representation in decision-making positions, they urged broader efforts towards a negotiated, long-term solution, and not just a temporary calm.

We in the international community should heed these important words.

Urgent efforts to improve the situation in Gaza must move forward swiftly, but let us not lose sight of the broader goal: resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ending the occupation and realizing a two-State solution on the basis of UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements.

The United Nations remains committed to continue supporting Palestinian and Israeli moves towards this political horizon. The United Nations will work with the parties and through the Quartet to pave the way forward to meaningful negotiations on all outstanding issues.

Thank you.

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Lynn Hastings Deputy special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator Briefing to the Security...

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Panic Is Suddenly Spreading Among Bitcoin, Ethereum, BNB, XRP And Dogecoin Traders Even As The Market Soars Toward A $1.7 Trillion Price – Forbes

Posted: at 1:54 am

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency prices have soared this weekend, with the bitcoin price making significant gains over $40,000 (subscribe now toForbes'CryptoAsset & Blockchain Advisor and discover crypto blockbusters poised for 1,000% gains).

The bitcoin price climbed to almost $43,000 per bitcoin last night, its highest since mid-May and almost $10,000 higher than its price this time last week. Meanwhile, the ethereum price has led the cryptocurrency market higher over the last 24 hours, with traders eyeing $3,000 per ether token. The combined crypto market has added $250 billion over the last week and is now nearing $1.7 trillion.

However, many crypto traders are feeling increasingly nervous due to the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill that's currently making its way through U.S. legislature and includes a provision to raise $28 billion from crypto investors, with some warning it could "kill" the industry.

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The bitcoin price has bounced over the last week, boosting the price of ethereum, Binance's BNB, ... [+] cardano, XRP and dogecoin even as fears grow over a proposed U.S. crypto industry crackdown.

"This is a deeply misguided provision that, if adopted, will do far more harm than good to U.S. interests," Jake Chervinsky, a crypto-focused lawyer, wrote in a lengthy Twitter thread laying out how the bill could impact the burgeoning crypto industry and market.

The bill, which this week passed a preliminary Senate vote, proposes taxing bitcoin and cryptocurrency profits to fund U.S. infrastructure investment, with the definition of a broker being widened to the extent that crypto exchanges and wallet providers would need to collect far more information about their users than they currently do.

Any broker that transfers any digital assets would need to file a return under a modified information reporting regime, according to a draft copy of the bill seen by Coindesk.

"The provision includes updating the definition of broker to reflect the realities of how digital assets are acquired and traded," the document said. "The provision further makes clear that broker-to-broker reporting applies to all transfers of covered securities within the meaning of section 6045(g)(3), including digital assets."

"Things are moving fast, which can feel scary," wrote Chervinsky, adding "don't panic. This provision isn't final yet and still can be changed."

Chervinsky warned that "it defies logic to adopt a regulation for which compliance is literally impossible, unless the goal is to kill the industry," and "this could mean a de facto ban on [crypto] mining in the USA."

Since China's bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining crackdown in recent monthsin which those who use powerful computers to secure blockchains and validate transactions in return for new crypto tokens were expelled from the countrythe U.S. has emerged as a potential new home for many.

However, lawmakers who fear bitcoin and crypto mining could accelerate climate change have signaled they're unhappy with the industry's U.S. growth.

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The bitcoin price has added around 20% over the last month after finding a floor at $30,000 per ... [+] bitcoin. The wider crypto market, including ethereum, Binance's BNB, XRP, cardano, and dogecoin, have also climbed.

Bitcoin and crypto experts are warning the language used in the bill risks broadening definitions of brokers to the extent it includes those that provide hardware and software.

"Unfortunately, in the drafts, weve seen the categories of persons who would be obligated to report is so broad that it potentially covers persons who only provide software or hardware to customers, and who have no visibility whatsoever into user transactions," Jerry Brito, the executive director of Washington D.C.-based crypto think tank Coin Center said via Twitter, adding he was trying to "fix" the bill's crypto provision.

"It potentially also covers miners indexes, the saving grace is that arguably miners indexes for that matter do not have customers as defined by the tax code."

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Panic Is Suddenly Spreading Among Bitcoin, Ethereum, BNB, XRP And Dogecoin Traders Even As The Market Soars Toward A $1.7 Trillion Price - Forbes

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Out of control and rising: why bitcoin has Nigerias government in a panic – The Guardian

Posted: at 1:54 am

When the Nigerian government suddenly banned access to foreign exchange for textile import companies in March 2019, Moses Awa* felt stuck. His business importing woven shoes from Guangzhou, China, to sell in the northern city of Kano and his home state of Abia, further south had been suffering along with the countrys economy. The ban threatened to tip it over the edge. It was a serious crisis: I had to act fast, Awa says.

He turned to his younger brother, Osy, who had begun trading bitcoins. He was just accumulating, accumulating crypto, saying that at some point years down the line it could be a great investment. When the forex ban happened, he showed me how much I needed it, too. I could pay my suppliers in bitcoins if they accepted and they did.

According to bitcoin trading platform Paxful, Nigeria is now second only to the US for bitcoin trading. The dollar volume of crypto received by users in Nigeria in May was $2.4bn, up from $684m last December, according to blockchain research firm Chainalysis. And the true scale of crypto flows through Africas largest economy is likely to be much larger, with many trades untraceable by analysts.

An array of factors, from political repression to currency controls and rampant inflation, have fuelled the stunning rise of cryptocurrencies in Nigeria. In February, the government took fright and banned cryptocurrency transactions through licensed banks. In late July, it announced a pilot scheme for a new government-controlled digital currency hoping to reduce incentives for those wanting to use unregulated crypto.

But these measures have done little to dampen trading, with exchanges reporting a continued rise in transactions this year.

Nigerias experience holds lessons for governments around the world, many of which are now thinking hard about how to regulate digital currencies. Britains chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is looking at creating a central-bank-controlled version, already being called Britcoin. EU regulators have set out plans to make digital currencies more traceable, in order to combat money laundering. In rural China, rows of computers used to create bitcoin in a computational process known as mining are being switched off after a clampdown by the authorities. The ruling party imposed a ban on transactions in May.

Elsewhere, Egypt, Turkey and Ghana have sought to clamp down on crypto trading, wary of potentially vast movements of digital funds beyond their regulatory controls.

Nigeria has one of the youngest populations in the world and is ripe for digital finance. With many people looking for ways to escape widespread poverty, pyramid schemes are proliferating.

Trading in foreign currencies is an everyday activity for many. Remittances into Nigeria from those working abroad, which were worth more than $17bn in 2020, have played a role, as has the way digital currencies can provide insurance against exchange rate fluctuations. The value of the Nigerian naira has plummeted almost 30% against the dollar in the past five years.

There are political factors too. Some see cryptocurrencies as vital protection from government repression.

Last October, Nigeria was rocked by the largest protests in decades, as many thousands marched against police brutality, and the infamous Sars police unit. The EndSars protests saw abuses by security forces, who beat demonstrators, and used water cannon and teargas on them. More than 50 protesters were killed, at least 12 of them shot dead at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos on 20 October

The clampdown was financial too. Civil society organisations, protest groups and individuals in favour of the demonstrations who were raising funds to free protesters or supply demonstrators with first aid and food had their bank accounts suddenly suspended.

Feminist Coalition, a collective of 13 young women founded during the demonstrations, came to national attention as they raised funds for protest groups and supported demonstration efforts. When the womens accounts were also suspended, the group began taking bitcoin donations, eventually raising $150,000 for its fighting fund through cryptocurrency.

Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter and a prominent advocate of cryptocurrencies, reshared the FemCo bitcoin donation page, further drawing the ire of Nigerias government, which last month suspended Twitter in Nigeria.

The sight of young people openly critical of government figures easily manoeuvring around restrictions shocked the countrys political class, according to Adewunmi Emoruwa, founder of Gatefield, a public policy organisation which gave grants to journalists covering the protests.

I think that EndSars is like the key catalyst for some of these decisions the government is making, he said. It caused fear. They saw, for example, that people could decide to bypass government structures and institutions to mobilise. It sent shockwaves and those shockwaves have continued.

During the protests, Gatefields bank accounts were suspended, until a court found the suspension unmerited and ordered that they be reopened earlier this year.

The episode reinforced the need many Nigerians felt to insure themselves against sudden moves by the authorities. Many organisations now keep some of their finances in cryptocurrencies.

Speaking anonymously to avoid reprisals from the authorities, a leading figure in one civil society organisation, whose accounts were also briefly suspended last October, said digital currencies were now a key insurance against hostile interventions.

We keep some securities in crypto not too much but enough, sort of as an insurance policy, they said. When the ban happened we were, thankfully, able to pay salaries. This way, in a situation like that, well have a way to keep paying our staff.

In February, the Central Bank of Nigeria responded by telling banks to close the accounts of all customers using cryptocurrencies. Financial institutions would have to identify persons and/or entities making transactions in crypto or face sanctions.

The ban was at first a blow to an emerging industry of cryptocurrency brokers who relied on commercial banks to facilitate transactions between sellers and buyers. However, many customers found workarounds, said Marius Reitz, Africa general manager at Luno, a cryptocurrency trading platform.

A lot of trading activity has now been pushed underground, which means many Nigerians are now depending on less secure, less transparent over-the-counter channels, as well as Telegram and WhatsApp groups, where people trade directly with each other, Reitz said. The ban has made cryptocurrency trading harder to monitor and less safe. This also means regulators now have a reduced level of visibility and control of the market, and unfortunately this can expose consumers to a higher risk of being defrauded.

Platforms have also adjusted, by continuing to facilitate transactions as long as the currency being traded is not declared as a cryptocurrency.

While some platforms experienced a hit in trades, for others, the clampdown has increased demand for cryptocurrencies, not dampened it. In the first five months of 2021, according to Helsinki-based platform LocalBitcoins, Nigerians traded 50% more than in the same period last year.

The Nigerian governments response to cryptocurrencies has in fact been inconsistent. Announcing the February curbs, the governor of the central bank, Godwin Emefiele, told a senate committee that cryptocurrency was not legitimate money.

At the same time, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo publicly rebuked the move. Rather than adopt a policy that prohibits cryptocurrency operations in the Nigerian banking sector, we must act with knowledge and not fear, he said, calling for a robust regulatory regime that is thoughtful and knowledge-based.

Another Nigerian government agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, has been more open to creating a more regulated environment for cryptocurrency transactions.

The reality that cryptocurrencies cannot effectively be stopped had gradually dawned on the government, said the operator of one Nigerian crypto trading platform, speaking anonymously after having been targeted by the authorities. They know they cant really stop it. Its out of their control, and what scares them is they are not used to being in this position.

* Not his real surname

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, created in 2009, and remains the most widely known and valuable. Its a digital or virtual asset, operating outside of the traditional banking system, and its influence has soared, with a growing number of companies now accepting it for payments.

Each bitcoin is essentially a digital token containing a secret key that proves to anyone in the network who it belongs to. Effectively, each bitcoin is a collective agreement of every other computer on the bitcoin network that the token is real, created by a bitcoin miner, and then acquired through a series of legitimate transactions.

Each time bitcoins are spent, it becomes known to the entire network that their ownership has been transferred. Every transaction is stored in a lasting public record called a blockchain, which underpins the entire system, making it possible to trace a coins history and preventing people from spending coins they do not own.

For bitcoins many advocates, there are several advantages to the virtual system from the way the blockchain can be used to track things other than simple money, to support for smart contracts, which execute automatically when certain conditions are met.

But bitcoins biggest advantage is that it is decentralised and so extremely resistant to censorship or regulatory control by a single entity. Its possible to observe a bitcoin payment in process, but no one can stop it. This has made governments wary: in a conventional financial system, banks can freeze accounts, vet payments for money laundering or enforce regulations.

Thanks to the decentralised nature of cryptocurrency networks, people have been able to make international payments from closed or tightly restricted economies, but this has also made them a haven for illegal activities, from cybercrime to money laundering and drug trading.

Another concern about bitcoins is that they damage the environment. Bitcoin mining the process in which a bitcoin is awarded to a computer that solves a complex series of algorithms consumes vast amounts of energy. Miners set up large computer rigs to maximise the chances of being awarded bitcoins. The carbon footprint of this mining is now similar to Chiles, according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, a tool from Cambridge University that measures the currencys energy usage.

Advocates of bitcoin say the mining is increasingly being done with electricity from renewable sources. And while the amount of energy consumed by bitcoin has dropped significantly this year, concerns remain. Environmentalists argue that miners tend to set up wherever electricity is cheapest, which may be in places with coal-generated power.

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Bitcoin price surges toward $40,000 — Here are 4 reasons – MarketWatch

Posted: at 1:53 am

A rally by bitcoin on Monday wasnt all about a help-wanted ad from Amazon.com Inc., crypto analysts said.

The ad, seeking a digital currency and blockchain product lead got credit for getting the ball rolling as it stoked expectations the e-commerce and cloud computing giant could soon begin accepting bitcoin for payment. That theme was reinforced after City A.M., a London-based financial news organization, cited an unnamed Amazon AMZN, -7.56% official saying the company was considering doing exactly that by the end of the year.

Amazon denied the report. Notwithstanding our interest in the space, the speculation that has ensued around our specific plans for cryptocurrencies is not true. We remain focused on exploring what this could look like for customers shopping on Amazon, a spokesperson said in an emailed statement early Monday afternoon..

See: Bitcoin surges as Amazon hunts for cryptocurrency lead

Bitcoin BTCUSD, -3.72% pushed back above $40,000 in mid-afternoon trade for the first time since mid-June, according to FactSet, trading as high as high as $40,581.30 topping the $40,000 threshold for the first time since mid-June before pulling back.

Short covering in which investors who bet bitcoin prices would continue to fall liquidate positions appeared to be part of the picture, analysts said. Short covering can add to rallies as wrong-footed investors scramble to exit positions by buying bitcoin.

According to data from Skew, nearly $800 million in BTC short positions were liquidated on Sunday evening, wrote analysts at Fundstrat. Data from Bybt.com showed that more than $771 million in bitcoin positions had been liquidated in the 12 hours ending at 12 a.m. Eastern on Monday, with nearly $721 million coming from short covering.

Some analysts saw explanations around positioning as more credible when it comes to the rally than the Amazon developments. The move probably speaks more to the flighty nature of positioning in the crypto space, given that any move by Amazon to adopt cryptos is likely to be some way off, said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a note.

The rally may also have some technical momentum, which also begets more buying, said Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at ThinkMarkets, in a Monday note.

Prices had been coiling for several weeks and when they finally broke above the bearish trend line a few days ago, we have been seeing a few back-to-back green or in my case white candles, he said, referring to candlestick analysis. In particular, he was noting candles marking out sessions in which the closing price was higher than the opening price (see chart below).

It is clear that some speculators relying on price action must have decided it was the right time to get back on board, Razaqzada wrote.

Key resistance around $40,000 the shaded area on the chart remains intact for now, he noted. It will take a clean break above that zone to tilt the bias completely back to full-on bullish, he said, warning that traders will otherwise need to proceed with a higher degree of caution as this could turn out to be a short-lived spike.

Razaqzada and other analysts noted that cryptos appeared to find their footing last week after Tesla Inc. TSLA, +1.45% Chief Executive Elon Musk appeared on a panel discussion alongside Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter Inc. TWTR, -0.88% and Square Inc. SQ, -3.14%, and Cathie Wood, CEO of ARK Invest.

Read: Bitcoin rises as Elon Musk says, I might pump, but I dont dump

Tesla Inc., which holds a bitcoin stake, was due to report quarterly results after the closing bell on Monday.

Are we also seeing some pre-emptive buying ahead of Teslas earnings today? Razaqzada asked. It could be that some speculators are anticipating pro-crypto remarks from Tesla CEO Elon Musk or his team when the electric car maker produces its quarterly results after the stock markets close tonight. So do watch out for that possibility.

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Bitcoin leaps 12% to test recent peaks, ether hits 3-week high – Reuters

Posted: at 1:53 am

HONG KONG/SINGAPORE, July 26 (Reuters) - Cryptocurrencies popped to the top of recent ranges on Monday as short sellers bailed out in the wake of a strong week and while traders hoped a handful of positive comments from influential investors might signal a turnaround in fragile sentiment.

Bitcoin rose as far as 12.5% to hit $39,850, its highest since mid-June during the Asia session, while ether hit a three-week peak of $2,344. On the heels of bitcoin's best week in almost three months, the move put the squeeze on short sellers.

Last week, cryptocurrency enthusiast and Tesla (TSLA.O) boss Elon Musk said the carmarker would likely resume accepting bitcoin once it conducts due diligence on its energy use. It had suspended such payments in May, contributing to a sharp crypto selloff. read more

Twitter (TWTR.N) boss Jack Dorsey also said last week that the digital currency is a "big part" of the social media firm's future and, on Sunday, London's City A.M. newspaper reported - citing an un-named "insider" - that Amazon is looking to accept bitcoin payments by year's end. read more

Representation of cryptocurrency Bitcoin is placed on PC motherboard in this illustration taken, June 29, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File photo

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Brokers said that taken together the remarks were enough to finally lift the market from the floor of support where it has held steady since a May plunge, while data also pointed to heavy short-seller liquidations - suggesting many might have given up.

"Over the last five trading sessions we've seen general near-term bullishness in the market, driven by key technicals, as well as recent positive comments," said Ryan Rabaglia, global head of trading at digital asset platform OSL.

"With a record $1.2 billion in shorts liquidated over the past 24 hours, the outlook and momentum for the week ahead is positive," he said.

Bitcoin was last up 8% at $38,064, putting it within sight of resistance around June's $41,341.57 peak just a week after it was testing support at $29,500.

Ether was last up 5% at $2,304.

Reporting by Alun John in Hong Kong and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Jacqueline Wong

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Bitcoin-based scams mean the federal government now needs a crypto bank – Vox.com

Posted: at 1:53 am

Due to a surge of cryptocurrency-fueled crimes, federal law enforcement is seizing a lot of bitcoin. Now the US government is figuring out what to do with all of it.

This week, a small platform for safekeeping cryptocurrency called Anchorage Digital announced it had won a contract from the Department of Justice to store and liquidate digital assets that federal law enforcement seizes following criminal investigations. The government has essentially hired a bank to store and sell billions of dollars worth of forfeited cryptocurrency, including troves of bitcoin and ethereum. Anchorage Digital, which is based in San Francisco, is an obvious choice for a partner, as its the first federally chartered bank for crypto.

Theres no traditional bank that actually offers these services because this is extremely complex from a technical perspective, Diogo Monica, Anchorages co-founder and president, told Recode. Its very hard to store these safely. In fact, there are many, many stories of people losing access to their bitcoin and other cryptocurrency wallets and just losing access completely to them without the ability to be recovered.

That the US Marshals Service needs to hire a cryptocurrency company for help is a reminder that, as these kinds of digital assets go mainstream, theyre also becoming more popular with criminals. In fact, as law enforcement shut down illegal cryptocurrency operations, from ransomware schemes to illegal online markets, its clear that the US government could hold a very large amount of bitcoin, ethereum, and other cryptocurrency. Accordingly, Uncle Sam might even become a more significant player in the crypto marketplace in the months and years to come.

Since its creation, cryptocurrency has been popular for criminals because the accounts and transactions are difficult to trace back to any one person. Now crypto is at the center of a wide swath of illegal schemes, including blackmail scams, Covid-19 vaccine counterfeits, money laundering operations, and illicit sales on the darknet. In the first half of this year, people sent more than $2 million worth of cryptocurrency to Elon Musk impersonators following a grift on social media, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). And earlier this month, a Swedish man was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to orchestrating one of the largest cryptocurrency-based Ponzi schemes the US government has ever prosecuted. The man had tricked people into sending him bitcoin, as well as other digital payments, under the guise of a (fake) gold-backed investment opportunity.

Cryptocurrency is not government currency, so its very international in scope, which is why it has become even more popular with transnational organized crime, as well as terrorism, said Suzanne Lynch, a Utica College professor who focuses on economic crime.

Through investigating these crimes and prosecuting the perpetrators, federal law enforcement has acquired a sizable cache of cryptocurrency. In June, the DOJ seized about $2.3 million worth of bitcoin the FBI had obtained after tracking the movement of a ransom payment associated with the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack earlier this summer. This was after the agency seized about $1 billion in cryptocurrency that once belonged to Ross Ulbricht, creator of the online black market Silk Road, which federal officials shut down in 2013. Ulbricht was arrested that year and convicted in 2015 of distributing narcotics and money laundering.

Theres no differentiation here between crypto and an oil tanker, for lack of a better example, or car or fiat [currency], when it comes to how it will ultimately be used in an asset forfeiture regime, said Ari Redbord, a former prosecutor and the head of government affairs at TRM, a cryptocurrency fraud detection startup.

The US Marshals Service is the agency in charge of holding and auctioning off many seized assets, including art, rare collectibles, and real estate, from disgraced pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkrelis Wu-Tang album to Bernie Madoffs apartments. Since at least 2014, the DOJs asset forfeiture program, which is run by the marshals, has taken the same approach with cryptocurrency and opened up the stores of crypto it seizes to bids from the public. But the Marshals Service announced in 2019 that it was looking for more help managing all these digital assets.

Pricing, how to price them, how to evaluate it, how to liquidate it, how to safe keep it people are being forced to deal with the asset class because its so prevalent now, Monica, of Anchorage, told Recode. To do that well can be especially tricky since cryptocurrency markets can be extremely volatile.

As the DOJ moves forward with its plan to manage digital assets, calls for tighter regulations on cryptocurrency are coming from higher and higher up. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), for instance, said this month that cryptocurrencies should face tighter rules, while some senators recently proposed taxing cryptocurrency transactions to fund President Joe Bidens infrastructure plan. Earlier this month, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell even suggested that the federal government could launch a digital version of the US dollar as an alternative to cryptocurrencies, though hes still undecided on whether thats a good idea.

Despite lawmakers and regulators growing concern about cryptocurrencies, their popularity is forcing the government to adapt. One recent survey from NORC, a research institute at the University of Chicago, found that 13 percent of people in the US bought or traded crypto in the past year alone, compared to the estimated half of US households that have invested in the stock market, according to Pew.

This all serves as a reminder that cryptocurrencies are only becoming more prevalent, which means that crypto scammers arent going away anytime soon. So beware of demands for cryptocurrency payments from fishy romantic prospects, too-good-to-be-true investment opportunities, supposed blackmailers, and people claiming to be Elon Musk. If youre not careful, your bitcoin might end up in the federal governments new crypto bank.

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Analysts Discuss Bitcoin Over-the-Counter Desks Bubbling With BTC Demand Markets and Prices Bitcoin News – Bitcoin News

Posted: at 1:53 am

Digital currency markets have been gathering gains again moving past the lows seen a few weeks ago. This week crypto traders have been discussing over-the-counter (OTC) desks bubbling with demand for bitcoin as the co-founder of 21st Paradigm explained, high net worth individuals [and] institutions want your bitcoin.

Most traders either use decentralized exchange (dex) platforms or centralized exchange (cex) operations to acquire bitcoin (BTC) and a myriad of other digital currencies. However, high-net-worth individuals and institutions usually dont leverage dex or cex applications, as they choose to trade via over-the-counter (OTC) trading desks. OTC trading or off-exchange trading is trading between two parties directly and usually with help from the OTC desks representative. In contrast to trades that take place on cex or dex platforms, these trades are not recorded on order books. Although, transfers from crypto OTC desks can be recorded.

Two days ago, the co-founder of the advisory firm 21st Paradigm, Dylan LeClair, tweeted about some large OTC transfers last week by sharing a chart from Glassnode analytics. Big transfer volumes from OTC Desks over the last week, LeClair said at the time. High net worth individuals [and] institutions want your bitcoin, he added. Another individual agreed with LeClair and said Yessssirr, because the individual, Will Clemente, shared a tweet on July 22 that had shown a similar trend.

OTC Outflow RSI showing the strongest BTC buy signal since July of last year, the analyst Will Clemente said to his 158,000 Twitter followers. This indicates buying from institutions/high-net-worth individuals, he added. A number of other traders discussing the subject on Twitter agreed with the OTC demand assessment and the social media platform is littered with threads discussing the subject. One individual tweeted:

Dont give the smart money your BTC (or ETH)

A number of other whale-like and large purchasing patterns were noticed by bitcoiners observing different metrics. While bitcoin has been rising, traders also suspect that China might be buying bitcoin. There have been a few noticeable market changes during the early morning hours in China, according to Trustnodes research.

Meanwhile, during the last 24 hours bitcoin (BTC) has consolidated just above the $41K handle and has only moved +0.10% on Sunday, August 1. However, BTC is still up 17% against the U.S. dollar during the last week and 30-day stats show BTC has gained over 22%. Bitcoin had managed to jump above the $42K handle at $42,615 per unit, but has not been able to hold above the $42K zone for long periods of time.

What do you think about the bitcoin OTC demand assessment from traders and analysts on social media? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.

Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons, Glassnode, Tradingview, Twitter, Will Clemente

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a direct offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell, or a recommendation or endorsement of any products, services, or companies. Bitcoin.com does not provide investment, tax, legal, or accounting advice. Neither the company nor the author is responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, goods or services mentioned in this article.

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