Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Is Poland's Central Bank Running a Smear Campaign on Youtube Against Cryptocurrencies?

A bizarre battle is emerging in the world of cryptocurrencies after Poland's central bank was accused of hiring YouTubers to "start a smear campaign" against cryptocurrencies in the country.

According to Business Insider Poland, the Narodowy Bank Polski (NFB) spent around 91,000 zloty (£19,430; $27,300) on a marketing campaign designed to attack the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies. The money was spent on platforms including Google and Facebook, but was also used to pay a Polish Youtube partner network called Gamellon.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

South Korea Will NOT ban Cryptocurrencies After all?

South Korea has been flirting with banning cryptocurrency trading for some time now. However, now it appears the country is backtracking. Bloomberg reports that South Korea's regulators have indicated that they will continue to support "normal" trading of the cryptocurrency.

In late 2017, South Korea, which is the third largest market for cryptocurrency, began cracking down on Bitcoin traders. It banned initial coin offerings and stopped allowing anonymous cryptocurrency accounts. At the beginning of this year, South Korean officials announced an outright ban on cryptocurrency trading was in the works. Many cryptocurrencies were priced higher on South Korea's exchanges than in the rest of the world, and officials in the country thought of it as gambling. There was also the fear that cryptocurrency trading could lead to tax evasion.

Apparently, South Korean regulators have worked out their concerns, because Choe Heungsik, the governor of South Korea's Financial Supervisory Service, has said that his organization is trying to normalize cryptocurrency trading. This is a big shift in rhetoric against digital currencies.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Congress is Eying Regulations for the Cryptocurrencies

Jolted by the global investment craze over bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, U.S. lawmakers are moving to consider new rules that could impose stricter federal oversight on the emerging asset class, several top lawmakers told Reuters.

Bipartisan momentum is growing in the Senate and House of Representatives for action to address the risks posed by virtual currencies to investors and the financial system, they said.

Even free-market Republican conservatives, normally wary of government red tape, said regulation could be needed if cryptocurrencies threaten the U.S. economy.

“There’s no question about the fact that there is a need for a regulatory framework,” said Republican Senator Mike Rounds, a Senate Banking Committee member.

Digital assets currently fall into a jurisdictional gray area between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and individual states.

Much of the concern on Capitol Hill is focused on speculative trading and investing in cryptocurrencies, leading some lawmakers to push for digital assets to be regulated as securities and subject to the SEC’s investor protection rules.

“The SEC is properly the lead on the issue,” said Republican Representative Bill Huizenga, chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets which will hold hearings on the issue in coming weeks.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

And the World Just Changed: Dear Leader Xi

China’s ruling Communist Party on Sunday set the stage for President Xi Jinping to stay in office indefinitely, with a proposal to remove a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to just two terms in office.

Since taking office more than five years ago, Xi has overseen a radical shake-up of the party, including taking down top leaders once thought untouchable as part of his popular war on deep-rooted corruption.

Sunday’s announcement, carried by state news agency Xinhua, gave few details. It said the proposal had been made by the party’s Central Committee, the largest of its elite ruling bodies. The proposal also covers the vice president position.

Xi, 64, is currently required by China’s constitution to step down as president after two five-year terms. Nearing the end of his first term, he will be formally elected to a second at the annual meeting of China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament opening on March 5.

Two Intel Teams Have Developed Silicon Based Quantum Computing Chips

There’s another quantum computer to keep track of in this Wild West era of quantum computing research we’re in. And it uses some parts you might already be familiar with.

Researchers from two teams now working with Intel have reported advances in a new quantum computing architecture, called spin qubits, in a pair of papers out today. They’re obviously not the full-purpose quantum computers of the future. But they’ve got a major selling point over other quantum computing designs.

“We made these qubits in silicon chips, similar to what’s used in classical computer processes,” study author Thomas Watson from TU Delft in the Netherlands told me. “The hope is that by doing things this way, we can potentially scale up to larger numbers needed to perform useful quantum computing.”

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Stealth Saga #72

Iranian RQ-170 Copy:

The Iranian knock-offs of the RQ-170 have been involved in an air battle in Syria after a knock-off flew into Israel and then the Israelis retaliated.  An Israeli F-16 was shot down.

Shadow Star:

China's stealthy Shadow Star UCAV is expected to have a first flight in 2019.

Project Azm:

Pakistan is gearing up to attempt to manufacture a 5th gen fighter.  I'd bet there's heavy Chinese help and it looks a lot like the FC-31.


Due to budget issues, Indonesia's participation in the KFX fighter might get rescoped.

UTC will provide the environmental unit for the KFX.

Tornado Replacement:

The F-35 has been (supposedly) very aggressively banned from being considered as the Tornado replacement.  


Two Su-57s appear to have been deployed to Syria (video above).  Not as yet officially confirmed though.  Some are stating this was a very dangerous move.  The Israelis confirmed two are at the airbase in Syria.

Supposedly another two Su-57 have arrived in Syria following the first two.  No second source, just some twitter based pix.  There is a little more info.

The Russians have started weapon integration tests.

Russia will buy no more than 60 Su-57s by 2027.

The Russians have not yet signed the contract for the next 12 Su-57s.  This postpones their delivery to at least 2019.  Also, the Su-57 with the new engines has not flown since December.  The UAC is now saying they DO have a contract for delivery of 19 Su-57s starting in 2019.

The FGFA variant of the Su-57 remains in contract limbo.


China may be struggling to manufacture the J-20.  There may be issues at Chengdu in the manufacturing line.

China reiterated the J-20 is in combat service or, more properly, handed over to combat units.


Has the H-20 bomber been delayed?  Is that why China is mass producing the H-6K still?


As the B-21 bomber comes online, the B-2 will be retired.  The plans are now for the B-2 to be retired in 2032.  (B-1 by 2038, fwiw).  Are the USAF's new bomber plans a violation of the New START nuclear disarmament treaty?

This B-2 replica is how airmen practice arming the monster bomber.

Ten years ago, a B-2 crashed in Guam.


Despite the budget woes, the B-21 remains on schedule. Supposedly.  There are also rumors of multiple prototypes in the air.  No verification on the claim though.

Next Generation Air Dominance/Penetrating Counter Air:

The budget request for the NGAD/PCA 6th generation fighter has risen to half a billion.  There is something definitely afoot.  Demonstrators, perhaps?  There are rumors.

USAF is investing heavily next gen tech to replace the F-15 and F-22.  How the USAF does this is up in the air.

E-8C Joint Stars Replacement:

The JSTARS replacement might be on stealthy aircraft.


The US Air Force is fast tracking Rapid Raptor, a program to have four F-22s be deployable within 24 hours to anywhere in the world.

ADS-B transponders might be a security risk for the F-22.


An F-35 round-up.

The F-35 is getting automatic ground collision avoidance software.

The F-35A's gun still struggles with accuracy.

LRIP 11 negotiations have restarted after over a year hiatus.

All three F-35 variants went through cold-weather testing at Eielsen AFB.

The USAF's 62nd Fighter Wing had its first B Course graduates.

The USAF has named the next bases to get the F-35.

An F-35 in Japan was spotted about to takeoff without its radar reflectors.

The USMC has been testing the F-35B landing on sloped pads.

The Japanese based USMC F-35Bs have made their debut at the Singapore air show.

USMC's 13th MEU with the Essex ARG are deploying with F-35Bs.

The US Navy has ordered the development of a new anti radiation missile that will fit inside the F-35's missile bay.

The US Navy will upgrade its networks to get the most out of the F-35C.

Trump's proposed 2019 budget has 9 F-35Cs, 20 F-35Bs and 48 F-35As.

Belgium has been cleared to buy up to 35 F-35s.

Belgium could still reject the F-35.

The British have their first F-35B graduates that have not flown other fighters first.

India has requested a classified briefing on the F-35A and is expressing interest in procuring 126.

No, Israel wanting to buy more F-15s is not a condemnation of the F-35.

Israel is getting more spare parts through a contract signed by the US Navy for its F-35s.

Lockheed is delivering a special variant of the Block 3F software for Israel's F-35Is.

Italy took delivery of the first F-35B assembled outside the US.

An Italian F-35B arrived at NAS Patuxent River.

Japan has deployed the F-35 to Misawa AFB, apparently AX-6.

Japan and South Korea want the F-35B for their assault ships.  Stratfor takes a gander at the idea.

Japan's Izumo may have been designed from the start to be a jeep carrier.

Japan is considering replacing its F-15Js with F-35Bs.

Japan is looking at an additional buy of 20 to 25 F-35As.

Norway has completed its tests of the braking chute.  Watch here.

Lockheed won a $7.5 million contract mod for the F-35.

Lockheed has denied offering India the F-35.

Lockheed favors future incremental software improvements.


China will equal the West in military air power soon.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Sierra Nevada gets Clearance for First DreamChaser Mission to ISS in Late 2020

NASA has given Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) formal approval for the company’s first cargo mission to the International Space Station in late 2020.

SNC announced Feb. 7 that it had received “authority to proceed” on that mission using the company’s Dream Chaser vehicle. The mission will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket in late 2020.

The mission is the first of six in the company’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) 2 contract it won in 2016 to transport cargo to and from the ISS. SNC received a CRS-2 contract along with current CRS providers Orbital ATK and SpaceX.

“While we won the contract a couple of years ago, the contract still needed to be validated by a task order,” said Mark Sirangelo, executive vice president of SNC’s Space Systems business area, in a Feb. 7 speech at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Conference here. That order, he said, is the “biggest step” to date on the program.

That flight will be a “full scale, fully operational mission,” he said, even though it will represent the first orbital flight of the Dream Chaser. Orbital ATK and SpaceX, who developed their Cygnus and Dragon spacecraft, respectively, under earlier NASA Space Act Agreements, flew demonstration missions before starting their operational CRS cargo flights.

Dream Chaser, which SNC had been developing for NASA’s commercial crew program, will be able to transport up to 5,500 kilograms of cargo to the station. The lifting body vehicle can return up to 2,000 kilograms of cargo from the station, making a runway landing at the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility or other airports to enable rapid access to experiments or other time-sensitive cargo after landing.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Russia and China Will Have Operational Anti Satellite Weapons in the Next Few Years

Experts have warned for some time that wars in space are not just Hollywood fiction. And the scenario appears increasingly more likely, according to the latest analysis by the U.S. intelligence community.

“We assess that, if a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against U.S. and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived U.S. military advantage derived from military, civil or commercial space systems,” warns the 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, released this week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The United States has benefitted from a tidal wave of innovation in the space industry, but so have many other nations. “Foreign countries — particularly China and Russia — will continue to expand their space-based reconnaissance, communications, and navigation systems in terms of the numbers of satellites, the breadth of their capability, and the applications for use,” said the report.

Both Russia and China continue to pursue anti-satellite weapons knowing that, if successfully employed, could undermine U.S. military capabilities, analysts noted. “Russia and China aim to have nondestructive and destructive counter-space weapons available for use during a potential future conflict.”

U.S. intelligence predicts that “destructive” Russian and Chinese anti-satellite weapons probably will reach “initial operational capability in the next few years.” China’s military is setting up specialized units and has begun “initial operational training with counter-space capabilities that it has been developing, such as ground-launched anti-satellite missiles.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Russian Mercenaries are Leading the Attacks on American Troops and Allies in Syria

American forces in Syria, along with their local partners, have now weathered two separate attacks from troops fighting on behalf of dictator Bashar Al Assad, one of which almost certainly involved some number of Russian military personnel or contractors from a company called Wagner. Though the United States soundly defeated its opponents in both cases, the incidents could be another sign of increasingly worrisome tensions with Russia in Syria as the situation in the country careens toward a larger regional conflagration.

On Feb. 13, 2018, U.S. personnel called in a air strike, involving an MQ-9 Reaper drone, to destroy a T-72 tank that had been firing at them and members of the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the bulk of which are Kurdish fighters, on the eastern side of the Euphrates River near Syria’s strategic city of Deir ez-Zor.

Almost a week earlier, those same American troops had summoned a massive amount of air and artillery support to brush back approximately 500 pro-Assad fighters and members of Wagner armed with tanks and other heavy weapons who assaulted their positions. The SDF and their U.S. advisers are situated to the east of a formal de-confliction line that is supposed to separate United States and Russian military activities and, by extension, those of their allies, specifically to avoid these sorts of dangerous engagements that could escalate into a larger conflict. The first skirmish reportedly resulted in the deaths of dozens of Russian private military contractors, who often act as deniable stand-ins for the Kremlin’s own forces.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Russia has Successfully Tested a Modernized Missile Defense Interceptor

The Air and Space Forces conducted a successful test launch of a "new modernized interceptor of the Russian missile defense system" at the Sary-Shagan test site. According to a VKS spokesman, the new interceptor has better accuracy and range and extended service life.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Russian MoD has Ordered two Battalions of T-14 Armata Tanks

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov has confirmed an order for two battalions of T-14 main battle tanks (MBTs), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported on its website on 9 February.

The order for the T-14 MBTs and T-15 heavy infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) is understood to have been placed in December 2017. Touring the Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil, Russia, Borisov said, “It’s no secret that we already have a contract for trials and combat operations: two battalions of Armata tanks and one battalion of heavy infantry fighting vehicles.” Both vehicles are based on the Armata common platform.

This is, iirc, only 60 tanks and 30 IFVs.

They are for evaluation and extended trials.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Which Countries are Embracing the Robopocalyse the Fastest?

The top 10 most automated countries in the world are: South Korea, Singapore, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, USA, Italy, Belgium and Taiwan. This is according to the 2017 World Robot Statistics, issued by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

“Robot density is an excellent standard for comparison in order to take into account the differences in the automation degree of the manufacturing industry in various countries,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “As a result of the high volume of robot installations in Asia in recent years, the region has the highest growth rate. Between 2010 and 2016, the average annual growth rate of robot density in Asia was 9 percent, in the Americas 7 percent and in Europe 5 percent.”

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Robopocalypse Report #99 (mini version)

DOT Secretary Elaine Chao thinks deregulation will help autonomous vehicles come to market faster.

US DOT called a summit on self driving cars on March 1st.

Driverless cars might not actually help with traffic and other problems, according to some.

Will self driving cars actually kill car ownership in 2030?

How do you get people to trust self driving cars more?  By making them act like people?!

A motorcyclist that got in a dust up with a GM/Cruise self driving car is suing the company.  This might set legal precedent for who is liable for the self driving vehicle.

Byton will get its self driving tech from Aurora.

Continental, the German car components maker, has selected NVIDIA as its computational core for its self driving products.

Data released by California show the self driving cars being developed are needing human intervention less and less.

Didi has teamed with Renault-Nissan to start a self driving car service in China. released its report on progress on its autonomous vehicles.

Embark's self driving semi drove from California to Florida.  Or is was the semi semi autonomous?

Ford patented the concept of an autonomous police car.  It's not robocop.

A convoy of autonomous Hyundais drove from Seoul to Pyeongchang.

Mclaren's will have autonomous tech in the future.

Nuro wants to use self driving cars to deliver packages.

Rimac's new hypercar will have a 120 kwh battery and level 4 autonomy.  Supposedly.

The Teamster's Union is demanding UPS NOT use drones or self driving vehicles as part of the contract negotiations.  You would think a union that takes its name from those people who used to drive teams of horses would be a bit sharper than that.

Tesla keeps having people try to trick its Autopilot software into allowing hands free driving.

Tesla is still planning the delayed coast to coast self driving car demo.

A Toyota exec claims self driving cars will kill mass market cars, except for luxury and performance cars.  This is a possible outcome in metropolitan areas, but out back home in New Mexico and other 'fly over' places, I bet that will not work.  The density will be too low.

Uber claims self driving trucks will result in more, not less truck drivers on the road.

Uber and Lyft want to ban nonfleet self driving cars from dense urban cores.  Some are decrying that.

Uber vs Waymo trial over theft of self driving car tech got under way Monday.  What was learned on day one of the trial?  In opening statements, Uber and Waymo throw some lightning bolts.  Levandowski considered selling Otto to Lyft.  Uber and Waymo reached a settlement where Waymo would get .34 % (or roughly at the current valuation of Uber of ~$245 million).  Uber was able to negotiate down the settlement from ~$500 million.

Udelv has started testing autonomous delivery vehicles in San Mateo, California.

Waymo is buying thousands of FCA minivans for its expanding Phoenix area self driving car service.

Waymo's cars are the most advanced.

Yandex's self driving car tech is making progress.  Watch their self driving car navigate Moscow.

Friday, February 16, 2018

When a Flying Car Crashes...

2004 EW95: A C Type Asteroid Found in Kuiper Belt


Seccull et al


Models of the Solar System's dynamical evolution predict the dispersal of primitive planetesimals from their formative regions amongst the gas-giant planets due to the early phases of planetary migration. Consequently, carbonaceous objects were scattered both into the outer asteroid belt and out to the Kuiper Belt. These models predict that the Kuiper Belt should contain a small fraction of objects with carbonaceous surfaces, though to date, all reported visible reflectance spectra of small Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) are linear and featureless. We report the unusual reflectance spectrum of a small KBO, (120216) 2004 EW95, which exhibits a large drop in its near-UV reflectance and a broad shallow optical absorption feature centered at ~700 nm. These features, confirmed through multiple epochs of spectral photometry and spectroscopy, have respectively been associated with ferric oxides and phyllosilicates. The spectrum bears striking resemblance to those of some C-type asteroids, suggesting that those objects may share a common origin with 2004 EW95. 2004 EW95 orbits the Sun in a stable mean motion resonance with Neptune, at relatively high eccentricity and inclination, suggesting it may have been emplaced there by some past dynamical instability. These results appear consistent with the aforementioned model predictions and are the first to show a reliably confirmed detection of silicate material on a small KBO.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

China Conducted Another Missile Defense Test

China has successfully carried out another test of an anti-missile intercept system, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday, describing it as defensive and not aimed at any country.

China has been ramping up research into all sorts of missiles, from those which can destroy satellites in space to advanced nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, as part of an ambitious modernization scheme overseen by President Xi Jinping.

The Defence Ministry said in a brief statement the “ground-based midcourse anti-missile intercept technology” had been tested on Monday within China’s borders.

“The test reached its expected goals,” the ministry said. “This test was defensive and not aimed at any country.”

It provided no other details.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

China's Space Ambitions are Growing

NATTY yellow carts whizz tourists around Wenchang space port, a sprawling launch site on the tropical island of Hainan. The brisk tour passes beneath an enormous poster of Xi Jinping, China’s president, then disgorges passengers for photographs not far from a skeletal launch tower. Back at the visitor centre there is a small exhibition featuring space suits, a model moon-rover and the charred husk of a re-entry capsule that brought Chinese astronauts back from orbit. A gift shop at the exit sells plastic rockets, branded bottle openers and cuddly alien mascots.

The base in a township of Wenchang city is the newest of China’s four space-launch facilities. It is also by far the easiest to visit—thanks in part to the enthusiasm of officials in Hainan, a haven for tourists and rich retirees. Wenchang’s local government has adopted a logo for the city reminiscent of Starfleet badges in “Star Trek”. It is building a space-themed tourist village near the launch site, with attractions that include a field of vegetables grown from seeds that have been carried in spaceships.

If the dream is to turn this palm-fringed corner of Hainan into a tourist trap comparable to Florida’s balmy space coast, there is still a lot to do. Several idle building sites suggest that some investors have gambled rashly. Signs have been taken down from a patch of scrub that was once earmarked for an amusement centre. On a recent weekday, pensioners wintering nearby were among the few visitors to the launch site. A local says that people often come out feeling like they have had a lesson in patriotism, but not much fun.

Perhaps this will change when Wenchang gets up to speed. The base is crucial to China’s extraterrestrial ambitions because it is the only site from which it can launch its latest and largest rocket, the Long March 5 (pictured). Narrow railway tunnels limit the size of the components that can be delivered to the three other bases. Rockets are anyway more efficient the closer they are launched to the equator, where the faster rotation of Earth provides extra lift. Of China’s launch centres, Wenchang is by far the nearest to that sweet spot.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Boston Dynamics Mini Spot can Open Doors

China Might Beat the Rest of the World to an Exascale Supercomputer

China's rise to the top of the supercomputing world has been swift. It's only been in this decade that the country first claimed bragging rights to the world's most powerful supercomputer. It has held a tight grip on those rights the last few years. The United States is expected to reclaim the top spot later this year, as it is nearing completion of Summit, a supercomputer that is expected to be twice as powerful as its closest rival. Nevertheless, China is widely expected to produce the first supercomputer capable of carrying out 1 billion billion calculations per second, or 1 exaflop. If this exascale supercomputer comes online in 2020 as promised, that could put it a year or more ahead of similar exascale systems now being developed in the United States, Japan, and the European Union.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Olympic Drone Swarm

Ukraine Might Separate Cryptocurrency Mining From Cryptocurrency Use...Legally

Ukrainian legislators should separate the regulation of crypto mining from the legal status of cryptocurrencies. The new approach was proposed by the chairman of an important parliamentary committee who criticized law enforcement agencies for cracking down on crypto miners. Police confiscated mining equipment in a series of raids this week. Authorities claim that coins have been used to finance pro-Russian separatists.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Most Cryptocurrencies Will Collapse According to Goldman Research Head

The tumble in cryptocurrencies that erased nearly $500 billion of market value over the past month could get a lot worse, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s global head of investment research.

ost digital currencies are unlikely to survive in their current form, and investors should prepare for coins to lose all their value as they’re replaced by a small set of future competitors, Goldman’s Steve Strongin said in a report dated Feb. 5. While he didn’t posit a timeframe for losses in existing coins, he said recent price swings indicated a bubble and that the tendency for different tokens to move in lockstep wasn’t rational for a “few-winners-take-most” market.

“The high correlation between the different cryptocurrencies worries me,” Strongin said. “Because of the lack of intrinsic value, the currencies that don’t survive will most likely trade to zero.”

Man Suing Tmobile for "Hackers" Stealing his Bitcoins Through Social Engineering

A man sued T-Mobile on Sunday, claiming that the company’s lack of security allowed hackers to enter his wireless account last fall and steal cryptocoins worth thousands of dollars.

Carlos Tapang of Washington state accuses T-Mobile of having “improperly allowed wrongdoers to access” his wireless account on November 7th last year. The hackers then cancelled his number and transferred it to an AT&T account under their control. “T-Mobile was unable to contain this security breach until the next day,” when it finally got the number back from AT&T, Tapang alleges in the suit, first spotted by Law360.

After gaining control of his phone number, the hackers were able to change the password on one of Tapang’s cryptocurrency accounts and steal 1,000 OmiseGo (OMG) tokens and 19.6 BitConnect coins, Tapang claims.

The hackers then exchanged the coins for 2.875 Bitcoin and transferred it out of his account, the suit states. On November 7th, the price of Bitcoin was $7,118.80, so had the hackers cashed out then, they would have netted a profit of $20,466.55.

Tapang goes on to say, “After the incident, BTC price reached more than $17,000.00 per coin,” but given the volatility of bitcoin prices, the hackers may not have benefited from the soar.

The suit alleges T-Mobile is at fault partly because the carrier said it would add a PIN code to Tapang’s account prior to the incident, but didn’t actually implement it. Tapang also states that hackers are able to call T-Mobile’s customer support multiple times to gain access to customer accounts, until they’re able to get an agent on the line that would grant them access without requiring further identity verification. The complaint also lists several anonymous internet users who have posted about similar security breaches to their own T-Mobile accounts.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Cryptocurrencies Affect One Another, but not Other Asset Classes

A sharp fall in the value of Bitcoin may cause other cryptocurrencies to crash, but is unlikely to have a significant impact on traditional assets, according to new research published in the journal Economics Letters.

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University, Dublin City University and Trinity College Dublin examined the performance of three established cryptocurrencies - Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ripple - and analysed their relationship with a variety of other financial assets such as gold, bonds and stocks.

The study found that Bitcoin prices affect Ripple, with a spillover of 28.37%, and Litecoin (42.3%), while the highest spillover from a cryptocurrency to a "traditional" asset was Bitcoin to Forex (FX), at 15.25%. In reverse, the highest price spillover from traditional assets to a cryptocurrency - Forex (FX) to Bitcoin - is only 4.18%.

The study also found that the volatility of cryptocurrencies is significantly higher than that of other assets, and that Ripple and Litecoin have limited influence on Bitcoin, proving that Bitcoin is the clear leader in the cryptocurrency market. The research also suggests that Ripple and Litecoin have seen their values increased thanks to the rapid growth of Bitcoin.

Co-author Dr Larisa Yarovaya, Lecturer in Accounting and Finance at Anglia Ruskin University, said: "We identified that cryptocurrencies are relatively isolated from other financial assets, but are interlinked with each other.

"This means a decrease in the price of Bitcoin is unlikely to decrease the price of gold, or negatively affect the stock market of US, but the strong links between Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies mean that those markets will fall.

US Regulators Believe Cryptocurrencies Need Special Oversight

Digital currencies such as bitcoin demand increased oversight and may require a new federal regulatory framework, the top U.S. markets regulators will tell lawmakers at a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Christopher Giancarlo, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), will provide testimony to the Senate Banking Committee amid growing global concerns over the risks virtual currencies pose to investors and the financial system.

Giancarlo and Clayton will say a patchwork of rules for cryptocurrency exchanges may need to be reviewed in favor of a rationalized federal framework, according to prepared testimony published on Monday.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

India Interested in Blockchain Tech, NOT Cryptocurrencies

The Indian government is getting more serious about using blockchain technology into the growing digital economy of the country. But this does not mean it is going soft on cryptocurrencies.

“Distributed ledger system or the block chain technology allows organization of any chain of records or transactions without the need of intermediaries,” said finance minister Arun Jaitely while presenting the Union Budget 2018-19 in Parliament on Thursday.

“The Government does not consider crypto-currencies legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate use of these crypto-assets in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payment system. The government will explore use of block chain technology proactively for ushering in digital economy.”

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

British Banks are Banning Cryptocurrency Purchases

It's happened in the US and now it's happening in the UK. Lloyds Banking Group, which runs Halifax, Bank of Scotland, MBNA and, of course, Lloyds, has banned its customers from buying bitcoin with their credit cards. "We do not accept credit card transactions involving the purchase of cryptocurrencies," a Lloyds Banking Group spokesperson told the Guardian. It's thought to be the first UK bank — or rather, banking chain — to block its members from investing in the cryptocurrency. The worry, presumably, is that people will borrow cash and then be saddled with large amounts of debt they cannot pay back due to Bitcoin's fluctuating value.

Bitcoin had a stellar trajectory in 2017, rising from roughly $800 in January to $19,783 in late December. As the value grew, so did the attention of traditional investors and tech-savvy citizens who wanted to make a quick buck. The following month, however, Bitcoin's value cratered. The reasons are unclear, but it was a harsh reminder of the volatility of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin now sits at just under $8,000 and understandably, banks are worried about its customers getting caught up in the craze. We've asked HSBC, Barclays, Santander and First Direct for their current position on credit card-funded Bitcoin transactions.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

US Banks are Banning Purchasing Cryptocurrencies With Credit Cards

If you use your Bank of America-, JP Morgan Chase- or Citigroup-issued credit card to buy cryptocurrency, then you'll have to find an alternative ASAP. According to Bloomberg, the banks have banned crypto purchase using their cards due to the virtual coins' volatile nature. BofA has already started declining credit transactions with known exchanges, though its debit cards aren't be affected by the ban. Citigroup also announced on Friday that it'll no longer process crypto purchases, while JP Morgan Chase's new rule will take effect today.

JPMorgan spokesperson Mary Jane Rogers said the bank has decided to impose a restriction on crypto purchases, because it doesn't want to deal with the risks associated with it. In addition to the difficulties of keeping an eye on purchases -- something they're required to do -- associated with crypto-coins, there's also always the risk of somebody buying more than they can afford to pay. In addition, identity thieves could use stolen credit cards to buy cryptocurrency, and banks have little chance (if any) to get that money back.

These banks aren't the only financial institutions backing away from anything associated with crypto. Capital One Financial and Discover also don't allow cryptocurrency purchases with their credit cards. Discover chief David Nelms even described people using virtual coins as "crooks... trying to get money out of China or wherever." A Coinbase staff member has also revealed in a Reddit post that major credit card networks and providers recently changed the terms of digital currency purchases. The new terms allow them to treat those purchases as a cash advance, which carries additional charges and have higher interest rates.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

India Spending Almost $25 billion for Next Aircraft Carrier

The Indian Navy is moving ahead with a big-ticket proposal for acquiring its third aircraft carrier which is expected to cost around Rs 1.6 lakh crore along with the additional component of 57 fighter aircraft.

The Navy has one operational aircraft carrier in the INS Vikramaditya while another one, INS Vikrant, is under construction at the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) and is expected to join service in the next few years.

“The Navy is planning to field its Rs 70,000 crore proposal before the defence ministry in near future which will cost around Rs 1.6 lakh crore at the approval stage itself along with the fighter plane component and the actual costs will go higher further as the programme moves ahead,” government sources told Mail Today.

The Navy has plans of buying 57 twin-engine fighter planes for the third aircraft carrier for which American F-18 and French Dassault Rafale are in the race.

“If one goes by the cost of the 36 Rafales acquired for the Air Force, the 57 planes are not going to cost us less than Rs 90,000-95,000 crore,” the sources said.

Some think it is a waste.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Paleolithic Papers #18

Genus Homo:

Stone tools found in Attirampakkam, India push back the first occurrence of Levallois style stone tools.  200,000 years earlier than the previous occurrence.

John Hawks speculates about the potential for mitochondrial DNA introgression.

How to screw up stone tools.

H. sapiens:

The Indonesian island of Kisar is unusually rich in cave paintings.

It now appears that modern humans dispersed out of Africa multiple times prior to 60,000 years ago.

Humanity might be at its peak potential physically.

There is a bunfight over how to interpret South African mesolithic sites.

How deep into the Pleistocene did modern humans live in Indonesia?

The Out of Africa model is getting challenged again.

The Americas were peopled in one wave, by and large, for so implied by the genome of a 11,500 child found in Alaska from a new population from Holocene/Pleistocene Boundary Alaska.

Scandinavia was populated through two migrations at the end of the ice age.

A new jaw found in Israel of what appears to be a modern human pushes back the oldest date modern human remains have been found outside of Africa.  John Hawks has his own take.

At least four distinct populations of humans were present in Eurasia during the Late Pleistocene.

Archaeologists have reconstructed post ice age spear points from Holocene Boundary Alaska.

A Mesolithic 'crayon' may have been recovered from England.

The Bonn-Oberkassel dog found buried with two modern humans was very ill from distemper and would have required extensive care that would have made it useless as a helper or hunter for some time before its death.

H. neanderthalensis:

Were the Neandertals stymied by the glacial lakes of Siberia?

Neandertals appear to have collected hunting trophies.

Did the Neandertal home range get fragmented into smaller pockets due to climate change?

H. erectus:

Inner tooth morphology from the H. erectus finds of Zhoukoudian.

H. habilis:

Where OH24 and OH56 were found.

Genus Australopithecus:

A. africanus:

Little Foot has been prepared and shared with the world.

Genus Sahelanthropus:

John Hawks points out something weird is afoot with the Sahelanthropus femur.


Human evolution has been uneven, punctuated.

A hypothesis has been proposed for the evolution of the digital sesamoids in the hominin line.

Taking a look at the materials of stone tools and their performance.

Lessons learned from the Piltdown doubters.

How hominins procured the raw materials for stone tools in the Lower Pleistocene.

Estimating body masses in hominins.

When did pair bonding become a thing in hominins?

Friday, February 02, 2018

Deep Space Gateway Update #1

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has formalized its agreement with NASA under Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2), signing a contract to design and develop a prototype for a deep space habitat. The formal signing of the contract under NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement, Appendix A: Habitat Systems, aimed at enabling potential long-duration human missions in deep space, clears the way for actual production of SNC’s prototype in the coming months.

SNC is partnering with Aerojet Rocketdyne and ILC Dover to begin the conceptual architectural design; they will build a full-scale ground prototype of the main habitable volume over the next 19 months.

“The future of human spaceflight includes long-duration travel in deep space and these prototypes will help develop the concepts to make it possible. The idea that humans are starting to expand farther into space than ever before is exciting and we’re thrilled to be a part of it,” said Fatih Ozmen, owner and CEO of SNC.

The public-private habitation development work supports NASA’s study of a deep space gateway concept in cislunar space. Located in lunar orbit, a gateway could enable a new level of space exploration never before possible. NASA gateway studies and prototypes will be used to look at commercial capabilities and risk reduction as the agency defines requirements and objectives for the spaceport.

Japan and the United States have expressed interest in collaborating on the Deep Space Gateway.

The Russians claim they will send their first cosmonauts to the DSG in 2027.  Better check your tickets again, Vladimir.  After all, you guys just said the rocket for such a launch won't really be ready until 2032.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Is the Cyrptocurrency Tether Actually Backed by US Dollars?

THE CRYPTOCURRENCY WORLD, with its volatility, is all about FUD—fear, uncertainty, doubt. And nothing is generating more FUD right now than an unusual currency called tether.

Unlike bitcoin and its many siblings, tether is what is called a stablecoin, an entity designed to not fluctuate in value. With most cryptocurrencies prone to wild swings, tether offers people who dabble in the market the option of buying a currency that its backers say is pegged to the US dollar. Trading bitcoin for dollars at a bank can be cumbersome and costly; by comparison, acquiring tether is simple, cheap and fast.

But in recent weeks a chorus of skeptics has called into question nearly everything about tether. The root of the controversy is whether the company behind it, also called Tether, is telling the truth when it claims that every unit in circulation is matched by a US dollar it holds in reserve. If the company has a dollar for every tether, that means in theory any holder can sell tethers back to the company for an equal number of dollars at any time. This belief keeps the value of a tether pegged to a dollar.

Critics on Twitter, Reddit, in blog posts, and at a recent bitcoin conference have been demanding that the company prove its reserves through external audits. Not only has Tether failed to do so, last week it confirmed rumors that it had severed ties with Friedman LLP, the accounting firm on tap to perform those audits. On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission had sent subpoenas to Tether. A Tether spokesperson said, "We routinely receive legal process from law enforcement agents and regulators conducting investigations. It is our policy not to comment on any such requests." The spokesperson declined other comment.