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A Path of Challenges: Will CBDCs Prevail Over Private Blockchains?

A Path of Challenges: Will CBDCs Prevail Over Private Blockchains?



CBDCs will be the leading digital currencies of the future, and only the competition between various models will determine the winner.

Real innovations and breakthroughs don’t happen in the blink of an eye. Bitcoin (BTC) took many years to get to mainstream users since its inception in 2009. The bull market run in 2017 drastically improved crypto market volumes, but institutions still regarded it as another “dot com” bubble.

Later, when distributed ledger technology, or DLT, was more widely accepted, a new type of digital asset aimed at bringing stability to the crypto market gained full recognition. Stablecoins had been (and still are) issued by private firms, but many failed to operate successfully for various reasons in 2020.

Now, governments are exploring ways to not lose their grip on global finance via technology, developing stablecoins and central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs. What will prevail over time, private initiatives or state?

Trusting the blockchain

The latest research from Big Four audit firm Deloitte indicates that nearly 40% of the firms surveyed have already implemented blockchain in their business ventures. However, the commercially viable immutability of DLT has both pros and cons. An evident benefit with this technology is that no one can retroactively forge crucial data or alter vital information. Blockchain is a perfect demonstration of the trust quantification model gone live.

As to the tech’s downsides, even parties who can’t afford any chance of error still make mistakes from time to time: judges, prosecutors as well as various governmental bodies at large. Moreover, all the official services or banking structures experience certain issues and database errors, which they often try to cover up. The blockchain has no preferences, as no user is able to change data or record there, and making a mistake would bring more negative consequences than ever before. 

Benefits of stablecoins

Stablecoins’ benefits create significant room for these assets in financial systems. Clients would get faster transactions with lower costs and improved security of their payment systems. Credit risk would also be stabilized. Moreover, simplified cross-border transfers would further drive global financial market development, resulting in a significant decrease in the number of shadow operations. Cash will become obsolete as soon as digital assets are transformed into mainstream and primary methods of payments. The COVID-19 pandemic only incentivized the transition to a cashless society and further discussions about stablecoins and CBDC models, but people’s trust for the technology can’t be built in a day.

At the same time, a disruption of traditional banking may result in the loss of competitiveness among digital payment systems, with increased Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer measures implemented into financial activities likely hampering the way companies do business. Finally, the involvement of the state in technological implementation disrupts the initial vital aspect of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies — decentralization.

A stablecoin on a public blockchain frees the system from mandatory AML checks for each transaction. Excessive regulation and globalization have made the supervision function of the payment intermediary totally commercially unprofitable. The risks and potential fines that banks must pay in the event of a money-laundering scandal strongly outweigh the benefits of processing some payments. Since the regulation field has become much more complicated over the past 20 years, banks’ response to this trend is simply denying economic agents the constitutional right to move their honestly earned money and acquire goods or services globally. It is cheaper for a bank to refuse a transaction than to spend resources understanding the details. Therefore, one of the functionalities of stablecoins is their AML-free layer.

From private to official level

Since the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, among other watchdogs, went on high alert lately, things promise to get hot in the legal field. After the decay of Telegram’s TON and many ongoing problems for Facebook’s Libra ecosystem, it became evident that private companies will face countless challenges in the future. Is there a way for Libra and global stablecoins to survive in 2020 and beyond?

The chances are high, but only if they won’t mix different monetary policies of the U.S. dollar and euro zones. Why? The primary target for the Federal Reserve is unemployment, while for the European Central Bank, it is price stability. Going back in history to 2008, the Fed lowered interest rates, while the ECB, in turn, raised them.

Meanwhile, the topic of central bank digital currencies has been of major interest as stablecoins gained more popularity in the crypto world. Even before the notorious winter of 2019 occurred, more and more market participants and institutional clients became excited about the stablecoin’s model benefits. World governments and large companies surely noticed the trend and started to experiment in this area, but there had never been any common direction to follow.

What is the main challenge of creating a CBDC? Misconceptions about it have only increased, despite numerous discussions, conferences and articles written on the topic.

Nothing is arcane about the idea, but the global perception is a bit misguided, since a clear point of view must be taken to understand the CBDC model differences. From a technical, architectural point of view, there are two models: a wholesale CBDC in which central bank reserves can only be accessed and used by a small number of certain financial institutions, or a retail CBDC model in which non-banking institutions can get direct access to digital central bank funds. Many economists and central banks do not support any idea of a universally accessible digital central bank currency. The critical stumbling stone here is that CBDC implementation will result in financial instability and even worse consequences for commercial banks.

There are numerous reasons behind the slow pace of crypto acceptance in the world. The whole story is quite the same as with video streaming back in the 90s: Emerging technologies are developing faster than the actual market or the target audience is ready. Infrastructure is of critical importance. In Europe, for example, countries such as Greece and Italy need to install the needed tech infrastructure fast so that users can pay for goods or services if crypto goes mainstream.

To gain needed access to the markets and financial services of the crypto industry, the problem of institutional and technological capacity first needs to be solved, but this is unlikely to happen in the near future due to a lack of required infrastructure. It is still unclear when blockchain will scale adequately and whether CBDCs should run on a permissionless one.

Unraveling the set of global questions

What is the leading digital currency of the future? Is it digital dollar or digital euro? Or digital yuan, perhaps, as China is currently spearheading this direction. Moreover, the latest news suggests that the Italian Banking Association is also willing to pilot a digital euro. Japan has also joined the club of countries willing to research and experiment with a CBDC.

Why are we seeing so much talk and no walk so far? Apart from China, where the digital yuan has made its way from concept to development quite fast, many other government initiatives are often discussed, but no real project by central banks has made its way towards launch. Stablecoins are true die-hard assets of crypto, as out of hundreds of privately run projects, only a few have survived and continued operations in 2020 — Tether (USDT), TrueUSD (TUSD), Paxos (PAX) and EURS.

After all, all bets are on for the euro, ultimately. Macro-wise, it’s the only freely convertible currency with almost 500 million of natural populations and a positive current account.

Judging by today’s perspective, CBDCs will likely follow a wholesale variant route, which will cut off its accessibility for the retail segment. But there is still a piece of pie for private companies: The imminent launch of wholesale CBDCs and their further existence will not likely hamper the popularity of leading stablecoins.

However, a survey made by the Bank for International Settlements clearly indicates that we can expect central banks to issue a retail CBDC within the next few years. Introducing such a retail CBDC poses risks for the data privacy of clients and for financial stability. If retail CBDCs ever become a reality, the commercial banks will suffer heavy losses, since people will run to withdraw their deposits and move it to the central bank accounts. What’s the point of holding savings with commercial institutions that have their own credit risk and are fractionally reserved?

Will such a solution prevail over private projects like Tether at some point? If implemented successfully, it will be inaccessible to the general public, but rather become a wholesale asset invisible to John Citizen. Can CBDCs kill Bitcoin and other cryptos if launched successfully? Of course not, since the money supply policy will be completely different. Bitcoin supply is like digital gold, capped at 21 million, while CBDCs or stablecoins will closely correlate to the M2 money supply.

The competition between various models will ultimately determine the winner. But the legalization of stablecoins for private companies is crucial now, as allowing them to have a legal account in a state bank or government bonds will widen the market and ultimately benefit the development of the next stage of the digital economy.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Gregory Klumov is a stablecoin expert whose insights and opinions appear regularly in numerous international publications. He is the founder and CEO of Stasis, a technology provider that issues the most widely used euro-backed stablecoins with a high transparency standard in the digital-asset industry.

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Veterans Affairs Kept COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate In Place Without Evidence

Veterans Affairs Kept COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate In Place Without Evidence

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),




Veterans Affairs Kept COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate In Place Without Evidence

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reviewed no data when deciding in 2023 to keep its COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place.

Doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in Washington in a file image. (Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

VA Secretary Denis McDonough said on May 1, 2023, that the end of many other federal mandates “will not impact current policies at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

He said the mandate was remaining for VA health care personnel “to ensure the safety of veterans and our colleagues.”

Mr. McDonough did not cite any studies or other data. A VA spokesperson declined to provide any data that was reviewed when deciding not to rescind the mandate. The Epoch Times submitted a Freedom of Information Act for “all documents outlining which data was relied upon when establishing the mandate when deciding to keep the mandate in place.”

The agency searched for such data and did not find any.

The VA does not even attempt to justify its policies with science, because it can’t,” Leslie Manookian, president and founder of the Health Freedom Defense Fund, told The Epoch Times.

“The VA just trusts that the process and cost of challenging its unfounded policies is so onerous, most people are dissuaded from even trying,” she added.

The VA’s mandate remains in place to this day.

The VA’s website claims that vaccines “help protect you from getting severe illness” and “offer good protection against most COVID-19 variants,” pointing in part to observational data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that estimate the vaccines provide poor protection against symptomatic infection and transient shielding against hospitalization.

There have also been increasing concerns among outside scientists about confirmed side effects like heart inflammation—the VA hid a safety signal it detected for the inflammation—and possible side effects such as tinnitus, which shift the benefit-risk calculus.

President Joe Biden imposed a slate of COVID-19 vaccine mandates in 2021. The VA was the first federal agency to implement a mandate.

President Biden rescinded the mandates in May 2023, citing a drop in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. His administration maintains the choice to require vaccines was the right one and saved lives.

“Our administration’s vaccination requirements helped ensure the safety of workers in critical workforces including those in the healthcare and education sectors, protecting themselves and the populations they serve, and strengthening their ability to provide services without disruptions to operations,” the White House said.

Some experts said requiring vaccination meant many younger people were forced to get a vaccine despite the risks potentially outweighing the benefits, leaving fewer doses for older adults.

By mandating the vaccines to younger people and those with natural immunity from having had COVID, older people in the U.S. and other countries did not have access to them, and many people might have died because of that,” Martin Kulldorff, a professor of medicine on leave from Harvard Medical School, told The Epoch Times previously.

The VA was one of just a handful of agencies to keep its mandate in place following the removal of many federal mandates.

“At this time, the vaccine requirement will remain in effect for VA health care personnel, including VA psychologists, pharmacists, social workers, nursing assistants, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, peer specialists, medical support assistants, engineers, housekeepers, and other clinical, administrative, and infrastructure support employees,” Mr. McDonough wrote to VA employees at the time.

This also includes VA volunteers and contractors. Effectively, this means that any Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employee, volunteer, or contractor who works in VHA facilities, visits VHA facilities, or provides direct care to those we serve will still be subject to the vaccine requirement at this time,” he said. “We continue to monitor and discuss this requirement, and we will provide more information about the vaccination requirements for VA health care employees soon. As always, we will process requests for vaccination exceptions in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies.”

The version of the shots cleared in the fall of 2022, and available through the fall of 2023, did not have any clinical trial data supporting them.

A new version was approved in the fall of 2023 because there were indications that the shots not only offered temporary protection but also that the level of protection was lower than what was observed during earlier stages of the pandemic.

Ms. Manookian, whose group has challenged several of the federal mandates, said that the mandate “illustrates the dangers of the administrative state and how these federal agencies have become a law unto themselves.”

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/09/2024 - 22:10

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Are Voters Recoiling Against Disorder?

Are Voters Recoiling Against Disorder?

Authored by Michael Barone via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The headlines coming out of the Super…



Are Voters Recoiling Against Disorder?

Authored by Michael Barone via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The headlines coming out of the Super Tuesday primaries have got it right. Barring cataclysmic changes, Donald Trump and Joe Biden will be the Republican and Democratic nominees for president in 2024.

(Left) President Joe Biden delivers remarks on canceling student debt at Culver City Julian Dixon Library in Culver City, Calif., on Feb. 21, 2024. (Right) Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump stands on stage during a campaign event at Big League Dreams Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nev., on Jan. 27, 2024. (Mario Tama/Getty Images; David Becker/Getty Images)

With Nikki Haley’s withdrawal, there will be no more significantly contested primaries or caucuses—the earliest both parties’ races have been over since something like the current primary-dominated system was put in place in 1972.

The primary results have spotlighted some of both nominees’ weaknesses.

Donald Trump lost high-income, high-educated constituencies, including the entire metro area—aka the Swamp. Many but by no means all Haley votes there were cast by Biden Democrats. Mr. Trump can’t afford to lose too many of the others in target states like Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Majorities and large minorities of voters in overwhelmingly Latino counties in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley and some in Houston voted against Joe Biden, and even more against Senate nominee Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas).

Returns from Hispanic precincts in New Hampshire and Massachusetts show the same thing. Mr. Biden can’t afford to lose too many Latino votes in target states like Arizona and Georgia.

When Mr. Trump rode down that escalator in 2015, commentators assumed he’d repel Latinos. Instead, Latino voters nationally, and especially the closest eyewitnesses of Biden’s open-border policy, have been trending heavily Republican.

High-income liberal Democrats may sport lawn signs proclaiming, “In this house, we believe ... no human is illegal.” The logical consequence of that belief is an open border. But modest-income folks in border counties know that flows of illegal immigrants result in disorder, disease, and crime.

There is plenty of impatience with increased disorder in election returns below the presidential level. Consider Los Angeles County, America’s largest county, with nearly 10 million people, more people than 40 of the 50 states. It voted 71 percent for Mr. Biden in 2020.

Current returns show county District Attorney George Gascon winning only 21 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan primary. He’ll apparently face Republican Nathan Hochman, a critic of his liberal policies, in November.

Gascon, elected after the May 2020 death of counterfeit-passing suspect George Floyd in Minneapolis, is one of many county prosecutors supported by billionaire George Soros. His policies include not charging juveniles as adults, not seeking higher penalties for gang membership or use of firearms, and bringing fewer misdemeanor cases.

The predictable result has been increased car thefts, burglaries, and personal robberies. Some 120 assistant district attorneys have left the office, and there’s a backlog of 10,000 unprosecuted cases.

More than a dozen other Soros-backed and similarly liberal prosecutors have faced strong opposition or have left office.

St. Louis prosecutor Kim Gardner resigned last May amid lawsuits seeking her removal, Milwaukee’s John Chisholm retired in January, and Baltimore’s Marilyn Mosby was defeated in July 2022 and convicted of perjury in September 2023. Last November, Loudoun County, Virginia, voters (62 percent Biden) ousted liberal Buta Biberaj, who declined to prosecute a transgender student for assault, and in June 2022 voters in San Francisco (85 percent Biden) recalled famed radical Chesa Boudin.

Similarly, this Tuesday, voters in San Francisco passed ballot measures strengthening police powers and requiring treatment of drug-addicted welfare recipients.

In retrospect, it appears the Floyd video, appearing after three months of COVID-19 confinement, sparked a frenzied, even crazed reaction, especially among the highly educated and articulate. One fatal incident was seen as proof that America’s “systemic racism” was worse than ever and that police forces should be defunded and perhaps abolished.

2020 was “the year America went crazy,” I wrote in January 2021, a year in which police funding was actually cut by Democrats in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver. A year in which young New York Times (NYT) staffers claimed they were endangered by the publication of Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) opinion article advocating calling in military forces if necessary to stop rioting, as had been done in Detroit in 1967 and Los Angeles in 1992. A craven NYT publisher even fired the editorial page editor for running the article.

Evidence of visible and tangible discontent with increasing violence and its consequences—barren and locked shelves in Manhattan chain drugstores, skyrocketing carjackings in Washington, D.C.—is as unmistakable in polls and election results as it is in daily life in large metropolitan areas. Maybe 2024 will turn out to be the year even liberal America stopped acting crazy.

Chaos and disorder work against incumbents, as they did in 1968 when Democrats saw their party’s popular vote fall from 61 percent to 43 percent.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times or ZeroHedge.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/09/2024 - 23:20

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The Coming Of The Police State In America

The Coming Of The Police State In America

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Epoch Times,

The National Guard and the State Police are now…



The Coming Of The Police State In America

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Epoch Times,

The National Guard and the State Police are now patrolling the New York City subway system in an attempt to do something about the explosion of crime. As part of this, there are bag checks and new surveillance of all passengers. No legislation, no debate, just an edict from the mayor.

Many citizens who rely on this system for transportation might welcome this. It’s a city of strict gun control, and no one knows for sure if they have the right to defend themselves. Merchants have been harassed and even arrested for trying to stop looting and pillaging in their own shops.

The message has been sent: Only the police can do this job. Whether they do it or not is another matter.

Things on the subway system have gotten crazy. If you know it well, you can manage to travel safely, but visitors to the city who take the wrong train at the wrong time are taking grave risks.

In actual fact, it’s guaranteed that this will only end in confiscating knives and other things that people carry in order to protect themselves while leaving the actual criminals even more free to prey on citizens.

The law-abiding will suffer and the criminals will grow more numerous. It will not end well.

When you step back from the details, what we have is the dawning of a genuine police state in the United States. It only starts in New York City. Where is the Guard going to be deployed next? Anywhere is possible.

If the crime is bad enough, citizens will welcome it. It must have been this way in most times and places that when the police state arrives, the people cheer.

We will all have our own stories of how this came to be. Some might begin with the passage of the Patriot Act and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security in 2001. Some will focus on gun control and the taking away of citizens’ rights to defend themselves.

My own version of events is closer in time. It began four years ago this month with lockdowns. That’s what shattered the capacity of civil society to function in the United States. Everything that has happened since follows like one domino tumbling after another.

It goes like this:

1) lockdown,

2) loss of moral compass and spreading of loneliness and nihilism,

3) rioting resulting from citizen frustration, 4) police absent because of ideological hectoring,

5) a rise in uncontrolled immigration/refugees,

6) an epidemic of ill health from substance abuse and otherwise,

7) businesses flee the city

8) cities fall into decay, and that results in

9) more surveillance and police state.

The 10th stage is the sacking of liberty and civilization itself.

It doesn’t fall out this way at every point in history, but this seems like a solid outline of what happened in this case. Four years is a very short period of time to see all of this unfold. But it is a fact that New York City was more-or-less civilized only four years ago. No one could have predicted that it would come to this so quickly.

But once the lockdowns happened, all bets were off. Here we had a policy that most directly trampled on all freedoms that we had taken for granted. Schools, businesses, and churches were slammed shut, with various levels of enforcement. The entire workforce was divided between essential and nonessential, and there was widespread confusion about who precisely was in charge of designating and enforcing this.

It felt like martial law at the time, as if all normal civilian law had been displaced by something else. That something had to do with public health, but there was clearly more going on, because suddenly our social media posts were censored and we were being asked to do things that made no sense, such as mask up for a virus that evaded mask protection and walk in only one direction in grocery aisles.

Vast amounts of the white-collar workforce stayed home—and their kids, too—until it became too much to bear. The city became a ghost town. Most U.S. cities were the same.

As the months of disaster rolled on, the captives were let out of their houses for the summer in order to protest racism but no other reason. As a way of excusing this, the same public health authorities said that racism was a virus as bad as COVID-19, so therefore it was permitted.

The protests had turned to riots in many cities, and the police were being defunded and discouraged to do anything about the problem. Citizens watched in horror as downtowns burned and drug-crazed freaks took over whole sections of cities. It was like every standard of decency had been zapped out of an entire swath of the population.

Meanwhile, large checks were arriving in people’s bank accounts, defying every normal economic expectation. How could people not be working and get their bank accounts more flush with cash than ever? There was a new law that didn’t even require that people pay rent. How weird was that? Even student loans didn’t need to be paid.

By the fall, recess from lockdown was over and everyone was told to go home again. But this time they had a job to do: They were supposed to vote. Not at the polling places, because going there would only spread germs, or so the media said. When the voting results finally came in, it was the absentee ballots that swung the election in favor of the opposition party that actually wanted more lockdowns and eventually pushed vaccine mandates on the whole population.

The new party in control took note of the large population movements out of cities and states that they controlled. This would have a large effect on voting patterns in the future. But they had a plan. They would open the borders to millions of people in the guise of caring for refugees. These new warm bodies would become voters in time and certainly count on the census when it came time to reapportion political power.

Meanwhile, the native population had begun to swim in ill health from substance abuse, widespread depression, and demoralization, plus vaccine injury. This increased dependency on the very institutions that had caused the problem in the first place: the medical/scientific establishment.

The rise of crime drove the small businesses out of the city. They had barely survived the lockdowns, but they certainly could not survive the crime epidemic. This undermined the tax base of the city and allowed the criminals to take further control.

The same cities became sanctuaries for the waves of migrants sacking the country, and partisan mayors actually used tax dollars to house these invaders in high-end hotels in the name of having compassion for the stranger. Citizens were pushed out to make way for rampaging migrant hordes, as incredible as this seems.

But with that, of course, crime rose ever further, inciting citizen anger and providing a pretext to bring in the police state in the form of the National Guard, now tasked with cracking down on crime in the transportation system.

What’s the next step? It’s probably already here: mass surveillance and censorship, plus ever-expanding police power. This will be accompanied by further population movements, as those with the means to do so flee the city and even the country and leave it for everyone else to suffer.

As I tell the story, all of this seems inevitable. It is not. It could have been stopped at any point. A wise and prudent political leadership could have admitted the error from the beginning and called on the country to rediscover freedom, decency, and the difference between right and wrong. But ego and pride stopped that from happening, and we are left with the consequences.

The government grows ever bigger and civil society ever less capable of managing itself in large urban centers. Disaster is unfolding in real time, mitigated only by a rising stock market and a financial system that has yet to fall apart completely.

Are we at the middle stages of total collapse, or at the point where the population and people in leadership positions wise up and decide to put an end to the downward slide? It’s hard to know. But this much we do know: There is a growing pocket of resistance out there that is fed up and refuses to sit by and watch this great country be sacked and taken over by everything it was set up to prevent.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/09/2024 - 16:20

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