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Bitcoin’s bid to become the “one chain to rule them all”

The Bitcoin 2022 conference brought over 25,000 attendees to Miami last month to discuss the future of the world’s largest cryptocurrency. The event,…



The Bitcoin 2022 conference brought over 25,000 attendees to Miami last month to discuss the future of the world’s largest cryptocurrency. The event, which attendees have described as “extravagant” and compared to a bacchanal, featured a now-notorious keynote speech by Peter Thiel in which the venture capitalist rallied Bitcoin supporters against a list of people whom he described as Bitcoin’s enemies, including Warren Buffet and Jamie Dimon.

While Thiel’s speech grabbed a lion’s share of the attention surrounding the conference, many investors, developers, and founders in the Bitcoin community convened at the same event to discuss a threat that could prove far more pressing than the aforementioned personae non gratae – competition.

Even as the overall crypto market has plunged this week, Bitcoin remains the most valuable crypto asset in the world with a market capitalization of around $589 billion as of May 9. Its status stems, in part, from the advantage of having been the first cryptocurrency token on a public blockchain. 

But as new blockchains continue to spring up, and after last year’s “DeFi” summer that brought new traction to Ethereum, Bitcoin investors have had to start watching their backs. Now, the blockchain’s backers are pouring capital into efforts to ensure it can maintain its dominance as a form of money and expand into other use cases through decentralized apps (dapps) to keep up with competitors like Ethereum and Solana.

Bitcoin’s payments edge

Bitcoin’s edge has typically been described as its value as an asset to hedge against inflation, much like gold, because of its fixed supply. Bitcoin supporters, including Thiel, ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood, and MicroStrategy’s Michael Saylor, all spoke at Bitcoin 2022 about its ability to act as a store of value when central banks relax their policies and let inflation run hot, as has been the case in the United States throughout the majority of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The reality has not been so simple, as Bitcoin has oftentimes traded down amid periods of rising inflation in the U.S. But Bitcoiners argue that its value is more clearly visible in developing nations, especially those experiencing hyperinflation or with sizable proportions of underbanked individuals. They view it as a relatively safe asset that can enable faster, more efficient payments both within and across borders.

The Bitcoin network itself only supports about five transactions per second, according to crypto exchange Binance. Bitcoin has integrated with a layer-two protocol called the Lightning Network to increase its speed and efficiency while lowering transaction costs, a piece of infrastructure used by the nation of El Salvador and major crypto exchanges such as Kraken.

Startup Lightning Labs, which raised a $70 million Series B round last month, is at the forefront of developing Bitcoin’s Lightning Network. It is building infrastructure for the Bitcoin Lightning Network akin to Visa’s payments network, Lightning Labs CEO and co-founder Elizabeth Stark told TechCrunch. 

Elizabeth Stark, chief executive officer of Lightning Labs Image Credits: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Lightning Network can execute hundreds of thousands of transactions per second by settling transactions off-chain in a separate ledger, thus freeing up space on the layer one Bitcoin blockchain while still adhering to its underlying protocol, Stark explained.

“People want access to Bitcoin, the asset … When you’re looking at stability, security and the global payments use case, and the global transaction aspects, that’s where Bitcoin and the Lightning Network will shine,” Stark said.

Lighting Labs recently announced a proposal to build Taro, a protocol that would allow individuals without bank accounts to send and receive money in the form of stablecoins that represent their domestic fiat currency through mobile applications. 

“If I were Visa, I’d be scared, because there are a lot of people out there that have mobile phones, but now don’t need to tap into the traditional system, and then the merchants don’t need to pay the 3% fee plus 30 cents [for a transaction]. You can have fees that are dramatically lower than the legacy system,” Stark told TechCrunch.

Startup Moon, in fact, partners with Visa to enable users to buy goods and services with Bitcoin through the Lightning Network at any U.S.-based e-commerce site using Visa’s rails. 

While Lightning Labs is focused on optimizing global payments through the Lighting Network, trading platform Robinhood has found the network useful in keeping network fees low on its new crypto offering, which it rolled out to users last month, Robinhood’s crypto CTO, Johan Kerbrat, told TechCrunch.

“We will support Lightning on the [Robinhood] app, so you will be able to connect it to pay merchants directly with the Lightning Network,” Kerbrat said. “It also means that you will be able to kind of create a channel between people using Robinhood outside of Robinhood and be able to exchange Bitcoin for almost zero fees.”

More than just an asset

Bitcoin’s low fees, enabled primarily by the Lightning Network, and early widespread adoption mean the blockchain has become synonymous with payments. Its closest competitor by value, Ethereum, is notorious for high network fees and is still worth less than half as much as Bitcoin by market cap. Newer challengers such as Solana offer lower transaction fees but are considered to be less secure. 

But despite Bitcoin’s dominance in the payments realm, other blockchains are developing capabilities far beyond simple monetary transfers. As an open-source blockchain, Ethereum lets developers easily build decentralized applications, or “dapps” on top of it, enabling use cases such as minting NFTs and offering DeFi lending products through which investors can earn interest. 

As a result, Ethereum has been able to amass the largest ecosystem of tools, apps, and protocols in the crypto world, and even competitors such as Polkdadot, Cosmos, and Solana have more developers working on their blockchains than Bitcoin does, according to venture firm Electric Capital’s 2021 Developer Report.

Bitcoin, meanwhile, ranks just fifth by number of developers, below Cosmos and Solana. Its backers are trying to give Bitcoin a boost and attract developers to work on new projects in the ecosystem.

“A lot of [discourse] has been just about Bitcoin as an asset, and not necessarily Bitcoin as the network. And now I think we’re starting to see that paradigm shift, where people are looking at it more as an infrastructure,” Alex Chizhik, head of listings at crypto exchange Okcoin told TechCrunch.

Chizhik co-chairs Bitcoin Odyssey, an initiative launched in March by Okcoin in conjunction with venture firms including Digital Currency Group, GSR, and White Star Capital, to deploy $165 million into projects that will “supercharge Bitcoin adoption,” according to the group

$165 million is a lot of money but seems like a drop in the bucket for the world’s biggest blockchain. Venture capitalists deployed over $30 billion into web3 last year, much of which flowed to projects on chains that innately enable smart contracts, unlike Bitcoin.

Stacks, formerly known as BlockStack, plays a crucial role in expanding use cases for Bitcoin. Its open-source network allows custom smart contracts to be built on Bitcoin, enabling developers to use the Bitcoin blockchain to create dapps. Dapps built on the Bitcoin network with Stacks include CityCoins, a token protocol through which local governments can raise money from investors, and NFT exchanges such as Hey Layer and STX NFT.

“Ethereum definitely is leading the way in what can be done with things like DeFi and asset ownership, like NFTs, but that’s largely probably in the past three years. I think Bitcoin now has this opportunity to kind of catch up, take some of the best lessons learned, and really unlock the value and the base layer chain,” Brittany Laughlin, executive director of the Stacks Foundation, told TechCrunch. 

Muneeb Ali, co-founder of Stacks Image Credits: Alex Flynn/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Stacks Foundation is a nonprofit arm within Stacks that supports governance, education, and grantmaking to improve infrastructure within the Bitcoin network. 

“Our role is really how to support growth of the network and make sure that we can fulfill our promise, which is a user-owned internet powered by Bitcoin,” Laughlin said.

Laughlin explained that without the Taproot upgrade implemented on the Bitcoin network late last year, which makes it easier and faster to verify transactions, the growth of Bitcoin as an ecosystem would have been much more limited. She noted that the Bitcoin community is generally hesitant to change anything about the protocol, and that even the Taproot upgrade was met with some internal resistance and conflict before it was finally implemented three years after it was first proposed. Still, she said, Taproot doesn’t solve all of the challenges Bitcoin faces, and further changes may be needed to continue building out the network.

Ultimately, though, Laughlin believes that Bitcoin will prevail in the long-run against other layer-one blockchains because of its first-mover advantage. 

“Anyone who’s holding $100 of Bitcoin, from El Salvador to New York City, if they want to take a loan against that [$100], or if they want to secure an asset with it, they could do that [with dapps on Bitcoin],” Laughlin said.

Laughlin compared Bitcoin’s race against other blockchains to Apple’s competition with Android, wherein Apple often launches products significantly later than Android does, but has a greater focus on the user experience. 

“Bitcoin is going to be like Apple, and secure the brand recognition, compatibility, and ease of use – all of that comes to mind when I think of Bitcoin.”

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Family Of College Student Who Died From COVID-19 Vaccine Sues Biden Administration

Family Of College Student Who Died From COVID-19 Vaccine Sues Biden Administration

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis…



Family Of College Student Who Died From COVID-19 Vaccine Sues Biden Administration

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

The family of a college student who died from heart inflammation caused by Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has sued President Joe Biden’s administration, alleging officials engaged in “willful misconduct.”

George Watts Jr. in a file image. (Courtesy of the Watts family)

U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) officials wrongly promoted COVID-19 vaccination by repeatedly claiming the available vaccines were “safe and effective,” relatives of George Watts Jr., the college student, said in the new lawsuit.

That promotion “duped millions of Americans, including Mr. Watts, into being DOD’s human subjects in its medical experiment, the largest in modern history,” the suit states.

The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act allows lawsuits against certain people if they have engaged in “willful misconduct” and if that misconduct caused death or serious injury.

COVID-19 vaccines are covered by the act due to a declaration entered during the Trump administration in 2020 after COVID-19 began circulating.

DOD’s conduct and the harm caused as alleged within the four corners of the lawsuit speaks for itself,” Ray Flores, a lawyer representing the Watts family, told The Epoch Times via email. “I have no further comment other than to say: My only duty is to advocate for my client. If the DOD conveys a settlement offer, I will see that it’s considered.”

The suit was filed in U.S. court in Washington.

The Pentagon and the Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment.

Watts Suddenly Died

Watts was a student at Corning Community College when the school mandated COVID-19 vaccination for in-person classes in 2021. He received one Pfizer dose on Aug. 27, 2021, and a second dose approximately three weeks later.

Watts soon began experiencing a range of symptoms, including tingling in the feet, pain in the heels, numbness in the hands and fingers, blood in his sperm and urine, and sinus pressure, according to family members and health records.

Watts went to the Robert Packer Hospital emergency room on Oct. 12, 2021, due to the symptoms. X-rays showed clear lungs and a normal heart outline.

Watts was sent home with suggestions to follow up with specialists but returned to the emergency room on Oct. 19, 2021, with worsening symptoms despite a week of the antibiotic Augmentin. He was diagnosed with sinusitis and bronchitis.

While speaking to his mother at home on Oct. 27, 2021, Watts suddenly collapsed. Emergency medical personnel rushed to the home but found him unresponsive. He was rushed to the same hospital in an ambulance. He was pronounced deceased at age 24.

According to a doctor at the hospital, citing hospital records and family members, Watts had no past medical history on file that would explain his sudden death, with no known history of substance abuse or obvious signs of substance abuse. His mother described her son as a “healthy young male.”

Dr. Robert Stoppacher, a pathologist who performed an autopsy on the body, said that the death was due to “COVID-19 vaccine-related myocarditis.” The death certificate listed no other causes. A COVID-19 test returned negative. Dr. Sanjay Verma, based in California, reviewed the documents in the Watts case and said that he believed the death was caused by the COVID-19 vaccination.

Pfizer did not respond to a request for comment.

Watts Took Vaccine Under Pressure

The community college mandate included a 35-day grace period following approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were given emergency use authorization early in the pandemic. The FDA approved the Pfizer shot on Aug. 23, 2021. It was the first COVID-19 vaccine approval. But doses of the approved version of the shot, branded Comirnaty, were not available for months after the approval.

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Tyler Durden Fri, 06/02/2023 - 23:00

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US Sent Billions in Funding to China, Russia For Cat Experiments, Wuhan Lab Research: Ernst

US Sent Billions in Funding to China, Russia For Cat Experiments, Wuhan Lab Research: Ernst

Authored by Mark Tapscott via The Epoch Times…



US Sent Billions in Funding to China, Russia For Cat Experiments, Wuhan Lab Research: Ernst

Authored by Mark Tapscott via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Hundreds of millions of U.S. tax dollars went to recipients in China and Russia in recent years without being properly tracked by the federal government, including a grant that enabled a state-run Russian lab to test cats on treadmills, according to Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) speaks at a Senate Republican news conference in the U.S. Capitol on March 9, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Ernst and her staff investigators, working with auditors at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Research Service, as well as two nonprofit Washington watchdogs—Open The Books (OTB) and the White Coat Waste Project (WCWP)—discovered dozens of other grants that weren’t counted on the federal government’s internet database.

While the total value of the uncounted grants found by the Ernst team is $1.3 billion, that amount is just the tip of the iceberg, the GAO reported.

Among the newly discovered grants is $4.2 million to China’s infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) “to conduct dangerous experiments on bat coronaviruses and transgenic mice,” according to a May 31 Ernst statement provided to The Epoch Times.

The $4.2 million exposed by Ernst is in addition to previously reported funding to the WIV for extensive gain-of-function research by Chinese scientists, much of it funded in whole or part prior to the COVID-19 pandemic by National Institutes for Health (NIH) grants channeled through the EcoHealth Alliance medical research nonprofit.

The NIH has awarded seven grants totaling more than $4.1 million to EcoHealth to study various aspects of SARS, MERS, and other coronavirus diseases.

Buying Chinese Puppy Parts

As part of another U.S.-funded grant, hearts and other organs from 425 dogs in China were purchased for medical research.

These countryside dogs in China are part of the farmer’s household; they were mainly used for guarding. Their diet includes boiled rice, discarded raw food animal tissues, and whatever dogs can forage. These dogs were sold for food,” an NIH study uncovered by the Ernst researchers reads.

Other previously unreported grants exposed by the Ernst team include $1.6 million to Chinese companies from the federal government’s National School Lunch Program and $4.7 million for health insurance from a Russian company that was sanctioned by the United States in 2022 as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s gravely concerning that Washington’s reckless spending has reached the point where nobody really knows where all tax dollars are going,” Ernst separately told The Epoch Times. “But I have the receipts, and I’m shining a light on this, so bureaucrats can no longer cover up their tracks, and taxpayers can know exactly what their hard-earned dollars are funding.”

The problem is that federal officials don’t rigorously track sub-awards made by initial grant recipients, according to the Iowa Republican. Such sub-awards are covered by a multitude of federal regulations that stipulate many conditions to ensure that the tax dollars are appropriately spent.

The GAO said in an April report that “limitations in sub-award data is a government-wide issue and not unique to U.S. funding to entities in China.”

GAO is currently examining the state of federal government-wide sub-award data as part of a separate review,” the report reads.

Peter Daszak, right, the president of the EcoHealth Alliance, is seen in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 3, 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

The Eco-Health sub-awards to WIV illustrate the problem.

“Despite being required by law to make these receipts available to the public on the website, EcoHealth tried to cover its tracks by intentionally not disclosing the amounts of taxpayer money being paid to WIV, which went unnoticed for years,” Ernst said in the statement.

“I was able to determine that more than $490 million of taxpayer money was paid to organizations in China [in] the last five years. That’s ten times more than GAO’s estimate! Over $870 million was paid to entities in Russia during the same period!

Together that adds up to more than $1.3 billion paid to our adversaries. But again, these numbers still do not represent the total dollar amounts paid to institutions in China or Russia since those numbers are not tracked and the information that is being collected is incomplete.”

Adam Andrzejewski, founder and chairman of OTB, told The Epoch Times, “When following the money at the state and local level, the real corruption exists in the subcontractor payments. At the federal level, the existing system doesn’t even track many of those recipients.

“Without better reporting, agencies and appropriators don’t truly understand how tax dollars were used. We now know that taxpayer dollars are traded further downstream than originally realized with third- and fourth-tier recipients. These transactions need scrutiny. Requiring recipients to account for where and how they actually spend each dollar creates a record far better than agencies are capable of generating.”

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Tyler Durden Fri, 06/02/2023 - 19:40

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OraSure Technologies’ CFO Makes Bold Insider Purchase, Reigniting Investor Confidence

Executive Kenneth McGrath’s $500,000 buy read as promising signal about future for diagnostic test developer OraSure Technologies (NASDAQ:OSUR) saw…




Executive Kenneth McGrath’s $500,000 buy read as promising signal about future for diagnostic test developer

OraSure Technologies (NASDAQ:OSUR) saw a stock price re-rate on Thursday, climbing 11% after investors became aware of its CFO Kenneth McGrath buying shares in the diagnostic test developer.  This latest rally in OSUR stock, gives traders and investors hope that the strong momentum from the beginning of 2023 might return.

OSUR shares had mounted an impressive 54% rally for 2023 through to May 10, when the first-quarter results update spooked investors. 

The CFO’s trade was initially spotted on Fintel’s Insider Trading Tracker following the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Big Holdings Boost

In the Form 4 filing, McGrath, who assumed CFO duties in August 2022, disclosed buying 100,000 shares on May 30 in the approved trading window that was open post results.

McGrath on average paid $4.93 per share, giving the total transaction a value just shy of $500,000 and boosted his total share count ownership to 285,512 shares.

The chart below from the insider trading and analysis report for OSUR shows the share price performance and profit made from company officers in previous transactions:

OraSure Technologies

Prior to joining OraSure, McGrath had an impressive eight-year tenure at Quest Diagnostics (NYSE:DGX), where he rose to the position of VP of Finance before departing. This is the first time that the CFO has bought stock in the company since August 2022. It is also worth noting that the purchase followed strong Q1 financial results, which exceeded Street forecasts.

Revenue Doubles

In its recently published Q1 update, OraSure Technologies told investors that it generated a whopping 129% increase in revenue to $155 million, surpassing analyst expectations of around $123 million. 

Notably, the revenue growth was driven primarily by the success of OraSure’s COVID-19 products, which accounted for $118.4 million in revenue for the quarter and grew 282% over the previous year.

The surge in revenue for this product was largely driven by the federal government’s school testing program, which led to record test volumes. However, it is important to note that demand for InteliSwab is expected to decline in Q2 2023, prompting OraSure to scale down its COVID-19 production operations. As part of its broader strategy to consolidate manufacturing, the company plans to close an overseas production facility.

While the COVID-19 products division has been instrumental in OraSure’s recent success, its core business delivered stable flat sales of $36.6 million during the quarter. 

In terms of net income, OraSure achieved an impressive result of $27.2 million, or $0.37 per share, in Q1, marking a significant improvement compared to the loss of $19.9 million, or a loss of $0.28 per share, in the same period last year. This result exceeded consensus forecasts of $0.16 per share. As of the end of the quarter, the company held $112.4 million in cash and cash equivalents.

Looking ahead to Q2, OraSure has provided revenue guidance in the range of $62 to $67 million, reflecting the lower order activity from the US government with $25 to $30 million expected sales for InteliSwab. The declining Covid related sales have been a core driver of the share price weakness in recent weeks.

While sales are likely to fall in the coming quarters, one positive for the company is its low debt balance during this period of rising cash rates. The chart below from Fintels financial metrics and ratios page for OSUR shows the cash flow performance of the business over the last five years.

OraSure Technologies

Analyst Opinions

Stephen’s analyst Jacob Johnson thinks that outside of Covid, OSUR continues to execute on several cost and partnership initiatives which he believes appears to be bearing fruit. Johnson pointed out that three partnerships were signed during the quarter.

The analyst thinks that the ex-Covid growth story will be the new focus for investors from now on. The brokerage maintained its ‘equal-weight’ recommendation and $6.50 target price on the stock, matching Fintel’s consensus target price, suggesting OSUR stock could rise a further 29% in the next 12 months. 

The post OraSure Technologies’ CFO Makes Bold Insider Purchase, Reigniting Investor Confidence appeared first on Fintel.

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