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Libra could use currency-pegged stablecoins

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A Zuck Buck is displayed on a monitor as David Marcus, head of blockchain with Facebook Inc., right, is questioned by Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, not pictured, during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Facebook has suggested its Libra project could use multiple cryptocurrencies backed by different existing currencies like the dollar, rather than having one single digital token tied to a basket of currencies.

The tech giant had initially proposed one synthetic unit of value that would be tied to a basket of currencies and government debt. But according to Reuters, David Marcus, the executive leading Facebook’s blockchain initiative, told a banking seminar that he was open to looking at alternative approaches.

“We could do it differently,” he said, according to the news agency. “Instead of having a synthetic unit … we could have a series of stablecoins, a dollar stablecoin, a euro stablecoin, a sterling pound stablecoin, etc.”

Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies that are usually pegged to government-backed currencies like the dollar. Tether is the world’s best-known stablecoin, backed by the dollar, though it has garnered some controversy over whether it has a sufficient amount of dollars in reserve, as well as the suggestion that it could have been used for market manipulation.

Such currencies aim to reduce the volatility seen in virtual currencies like bitcoin and ether. In libra’s case, the objective is to create a more efficient cross-border payments system.

But the Switzerland-based Libra Association, which oversees the proposed cryptocurrency, has faced numerous setbacks since the start of the month, with various original member companies including payments giants Mastercard and Visa backing out.

And as payments companies withdraw from Libra, there are no immediate signs that banks could be willing to join. J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon on Friday called the group’s currency “a neat idea that’ll never happen.”

Libra has also been met with fierce regulatory pushback, with authorities around the world worried the currency could heavily disrupt the financial system and potentially be used for money laundering or terrorist financing.

Last week, the Group of Seven (G-7) said in a report that no stablecoin project — Libra included — should be allowed to go ahead until the attached legal risks are addressed.

Meanwhile the Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog on illicit financing, said that such digital currencies could inhibit efforts to clamp down on money laundering and terrorist financing.

Facebook could find some solace in the fact that the chief of Germany’s financial regulator doesn’t think libra will go away anytime soon. BaFin President Felix Hufeld told CNBC over the weekend that he doesn’t think the social media firm’s digital token is “dead in the water.” Meanwhile, fellow tech giant IBM has said it’s open to working with Libra.

WATCH: Don’t think Facebook’s libra is dead in the water, BaFin president says



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Politics

Republicans Shift Defense of Trump, While He Attacks Another Witness

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Ms. Pelosi, also appearing on “Face the Nation,” suggested that Mr. Trump — who is blocking key witnesses like Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, from testifying — make his case for himself, while delivering a brief lesson in Latin: “If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it.”

Hours after that broadcast, Mr. Trump — who last week attacked Marie L. Yovanovitch, his former ambassador to Ukraine, on Twitter while she was testifying — unleashed an afternoon Twitter storm, lashing out at a second witness, Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence.

Ms. Williams, a longtime State Department employee with expertise in Europe and Russia who has been detailed to Mr. Pence’s national security staff, is among those who listened to a July 25 telephone call in which Mr. Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to “do us a favor” and investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter.

Mr. Trump had frozen the military aid about a week before.

Ms. Williams told House investigators she thought the telephone call was “unusual and inappropriate,” adding, “I guess for me it shed some light on possible other motivations behind a security assistance hold,” according to a transcript of her deposition released Saturday evening by Democrats.

“Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement from Ukraine,” Mr. Trump wrote, misspelling the word “statement.” “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”





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Iran Blocks Nearly All Internet Access

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The Associated Press reported that Iran also experienced wide disruptions and outages of internet service on Friday and Saturday, according to the group NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide internet access. By Saturday night, connectivity had fallen to just 7 percent of ordinary levels, NetBlocks said.

“The ongoing disruption is the most severe recorded in Iran since President Rouhani came to power, and the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth,” the group said. The internet firm Oracle called it “the largest internet shutdown ever observed in Iran.”

Ahmad, a taxi driver in Tehran who did not want his last name used, said in telephone interview that when he tried to connect to the internet on his mobile phone, a recorded message said that because of a decision by the National Security Council, connectivity had been cut off.

WhatsApp and Instagram, both used widely by Iranians, were also blocked.

Fahimeh, an accountant, said she and her friends relied on WhatsApp to find out the location and time of protests, and in the absence of the internet, it would be difficult for Iranians to plan and spread the word.

The Ministry of Information said Sunday that it had identified bad actors among protesters and warned that those responsible for unrest would be arrested.

Intelligence agents on Sunday arrested Abdoleza Davari, a senior aide to Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a vocal critic of the gas price policy, according to his wife, Elham Salmani. Mr. Davari had posted a tweet a day earlier saying that the people have the right to demonstrate and that parliament must hear their concerns and stand up to the branches of the government imposing this policy.

“They have failed to successfully counter freethinking with ideology so the only tool at their disposal is violence,” said Ms. Salmani, a journalist and political activist, in a telephone interview. She said the prosecutor’s office had threatened to arrest her as well and had accused her of hiding her husband’s mobile telephone and laptop computer.

Mostafa Tajzadeh, a prominent reformist politician, said on Twitter that if elected officials could not listen to the demands of the people, “they should resign and leave the country to its real rulers.”



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Life Dealt Him a Series of Blows. Now He’s Fighting Back.

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Owayne Mcleod has been drawn to athletics for as long as he can remember.

As a child in Jamaica, he racked up trophies as a sprinter on his school’s track and field team. To pass the time, he and his friends played cricket, raced barefoot in the streets of Kingston and lifted makeshift barbells fashioned from concrete and metal rods.

But life was not all fun and games. “I would go days without eating,” he said. “It was horrible.”

Mr. Mcleod’s parents divorced when he was young. His mother emigrated to the United States when he was 4, leaving him in the care of his grandmother and two older brothers. The situation at home was so dire that his mother would send the family barrels of clothes and food that would last them months.

Mr. Mcleod’s mother eventually remarried and settled in New York City. When he was 12, he and one of his brothers left Jamaica to move in with her and their stepfather on the Lower East Side. “As soon as that plane landed, as soon as I got into the house, I looked in the fridge,” he said with a chuckle.

Now 21, Mr. Mcleod has smiling eyes and a relaxed demeanor that belie the hardships he went through. He was in middle school when he first came to the United States, and his mother had him wear suits and church shoes to class. “The teachers loved it,” he said. But many of his classmates bullied him over his dapper style and mocked his Jamaican accent, which has since faded.

“It made me feel like I didn’t belong here,” he said. “I wanted to go back home.”

One day after school, Mr. Mcleod started a fight with someone who was bullying him. “People were saying that I got beat up,” he said. “I felt like I had something to prove.” He wanted to learn how to defend himself, so he went home and watched videos of Ultimate Fighting Championship athletes to study their techniques. Later, he came across a book at school about professional boxers. Two of his teachers noticed his interest and helped him find a boxing gym.

The sport has defined his life ever since; his goal is to become a professional boxer.

Mr. Mcleod trains every day for about three hours at a gym in the Bronx with John Skerret, a former boxer. Mr. Skerret trains 13 fighters of varying ages, and said Mr. Mcleod is his best. “He listens,” he said. “When he’s committed to something, he’s committed.”

Mr. Skerret has been training Mr. Mcleod for about six years, and has never charged him for his services. Sometimes Mr. Mcleod cannot afford to pay the gym’s $50 monthly fee, so Mr. Skerret offers to split it. “He does it out of love,” Mr. Mcleod said. “He’s like a father figure to me.”

Recently Mr. Mcleod has been devoting time to other ambitions. In June, he graduated from the Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service, a transfer school for older and undercredited students run by the New York City Department of Education and Brooklyn Community Services, one of the seven organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund.



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