Can Bitcoin give terminally ill hope?

Assisted suicide can be a much needed mercy for the terminally ill when all hope of survival or life has gone. It seems Bitcoin has been offering a peaceful way out for many sufferers.

In the United Kingdom for example, assisted suicide whereby a person deliberately helps another or encourages someone who commits, or attempts to commit, suicide is illegal under English Law(Suicide Act (1961). It can carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years and in some cases manslaughter or murder.

With many countries still not providing a peaceful and dignified way out for terminally ill patients, many are turning to alternative methods including the purchase of drugs with anonymous cryptocurrencies.

Australian doctor, Philip Nitschke claims that when popular online drug market place “Silk Road” was shut down(now re-opened Silk Road 2) hundreds of distressed and chronically ill patients seeking voluntary death were left hopeless with no secure or safe way to purchase the medication. He said that he knew of around 20 people who had purchased muscle relaxants to take their own lives.

The removal of the site will now mean that other less secure avenues will be pursued.

Bitcoin, in combination with anonymous browsing software, allowed the terminally ill or relatives to purchase muscle relaxant drugs such as Nembutal from trusted sellers and peacefully end life.

The current law has been heavily debated with several high profile court cases being lost. One well documented case was launched by ‘Tony Nicklinson’, a paralysed stroke victim who lost a high court case in 2012 to end his life by assisted suicide.

Tony, who suffered with locked in syndrome which resulted in him being paralysed from the neck down passed away at his home in Melksham, Wiltshire due to pneumonia when he refused food shortly after losing the high court battle.

A recent poll found that 69% of those questioned supported assisted suicide, 13% did not agree with the process, whilst 18% were unsure, undecided or had no opinion.

One person who is trying to change the law is Lord Falconer whose assisted suicide bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords. This bill would allow a “terminally ill, mentally competent adult” to end their own life, offering a way out for many long term suffers.

Due to assisted suicide along with muscle relaxant drugs being illegal in many countries across the world many, terminally ill people suffer, have little remaining dignity and in some cases succeed in ending their own life without the support of the law.

So what do you think? Should Bitcoins along with other cryptocurrencies be used by the terminally ill to voluntary end their life?

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Q&A with telecoms operator pioneering Bitcoin in the Czech Republic

Czech telecommunications operator NETBOX now accepts Bitcoin as a valid payment method making it the first telecoms company in the Czech Republic to do so.

The company provides a plethora of telecoms services ranging from broadband, mobile phone plans right through to television subscriptions. NETBOX have over 100,000 customers using their services including governments, schools and other state bodies.

Although the company is embracing Bitcoin, they are still unsure as to whether adopting the digital currency will bring new customers or just add convenience for current users as an alternative method of payment..

The Czech’s have fell in love with Bitcoin since it’s launch in 2011. According to Google Trends the Czech Republic has drummed up the most internet searches for bitcoin related terms.

We caught up with David Otoupalík, Marketing Director at NETBOX to find out more.

What are the benefits of NETBOX accepting Bitcoin payments for customers?

Customer’s can use their Bitcoins and pay for internet and tv bills without any money transaction. We also accepting Bitcoins in our customer’s office.

Are you the first Czech ISP to accept Bitcoin? is this something customers requested?

Yes, we are the first ISP in Czech, which accept Bitcoin as regular payment method. All customers can login into customer’s self care and pay online all the bills.

Are Bitcoins becoming widely acceptable in the Czech Republic?

Not at all. We know only about some Subway’s which accept Bitcoins and also DameJidlo.cz, which is Czech food delivery service.

Have you had any customers use Bitcoin yet?

Yes, after launch, some customers paid their bills with Bitcoins and the transaction was realised successfully. So it works!

Do you see Bitcoin increasing NETBOX revenue?

Unfortunately not.

For more details about the official announcement please see here:

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Interview with Samuel Cox, founder of the self updating Bitcoin pricing tag

Meet Samuel Cox,  a creative technologist based in London and founder of the self updating price tag.

BitTag is on a mission to streamline the gap between retailers and customers by providing real time price conversion with a simple shake, cool eh!

BITTAG

BitTag is currently in the prototype stages of development but were showcased at the BoxPark shopping centre in Shoreditch. The device is priced at around £40.00(TBC) but seems to be aimed at quirky high end retailers and not your mass market shops. Think Liberty of London and Harrods etc.

The devices are permanently connected to a computer running the BitTag app using Bluetooth low energy technology. The tag automatically synchronizes the current Bitcoin price based on the set currency. If the connection is lost, the price freezeS to the value before connection loss.

BitTag also uses little processing power with its OLED display and a rechargeable LiPo battery.

Customers can simply shake the device to activate a QR code which can be scanned using the customers smartphone Bitcoin wallet, it couldn’t be any simpler.

BITTAG

We quickly interviewed Samuel, covering a few security issues that popped to mind and to find out when the device will hit the shops.

How safe is the tag in terms of security issues?

The tags don’t process the transactions. Bitcoin Wallets like Blockchain still handle that. So they payment side is external. Because it updates the price wirelessly, there’s a chance someone could possibly change the value. But we’re aware of that and are designing to prevent that. End of the day, no system is ever 100% safe.

What if the WIFI goes down?

If Wifi goes down, then it’ll just display the latest result before the wifi dropped. Again, because the users pay via their phones and are usually on 3G, it shouldn’t effect the transaction.

How do you intend to get popular retailers on board using BitTag? have you got any lined up to trial?

At the minute we’re exploring options with retails. Very much one step at a time.

What were you doing before BitTag? Are you from the fashion/clothing industry?

I’m a creative technologist, which means that i’m always designing objects and experiences that fit in-between the digital/physical with technology. So not from the fashion industry at all. Important to note that BitTag can work in other mediums outside of fashion.

Have you received any funding?

No funding yet – all my own money and time. Looking for raise now.

What is the cost per tag?

Pricing is still TBC as it’s currently a prototype. As low as possible.

You are based in London, how is the Bitcoin scene?

Bitcoin scene is bubbling up nicely here. We’ve got a few Bitcoin ATMs being installed soon, even a pop-up burger joint accepting it. There’s still some way to get it mainstream though.

When is the launch? when can retailers/merchants buy the tags?

Launch is still somewhat of an unknown entirety. Because Bitcoin evolves so rapidly, you almost have to make and run… hopefully in the right direction!

 

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BuyBitcoin.sg grows UK Bitcoin cash market

BuyBitcoin.sg, a Bitcoin reseller based in Singapore has successfully forged a deal with ZipZap allowing Britons to walk into 28,000 buildings across the country and easily purchase Bitcoins with cash.

The participating ‘points of purchase’ are for the most part corner shops who were already using the global cash payment network to provide various other services such as energy bills, phone credit etc at their local convenience stores.

This style of system has been present in the United Kingdom for some time now so retrofitting it for Bitcoin makes it a tried and tested, extremely safe way to purchase Bitcoins as the shops have previously been used by thousands of customers. In essence this means the participating establishments have already been vetted and have been using the payment network for sometime in a bricks and mortar business.

With the launch of BuyBitcoin.sg in the UK, obtaining digital currency for the none-tech savvy is becoming increasingly easier, removing the tiresome task of international payments to US based exchanges.

Some of the technology behind BuyBitcoin.sg is currently powered by California based ZipZap Inc who manages the cash payment infrastructure.

We caught up with Lasse Olesen, CEO of BuyBitcoin.sg

Who are you? what are your backgrounds before launching BuyBitcoin?

The team behind BuyBitcoin.sg is the same as the team behind www.BitcoinNordic.com, which has been running since early 2012 as one of the first and largest Bitcoin resellers in Europe.

Lasse Birk OlesenFounder and CEO Lasse Birk Olesen, B.Eng, b. 1987, has been a stable of the Bitcoin community since 2011 and has aided the Bankers Association and multiple government entities in Denmark with understanding Bitcoin.

Thomas Steen RasmussenCTO Thomas Steen Rasmussen, b. 1979, is systems developer and administrator. He has more than 10 years of experience in network and system security, system and database design and internet standards from IBM, Siemens, and more.

What cities have been the most popular in terms of using your services to buy Bitcoins? London?

Yes, the greater London area naturally sees a concentration of customers.

Are each of the locations where Bitcoins can be purchased vetted in anyway ?

We use ZipZap’s cash payment infrastructure. For details please contact ZipZap. But before us, the locations were already being used to pay other types of bills and online purchases – we’re just adding Bitcoin support.

Have you received any funding?

No, and we’re currently not looking, but may be looking for more capital in the future.

What are the plans for the future?

Plans are to expand accepting cash payments into more countries and making the entire Bitcoin consumer and end-user experience as comfortable, secure and easy as possible.

How many Bitcoins have been purchased through BuyBitcoin? What are you expect numbers?

Sorry, we’d like to not disclose that for now.

We are excited to present the easiest and fastest way to buy bitcoins in United Kingdom. This is a key piece of infrastructure that allows Bitcoin to grow further in the UK!

For more interesting Bitcoin news don’t forget to follow Coin Spectator on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

Support your corner shop!

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Interview with Bitcoin Investor Roger Ver

We catch up with 30 something Roger Ver to talk Bitcoin. More commonly known as the “Bitcoin Jesus”, Roger is a high profile Bitcoin angel investor who’s put his coins in a number of startup baskets. These companies have ranged from exchanges and trading platforms through to the Bitcoin foundation.

Roger first started to dabble in Bitcoins back in 2011 when purchasing his first Bitcoin for just $1. Since then then the cryptocurrency has seen explosive gains with one BTC being valued at $934 at the time of writing this article.

Although Roger has made a little fortune with Bitcoin, this was not his first success as an entrepreneur. MemoryDealers.com, a website selling computer parts made him his first one million dollars back in 2003.

Due to the recent arrest of Charlie Shrem, we thought it would be interesting to catch up with another prominent face within the industry to get a little insight into the funding and growth side of Bitcoin.

What kind of companies are you looking to invest in? exchanges/ gambling etc…?

I’m done investing in Bitcoin startups. I wanted to bootstrap the bitcoin ecosystem into a viable ecosystem. I think I succeeded with that goal.

Is your fund exclusive for US based startups?

Bitcoin is world wide, so investments in the ecosystem should be too.

How many more startups are you looking to fund in 2014?

Zero. I’m looking to help the companies that I have already invested in.

What Bitcoin sector looks the most promising in terms of growth?

I’m the most excited about new software tools such as blockchain.info and colored coins.

How many Bitcoin companies have you invested in?

Around a dozen.

Is the bad Bitcoin press reducing the potential risk ability of people wanting to launch a business in this industry?

The “bad press” is caused by governments doing bad things. Every time you hear about another stupid government regulation or law, it is more evidence that the world needs Bitcoin ASAP.

How are your current investments doing in terms of growth?

Most are doing great, and others no longer exist. The Bitcoin ecosystem as a whole is what counts, and that is doing amazingly well.

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Pop-up restaurant “BitBurger” launches

Feeling peckish, got a gap to fill or just fancy spending some Bitcoins? Well head on down to BitBurger, the first crypto-currency operated burger stall in East London. Customers can settle their bills with not one, but two cryptocurrencies! Bitcoin and Dogecoins.

beef burger

 

The stall can be found at the “Sunday Up Market” on Brick Lane and is housed in the historic Old Truman Brewery which accommodates over 140 entrepreneurs selling an array of goods from shabby chic clothing to funky accessories and street style food.

No doubt there are many benefits for small businesses and especially pop up stalls accepting cryptocurrencies. The on-going cost of renting chip and pin machines coupled with transactions fees are simply not feasible for startups.

Customers can pay for goods using a secure digital wallet located on their smartphone by simply scanning the QR code.

BitBurger will be feeding hungry punters from the 2nd – 9th of February every Sunday!. How does a bourbon steamed burger with crispy rosemary salted wedges sound? Fantastic? Well head on down to “Sunday Up Market” and support independent food entrepreneurs.

steamed burger

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Bank of Russia forces Metabank to call it a day

The Bitcoin industry has once again succumb to government pressure, as one of the fastest growing cryptoocurrency exchanges operating in Russia, Metabank — has come under regulatory stress from the Bank of Russia, leaving it with no choice but to close it’s doors and cease trading until circumstances change.

Metabank’s immediate closure was sparked by yesterdays earlier announcement by the Central Bank of The Russian Federation who released an official statement which was linked to from the Metbank homepage, warning entities providing services, goods or works for the exchange of virtual currency in rubles or foreign currency are illegal under Article 27 of Federal Law issue “money substitutes” on the territory of the Russian Federation is prohibited.

metabank bitcoin

Entities involved in virtual currency will be considered as potential money launderers and or financing terrorism. The statement also warns the Russian people about the potential risk involved dealing with exchanges and virtual currencies.
The statement mirrors previous government warnings around the globe on the use of virtual currencies, leaving businesses operating within the industry scratching their heads to how the current legal situation affects them whether they may be prosecuted.

Russia is a well documented “police state”, only recently a man named in the media as “Pyotr Pavlensky” nailed his testicles to the floor in Red Square to protest the developing situation. With that in mind, it’s unclear whether the government’s crackdown on Bitcoin is to masquerade the financial threat it may have to the banking system as a terrorist threat to stop the currency in it’s tracks.

russian man nails genitles

In the current light of events, it’s unclear if MetaBank will re-open in the future or whether further Russian exchanges will close.

Strangely the third largest bank in Europe, Sberbank which is owned by the Bank of Russia seems to have mixed views on Bitcoin. The head of the Bank was pro-Bitcoin when interviewed at the World Economic Forum:

“It’s a very interesting global experiment that breaks the paradigm of currency issuance.”

Time will tell, “In Bitcoin we trust”

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Co-Founder of Bitinstant arrested and charged with money laundering

Charlie Shrem, Co-founder of BitInstant and Vice Chair of the Bitcoin Foundation has been arrested and charged with running a scheme to sell and launder over $1 Million In Bitcoins through Silk Road, according to an official statement released by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Shrem has been on the law enforcement radar for sometime now due to several customers filing a class action lawsuit against him back in August 2013, although this does not seem to be linked to the arrest made today.

BitInstant was also in the news for allegedly receiving a subpoena from the New York Department of Financial Services requesting information about the way in which it operates.

Special agents James J.Hunt, New York DEA agent, Tomi Weirauch and the IRS-CI filed the criminal complaint which was unsealed in Manhattan’s federal court. The complaint suggests Charlie Shrem and co-conspirator Robert Faiella ran a scheme selling Bitcoins through the Silk Road drugs portal at an increased markup whilst “knowingly contributing to and facilitating anonymous drug sales whilst earning substantial profits along the way”.

According to prosecutors Charlie Shrem himself has also purchased drugs from Silk Road although it is unclear as to whether this was for personal or 3rd party use.

Both men are charged with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and conspiracy to commit money laundering which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. An additional charge of willful failure to file a suspicious activity report to the United States Treasury Department may also be applied. This carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment.

BitInstant was founded by Charlie Shrem in 2011 whilst attending Brooklyn College. A $10,000 initial investment came from family members however this was shortly followed with backing from Roger Ver, 34, who ran for California State Assembly in 2000 as a Libertarian.

MacGuire Capital, a member of whom is Winklevoss Capital Management also invested an unknown sum in to the business.

Charlie was also listed as a speaker at a Bitcoin conference in Miami which ended on Sunday.

 

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Virgin Media Snubs Bitcoin

Virgin Media, one of the largest telecommunications companies have confirmed they have no plans to accept the Bitcoin cryptocurrency as a payment option for customers.

The company has long pioneered the UK telecoms industry, providing a range of services including lightning fast fiber-optic internet, television and mobile communications.

With speed being one of many touted benefits that Bitcoin offers to users, it comes as a surprise that Virgin Media has not already considered the crypto-currency. After all this coincides perfectly with Virgin Media’s current mantra and advertising campaign, where it features 100 & 200 metres world record holders Usain Bolt, suggestively promoting Virgin Media as a faster, more effective service provider, in particular emphasising the speed of their fiber-optic broadband.

With Virgin also now pushing customers further into the digital void by charging a £5.00 handling fee for paper-based statements, it seems counter-intuitive to ignore the ever growing influence and benefits of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin could ultimately provide a faster, simple and cheaper way for customers to pay their Virgin Media bills without the use of a 3rd party payment processor.

Having said that, one company within the Virgin Group that has adopted Bitcoin is Virgin Galactic. Sir Richard Branson recently announced that customers can pay their way to space with the virtual currency.

Belgium based mobile operator Mobile Vikings is one company which has publicly announced they are accepting Bitcoin payments. The company has around 160,000 subscribers in Belgium and has growing interested in other European countries, it will be interesting to see how early adopters will benefit from delving into crypto payments.

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Czechs hit by Bitcoin fever

The latest internet searches show that the Czech Republic have been intently following the Bitcoin cryptocurrency since it’s launch in 2011.

According to Google figures, the Czech Republic performed the most searches for the term “Bitcoin”, followed by Hong Kong, Estonia and then the Netherlands. Surprisingly the United Kingdom is not in the top 10.

However in recent months, interest has waned a little moving them down to 4th position and allowing Estonia to take the top spot in Bitcoin searches since the start of the new year.

Although Czechoslovakians/Czech’s have searched for Bitcoin information more than any other country, it’s hard to see if they are actually adopting the cryptocurrency due to the lack of exchanges and their dual use of the Czech Koruna(CZK) and Euro. Trading charts also put the Czech Koruna at around position 25 in currency volume, although it’s definitely higher due to the common purchases in Euros and neighbouring exchanges.

They have however received the green light to dabble in Bitcoin by the Financial Analysis Unit, the Czech Finance Ministry but were made well aware of the risk factors inline with Anti Money Laundering regulations, according to an official statement released on the 16th September 2013.

The document also warns that payment above 15,000 Euros should be marked as suspicious according to section 18 of the AML law, whether sellers/buyers have to inform the authorities is still unknown. It seems that the Czech Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering Teams are concerned about money laundering which until recently was one of the widely abused uses of Bitcoin.

The document states that the “Financial Analysis Unit asks all required persons, that in relation to buying/selling of any digital currency, for example Bitcoin, to consider for appraisal any payment above the volume 1.000 EUR as very risky and as a candidate for decision about other measures, and to send notification about every payment about 15.000 EUR as a suspicious trade according to the section 18 of AML Law.

Bitcoin has had a rocky start in Czech Republic with one of the largest exchanges, Bitcash.cz, being subject to hackers who stole around 4,000 customer wallets amounting to around 2 million Czech koruna.

On the upside, economics daily newspaper Mladá fronta E15.za reported that a Men’s luxury shoe shop based in Pragues part Uhezd which is home to luxury shoe brands such as Church, Alden Vass and Alfred Sargent has attracted young people by accepting Bitcoin payment using QR codes.

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