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Sunday review Observers.com

With so many floods and heavy rains happening all over the world in recent times, weather service agencies haven't been the carriers of good news. This week, however, there were some exceptions in the northern hemisphere countries.

A geomagnetic storm has made it possible for people in several European countries and parts of the U.S. to see aurora borealis from the windows of their houses. The phenomenon, which gives the skies impressive colors, can usually only be watched on a purpose trip to Scandinavian countries or Canada.

The storm is expected to last all through the weekend. While it might disrupt communication signals, GPS satellites, and NASA science satellites, to people, it is a reason to marvel and enjoy the beauty of nature.

This week, some good news was coming from an unusual source in crypto, too.

Bankrupted cryptocurrency FTX has announced a plan to repay up to 98% of all non-governmental creditors on the value of their claims through a restructuring plan that will monetize the assets owned by it, Alameda Research and its liquidators.

Meanwhile, former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) has given his first interview from prison and said that all this restructuring and the pains of investors over the last year and a half wouldn't have happened if he had kept the command over the crypto-exchange. SBF claims he is the fault guy in this story, not the bad guy.

Another co-founder who often claims to be a victim is Justin Sun, even if he finds himself, over and over again, embroiled in controversy. This time, evidence has come to light that Sun promoted a strategy of zero content moderation on BitTorrent, making it easier for the file-sharing protocol to become a hub for illicit activities.

The legal battle between Ripple and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is nearing the end, and neither party is going down without a fight. Last week, the crypto company filed a brief challenging documents by the SEC. This week, the SEC filed its last response in the case, stating that the protocol might commit violations of the law in the future, even though it has kept a clean record for the last couple of years.

The SEC has the boxing gloves on and is fighting all crypto companies striving for success. On May 8, the agency decided to do a last-minute revision of the listing of the crypto wallet Exodus Movement on the NYSE American Exchange, scheduled for May 9. This happened even though the agency had approved the registration statement on April 28.

The SEC isn't the only one in the U.S. fighting crypto. This week, Democratic members of Congress proposed a two-year ban on crypto-mixing services in the country. The "Blockchain Integrity Act" argues that cryptocurrencies and crypto mixers are mainly tools to facilitate money laundering and help hide illicit financial activity from rough states, crime rings, and terrorists.

U.S. regulators will have less ground to argue on cryptocurrencies' criminal side once artificial intelligence is implemented to improve and analyze on-chain data. Elliptic has discovered that machine learning models can detect on-chain money laundering and financial crime patterns and identify illicit wallets more effectively than the human eye.

Even without the help of AI to spot criminal activity on-chain, the U.S. Department of Justice is showing itself completely capable of spotting criminals that use crypto with its own devices. Recently, the agency arrested the heir of the luxury brand family Cartier, Maximilien de Hoop Cartier, for using USDT in a money-laundering and drug trafficking scheme with a Colombian cartel.

Criminal activity with the use of stablecoins is Cartier's second venture into Web3. Like many other global luxury brands, the company launched an NFT collection in 2023. Japanese watchmaker Casio is following its steps. In partnership with Astra network, Casio launched an NFT collection celebrating its 50 in business. NFTs are shifting from being speculative digital assets to having real utility. In the case of Casio, they form part of the brand-building strategy amongst younger generations.

Web3 can also empower communities in decentralized social media networks such as Paragraph and Mirror. This week, these two projects have become one with the acquisition of the former by the latter. The buy-out intends to create a robust platform where creators have a wide range of blockchain-based tools for content monetization and community building.

Of the several ways to strengthen communities, none is more efficient than financial success, and Pendle Finance is delivering it for the community. Since the start of the year, the TVL of the DeFi protocol has increased more than 19-fold. The growth is mainly due to the platform allowing users to trade Eigenlayer awards points and Ethena airdrop points.

MakerDAO also made its community happy this past week with the announcement that the Endgame plan, a strategy announced last May to improve the governance and token economics of the Maker ecosystem, will start to be implemented this summer with the launch of a new blockchain, NewChain, a token sale and new ecosystem tokens.

The price of The Open Network native currency, Toncoin, is up, thanks to developments in Notecoin. The crypto from the viral click-to-earn Telegram mini-app game will start to be listed in Binance and Bybit and become available on the Telegram wallet on May 16.

Through its improvements to economic sectors and bureaucratic processes, crypto can be a beacon of hope and excitement, even in turbulent times. DeBio, an Indonesian DeSci project, is pioneering a medical app chain aiming to solve the present challenges of genetic testing, such as lack of confidentiality in results and "genetic discrimination." The project aims to create a better medical environment where labs and users cooperate to develop biomedical products.

Despite blockchain projects allowing for more democratized forms of ownership and participation, not all projects in the space are equally eager to share the results with their community. Like Renzo protocol and Eigenlayer, the Sui blockchain is also disappointing crypto users with its token economics design. The project has allocated most of its staked tokens to founders and investors.

MicroStrategy announced Orange Protocol, a Bitcoin-based Decentralized Identifier (DID). While any Bitcoin-based tool guarantees incorruptibility and safety, the type of tool provided by Michael Saylor's company presents no solutions to the problems human identities face in the bots and deep-fake-ridden virtual spaces of today.

Not all share the same enthusiasm for the future of Bitcoin as Saylor. CFO of Bitcoin Magazine, Di Lewis, has warned that the failure of Bitcoin to act as a means of exchange in everyday transactions puts it at risk of extinction. According to Lewis, Bitcoin as it was envisioned is threatened by stablecoins, Bitcoin ETFs, holding patterns, and a lack of innovation in the blockchain.

Bitcoin or any other crypto is becoming increasingly more complex for Russian citizens to obtain. Already dealing with heavy restrictions due to international political sanctions, Russians are about to see their access to decentralized finance even more curtailed. This summer, a bill will likely be approved that will ban local crypto exchange services and the circulation of crypto in the country except for miners or the government.

Finally, this week on the Banking and CBDC Weekend Roundup, we examine the pace at which major economies are adopting blockchain tech and creating digital currencies. We also look at how U.S. commercial banks are feeling a need to compete with existing players in the crypto industry.

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