01.16.18 Your morning briefing

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The information you need to start your day, from PaymentsSource and around the Web:

Bubble blackout: Cryptocurrency mining has become so popular it's straining electrical grids and causing worries about capacity. Finextra reports the U.S. and China are feeling a particular strain, with parts of Washington state reporting full electrical capacity as a result of cyrptocurrency mining spikes and other local authorities complaining about excessive electric consumption, and others adding capacity. In China, which is less friendly to alternative currency in general, provincial governments are being told to "guide" companies out of the coin mining market by enforcing stricter rules on electric consumption.
State tax: Arizona's the latest state to consider how bitcoin could impact state taxes. A pending bill would allow bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies to be used to pay state taxes, with the state's department of revenue converting the cryptocurrencies to dollars within 24 hours, then crediting the taxpayer's account for the dollar amount. Vermont is also considering bitcoin-related tax, though in Vermont's case it would tax the creation of new cryptocurrencies.

Leo's bill pay in Africa: Facebook Messenger's forays into payments and financial services now includes Leo, the United Bank for Africa's chat banker, which powers myriad banking transactions including bill payments and transfers. Consumers can access Leo by having a Facebook and UBA account, and UBA said the product uses artificial intelligence to improve performance and add more services over time.

No, really: A pop group in Japan is accepting cryptocurrencies as payments, and is also recording songs about the bitcoin craze. Called Kasotsuka (translates to "virtual currency girls"), each member represents a different cyrptocurrency—there's a member who represents bitcoin, another for Ripple, Ethereum, etc., reports The Verge. Cinderella Academy, an entertainment company, created the group to promote cryptocurrencies. Group member Rara Naruse told the site the group wants to promote the virtual currencies as not just a tool for speculation, but technology that will shape the future. Kasotsuka's debut single is called "The Moon and Virtual Currencies and Me."

From the Web

Way Too Many People Are Using Credit Cards to Buy Bitcoin
Fortune | Sat Jan 13, 2018 - A recent poll shows that nearly one-fifth of all Bitcoin buyers are using credit cards to fund their investments, likely paying hefty fees for the privilege. A large portion of those buyers then carry the balance instead of paying their cards off, implying that they’re highly leveraged – but confident that their investments will grow in value. The findings come from a survey conducted by LendEDU, a student loan refinancer, in December. They conducted an online poll of the payment behavior of 672 active Bitcoin investors, and found that 18.15% of them bought the virtual currency with a credit card.

Alibaba blames politics as Taobao retains place on US government naughty list
TechCrunch | Mon Jan 15, 2018 - It hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for Alibaba in the U.S.. First affiliate Ant Financial’s proposed acquisition of MoneyGram collapsed due to objections from the U.S. government, now its Taobao service has the dubious honor of again featuring on the USTR (United States Trade Representative) naughty list. Taobao, Alibaba’s hugely popular marketplace, is among 25 e-commerce sites to feature in the latest USTR ‘Notorious Markets’ list. The annual list roots out physical and digital marketplaces that are adjudged to be “engaging in and facilitating substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting.” The key concern of the report on Taobao is around how Alibaba works with IP holders to remove counterfeit listings and prevent sales of unlicensed goods.

India’s Razorpay nabs $20M led by Tiger Global for its Stripe-like payment gateway
TechCrunch | Mon Jan 15, 2018 - Razorpay, which has built a payments gateway for businesses to quickly integrate payments services into their websites and apps by way of an API, has raised another $20 million at what reliable sources have told us is a valuation of over $100 million, to fuel its next stage of growth. The funding, a Series B round, is led by Tiger Global with participation also from Y Combinator via its Continuity Fund and Matrix Partners. All three are previous investors. (Razorpay went through the YC program, and launched its business there, at the start of 2015.) It brings the total raised by the startup to $31.5 million.

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