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The green line: Transit systems are quickly upgrading to accommodate new payment technology, and Alipay has added a sustainable energy twist for its deployment. Chinese city of Xi'an on New Year's Day went live with Alipay as a payments option for its metro system, using a QR-coded based system to avoid buying tickets and enable a more open payment system. The new payment technology also generates "green energy" for each subway ride paid for via Alipay as part of Ant Financial's Ant Forest initiative, which urges partners to plant a tree in areas suffering from desertification. It's welcome news for Alipay, which this week had to scuttle its planned acquisition of MoneyGram due to U.S. regulatory pushback.

Bloomberg News

Brett King joins cryptobank board: Technology author and Moven founder Brett King has joined Nebeus as an advisor and shareholder. Nebeus plans an ICO this month to fund its Nebeus tokens, a fully regulated cryptobank and a Mastercard linked directly to its cryptocurrency account that will support ATM withdrawals and retail payments, according to a release from Nebeus. Nebeus is built on a blockchain and offers P-to-P payments, buying and selling cryptocurrency funds with a pipeline of additional financial services.

Virtual currency exec steps aside: Shortly after suffering a theft of more than $63 million in cryptocurrencies, NiceHash CEO and co-founder Marko Kobal has resigned as CEO of the Slovenian company, according to an announcement from Kobal. The hack, in early December, caused NiceHash to shut down for 24 hours and resulted in the loss of more than 4,700 bitcoins. Kobal said he's stepping aside to allow others to lead the NiceHash's recovery from the security incident. The Verge reports Zdravko Poljasevic will replace Kobal as CEO; while co-founder Matjaz Korjanc will remain CTO.

A worldwide workaround: Just a month after reports surfaced that North Korea may be using cryptocurrency hacks to offset sanctions tied to its nuclear program, Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly planning a virtual currency to "get around" sanctions. The Financial Times reports Putin has commissioned a cryptorouble that would serve state-run agencies and other parties with ties to Moscow. Sergei Glazyev, one of Putin's advisors, recently said in a government meeting that this cryptocurrency could help the Russian government avoid Western sanctions, the Financial Times reports.

Another blockchain affinity boost: The mere mention of blockchain and bitcoin has had a market impact recently, with the Long Island Iced Tea Company enjoying a tripling in its stock price in December after changing its brand to Long Blockchain. This week Chanticleer Holdings, which is a Hooters franchisee and minority investor, saw a 50% stock price boost after the company announced it's moving its rewards program to a blockchain, reports Ars Technica, which adds each meal at a Chanticleer Holdings brand will add currency that can be used for future meals or traded with other consumers.

From the Web

Forget banks, in 2018 you'll pay through Amazon and Facebook
WIRED | Tue Jan 2, 2018 - In 2018 the banks will concede customer mindshare to the GAFAMs (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) and the BATs (Baidu, Alipay, Tencent). The proof? Take a look at the trajectories of Paym in the UK and Venmo in the US. Non-banks are simply better at this than banks are. Non-banks are about to get a huge boost from European and UK regulators, thanks to the European Commission's Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which becomes law in January 2018. Combine this with the UK Treasury's Open Data initiative and the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) open banking "remedies", and the UK's nine biggest banks will start the year with APIs in place for third parties to gain access to their customers' bank-account data (with your consent, of course) and initiate payments on your behalf.

How is bitcoin affecting the environment?
CBS News | Tue Jan 2, 2018 - The growth of bitcoin is fueling speculation and debate about the environmental impact of the collective energy needed to power the virtual currency in the era of climate change. The sustainability concerns about bitcoin, voiced by economists and environmentalists, stem from the process of "mining" that is central to its existence. The "miners" use computers to make complex calculations that verify transactions in bitcoins. This uses a tremendous amount of energy via computers and server farms all over the world, which has given rise to concerns about the amount of fossil fuel-dependent electricity used to power the computers. Some estimates say bitcoin's energy impact is more than that of a small country.

Ripple becomes second most valuable crypto-coin
BBC News | Tue Jan 2, 2018 - A crypto-currency called Ripple has become the second most valuable virtual cash system. Over the weekend the value of the digital currency hit more than $100bn (£74bn) according to some market monitors. This valuation is higher than the other popular crypto-cash system - Ethereum. Each Ripple coin, called an XRP, is now worth about $2.34 - far higher than the half a US cent they were worth a year ago. Bitcoin still remains the most valuable crypto-currency. The value of the 16.8 million bitcoins in circulation is now worth a nominal $231bn. Each bitcoin has a value of about $13,580.

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