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China expands bitcoin crackdown: Following an earlier ban on bitcoin trading on domestic exchanges, the Chinese government is removing further incentives to participate in the cryptocurrency market. Caixin reports regulators in China plan to discontinue tax deductions and discount electrical supplies to bitcoin mining companies. This follows a rumor that China would shut down all mining activities and represents a middle ground as the government will neither incentivize nor discourage bitcoin mining.

Image: Bloomberg News
Image: Bloomberg News

A Dash of retailers: As investments remain the focus of most cryptocurrencies, there are more payment-oriented alternative currencies pursuing retailers. Digital currency Dash is collaborating with Spanish cryptocurrency payment platform Bitnovo to allow consumers to purchase Dash in more than 10,000 retailers in Spain. The deal will support purchases through coupons and in Carrefour and Media Markt outlets through gift cards. Dash hopes the move will make its virtual currency more easily available and thus usable for payments, citing a "convoluted path" to entry for most people who are interested in using alternative currencies for transactions.

The droids you're looking for: Softbank's Pepper robot has turned up at a bar in Oakland and at Pizza Hut locations in Asia, though the use of robots to serve customers and take payments is still pretty limited. LG hopes to change that by introducing three new robots designed primarily for airports, including a porter robot to handle check-in payments and luggage delivery, a serving robot to deliver food and drinks and a third robot with a shopping basket and a bar code reader that can show shopping lists and food menus, along with a payments capability. TechCrunch reports LG will demonstrate the robots at the CES technology conference next week.

Blockchain bank adds tech vet: Paul Johnson will join BABB (Bank Account Based Blockchain) as CIO to lead technology development for BABB's decentralized bank model. Johnson recently led challenger bank Aldermore, overseeing asset expansion and Aldermore's IPO in 2015, reports Finextra. BABB will use the blockchain, artificial intelligence, biometrics and smart contracts to support accounts, P-to-P payments, lending and cross-border transfers via digital identity verification.

From the Web

Rise of Bitcoin Competitor Ripple Creates Wealth to Rival Zuckerberg
The New York Times | Thu Jan 4, 2018 - The virtual currency boom has gotten so heated that it is throwing the list of the world’s richest people into disarray. Consider what has happened to the founders of an upstart virtual currency known as Ripple, which has seen its value skyrocket in recent weeks. At one point on Thursday, Chris Larsen, a Ripple co-founder who is also the largest holder of Ripple tokens, was worth more than $59 billion, according to figures from Forbes. That would have briefly vaulted Mr. Larsen ahead of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg into fifth place on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people.

Some Capital One debit card users charged twice for purchases
CNBC | Thu Jan 4, 2018 - Capital One customers who saw double were not imagining it. With a technical error causing debit transactions to post more than once to accounts, some customers were reporting negative balances due to the error. Thursday morning, Capital One said in a tweet that the issue has been resolved and account balances should now be accurate. A spokeswoman also told CNBC that the problem was limited to some bank branches. While the error apparently is resolved, the episode is a good reminder to consumers that monitoring your bank account for odd or incorrect charges is important.

A security breach in India has left a billion people at risk of identity theft
Washington Post | Thu Jan 4, 2018 - Over a billion Indian citizens may be vulnerable to identity theft and intrusions of privacy after a newspaper sting uncovered a security breach in the country's vast biometric database, which contains the personal data of almost every citizen. The Tribune newspaper said its reporters were able to access names, email addresses, phone numbers and postal codes by typing in 12-digit unique identification numbers of people in the government's database, after paying an individual about $8. For another $5, the newspaper said, the individual offered reporters software to print out unique identification cards, called Aadhaar cards, that can be used to access various government services including fuel subsidies and free school meals.

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