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Rule by fiat: Visa will not process cryptocurrency transactions, CEO Alfred Kelly told CNBC in an interview recorded at the National Retail Federation conference in New York. Cryptocurrencies are not a "payment system player," Kelly told the cable network, adding the card network will accept only fiat currency transactions, or payments backed by currencies that are issued and endorsed by governments. While bitcoin is regarded as having potential for everyday payments, it has mostly served an an investment asset, and Kelly's pronouncement will further hinder bitcoin's use for payments.

Visa CEO Alfred F. Kelly Jr.
Visa CEO Alfred F. Kelly Jr.

Bitcoin lightning? While Visa backs away from bitcoin and the value of the cryptocurrency may be correcting, innovation is continuing in the space. Blockstream has released a new feature that's designed to lure developers to build payment apps that can use Blockstream's Lightning Network to support transactions for micropayments. The company's pitch is it does not require an online payment center or card company to authorize payments or hold funds. Instead, users connect to the Lightning Network directly.

EMV around the world: Ghana's central bank hopes to speed the country's migration to EMV chip cards through PURE, a white-label payment product from Gemalto that will support chip card payments for the central bank's 41 member institutions. PURE will help create a new domestic system with interoperability between banks, merchants and users, along with accessibility for ATMs and point of sale terminals throughout the country in line with global security standards.

Art of blockchain: Cryptocurrencies have already been used to buy art and have been the subject of pop music, and now blockchain and cryptocurrency are becoming art. IOHK, the company that powers Cardano and Ethereum Classic, has released the "Symphony of Blockchains," in partnership with design studio Kuva. The Symphony will include sounds and images that describe how blockchain and bitcoin developed over the years, and is aimed at an audience that is new to cryptocurrency and may not understand the market.

From the Web

Standard Chartered Sets Up Financial Technology Investment Unit
Fox Business | Wed Jan 17, 2018 - Standard Chartered PLC said on Wednesday that it has established a new business unit to invest in financial technology and other startup companies. The emerging-markets focused bank said the new unit is called SC Ventures and will be led by Alex Manson, formerly Standard Chartered's head of transaction banking. Mr. Manson will report to Chief Information Officer Michael Gorriz. In addition to investments, the unit will also lead internal consultation on digital technology and oversee Standard Chartered's own technology ventures. Standard Chartered said it has made previous investments in payment technology company Ripple and data software company Paxata.

Starbucks tests no-cash policy at downtown Seattle store
The Seattle Times | Wed Jan 17, 2018 - Starbucks is experimenting with refusing cash at a posh location in downtown Seattle. Since Tuesday, your money is no good at the cafe inside the Russell Investments Center unless it’s in the form of plastic. A Starbucks spokeswoman said the store at Second Avenue and University is the only one to test accepting “only cashless forms of payment.” The company isn’t saying how long the experiment will last or whether it will be expanded to other locations.

American Airlines teams up with the travel platform for Chinese online giant Alibaba
Los Angeles Times | Wed Jan 17, 2018 - American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, has formed a partnership to access up to 549 million potential passengers in China. The Fort Worth-based carrier has teamed up with Fliggy, the travel platform for Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. The arrangement lets Alibaba users book American Airlines flights and allows Fliggy’s loyalty reward members to get elite status benefits on the carrier’s AAdvantage program. The airline’s benefits for elite Fliggy travelers include such extras as preferred boarding and seats with extra legroom. The partnership comes at a time when travel from China has been rising, up 466% from 2009 to 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. In 2009, only 525,000 visitors traveled from China to the U.S., according to the federal agency. By 2016, that number rose to nearly 3 million visitors.

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