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Euro Beware: The Real Threat May Be Bitcoin, The Online "Crypto-Currency"

Virtual money, real value
Virtual money, real value
Daniel Eckert

BERLIN - With all its other problems, the euro is also getting unexpected -- and “underground” -- competition from a new virtual currency.

It's called the bitcoin, and in case you haven't heard, it is the most ambitious (and to-date, successful) attempt to create a new online currency, generated by the calculations of thousands of computers. Some say it amounts to a kind of anarchic money.

This week, as the euro crisis has reached Cyprus, the bitcoin (BTC) marked a record high on the largest online exchange, bitcoin.de. The exchange rate has approached 50 euros, more than doubling the value of the virtual currency within four weeks.

The latest run on bitcoins was caused by reports of a bitcoin fund being launched by Malta-based hedge fund called Exante. The Bitcoin Fund has an initial minimum subscription of $100,000 and a 0.5% upfront subscription fee. Current assets under management in the Bitcoin Fund are $3.2 million.

"Investor demand is rising quickly," says Oliver Flaskämper, who drives bitcoin.de: "Many investors realize that the present market cap of around $520 million leaves a lot of room."

Europeans alone have more than 5 trillion euros in their wallet files and accounts. Everyone can use bitcoins as long as they have a wallet app installed on a PC or a smartphone.

What makes bitcoins particularly attractive is that users can use them for payment at an increasing number of places. Over 2,000 companies and organizations now accept the alternative currency, including pizza delivery outfits, but also gambling sites of dubious repute.

It has also been said that bitcoins are used in drug transactions. Unlike credit cards or online payment services like Paypal, bitcoin transactions are essentially anonymous which has aroused the suspicions of bankers and politicians alike. Bitcoin fans argue that cash was and remains the primary means of paying for drugs – and that nobody has aired the idea that cash should be abolished.

The history of the bitcoin has so far been marked by ups and downs. The virtual currency was introduced in 2009 by Japanese programmer Satoshi Nakamoto, who wanted to create counterfeit-proof money for the web. It now appears however that the name is a pseudonym, and that nobody really knows who is behind the bitcoin idea.

Bubbles and fluctuations, but still there

Hype developed around the crypto-currency relatively quickly. In 2011 the first speculation bubble – that had driven the exchange rate to $30 – burst. Then came a hacker attack on the major bitcoin exchanges. Users lost virtual coins worth several hundred thousand euros and confidence – and prices – collapsed.

Despite fluctuations, bitcoins remain an extremely interesting concept. They are created by highly complex calculations running on thousands of computers. Approximately every 10 minutes, 25 new bitcoins are created. The algorithm takes into account that at some point a maximum number of virtual coins will be reached – ostensibly around 2140, and from 2033 on no large quantities of new bitcoins will be made.

In that sense the bitcoin system bears resemblance to the gold standard. Unlike euros or dollars the amount of bitcoins cannot be increased at will. The virtual coins are interesting for investors betting on the inflation of paper money.

Bitcoins might even presage a whole new era. "Money is being re-invented," Thorsten Polleit, chief economist at Degussa Bank, believes. He sees a future where different kinds of money will be competing with each other. "The banks are misusing the money monopoly they have, using money for political purposes. In the long run that will lead to devaluation" – and the demand for private mediums of exchange will increase, he says.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Why The U.S. Lost Its Leverage In The Middle East — And May Never Get It Back

In the Israel-Hamas war, Qatar now plays the key role in negotiations, while the United States appears increasingly disengaged. Shifts in the region and beyond require that Washington move quickly or risk ceding influence to China and others for the long term.

Photograph of U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken  shaking hands with sraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

November 30, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/ZUMA
Sébastien Boussois


PARIS — Upon assuming office in 2008, then-President Barack Obama declared that United States would gradually begin withdrawing from various conflict zones across the globe, initiating a complex process that has had a major impact on the international landscape ever since.

This started with the American departure from Iraq in 2010, and was followed by Donald Trump's presidency, during which the "Make America Great Again" policy redirected attention to America's domestic interests.

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The withdrawal trend resumed under Joe Biden, who ordered the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. To maintain a foothold in all intricate regions to the east, America requires secure and stable partnerships. The recent struggle in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that Washington increasingly relies on the allied Gulf states for any enduring influence.

Since the collapse of the Camp David Accords in 1999 during Bill Clinton's tenure, Washington has consistently supported Israel without pursuing renewed peace talks that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

While President Joe Biden's recent challenges in pushing for a Gaza ceasefire met with resistance from an unyielding Benjamin Netanyahu, they also stem from the United States' overall disengagement from the issue over the past two decades. Biden now is seeking to re-engage in the Israel-Palestine matter, yet it is Qatar that is the primary broker for significant negotiations such as the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire —a situation the United States lacks the leverage to enforce.

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