Bitcoin Critics to Catch FOMO at BTC $10,000, Says Crypto Bull Tom Lee

By CCN: Bitcoin’s run higher is igniting a wave of fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) among those who gloated about the cryptocurrency’s imminent demise. Fundstrat Co-Founder Tom Lee recently took time to engage with crypto Twitter now that bitcoin’s price has rebounded considerably.

Through a Twitter poll, he asked,

“At what price will see FOMO from those who gloated about 90% crash in BTC?”

Before he closed the voting over the weekend, nearly 8,000 people had participated. Most of them believe bitcoin hitting $10,000 again will bring naysayers to their knees, causing them to jump back in.

Bitcoin Is Approaching FOMO Sweet Spot

At the time of writing Monday afternoon, that $10,000 was close. The bitcoin price just surpassed $8,000.

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The bitcoin price skyrocketed 14% in the last 24-hour period to beyond $8,000. | Source: CoinMarketCap

Respondents to Tom Lee’s poll added some anecdotal evidence:

Lee’s Got SWAG

Lee is known for his lofty bitcoin price predictions of 2018 that never came true. This year, however, momentum is on his side. Through this poll, we get a glimpse of the bitcoin bull’s sense of humor. He broke down his guestimates about where bitcoin’s price is headed as his SWAG, aka “scientific wild-a**ed guess.”

Last month, Lee said bitcoin’s price will likely see a new all-time high in 2020, proclaiming that crypto spring has sprung.

While Lee’s poll was a fun way to explore what people think about bitcoin’s price breakout, he has laid out serious arguments for why bitcoin bulls are in a good place. He’s cited several catalysts that are pushing bitcoin’s price higher, including:

  • an increase in blockchain transaction volumes
  • bullish technical signals
  • a ramp-up of crypto trading volumes

Lee acknowledged that cryptocurrency adoption – a key fundamental indicator – has yet to take root in the U.S. Meanwhile, in countries such as Venezuela and Turkey where local currency valuations have cratered, crypto use is on the rise. The devaluation in local currencies has “caused on-chain volumes to take off,” Tom Lee said, adding:

“It’s real important for that to take place in U.S. for adoption because there’s a really well-established financial system. You have to remember that crypto is probably 70% a story outside the U.S.”

Bitcoin is increasingly being adopted by the mainstream.

Fidelity Investments will launch a crypto trading service “within weeks.” That’s also playing a role in driving the price higher.

Fidelity says its cryptocurrency trading product is aimed at institutional traders and will initially focus on BTC.

Hungary’s Viktor Orbán Is Shunned By European Neighbors, Finds Love From Trump

WASHINGTON – He’s been ostracized by his own neighbors in Europe for his anti-Semitic, white nationalist and authoritarian views, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán found love Monday at the White House from President Donald Trump.

“Viktor Orbán has done a tremendous job in so many different ways. Highly respected. Respected all over Europe,” Trump said during an Oval Office visit — among the highest privileges a foreign head of state can be afforded. “Thank you very much for being at the White House. Thank you very much. It’s a great honor.”

Both of Trump’s immediate predecessors, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama, refused a presidential meeting with Orbán because of his attacks on democratic institutions. In recent years, despite Hungary’s membership in NATO, Orban has also been cozying up to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, who has been working to weaken democracies in Western Europe.

“Seems part of a clear trend to relate to anti-democratic, increasingly authoritarian members of the alliance ― Poland, Hungary ― while snubbing democratic leaders like Germany,” said Douglas Lute, a retired Army lieutenant general and a U.S. ambassador to NATO under Obama. Lute said he doubted the transatlantic military alliance had anything do to with why Orbán was invited. “Nothing NATO related.”

"I know he’s a tough man, but he’s a respected man," President Donald Trump said of Hungarian Prime Minister Vikt



“I know he’s a tough man, but he’s a respected man,” President Donald Trump said of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The White House press office did not respond to several queries from HuffPost about why Orbán, despite his views, had been invited for an official visit, complete with a welcome from Trump himself at the West Wing doors. On a White House conference call for reporters Friday, a senior administration official who spoke only on condition of anonymity said the administration has, at lower levels, expressed its opposition to Orbán’s policies.

“I have personally raised this with the Hungarians on multiple occasions, beginning, actually, in my very first week here at the NSC,” the official said, referring to the National Security Council. “I can assure you that all these issues are being well-covered with all of our Hungarian counterparts.”

Trump critics from both parties, meanwhile, argue that Orban was invited not despite his authoritarian, white-nationalist tendencies, but because of them.

“Orban would be in Trump’s Cabinet if he were an American,” said John Weaver, a Republican political consultant who ran former Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. “Where do he and Trump disagree?”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign said Trump should be demanding that Orbán reverse his attacks on the nation’s courts and other institutions. “Unfortunately, given Trump’s habit of fawning praise for authoritarian leaders ― and Putin in particular ― we don’t have any confidence that he’ll be up to the task,” campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said.

Orbán would be in Trump’s Cabinet if he were an American. Where do he and Trump disagree?
John Weaver, GOP political consultant who ran John Kasich’s 2016 campaign

Orbán has, in recent years, taken over much of the independent news media in Hungary, tried to stifle the judiciary and ramped up attacks against Jews and Muslim refugees. His refusal to accept refugees from the Syrian civil war, in fact, was a basis of his censure by the European Union for violating the group’s values.

His attacks on Budapest’s Central European University and its founder, billionaire Budapest-born financier George Soros, are popular among anti-Semitic white nationalists in the United States but have been rebuked almost universally otherwise, including by the United States government.

“Something we’re extremely concerned about is about the uptick of anti-Semitic statements, anti-Semitic attacks, and overall policies that we see across Europe and across many other countries at this particular junction. I think we’ve spoken up very strongly against that,” the senior Trump administration official said.

But while his government may be scolding Orbán behind the scenes, Trump had nothing but praise for him in Monday’s public remarks.

“People have a lot of respect for this prime minister. He’s a respected man. And I know he’s a tough man, but he’s a respected man. And he’s done the right thing, according to many people, on immigration,” Trump said after he was asked about Orbán’s attempts to weaken democratic institutions.

That admiration was confirmed by Trump’s own ambassador to Hungary in a recent Atlantic interview. “I can tell you, knowing the president for a good 25 or 30 years, that he would love to have the situation that Viktor Orban has, but he doesn’t,” David Cornstein told the magazine.

Indeed, Trump has inflamed racial and ethnic tensions with repeated attacks against undocumented immigrants, people seeking asylum and African American football players. His actions and words came to a boiling point in the days following a 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counter-protester was killed and where marchers carrying torches chanted Nazi slogans. Trump said they there were “very fine people on both sides.”

“The leaders he admires the most are autocrats and thugs,” said Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “What a signal to the rest of the world.”

Xbox Two Could Thrash Sony PS5 in the Next Round of the Console Wars

By CCN: Sony’s PlayStation 4 dominated this round of the console wars, leaving Microsoft’s Xbox One in second place year after year. The lifetime sales of the PS4 just crossed 94 million, while the Xbox One is way behind with just over 42 million in sales since launch.

Both consoles launched within a week of each other in November 2013, so it is clear that Sony is doing something right where the Xbox is failing. What’s more, the Xbox One runs the risk of losing the second spot to Nintendo’s Switch.

The latter has already clocked lifetime sales of nearly 33 million, grabbing 19% share of the console market compared to Xbox’s 25%. And the Switch launched just over two years ago, so Microsoft has not just one, but two significant challenges to overcome when it releases its next-generation console – the Xbox Two.

But it looks like Microsoft has found a way to get back at the competition.

Microsoft Has a Trick Up Its Sleeve to Challenge PS5

Microsoft and Sony are expected to launch their next-generation consoles next year, though no specific release date has been set just yet. However, there are enough clues out there that give us some idea of what to expect from the next Xbox and the PS5.

Microsoft will reportedly launch two versions of the Xbox Two. One will be a regular console model that will be packed with high-spec hardware to run the latest and greatest games. But the other one will be a cheaper, cloud-specific model that will essentially act as a streaming box.

The streaming box should utilize Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription service that gives users access to hundreds of gaming titles for a monthly fee of $9.99.

This seems like a smart strategy from Microsoft as the rumor mill suggests that Sony will launch only a single model of the PS5. That model is reportedly going to be power-packed with an AMD Ryzen processor and a Navi graphics card and will be equipped with ray-tracing technology that makes games look realistic.

The Xbox won’t be any slouch, either. It’s expected to support native 4K HDR gaming, and it will also use solid-state drives (SSDs) to reduce loading times. But Xbox’s strategy of launching two consoles could help it win the next round of console wars as a cheaper, streaming-focused model will allow it to bring more gamers into its ecosystem.

Xbox Two Needs More Exclusives to Avoid Predecessor’s Fate

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Blockbuster exclusives like “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” helped the PS4 slay the Xbox One. | Source: Shutterstock

Hardware has never been Microsoft’s weak point its rivalry with Sony. The Xbox One, for instance, has native 4K support and is also backward-compatible with older consoles. Microsoft also provides a 2TB storage option that Sony does not, while the PS4 does not run games in native 4K, though it does upscale games to that resolution.

But the Xbox loses miserably on the content front, with far fewer hit exclusives than Sony. The good thing for Xbox fans is that Microsoft is looking to boost its proprietary gaming library. The software giant made 15 acquisitions in 2018, and seven of them were video game studios.

This means that the company is looking to put in place a solid line-up of first-party games before its next console generation hits the market, rectifying a problem that plagued sales of the Xbox One.

Meanwhile, the interoperability of the streaming box and its backward compatibility will make it an attractive bet for users who have purchased games on Windows 10 PCs.

Consequently, there’s a strong chance that Microsoft will arrive in the next round of the console wars with a better line-up of games.

But will that will be enough to dent Sony’s hegemony? Only time will tell.

Newsflash: Bitcoin Price Pierces $8,000 for First Time Since July 2018

By CCN: An unfettered bitcoin price extended its parabolic ascent on Monday, piercing the $8,000 mark for the first time since July 2018.

Bitcoin Price Soars to 10-Month High

The flagship cryptocurrency achieved this milestone at 5:15 pm ET, when BTC/USD closed at precisely $8,000 on Bitstamp.

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The bitcoin price is beginning to look uncomfortably parabolic. | Source: BitcoinWisdom

Bitcoin hasn’t traded this high since July 2018. The circumstances, of course, were much different, as the cryptocurrency market was trapped in a devastating drawdown that wiped hundreds of billions of dollars off investor balance sheets.

The cryptocurrency market has been in a sustained uptrend for most of 2019, but the bitcoin price has absolutely exploded in May. BTC has now gained 55% in the past 30 days, bringing its year-to-date return to a staggering 113%.

Cryptocurrency Market Feels Uncomfortably Parabolic

Having covered bitcoin’s daily price movements throughout the 2017 boom and the 2018 bust, I must say that the charts once again feel uncomfortably parabolic, with seemingly little in the way of fundamentals driving eye-popping gains.

The crypto talking heads have offered up a buffet of potential catalysts for the rally, ranging from next year’s BTC halving to the US-China trade war. However, commentators have yet to settle on a narrative beyond the fact that there are more buyers than sellers.

In the meantime, here are five theories that definitely do not explain the cryptocurrency’s sudden upswell but have been peddled by mainstream crypto personalities anyway.

Click here for a real-time bitcoin price chart.

Joe Biden Pushes Back On Criticism Of Climate Change Approach

HAMPTON, N.H. ― Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) defended his record as an advocate for stronger environmental protections on Monday, responding to a report that he plans to take a “middle ground” on solutions to climate change.

Biden, who’s competing to be the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, brought up the matter unprompted during a speech to a crowd of hundreds at a pizza restaurant in New Hampshire’s seacoast region.

As evidence of his green bona fides, Biden cited an article on the fact-checking site PolitiFact that supported his claims and called him a “climate change pioneer” in Congress.

“I said that I was in this area long before most anybody else was and I have a record. And they basically said … ‘Biden’s right. He’s been a leader on climate change,’” Biden told the crowd.

Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses prospective supporters in Hampton, New Hampshire, on Monday.



Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses prospective supporters in Hampton, New Hampshire, on Monday.

The article noted that Biden introduced a bill, which became law in 1987, requiring the president to set up a task force to address climate change.

Biden went on to enumerate some of the renewable energy initiatives he helped enact alongside former President Barack Obama, whom he referred to as “Barack” throughout his remarks. Those policies included $90 billion in renewable energy investment and an increase in automobile fuel mileage standards.

“We do need to finish this green revolution in a way that’s rational,” he concluded. “We can do it, afford it and get it done now.”

However, in his remarks, Biden did not explicitly say that he is not pursuing a “middle ground.”

It is difficult to know exactly what such an approach would mean in practice without a detailed policy plan. Biden said Monday that his campaign would release such a plan by the end of the month.

Reuters reported Friday that Biden is preparing to introduce a climate plan aimed at attracting blue-collar workers who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. The report is based on conversations with two Biden advisers, including Heather Zichal, a former adviser to Obama who until last year sat on the board of a liquified natural gas exporter.

Shortly thereafter, Biden’s presidential primary rivals seized on the report as a way to distinguish themselves from Biden, who currently leads in the polls. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) all expressed their disagreement with the notion of a “middle ground” approach, which they argued failed to treat the threat of climate change with adequate seriousness.

If You Invested $1,000 in the Uber IPO, Heres How Much You Threw Away

By CCN: The Uber stock price continues to freefall today following a historically terrible initial public offering (IPO).

Last Friday, Uber held its first day as a publicly traded company with a starting price of $42 – already three dollars below its IPO price. Throughout the day, the stock continued to slide, ending at $41.70. In the process, investors lost a record $655 million with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) taking one of the most substantial hits ($201.5 million).

Uber Stock Risks Becoming a Bottomless Money Pit

If you foolishly threw $1,000 into the Uber IPO, you’d only have $821.11 today, equating to an almost 18 percent loss in just a weekend. While many tout Uber as a successful company, there’s a laundry list of reasons why its stock is performing so terribly.

Uber stock price chartUber stock price chart

Uber stock continues to fall after an abysmal IPO. | Source: Yahoo Finance

The company’s slim margins aren’t sustainable over the next five or even ten years. Last year, it had operating losses of $3 billion. Although the ridesharing giant continues to grow its user base, its adjusted net income has already plateaued (even dropping a little bit in Q4 2018). It’s going to be incredibly difficult for Uber to fix this by raising prices without losing a ton of customers to competitors.

Additionally, the Uber brand is consistently the center of controversy. Whether it’s legal battles with drivers, harassment allegations, or its revolving door of C-suite executives, it’s evident that the company is a dumpster fire of bad publicity and management.

Lyft Stock Isn’t Performing Any Better

Looking at the Lyft stock performance, it’s apparent that ridesharing companies, in general, aren’t ready for the public trading market. If you bought $1,000 worth of Lyft stock during its IPO, you’d currently be down to $661.39, almost 34 percent in the red.

Lyft stock performance since IPOLyft stock performance since IPO

The Lyft stock chart shows how Uber may pan out after a couple of months of trading. | Source: Yahoo Finance

Like Uber, Lyft isn’t profitable. The company lost nearly a billion dollars last year and has no concrete plan to reach profitability. The comparisons continue as Lyft has its own set of legal troubles with drivers too.

More importantly, though, both companies face the looming threat of transportation automation. Once competitors like Google or Tesla get a fleet of driverless cars on the road, the only option for Uber and Lyft will be to join them or risk being driven out of the market.

Is This The End of ‘Growth at Any Cost?’

The spectacular failure of Uber and Lyft’s IPOs further the evidence that Silicon Valley’s “growth at any cost” attitude is on its way out the door. Snapchat, with a stock price down over 55 percent since going public, still isn’t profitable. Blue Apron, another unprofitable startup darling, is down over 90 percent.

On the other hand, you’ve got profitable companies like Zoom dominating the market post-IPO. The Zoom stock price is up almost 30 percent since the day the company when public earlier this year.

There is a clear correlation between profitability and stock performance, as there should be. As unprofitable companies continue to fail in the public market, we’ll (hopefully) see a shift away from the “growth at all costs” attitude. Because in the end, it’s the retail investors who feel the failures the most – not the venture capital firms paying $3.70 per share of Uber well before the IPO.

Deltas Anti-Union Pitch Draws Backlash

An effort to unionize workers at Delta Air Lines is facing major pushback from the company, including literature suggesting workers would be better off spending their union dues on video games, alcohol and sports.

Delta workers have described a full-court anti-union press: advertisements playing nonstop in break rooms, weekly anti-union meetings and stands full of leaflets discouraging unionization.

“Anti-union videos play by our time clocks, anti-union literature is distributed in our break rooms, managers are designated to push the anti-union agenda, and employees are held captive,” said Dan McCurdy, a Delta worker and union advocate who stressed he is not affiliated with any union or outside organization.

The fight to unionize Delta’s workforce is reaching a critical point as union advocates are pushing for a union election. That process involves getting just over 50% of the airline’s ramp and cargo workers to sign cards indicating they want the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) to represent them.



If the union collects enough signatures, it would trigger a vote on unionization. Kip Hedges, a former Delta baggage handler who now volunteers as a national coordinator for the IAM drive, predicts that anti-union efforts will become even more aggressive if they get to that step.

“Delta will turn up their anti-union campaign even more during this period and will likely use legal delaying tactics to keep a vote from happening for as long as possible while they beat the crap out of the workforce,” said Hedges, who was fired in 2014 after his own efforts to get the company to pay higher wages.

The anti-union drive has been in the news in recent days after this reporter shared a poster, passed on by a pro-union source, that Delta distributed internally to dissuade unionization. Addressing workers, the poster suggested that the roughly $700 in annual dues for the union could be better spent on video games. Other posters told employees to take the money and put it into going to sporting events or buying beer.

Reaction online was swift and unforgiving. The airline was accused of condescending to its workers at best and deceiving them at worst. A number of commenters brought up the higher wages that a union could deliver. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) took a hard line against the airline.

“Shame on Delta for this condescending bullshit,” he tweeted. 

The National Education Association, one of the largest unions in the country, said in an open letter that Delta was no longer one of the organization’s “preferred airlines.”

“When you turn your back on the values of your customers, they will certainly turn their backs on you,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

The poster — and related anti-union propaganda from the airline — is the result of Delta enlisting the public relations firm FTI Consulting in its “Don’t Risk It Don’t Sign It” campaign. Based in Washington, D.C., FTI is better known for working on the oil and gas industry’s efforts to stymie climate change policy and counts Chevron, Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell and Halliburton among its clients.

The internet server behind Delta’s anti-union website hosts dozens of websites promoting the oil and gas industry, a reverse search of the IP address reveals. It also hosts FTI’s own company sites.

Dontriskitdontsignit.com is a flashy site that uses a similar aesthetic to other political advocacy organizations and campaigns. A menu of options to click on shoots by the visitor with warnings about the privacy issues of being in a union and the destructive force that unions are. The site came with a corresponding app, developed by New York-based developer Ascender Studios, that shows workers what else they could buy with union dues.

FTI staffs Energy in Depth, a pro-fossil fuel “research, education and public outreach campaign” that floods social media with misinformation about public policy to reduce planet-warming emissions. It also created Western Wire, the “go-to source for news, commentary and analysis on pro-growth, pro-development policies across the West” that routinely publishes stories styled to look like journalism while boosting oil and gas development and attacking environmental groups. Earlier this year, two of the company’s employees posed as reporters to press the general counsel of an environmental group suing Exxon Mobil over its role in climate change for an interview, a potential violation of public relations industry ethics rules.

Delta did not reply to repeated requests for comment. But, in a statement to the media, the airline implied that it wouldn’t back down from its fight against workers unionizing.

“Our employees have the best total compensation in the industry, including the most lucrative profit sharing program in the world,” Delta’s statement said. “They want and deserve the facts and we respect our employees’ right to decide if a union is right for them.”

While the company didn’t directly address the posters shared on social media, the airline did add that it just wanted to pass on information to its workers.

“Delta has shared many communications,” the company’s statement said, “which on the whole make clear that deciding whether or not to unionize should not be taken lightly.”

Delta took a harder line against the union, and the exposure of its anti-organizing propaganda, in an internal communication sent to workers. An article published on DeltaNet, the airline’s employee newswire and information hub, framed the dissemination of the posters and other anti-union propaganda produced for the airline as purely informational.

“We want everyone to have the facts,” said Gareth Joyce, the senior vice president for Delta’s Airport Customer Service, in a quote included in the internal article ― which was provided to HuffPost by a source with access to DeltaNet.



“Our employees receive unmatched total compensation and profit sharing compared to IAM-represented airlines; the IAM has​n’t been part of the success we created together,” added Joyce. “We make every effort to take care of our people and will continue to ensure they have access to the truth.”

 Organizers say the attacks don’t seem to be having their intended effect.

“We have been doing a ton of home visits to Delta workers who have signed a union card in the past,” said Hedges.

“We are getting an 80% return rate when we actually talk to someone at the door,” Hedges said. “If all goes according to plan we could file for an election this summer.”

“People are extremely receptive when we can reach them,” said McCurdy. “It’s hostile inside the work areas.”

The company’s tactics aren’t winning it many friends, however. Labor unions across the country decried the airline’s leafleting Thursday, calling it inappropriate and condescending. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for president, called the airline’s behavior a “disgrace.”

“I say to Delta: Stop trying to undercut workers’ right to form a union and negotiate for better wages,” Sanders said in a tweet Thursday night.

Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler Targets July for Thrilling Bitcoin Futures Launch

By CCN: It’s finally happening. The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the parent company of Bakkt, has officially filed for bitcoin futures approval with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), according to a blog post this morning by Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler. Although the CFTC hasn’t approved the new platform yet, Loeffler seems confident it will, stating:

“…bitcoin futures will be listed on a federally regulated futures exchange in the coming months.”

What We Know About the Platform

Loeffler sheds some light on the upcoming platform launch in her post. Here’s what we know:

  • Bakkt will list two futures platforms – one for daily settlements and another with a month-long timeframe.
  • The platform has tools in place to detect wash trading and exclude it (as well as other deceptive practices) from its price discovery.
  • ICE Clear U.S. will margin the bitcoin futures, but Bakkt is still contributing $35 million toward clearinghouse risk.
  • The company still plans to settle the futures contracts with physical bitcoin, differing from futures competitors the CME and Cboe which only settle in cash.

Bakkt Has Had a Long Road to Regulation

Since announcing the platform in August 2018, Bakkt has pushed back its launch date on several occasions. Originally, Bakkt executives planned to launch the first futures contract on December 12. Shortly after the announcement, though, the team pushed that date back to Jan. 24, 2019. A government shutdown and several regulatory hurdles now place the launch in July this year.

Bakkt is also working with the New York State Department of Financial Services to become a qualified custodian for customers’ digital assets. Because the platform settles contracts in bitcoin, this approval is almost a necessity for its success.

Will Bakkt Cause the Next Bitcoin Bull Run?

Several analysts believe that Bakkt is going to spur a new wave of bitcoin institutional investments. The backing of ICE, which also owns the New York Stock Exchange, brings a level of credibility to the platform that we haven’t previously seen.

Equally as exciting are the company’s partnerships with Starbucks and Microsoft. The details of the deals are still murky, but according to an August 2018 press release, Bakkt will

“…leverage Microsoft cloud solutions to create an open and regulated, global ecosystem for digital assets.”

And,

“Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted, and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into U.S. dollars for use at Starbucks.”

With more than 20 million users in the U.S. on its Mobile Pay app, Starbucks tops Apple, Google, and Samsung Pay. So, the implementation of bitcoin payments could easily give the market a boost.

StarbucksStarbucks

Starbucks dominates the American mobile payment market. | Source: Vox/Recode

Through these partnerships, Bakkt is opening up the cryptocurrency process (from acquisition to spending) to a whole new class of people who otherwise would remain sidelined. A successful futures launch in July should bring in a large crop of new institutional investors while the Starbucks implementation shortly after will draw in those on the retail side.

Crumbling Dow Terrifies Wall Street, But Yuan Suffers Collateral Damage

By CCN: The Dow and broader U.S. stock market crashed on Monday after China announced retaliatory tariffs on another $60 billion worth of American-made goods, escalating a brutal trade war that has taken the global financial system by storm.

Dow Collapses; S&P 500, Nasdaq Follow

All of Wall Street’s major indexes were on track for their worst drop of 2019, mirroring a brutal collapse for Dow futures in pre-market trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 656.44 points, or 2.5%, to 25,285.93. The blue-chip index was off more than 700 points earlier in the day.

Dow Jones Industrial Average Dow Jones Industrial Average

Dow Jones Industrial Average heads for its worst day of 2019. | Chart via Yahoo Finance.

The broad S&P 500 Index of large-cap stocks plunged 2.5% to 2,810.43. Six of 11 primary sectors fell by at least 2% while information technology and industrials fell 3% or more.

The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite Index plunged 3.3% to 7,659.97.

Yuan Collapse Threatens China’s Hand

China, renminbiChina, renminbi

China’s yuan renminbi fell on Monday to its lowest level since December. | Source: Shutterstock

China’s decision to escalate the tariff war not only sank U.S. stocks, it triggered a major collapse in its own currency, the yuan renminbi. The yuan plunged 0.8% against the dollar, reaching its lowest level since December. For its part, the U.S. dollar hasn’t caught on as a haven asset during the latest trade spat, as evidenced by the lackluster performance of the DXY dollar index.

Normally, a weaker yuan is welcomed by Chinese policymakers because it makes exports cheaper. In fact, the fall in the yuan this year has allowed China to offset almost all of the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.

But as market contrarian bear Peter Schiff recently noted, a stronger yuan can actually help China destroy the U.S. in a trade war. That’s because a higher yuan increases the purchasing power of Chinese consumers, which allows them to buy more of the products no longer exported to the United States.

Schiff also reminded investors the degree to which China has been subsidizing the U.S. economy:

A trade war with China is much more complicated than the Trump administration is making it out to be. Despite its massive trade deficit with China, the U.S. is a consumer-based economy where spending accounts for more than two-thirds of gross domestic product (GDP). For this reason, the Trump administration is unlikely to abandon the negotiations despite the recent tariff escalation.

Click here for a real-time Dow Jones Industrial Average price chart.

Supreme Courts Divisions Over Death Penalty On Display In Handling Of Two Cases

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court’s internal divisions over the death penalty were on full display again on Monday in fresh wrangling over how the justices handled recent attempts by two convicted murderers in Alabama and Texas to put off their executions.

In both cases, there are signs that tensions over the death penalty – especially skepticism by the court’s conservative majority over last-minute bids by death row inmates to block executions – are coming to a boil after simmering for years.

Justice Clarence Thomas arrives for the swearing in ceremony of Judge Neil Gorsuch in 2017.



Justice Clarence Thomas arrives for the swearing in ceremony of Judge Neil Gorsuch in 2017.

In the Alabama case, Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the nine-member court’s five conservatives, wrote a 14-page opinion defending its middle-of-the-night April 12 decision to pave the way for the execution of Christopher Price, 46. The court’s order was released too late for Price’s scheduled execution to be carried out, and he remains on death row.

Minutes later, the court issued a new opinion by conservative Justice Samuel Alito criticizing its March 28 decision to issue a stay of execution for Texas inmate Patrick Murphy after the state had blocked a Buddhist spiritual adviser from accompanying him to the execution chamber.

Thomas, whose opinion was joined by Alito and fellow conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, took aim at liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, a frequent critic of the death penalty. Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion from the Price decision that was joined by the court’s three other liberals.

Justice Stephen Breyer, far left, is a frequent critic of the death penalty.



Justice Stephen Breyer, far left, is a frequent critic of the death penalty.

Price had a weak legal argument, Thomas wrote, meaning “it is difficult to see his litigation strategy as anything other than an attempt to delay his execution. Yet four members of the court would have countenanced his tactics without a shred of legal support.”

The death penalty remains a controversial issue in the United States even as public support for it has declined since the 1990s, according to opinion polls. The number of U.S. executions and the number of people sentenced to death have both declined in recent years. Many other rich nations have stopped using the death penalty.

Thirty of the 50 U.S. states and the federal government have the death penalty on the books but some of those states, including California, have imposed moratoriums. The vast majority of executions are carried out by a handful of states. There were 25 U.S. executions carried out last year.

‘NO CONSTITUTIONAL WAY’

Breyer is the court’s most vocal death penalty critic, questioning its constitutionality and arguing that it is imposed arbitrarily and differently in various parts of the country, often with long delays. Breyer wrote last month that if prisoners cannot be executed quickly without violating their rights “it may be that … there simply is no constitutional way to implement the death penalty.”

The court last month reversed two lower court decisions that delayed Price’s execution so he could proceed with his request to be executed by lethal gas instead of lethal injection. The Thomas opinion on Monday was issued as the court rejected Price’s underlying appeal.

Price was convicted and sentenced to death in 1993 in the 1991 killing of William Lynn, a minister, in his home in Bazemore, Alabama.

In the Texas case, Alito said Murphy waited too long to bring his claim and that the court’s action to delay his execution would encourage others to bring similar last-ditch actions. Murphy, a Buddhist, had argued his religious rights under the Constitution were violated by the state.

“This court receives an application to stay virtually every execution; these applications are almost all filed on or shortly after the scheduled execution date; and in the great majority of cases, no good reason for the late filing is apparent,” Alito wrote.

Alito said Murphy’s religious claim might have merit, but prisoners must file such lawsuits “well before their scheduled executions.”

Texas has already changed its policy. It previously allowed Christians and Muslims to be accompanied by their religious advisers. Now, no religious advisers are let in the execution chamber.

Murphy was serving a 50-year sentence for aggravated sexual assault when he and six other inmates broke out of prison in 2000 and went on a rampage in which a police officer was killed.

A month before its Murphy decision, the court voted 5-4 to allow an Alabama execution to proceed and denied a request by the condemned inmate, a Muslim, for an imam’s presence in the execution chamber. Alito voted to deny both requests.

Gorsuch complained about last-minute execution challenges when the court ruled on April 1 against Missouri death row inmate Russell Bucklew, who had sought to die by lethal gas rather than lethal injection because of a rare medical condition. Gorsuch said the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment “does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death.”