Macau concludes probe into Cotai land deal ; matter ‘clear’ : Wynn

Macau’s anti-corruption agency is satisfied with its probe into a local land deal by Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN) and has ended its investigation, the casino operator’s billionaire Chairman Steve Wynn said.
“It’s totally mundane, irrelevant,” Wynn told reporters yesterday when asked about the investigation into the deal, after giving a speech to students at a local university. “Everything about the transaction is crystal clear.”
Wynn Resorts, based in Las Vegas, said in July it’s cooperating with the government agency on inquiries into the land purchase for the company’s new casino resort on the city’s Cotai Strip. The Macau Business newspaper reported July 11 the agency is investigating why Wynn Resorts was made to pay 400 million patacas ($50 million) for the land rights.
The new Macau resort, called Wynn Palace, is on track to open in the spring of 2016, Wynn said. Growth in the world’s biggest gambling hub will shrug off the current slump in gaming revenue, according to Wynn.
Gross gaming revenue in Macau, the only place in China where casinos are legal, fell a third straight month in August as China’s anti-graft campaign prompted high-rollers to avoid its gambling halls, hurting casinos’ earnings including at Wynn Macau Ltd. (1128), a unit of Wynn Resorts.
Political Uncertainty
The slump in Macau casinos’ VIP revenue is not solely due to China’s anti-graft campaign, as “political uncertainty also tends to freeze economic activities”, said Wynn, whose company derived more than 70 percent of sales from the Chinese city last year.
Macau’s casinos “will stabilize” as the Chinese special administrative region’s chief executive Fernando Chui begins his second five-year term in office, said the 72-year-old gaming mogul, who controls two casino resorts in Las Vegas and one in Macau.
Wynn Macau has also had “no problems” filling casino jobs with locals and non-local employees, said Wynn, when asked about recent labor tensions in the city. Macau faces the possibility of increased labor unrest, with union leaders saying they’re planning more protests to demand higher pay and better working conditions.
To contact the reporter on this story: Vinicy Chan in Hong Kong at vchan91@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daryl Loo at dloo7@bloomberg.net Subramaniam Sharma

Lottery Win

A nail technician who played the lottery for years by using nickels and dimes from tips at the salon he works at is now a multi-millionaire several times over.

Vinh Nguyen claimed his $228.4 million jackpot after buying the winning Powerball ticket at a small bodega in San Mateo, California.

Nguyen was the only winner in Wednesday night’s Powerball drawing matching the numbers 7, 14, 24, 41, 21 and the Powerball number 26.

The winning ticket: Vinh Nguyen won $228 million +5
The winning ticket: Vinh Nguyen won $228 million
Upon first reading the lucky numbers, he did not think that he had won. His first thought, according to the lottery staff he spoke to: ‘I read the numbers, I didn’t think I had won.’

Nguyen declined media interviews and very few additional details have been released about his ages or where he is from.

Lottery officials have revealed that Nguyen has been playing the lottery for the last five years and adjusting the amount depending on how much he would make in tips each week.

Nguyen spent $30 buying 15 Powerball tickets for Wednesday’s draw.

He decided on the ‘annuity payment option,’ which will give him the full $228,467,735 jackpot paid out over 30 years.

+5
Sharing the wealth: The owners of the store Jack and Nancy Dehoff also receive $1 million for selling the winning ticket +5
Sharing the wealth: The owners of the store Jack and Nancy Dehoff also receive $1 million for selling the winning ticket
The amount works out to be about $138,000,000 spread out over three decades after taxes.

He said that he did not have any particular strategy for picking his numbers.

‘They were all random,’ Nguyen said. ‘ Whatever numbers come into my head I pick.’

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PayPal warms up to Bitcoin

paypal agreementOnce seen as a direct competitor, PayPal has warmed up quite a lot to Bitcoin. Last year, PayPal’s president David Marcus stated that his company was “thinking about” bitcoin. Then, just recently, PayPal announced bitcoin integration through one of its smaller projects – Braintree. And today, PayPal has partnered with three major bitcoin payment processors – BitPay, Coinbase, and GoCoin, to allow PayPal’s digital goods merchants to accept bitcoin payments.

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PayPal Payments Hub

The PayPal Payments Hub is the company’s alternative payments platform used exclusively for digital goods such as in-game currency, music, videos, ebooks, and more. Starting today, Payments Hub users can create a BitPay, Coinbase, or GoCoin account and provide API credentials into the Payments Hub admin. After the relatively simple and straightforward integration is complete, customers can use bitcoins as well as credit cards and Bitcoin to buy the digital goods. PayPal’s partnership with the three bitcoin payments processors allows existing Payments Hub merchants to easily accept bitcoin payments without having to completely overhaul their own systems.

Testing the Waters

However, it’s important to note that PayPal is not announcing 100% bitcoin integration with all of its services, such as their digital wallet. Instead, today’s announcement is simply another cautious step for PayPal into the bitcoin industry.

“PayPal has always embraced innovation, but always in ways that make payments safer and more reliable for our customers. Our approach to Bitcoin is no different. That’s why we’re proceeding gradually, supporting Bitcoin in some ways today and holding off on other ways until we see how things develop.”

PayPal is still experimenting with bitcoin little by little before considering complete integration. The Payments Hub can only be used for digital content, and bitcoin integration is currently only available in North America. Scott Ellison, senior director of corporate strategy at PayPal, stated that “Digital goods were an easy way to [test bitcoin integration] first… People are comfortable paying online for those things.” PayPal will also not work with merchants who pre-sell products.

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“Pre-selling is when a business asks for money up-front for a product or service it will deliver in the future. Customers may not get their money back if the business goes out of business before the product is shipped but after a buyer protection period expires. Again, our decision not to support pre-sales is shaped by our desire to protect our customers.”

Other Limitations

PayPal doesn’t actually process any bitcoin payments. Instead, payments are rerouted through BitPay, Coinbase, or GoCoin, depending on the merchant’s account setup. However, PayPal will still receive an undisclosed fee per referral, which may or may not hinder the new system. Furthermore, bitcoin payments aren’t enabled automatically, and instead, it’s up to merchants to set up bitcoin integration with PayPal’s Payments Hub.

PayPal has been arguably slow about adopting bitcoin, compared to other, smaller, e-commerce competitors, and the company often cites regulatory concerns as one of the main hindrances.

“PayPal also needs to follow the laws and regulations in every market we operate. For this reason, virtual currency exchangers and administrators interested in working with PayPal in the future must secure the appropriate licenses and put anti-money laundering procedures in place.”

However, PayPal is a giant when it comes to online payments, and many are optimistic about PayPal’s (albeit cautious) steps into the bitcoin space.

“We’re excited to continue building this relationship with PayPal, and look forward to helping develop a simple, seamless way for its customers to purchase digital goods with bitcoin.”

-Coinbase

“We are excited to reveal our relationship with PayPal to increase the adoption of bitcoin worldwide.”

Out of the Spotlight, Bitcoin Gains Legitimacy

Mainstream perception of bitcoin, much like the crypto-currency itself, has been volatile. Starting last fall and gaining steam throughout the winter, bitcoin became one of the most buzzed about topics on the internet. It was a recurring subject on sites like Business Insider and TechCrunch. Mainstream media got in on the action as well — Newsweek relaunched their entire publication in March with a large, feature story on the search for bitcoin’s mysterious founder.

Then, as quickly as it had risen, the currency seemed to drop out of the public consciousness. During its time out of the spotlight, however, bitcoin has made significant progress towards mainstream acceptance, and may be poised for a second breakthrough.

You can see the rise and fall in public interest of Bitcoin below, as shown by Google search volume for the term over the last year:

 

Although search volume is higher year-over-year, it’s nowhere near the peak of November and December 2013, where it averaged over five million searches a month. This is likely due to a drop-off in general interest, and perhaps the loss of the “novelty factor” the crypto-currency once commanded.

Bitcoin transaction volume has followed a similar path. Here’s the average volume over the past 12 months, according to Blockchain.info:

 

During November and December, transaction volume regularly surpassed 300,000 bitcoins, and spiked over the 900,000 mark in March. Since April however, volume has remained relatively flat, settling at around 100,000.

This drop in public awareness and transaction volume though, doesn’t mean that Bitcoin is declining as a viable financial asset, or even alternative currency. In fact, Bitcoin is closer to achieving widespread acceptance than ever before.

One of the main barriers to entry with bitcoin has been the lack of acceptance among merchants. For interested consumers, there’s not much point in purchasing an asset that no one recognizes. Thanks to the efforts of bitcoin-wallet company Coinbase however, this is changing.

Last week PayPal announced a partnership with Coinbase that will allow merchants to accept the digital currency in place of USD. Merchants who use PayPal subsidiary Braintree for payment processing can immediately begin accepting bitcoin, with the option to convert the coins back into fiat currency once the transaction is complete. From a public relations standpoint, this is big news. PayPal is a widely trusted brand. Even if they won’t be backing such transactions directly (it appears the merchants who opt-in will bear the risk), opening their platform to bitcoin reduces the barrier to entry for curious onlookers. Put another way, it expands the pool of legitimate businesses that accept bitcoin, and makes them seem safer.

Along the same lines, bitcoin investors may have gained a safety net in the form of the first U.S. regulated bitcoin derivatives exchange. TeraExchange, a N.J. based company, has received the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s stamp of approval to operate a bitcoin swaps exchange. This will allow investors to trade USD-denominated bitcoin swaps ranging from one day to two-year maturities. While derivatives can be confusing (to say the least) for those outside of the finance industry, the basic premise here is relatively simple. As Reuter’s explains:

The derivative allows clients to protect the value of their bitcoin holdings by locking in a dollar value, offering an insurance against the astronomical price swings that have plagued the computer-generated currency.

The CEO of TeraExchange, speaking to the Wall Street Journal, elaborated further, saying:

generally speaking, the products that trade without a hedging instrument tend to be much more volatile because there is no way to hedge risk without going back to the underlying product.

Bitcoin’s volatility has certainly played a large role in shaping its uncertain, risky image. A single bitcoin cost roughly $125 one year ago. Since then it has hit highs of over $1,100, and is now valued at approximately $470. Here’s a chart from Coindesk showing bitcoin’s price over the last year:

 

For an asset, those are large deviations. For a proposed currency, it’s even more extreme. Allowing investors to hedge their risk could help stabilize bitcoin’s price, and limit such fluctuations. The backing of the CFTC for a bitcoin-based financial product alone is a big move towards gaining legitimacy on the broader market.

The SEC is also weighing the viability of two proposed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track the price of bitcoin in USD. Such funds allow investors easier access to assets like bitcoin (or commodities) by allowing them to invest in the product through the stock market. One of the funds, called the Bitcoin Investment Trust, has existed as a private trust since September 2013. The other is headed by the Winklevoss brothers (of The Social Network fame), and has been under review by the SEC for 14 months. Given the recent approval of TeraExchange’s platform, and the acceptance of Bitcoin by major companies such as PayPal, it seems that both ETFs will likely be approved.

That means we’re at a point where over the course of the next six months, there could be multiple publicly traded ETFs, a large derivatives exchange, and popular, consumer-friendly ways to pay for goods, all using bitcoin. It’s a striking contrast to the image of bitcoin just a few months ago, when the currency was almost inextricably linked to the Silk Road drug market and shadowy, Deep Web activity.

Not all of these recent developments are exciting, or lend themselves to catchy headlines, but they are crucial for laying the financial groundwork for widespread bitcoin trading, and potentially adoption. If bitcoin continues to gain acceptance as a legitimate asset, it will be notable not only for its financial implications, but for the remarkable turnaround it will have made in public perception.

MIT Students Battle State’s Demand for Their Bitcoin Miner’s Source Code

MIT student concerned over Jurisdiction rights
MIT student concerned over Jurisdiction rights

Four MIT students behind an award-winning Bitcoin mining tool will face off against New Jersey state authorities in court today when they attempt to fight back against a subpoena demanding their source code.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing 19-year-old MIT student Jeremy Rubin and three classmates in a remarkable case that stands out for the measure of aggression the state is using to obtain the code and identify anyone who might have tested the mining tool.

The case is reminiscent of a federal one that targeted Aaron Swartz after he was arrested by MIT police in 2011 for downloading more than 4 million scholarly journal articles from the JSTOR digital library, offered to MIT students, to make them more widely available. Swartz faced multiple charges for his activity and killed himself as he was preparing for trial. Although there is currently no indictment or pending criminal charges against Rubin and his friends, state authorities have indicated that they believe the researchers may have violated state laws. The case marks a disturbing trend among authorities to go after researchers, innovators, tinkerers and others who try to do cutting-edge projects to help the tech community, says EFF staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury.

“It’s a very broad subpoena that hints at criminal liability and civil liability,” he says. “For a bunch of college kids who put something together for a hackathon—they didn’t make any money, the project never got off the ground and now is completely disbanded—there are some very serious implications.”

The mining tool, known as Tidbit, was developed in late 2013 by Rubin and his classmates for the Node Knockout hackathon—only Rubin is identified on the subpoena but his three classmates are identified on the hackathon web site as Oliver Song, Kevin King and Carolyn Zhang. The now defunct tool was designed to offer web site visitors an alternative way to support the sites they visited by using their computers to mine Bitcoins for them in exchange for having online ads removed.

“We believe our utility for the end user comes in freeing up real estate on web pages,” King wrote about their program on the Node Knockout site. “Imagine a web where your amazon shopping cart doesn’t follow you around to every website you visit. We believe there should be more options than advertising for monetizing a website, and we believe we have a novel and non-intrusive solution. In this way, we provide utility to developers who can now include higher quality content on their websites, and utility to end users who are spared the wasted time in looking at ads.”

The clever design won the award for innovation in the programming competition.

“This is a very intriguing idea that could really transform online economics if it works,” one supporter wrote on the hackathon site. “There is a much broader discussion to have about mining bitcoins vs doing other useful tasks (e.g. a friendly form of mechanical turk).”

But the program never got beyond the proof-of-concept stage before Rubin and Tidbit, as an entity, were hit with subpoenas from the New Jersey
Jeremy Rubin rubin.io
Division of Consumer Affairs just weeks after winning the award.
The state’s attorney general claims Rubin and his classmates violated New Jersey computer crime laws and demanded they hand over source code for their creation and any documentation related to the tool. Rubin was the only one named in the subpoena, Fakhoury says, because he registered the web site for Tidbit.

The authorities also demanded the names and addresses of any Bitcoin wallets used in association with Tidbit, the names of anyone whose computer was used for mining in the project and a list of web sites that may have run the code.

Fakhoury says that although Tidbit made the code available to download and embed on web sites, it wasn’t fully functional and no Bitcoins actually got mined through the Tidbit server.

Indeed, one person on the hackathon site said that although he embedded the code on a website and it looked like Tidbit was successfully mining Bitcoins, “the coins did not seem to show up in the account info dashboard,” he wrote. “Maybe there is a bug? (or is the dashboard not real time?)”

Rubin responded that they had not been able to finish implementing the dashboard before the hackathon ended, but they would eventually complete it.

The MIT community has rallied behind the Tidbit students in support of them and their efforts, in stark contrast to the school’s silence when Swartz was arrested.

MIT sent a letter to the New Jersey attorney general asking his office to withdraw the subpoenas, noting that such actions would have a “chilling effect on MIT teaching and research.” More than 800 people—students and faculty—have also signed letters of support in vain.

The EFF’s Fakhoury will argue in court that the attempt by New Jersey state authorities to target a Massachusetts resident like Rubin is unconstitutional and that the out-of-state authorities have no jurisdiction over him.

“While the state certainly has a right to investigate consumer fraud, threatening out of state college students with subpoenas isn’t the way to do it,” Fakhoury noted in a statement about the case. “As MIT students and faculty have warned, the fear that any state can issue broad subpoenas to any student anywhere in the country will have a chilling effect on campus technological innovation beyond Tidbit.”

He is also arguing that if the court does demand the students hand over any data, they should be given immunity. If not, the court would be forcing the students to relinquish their Fifth Amendment protection against incriminating themselves, since the documentation they provide may contain information that authorities could use to charge them under New Jersey’s anti-hacking law or under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Christie’s New York Demonstrates International Enthusiasm for Asian Art

Christie’s New York demonstrates international enthusiasm for all categories of Asian art
NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s concluded its Fall Asian Art Week with a combined total of $43,480,025 (£26,522,815 / €33,914,420 / HK$336,970,194) achieved over four days of six sales, September 16-19.

Jonathan Stone, Chairman, Asian Art, said: “The results of September New York Asia Week demonstrate the market’s appetite for top-quality works of art with strong provenance. The continuing international demand for Chinese art was underscored by good sale through rates across all media and epochs. We now look forward to the Asia+ / First Open sale of international contemporary art, the sale of Important Chinese Snuff Bottles and the Pavilion Sale of Chinese works of art in Hong Kong on October 5th and 7th.”

William Robinson, International Head of World Art, commented: “The sales of South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art and of Indian and Southeast Asian Art achieved their highest sold percentage by lot for a number of years, indicating an increased buyer confidence across all sectors of the market. It was exciting to see known buyers in the classical sale expanding their interests into categories that had not been of interest to them before. The modern and contemporary sale was notable in that all the top 10 lots were acquired by private buyers, either for institutions or for their own homes.”

RESULTS OF ASIAN ART WEEK SALES | September 2014

FINE CHINESE PAINTINGS TOTAL: $5,242,025 80% BY LOT | 93% BY VALUE

Xia Gui (Active Ca. 1195-1230) Fisherman Returning to Shore in a Storm. Oval fan, mounted and framed, ink and light color on silk

TOP LOT: Lot 2 Xia Gui (Active Ca. 1195-1230), Fisherman Returning to Shore in a Storm. Oval fan, mounted and framed, ink and light color on silk. Signed by the artist. One illegible seal; 9 x 10 in. (23 x 25.4 cm.). Estimate: $40,000-50,000 Price realized: $497,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2014.

Provenance: Lot 1, 31 May 1990, Important Classical Chinese Paintings, Christie’s New York.

Notes: Born in Qiantang, Zhejiang province, Xia Gui is considered a master of pure landscape painting. Xia Gui and Ma Yuan (ca. 1160-1225), both academic master painters who served in the Southern Song court, formed the Ma-Xia idiom that defined the Southern Song landscape painting style. Unlike Ma Yuan, who often used landscapes as a tool for conveying poetic or human sentiments, Xia Gui’s focus was on capturing true landscape, and he created a sense of infinite depth on a two dimensional surface, with minimal human presence. Developing Li Tang’s ax-cut strokes to their most advanced and nuanced form, Xia Gui carved entire mountaintops from empty space with a single, sculptural turn of the brush. Many of Xia Gui’s intimate works, such as album leaves and fans, survive today in museum collections.

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Scotland’s Independent Vote and Bitcoin

scotland independenceAlthough Scotland has yet to vote whether or not to secede from the United Kingdom, pundits have already begun debating how an independent Scotland should structure its society – specifically its monetary policy.

Theorists have noted that, if the Scots vote “yes” on the independence referendum, Scotland could prove a perfect testing ground for large-scale bitcoin implementation. Naysayers argue that free banking systems are unsustainable, pointing to the so-called “free banking” era in 18th and 19th century Scotland. Consequently, if Scotland’s independence vote passes and bitcoin becomes Scotland’s currency of choice, the system will inevitably collapse. However, a closer examination of Scottish monetary policy during this era reveals that although Scottish banks had freedoms not afforded to most modern banks, their banking system was not free.

First State Republican Party Accepting Bitcoin

Bitcoin officially infiltrated one of the two major United States political parties this weekend when the Louisiana Republican Party (LAGOP) began accepting bitcoin donations. “The party hasn’t publicly launched our bitcoin donation page, but the link went live over the weekend,” LAGOP Executive Director Jason Doré told CCN. “We plan to do a public launch later this week.”

CCN

While the Libertarian Party was the first political party to accept bitcoin donations back in April 2013, the Louisiana Republican Party says they are the first major state political party to accept donations via the cryptocurrency. The Democratic Party has not moved to accept bitcoin, however, nearly 30 individual political candidates at all levels around the U.S. currently accept bitcoin donations.

“The Bitcoin market is growing as more and more people begin to use the currency, and companies of all stripes are now accepting bitcoins for payment,” said Dore. “In May of 2014, the Federal Election Commission released an opinion approving of political bitcoin donations. We want to make it easy for all people to get involved in the Republican Party of Louisiana.”

Doré added that the decision was made largely because “innovation and the free market are at the core of what the Republican Party stands for.”

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The LAGOP worked closely with BitPolitic, who setup their donations page.

“They made the entire process painless and made sure to have the system comply with the all the respective campaign finance regulations,”

said Doré.

BitPolitic is a “fundraising consultancy and services team comprised of bitcoin specialists developing and exercising strategic solutions for political campaigns” who provide political campaigns access to bitcoin through a legally compliant bitcoin donation form. A percentage of bitcoin donations are sent to BitPolitic for their services, however they do not charge anything up front.

In May, the Federal Election Commission gave the OK for political committees to begin accepting bitcoin donations, also ruling that political committees can buy and sell bitcoin as an investment as long as all proceeds are converted into fiat prior to being spent. The commission deadlocked on whether political committees should be allowed to spend bitcoins on goods and services.

According to the decision, political committees “must sell the bitcoins and deposit them into a campaign depository within 10 days,” and while they are allowed to purchase bitcoins, “they must also be sold and deposited in the campaign depository before they can be spent. As such, Political organizations do not yet have the OK to pay salaries in Bitcoin, even though many other entities around the world are now trying this out.”

The three Democratic commission members expressed their desire to have bitcoin donations limited to $100 due to concerns over anonymity, but the final ruling did not restrict larger donations, and was only guidance as to what is considered legal.

While the advisory ruling was made to address the legality of bitcoin donations made to the Make Your Laws political action committee, as CCN writer Caleb Chen noted, “It is easily arguable that any political organization regulated by the FEC can follow these guidelines to accept Bitcoin donations.”

Images from Shutterstock.

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PayPal Accepts BitCoin

Alex Hern
Thursday 11 September 2014 12.59 BST

Paypal will start accepting bitcoin payments through its subsidiary, Braintree, the company has announced.

The firm is partnering with bitcoin payment platform Coinbase, one of the largest bitcoin companies, which already handles payments for clients including Overstock and Reddit.

“This is PayPal making a move to embrace bitcoin,” Bill Ready, Braintree’s CEO, told the Techcrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.

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The integration of bitcoin means companies that already use Braintree to run their payments will be able to accept bitcoin in the coming months without changing their configuration, a move that could boost adoption of the cryptocurrency.

Braintree already handles transactions by companies including Uber, AirBnB and Dropbox.

“We had a lot of developers tell us they’d love to add bitcoin,” Coinbase’s CEO, Brian Armstrong, told Techcrunch. “But Braintree would handle all of their payments and they didn’t want to add another SDK. They would say that if Braintree added it, they would add it.”

Merchants wanting to accept bitcoin payments will still need to set up a Coinbase wallet but they will have the option to instantly convert every bitcoin payment back into fiat currency.

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Braintree’s support for bitcoin follows the announcement of bitcoin adoption by a competitor, Stripe, back in March. Stripe’s bitcoin facility operates already, albeit in a closed beta, and the company handles payments itself, rather than partnering with a third-party.

“Bitcoin fits in nicely with Stripe’s product plan,” Collison told the Guardian in March. “Credit cards are a good first thing to roll out because they have such widespread penetration but we don’t bill ourselves as a credit card processing company, we’re a payments company.”

As for Paypal itself, the company is keeping bitcoin at an arm’s length. The integration with Braintree won’t affect customers or merchants with Paypal accounts and, from the consumer side, Braintree has little public profile. But the change “opens the door for PayPal to integrate bitcoin into its main wallet functionality,” Gil Luria, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, told Bloomberg.

Bitcoin to be accepted by startup payment service Stripe
Tags: Bitcoin, PayPal, eBay, Internet, Cryptocurrencies, more…

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