Five reasons 2018 could be the best year yet for cryptocurrencies

Ethereum and Bitcoin

In an earlier piece for CNBC, I explained why a potential cryptocurrency bubble could burst in 2018. Many people asked me afterward: If I’m so skeptical about the space, why am I invested in it?

Let me clarify. I’m someone who always calculates the potential upsides and downsides, and I think many people take unnecessary risks: They either invest too much or too little because they don’t do proper analysis.

So I want to highlight five reasons why 2018 might be the best ever year for cryptocurrencies and why I’m heavily invested in them.

1. The work on scaling issues

Bitcoin (BTC) is the most important cryptocurrency. Most government-backed money that goes in and out of crypto goes through bitcoin, so what happens to the original cryptocurrency affects the entire market.

The token’s market dominance stood at about 40 percent as of Wednesday. By my estimates, however, it’s clear bitcoin’s market dominance should return to 75 percent of the entire space.

I actually see a 150 percent potential upside in bitcoin for 2018.

Why? Well, BTC is still dominant. It has the biggest user base and the biggest industry. Still, it faces a challenge in scaling up for wider use.

Bitcoin now can’t handle more than six or seven (or, with the “Segregated Witness” protocol upgrade, it’s 12 to 14) transactions a second. Compare that with credit cards, which involve thousands of transactions per second, so the criticism about bitcoin’s ability to be useful at larger scales is understandable.

The scalability challenge results in high fees as well.

What is the solution? It is the so-called second-layer peer-to-peer off-chain networks. To cite an example, look at the Lightning Network. Created by Blockstream, the Lightning Network allows for transactions off the blockchain, thereby decreasing the transaction costs almost to zero and increasing the speed and scalability almost infinitely. And it’s just getting started. As you can see from this map, more and more nodes as well as channels are being established. It is growing exponentially.

In the coming months, we will see a sharp uptick in transactions and the use of more bitcoin in these channels. What’s more, the Lightning Network doesn’t have any fee.

In other words, second-layer networks solve the problems bitcoin faces — scalability and lack of liquidity. That could be a key reason why bitcoin surges this year.

At the end of 2017, I foresaw that bitcoin would drop as low as $5,000 — but it could potentially climb to as high as $60,000. Lightning Network will have a big impact on the potential upside.

There are also other second-layer projects like Rootstock that would allow computations similar to those of ethereum (a blockchain-based computing platform that supports another cryptocurrency named ether) to be done through bitcoin.

Exciting projects such as those could cause a significant spike in BTC. I would dare say in the realm of 60 to 70 percent with the potential upside of 100 percent — and maybe even more.

2. Large scale and more legitimate ICOs

Like last year, initial coin offerings (ICOs) will impact the ethereum network because ICOs usually require plenty of ether. That will buttress the demand for the platform’s digital coin. More legitimate ICOs will lead to greater interest in ether as we are already seeing with the billion-dollar ICO of messaging app provider Telegram and that of Kodak.

That means we could see a rise in the market cap of ethereum to $200 billion by the end of the year from less than $90 billion on Wednesday. The cryptocurrency’s price could possibly double to $2,000.

Though other platforms could see similar gains, I believe ethereum will be the main focus.

3. Regulation

Many believe regulations hurt markets, but that is a short-sighted perspective. In the long run, companies require rules for the sake of legal stability and certainty. Regulation gives users and institutional clients the confidence to invest.

We saw something similar when Japan started regulating bitcoin. The market dropped initially, but it rose eventually. Ditto in Australia.

Other countries could follow the same rule book — I think we are going to see something like that with South Korea and probably many others — but the market’s fate will be no different than after what played out in Japan and Australia.

4. A lot of execution and usability

There are several start-ups like my own that offer debit cards to help people spend their cryptocurrency holdings.

That means the number of users and merchants is set to increase sharply in 2018.

This would burnish the reputation of cryptocurrencies, with more and more companies trusting them. The firms that execute well this year will stand out and create a survivorship bias — where a few companies thrive and others fail, but people focus on the winners and ignore the losers.

Most start-ups bomb, but the spectacular successes of companies such as Facebook and Airbnb help mask those failures. Likewise, the success stories of a few entities in the cryptocurrency space will overshadow the negative news of several going bankrupt.

5. Institutional investors

The last reason why 2018 will be a stellar year for cryptocurrencies is that this will be the first year of solid institutional money flowing into the ecosystem.

It is estimated that $10 billion to $12 billion has so far flown into the crypto ecosystem, but that’s nothing compared to what institutional funds could invest. Since those first funds propped up the market to around $500 billion, the next $10 billion to $12 billion, which is peanuts for some funds, could double the market cap this year.

FCC’s reversal of net neutrality rules is expected to be published on Thursday

Chairman Ajit Pai speaks ahead of the vote on the repeal of so called net neutrality rules at the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, December 14, 2017.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is expected to publish on Thursday its December order overturning the landmark Obama-era net neutrality rules, two sources briefed on the matter said Tuesday.

The formal publication in the Federal Register, a government website, means state attorneys general and advocacy groups will be able to sue in a bid to block the order from taking effect.

The Republican-led FCC in December voted 3-2 to overturn rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content. The White House Office of Management and Budget still must sign off on some aspects of the FCC reversal before it takes legal effect.

Congressional aides say the publication will trigger a 60-legislative-day deadline for Congress to vote on whether to overturn the decision. U.S. Senate Democrats said in January they had the backing of 50 members of the 100-person chamber for repeal, leaving them just one vote short of a majority.

Even if Democrats could win a majority in the Senate, a repeal would also require winning a vote in the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a larger majority, and would still be subject to a likely veto by President Donald Trump. Democrats need 51 votes to win any proposal in the Republican-controlled Senate because Vice President Mike Pence can break any tie.

On Friday, a coalition of more than 20 state attorneys general and advocacy groups agreed to withdraw a protective petition filed in January that sought to preserve the right to sue.

Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, said the office reached an agreement to withdraw “the original petition and will simply refile it once the final rule is published. Either way, our coalition of AGs is taking the FCC to court to challenge its illegal rollback of net neutrality.”

The December FCC order will be made public on Wednesday and formally published on Thursday, the sources said. A spokesman for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai did not immediately comment.

The approval of Pai’s proposal marked a victory for internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon Communications and hands them power over what content consumers can access. (Disclosure: Comcast is parent of CNBC.)

Earlier this month, technology companies including Alphabet and Facebook threw their weight behind the congressional bid to reverse the Trump administrations plan to repeal Obama-era rules designed to protect an open internet.

Parody cryptocurrency just broke $2 billion for its market cap

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A cryptocurrency that was created as a parody and named after an internet meme now has a market value of more than $2 billion.

Dogecoin crossed the $2 billion barrier on Sunday, around two weeks after it first touched the $1 billion level on Christmas day. The digital currency traded as high as $0.018773, putting its market capitalization at $2.12 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.

Data from the cryptocurrency site showed dogecoin’s current market value is about $1.98 billion — as of Jan. 8 at midnight — and traded at $0.017535 per token. That’s a roughly 69% increase compared to levels seen during Friday’s Asian trading session.

Last month, the virtual coin rose more than 400% and briefly topped $0.0107 in late December.

As of Monday, there were a total of 43 cryptocurrencies with a market cap above $1 billion. The largest of those, bitcoin, traded at $15,768.34 as of 1:15 p.m. HK/SIN, according to industry site CoinDesk. That put its market cap at around $264 billion.

Dogecoin is an example of an altcoin, which are peer-to-peer digital tokens that descended from bitcoin. The more popular ones include ethereum, which topped $1,000 for the first time on Thursday, and ripple, which saw a staggering 35,000 percent jump in its value last year.

Dogecoin, for its part, was created in 2013 and its mascot is a Japanese shiba inu dog popularized by an Internet meme that dates back to 2010. The creators of dogecoin positioned the virtual token as “the internet currency” that can allow users to easily send money online.

There are several ways to get dogecoins: Users can buy them at online exchanges, get tipped in the cryptocurrency and even mine them.

The Bitcoin phenomena experiences both record highs and lows this week, but…uhh, what the heck is it again? USA TODAY

The virtual currency’s meteoric rise in recent months has the project’s creator expressing concern about market excess. Jackson Palmer, the founder of dogecoin who left the team in 2015, told cryptocurrency news site CoinDesk that it was telling that the token saw such a sharp jump in price even when the project hadn’t released a software update in over 2 years.

The total value of cryptocurrencies is over $750 billion, according to CoinMarketCap, and bitcoin dominates around 34 percent of that market.

“The most significant contributing cause for altcoins to rise so parabolically is owing to the perception of ‘cheap’ coins,” Dave Chapman, managing director at Hong Kong-based commodities and digital assets trading house Octagon Strategy, told CNBC.

“The two most well known cryptocurrencies (i.e. bitcoin and ethereum) are considered too expensive for most new entrants. Despite being able to purchase a fraction of each, there is a real psychological barrier around owning something in its entirety,” Chapman added.

A buyer, he explained, would feel better knowing they own 2,000 ripple tokens, which would cost a little over $6,000, rather than owning less than half of a bitcoin at the same price.

Smartphone sales are slowing and here are two key reasons why

Global smartphone sales saw their first year-on-year fall in history, according to new data, with analysts blaming a number of new user habits for the decline.

Research from analyst firm Gartner Thursday showed a 5.6 percent drop in sales in the fourth quarter of 2017, compared with the same period in 2016.

Replacement cycle

Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner pointed to the lengthening of the replacement cycle as one cause. That’s a trend backed up by HYLA, a company that runs the smartphone trade-in programs for industry giants such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. HYLA has seen a number of trends emerge that may help explain the stalling smartphone market.

Only small improvements in smartphones now, even at high end: Analyst

Only small improvements in smartphones now, even at high end: Analyst   7 Hours Ago | 02:53

Device trade-in is playing an increasing role in all smartphone upgrades — and increasing the affordability of all devices — especially in the premium category. The company said data for 2017 showed U.S. consumers owned a device for 2.59 years, or 945 days before trading it in. That’s 78 days longer than in 2016 which came in at 2.38 years or 867 days. With users in a major market holding on to a better phone for longer, new device sales will inevitably suffer.

Meanwhile, some analysts suggest that consumers are holding onto their phones longer because their new devices are dramatically dropping in price shortly after purchase. Biju Nair, CEO at HYLA Mobile thinks the smartphone market may begin to emulate that of new cars. “Despite only being available for a couple of months, the iPhone X is now achieving just $600 at trade-in — highlighting the dramatic depreciation of high-end devices,” he told CNBC via email.

Innovation

Consumers are also increasingly unimpressed with the frequency and diversity of new models. A lack of innovation and incremental benefits are failing to entice new buyers to the market, a better camera and better connection quality is no longer enough for potential purchasers to reach into their pocket.

Smartphone sales fall year-on-year for the first time   7 Hours Ago | 01:05

5G and the internet of things will be touted as the platform for the next spectrum of upgrades and features at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, but that’s still a way off from

being a smartphone savior. U.K. mobile analytics firm OpenSignal believes there is still life in the old 4G dog yet. CEO Brendan Gill said: “There is room for improvement in 4G as well. Telcos still need to invest in their 4G networks on an ongoing basis to provide a reliable and high-quality service to their customers.”

Apple’s micro financing options along with a strong trade-in market will continue to offer access and affordability to high-end devices. However, with Samsung launching a new flagship device to take on the iPhone X at Mobile World Congress, profit protection in a falling sales environment may mean the sky’s the limit for premium prices.

One-third of millennials brush teeth just once a day, study shows

Many of those polled said they would rather face their fears of public speaking than take a seat in the dentist’s chair.

Millennials may be successful in many ways, but they are failing when it comes to cleaning their teeth, a new study shows.

Research commissioned by Hello Products, an oral care start-up, found that only 30 percent brush their teeth just once a day. Of the 2,000 Americans surveyed, the average person had gone more than two days at a time without brushing their teeth at least once a day.

Beautiful smiling model - XXXL Image - very shallow dof!

Out of 2,000 Americans surveyed, 62% of adults are too afraid to visit the dentist.  (Moncherie)

“While most of us know that professional dental care is important for our overall health, visiting the dentist can still be a nerve-wracking experience for some,” said Craig Dubitsky, founder of Hello Products, to SWNS.

Of the group, 62 percent said were too afraid to visit the dentist, with millennials more likely to be afraid of the dentist than any other age group.

In fact, many of those polled said they would rather face their fears of public speaking than take a seat in the dentist’s chai

Even more surprising, 33 percent said they woulgo without sex for a month than undergo a dental procedure.

But studies have connected good oral hygiene to healthy people.

“Research has shown that there are many linkages to oral health and your overall health,” said Dr. Lawrence Fung, founder of Silicon Beach Dental.

TOP 10 REASONS AMERICANS AVOID THE DENTIST
· Fear of painful treatment
· Fear of pain after treatment
· Noise of the dental drill
· Negative past experiences
· That the anesthetic won’t work
· Dental instruments
· Gag easily
· Afraid of being poked with a sharp object
· Feelings of helplessness
· Embarrassment due to oral hygiene

TOP 5 EXCUSES AMERICANS MAKE TO AVOID OR DELAY THE
DENTIST
· It’s too expensive
· Nothing hurts so there’s no need to go
· My insurance may not cover it
· I can’t take time out of work
· I have more important things to do

Newt Gingrich: Opioid deaths are a health crisis — Treatment, not jail, is the cure

About 91 Americans are expected to die today and every day from opioid overdoses. Over 300,000 have died since the year 2000, surpassing vehicle accidents as the leading cause of unintentional deaths. The economic toll is estimated to be a staggering $78.5 billion per year nationwide.

Most people know someone who has battled addiction. They may have been in an accident or needed surgery. To ease their pain, their doctor prescribed opioids. Those prescriptions were appropriate and entirely legal.

Opioids reduce pain and give intense feelings of happiness. Many people’s brain chemistry causes them to crave this “high” and they become dependent on these drugs. When their prescriptions run out, the cravings don’t stop.

Addiction is a medical condition, not a moral failure. President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis emphasized that addiction is “a chronic brain disease.”

Addiction changes the way people’s brains function, causing their brains to need opiates in order to function normally. The absence of opiates causes brain abnormalities that trigger withdrawal, with physical symptoms such as anxiety, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, and tremors.

The pain of withdrawal can be unbearable. One person described it as though “every bone in your body hurts. You get hot and cold sweats. It is 90 degrees out here, but you’d be freezing with goose bumps. There is no middle ground.”

To avoid these withdrawal symptoms, many people living with addiction shop for a doctor who will give them another prescription. If that fails, they often resort to buying opioids on the street. This is extremely dangerous because these street drugs often contain Fentanyl, which is cheaper and more deadly than other drugs.

The tragic toll of this epidemic extends beyond those who die from overdoses. Grandparents and foster parents take on the burden of raising the children of those who have become addicted to or died from opioid use.

In addition, there is a troubling increase in the number of children whose mothers take opioids during pregnancy. These innocent babies suffer the terrors of withdrawal after they are born. As a result, many of them experience physical and mental difficulties throughout their lives.

Other epidemics are treated as public health crises with government and private sector support for research to find appropriate treatment and prevention protocols. Unfortunately, we have not made the same commitment to prevent and treat addiction.

Despite the solid evidence that addiction is a disease, there remain those who believe opioid addiction is a moral failure and should be punished with jail time. Certainly, we need to go hard against those who are bringing large shipments of this poison across our borders and into our neighborhoods. These drug dealers belong in prison.

However, imposing severe sentences for people with opioid addiction is both cruel and dangerous. We wouldn’t lock someone up for having pneumonia. So, why would we incarcerate someone with the disease of addiction?

While incarcerated, people living with addiction go through withdrawal without proper medical supervision. It is extremely painful and doesn’t do anything to treat their underlying disease.

Incarceration cannot reverse the neurobiological abnormalities of the addicted brain. In fact, putting people battling opioid addiction in jail rather than in treatment programs can lead to more opioid-related deaths.

Tolerance for the drug is reduced while in jail, but the person’s addiction remains. Upon release, if he or she succumbs to his or her brain’s cravings, the “usual” dose may cause an overdose, which could cause the person to die due to having a lowered tolerance. Continuing to follow the “punishment not treatment” course will only continue the devastation of the opioid epidemic.

Instead, here are some important steps that will help end this opioid epidemic:

  • Partner with pharmaceutical companies and research hospitals to develop non-addictive painkillers and new ways to treat addiction and overdoses.
  • Prosecute major drug trafficking organizations that ship large amounts of illicit synthetic drugs into our country and communities. Currently only 14 percent of federal prisoners convicted of drug crimes were major traffickers. That means we spend millions locking up the 86 percent, who are small fish.
  • Fully enforce the federal law that requires insurance companies to provide the same benefits for mental health and substance use diagnoses as they do for other medical conditions. When they refuse to pay for these services, patients end up in costly jail beds where their addiction is not treated.
  • Reverse health care policies that perversely provide incentives for prescribing opioids, while limiting payments for non-addictive treatments for pain, as well as addiction treatment and medication-assisted treatment.
  • Change outdated laws and regulations that make it harder for people living with addiction to get medication-assisted treatment. This includes eliminating the cap on the number of patients a health-care provider can treat. It also includes changing regulations that make it harder for patients to access new longer-acting recovery drugs that are less prone to be diverted and help with adherence.
  • Establish drug courts that support evidence-based treatment interventions in every federal judicial district. As the commission reported, drug courts are “working in our states and can work in our federal system to help treat those who need it and lower the federal prison population…. Drug Courts are known to be significantly more effective than incarceration…”

These are concrete steps that will provide help to millions of Americans fighting addiction. It is truly a matter of life and death.

Florida teen’s dying wish to marry high school sweetheart to come true

Dustin Snyder and Sierra Siverio will wed Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, in Plant City, Fla.

edding bells are in the air for a couple whose love will last long after death.

A Florida teenager with terminal cancer will get his dying wish on Sunday to marry his high school sweetheart.

Dustin Snyder, 19, of Valrico, Fla., has been battling cancer, synovial sarcoma, on-and-off since before he turned 18, ABC News Go reported.

The young man was told he was cancer-free following surgery and chemotherapy, but just three weeks ago he experienced pain and was rushed to the hospital where he was told the cancer had returned.

Snyder was given just weeks to live.

“The only treatment for this is removal and they can’t remove this,” Cassandra Fondahn, Snyder’s mother told FOX 13. “It’s been a rough road.”

His girlfriend, Sierra Siverio, who has stayed by Snyder’s side through his sickness, plans to marry her boyfriend Sunday at Big Red Barn in Plant City.

“That means everything to me,” Siverio told FOX 13. “I’m going to be there for him no matter what and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

“She was there with me since the beginning, and I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else,” Snyder told FOX 8.

The teens met in middle school but lost touch before reuniting in high school.

The community has come together to make sure the wedding is as memorable as possible. Citizens have donated everything from the rings to the wedding gown and venue.

LifePath Hospice is working to get the flowers and bridesmaids dresses, along with someone to provide drinks and a bar service.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for the couple’s wedding. As of Saturday morning, the campaign has raised more than $19,500.

“I can’t believe the amount of people that have reached out to help,” Fondahn told FOX 8. “It’s a lot of good and compassionate people.”

Siverio said she and Dustin would be together “no matter what, forever, in both of our hearts.”

Potentially toxic chemicals were found in e-cigarette vaper

A new study out of Johns Hopkins says there may be toxic levels of metals including lead that could be leaking from e-cigarettes.

A new warning about vaping published in Environmental Health Perspectives says there may be toxic levels of metals, including lead, that could be leaking from the heating coils of e-cigarettes.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health tested liquids in vapers’ refilling dispensers from 56 Baltimore area users and found potentially unsafe levels of arsenic, chromium, manganese, nickel and lead in the e-liquids from vapors refilling dispensers.

Test results also showed that aerosol metal concentrations were highest for e-cigarettes with more frequently changed coils. Study authors pointed out that chronic inhalation of these metals has been linked to lung, liver, immune, cardiovascular and brain damage, and even cancers.

“It’s important for the FDA, the e-cigarette companies and vaper [users] themselves to know that these heating coils, as currently made, seem to be leaking toxic metals — which then get into the aerosols that vapers inhale,” said study senior author Ana María Rule, assistant scientist in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering.

The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to regulate e-cigarettes, but has not issued any rulings on the matter so far.

More research is planned to determine possible health effects.

 

Cycling does not harm men’s sexual health, study says

Man cycling

Cycling does not negatively affect men’s sexual health or urinary function, a study has found.

Researchers compared cyclists with runners and swimmers and found their sexual and urinary health was comparable.

The findings contrasted with previous studies that suggested cycling could negatively affect men’s sexual function, the study’s authors said.

They said the benefits to cycling “far outweigh the risks”.

Cycling to work ‘halves cancer risk’

‘Tremendous benefits’

Some 2,774 cyclists from the UK, US Canada, Australia and New Zealand were surveyed, along with 539 swimmers and 789 runners, using a range of questionnaires that measured sexual health and urinary function.

Sexual health and urinary function were comparable in all three groups, researchers said, although some cyclists were more prone to urethral strictures – a narrowing of the urethra.

There was also no statistically significant difference between high intensity cyclists – those who have cycled for more than two years more than three times per week and averaging more than 25 miles per day – and recreational cyclists.

Authors of the study, published in the Journal of Urology, said their findings contradicted previous research that suggested cycling negatively affected erectile function.

These studies lacked comparison groups and were limited by small sample sizes, they said.

“Cycling provides tremendous cardiovascular benefits and is low impact on joints,” lead investigator Benjamin Breyer, from the University of California-San Francisco’s urology department, said.

“The health benefits enjoyed by cyclists who ride safely will far out weight health risks.”

The cyclists did have statistically significant higher odds of genital numbness, the study found.

But by standing more than 20% of the time while cycling the odds of this were significantly reduced, the research found.

The researchers said in future work they would look more closely at those who had reported numbness to see if this was a predictor for future problems.

Missguided praised for mannequins with stretch marks, vitiligo and freckles

The British fast fashion brand is winning applause for its inclusive mannequins.

British fast fashion brand Missguided has introducing a new range of mannequins to its London stores — and they’re not your average posers.

Their real-girl mannequins have natural body features, including stretch marks, vitiligo and freckles, and rep a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds.

missguided

Missguided’s new fleet of figurines has received ample praise on social media.  (Missguided)

They’re part of Missguided’s ongoing mission to buck unrealistic industry standards. In December, the brand announced that it would stop airbrushing out models’ stretch marks on its website.

Missguided’s new fleet of figurines has received ample praise on social media.

“This is AH-MAY-ZING! @Missguided are killing it,” tweets Shout Magazine, a UK-based teen glossy.

“Said it once and I’ll say it a million times but I absolutely [love] @Missguided showing life isn’t like an Instagram post,” one user adds.

On the downside, Popsugar notes that Missguided’s mannequins are still pretty svelte. But hey, baby steps.