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Daily briefing - 30 July 2019

Mining in Iran

Is Iran trolling US president Donald Trump? It's very, very likely. The Iranian government has approved plans for cryptocurrency mining, despite cryptocurrency mining also being allowed in the United States. But The Don lashed out recently about bitcoin and Libra, despite quite probably understanding nothing about either. Maybe Iranian enthuse will focus his mind. "Cryptocurrency mining is now an official industrial activity in Iran after winning approval from the country's cabinet," reports Coindesk. "In a session on Sunday, chaired by the country's president, Hassan Rouhani, cabinet ministers endorsed the activity and said industry participants would need to seek the required licenses from the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade, the Mehr News Agency reports. As CoinDesk reported last week, crypto mining had already being given approval by the Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, a government economic commission." Unlike in Western newspapers, Iranian media are expected to illustrate bitcoin mining activities not with the stupid small plastic men with pickaxes attacking giant gold coins, but with proper images supplied by Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade. (Photo supplied is not illustrative.)

Meanwhile, the chief executive of Huawei suggested that China develop its own cryptocurrencies, which might be pressed into use - for instance - in projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative. Speaking to Italian journalists, Huawei's chief executive Zhenfei Ren responded to a question about Libra with the suggestion that China up the ante. "China can also issue a similar currency like Libra," he said, according to The Block. "Why wait for someone else to issue it? A nation's power is greater than that of an internet company." (Facebook executives were apparently helpless with laughter at this idea.) But Mr Ren has a point. In fact, it's more than a year since Huawei started offering blockchain wallets on its phones. China's government has struggled to grasp bitcoin mining, even though it was once the world leader, and Jack Ma et al dutifully repeat the mantra beloved of Western bankers that it's blockchain good, bitcoin bad. Huawei, remember, is massively invested in African telco infrastructure and is not about to allow Facebook go stomping across Africa handing out Libra. Not if Huawei has anything to say about it.

Copying things from China, eh? Americans rarely go to China, preferring China to come to America in the shape of millions of iPhones and flat screen televisions. After raving about China's controlling authorities and hostility towards ordinary people, westerners are beginning to see some things they like about China. Several UK tweeters posted a picture of a man doing some work on a laptop on a train from London wearing just flip flops and shorts, suggesting that the UK could benefit from China's social scoring system. It follows stories a week earlier that Chinese cities are trying to make men cover their bellies (as rolled-up t-shirts are a common thing) and penalising belly barers on their social credit scoring. Well, now China has gone and cracked another problem. "While you can use WeChat Pay on your phone to purchase pretty much everything in China, you're still forced back to the Stone Age inside airplanes, where you need cash or card to purchase a snack or drink," reports the Shanghaist. It's a limited trial on the Shanghai-Chengdu flight. Users can enrol before getting on the plane via Spring Airlines, and then use the app to pay while on board. To use the service, you'll need a credit score of 550 or above, but that shouldn't be an issue if you've already managed to get on the plane. However, we're still not sure about the concept of going back to the Stone Age IN A PLANE....

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