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News Fix: Former CFTC Chair Suggests a Digital Dollar Will Uphold U.S. Dominance in Global Finance

News Fix: Former CFTC Chair Suggests a Digital Dollar Will Uphold U.S. Dominance in Global Finance
By Allison Brickell
Date October 19, 2019

This week, the Fix is thinking about change. And we’re inspired by the people across the world who are working to create it.

Before the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg led kids and adults from 150 countries in a massive strike to demand action be taken to address climate change. Around 7 million people participated in the strikes, which ran from September 20 to September 27.

Entrepreneurs are working to address the problem too. Climeworks, a Swiss environmental company, operates dozens of machines that suck in air, then filter out and collect the carbon dioxide from it.

This allows the company to capture carbon dioxide and not release any additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which it can use to fuel airplanes and other aircraft. Climeworks has raised about $50 million so far and has 14 plants operating around the world.

Visolis is another eco-focused startup that uses a microbe that feeds on carbon dioxide, food waste and agricultural residue to produce renewable chemicals. The company hopes to help reduce the manufacturing sector’s reliance on petroleum by producing renewable chemicals with a variety of applications.

Environmental startups like these are increasingly attracting attention from venture capitalist firms and other companies (including oil and gas giants) around the world. As climate change fears grow, so does the amount of money flowing into eco-focused startups.

The Fix is encouraged by all this. Founders have to work hard to make their startup a success. It takes passion, drive and strategy. And the founders who go after the big problems – massive, planet-sized problems – have to think even bigger.

We’ve met a fair number of determined founders over the years. And we’re confident that innovative, successful startups have massive potential to change the world.

On to the News Fix…


Private market is so over WeWork: Almost no one is trading shares of WeWork in the private over-the-counter market – yet another sign that investors have lost confidence in the company ( Reuters ).

“We’ve seen zero interest in trading on the secondary market for WeWork. Our understanding is that there has been little, if any, trading in the name more broadly,” said Jane Leung, chief investment officer at Scenic Advisement, a boutique investment bank specializing in private share sales.

We’ve been covering WeWork’s beleaguered IPO plans for the past couple months. So the Fix is not surprised by this development.

Arianna Huffington’s company acquires artificial intelligence tech company: In an interesting development on the “we’re all addicted to technology” front, Thrive Global, founded by Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, acquired a new tech startup ( TechCrunch ). Los Angeles-based Boundless Mind (originally called Dopamine Labs) uses technology that tracks and analyzes people’s phone activity. Using that data, it then prompts users to encourage certain behavior. Huffington said Boundless “epitomized the use of technology to encourage healthy habits.”

“We were very impressed by their neuroscience-based artificial intelligence that they used to power changes in behavior,” says Huffington. “We can use technology that hooks people to unhook them from unhealthy behaviors.”

Canva gets $3.2 billion value: Canva, the Australian design platform that lets you design high-quality business cards, flyers and tons of other materials for free, has raised $85 million. That puts Canva’s valuation at $3.2 billion ( Bloomberg ).

The new valuation makes the company, co-founded and run by Melanie Perkins, one of the most valuable female-led tech startups worldwide. This follows the trend that shows startup teams that include a woman tend to raise more venture capital than all-male teams.


Pennsylvania state senators introduce comprehensive marijuana bill: Pennsylvania Sens. Daylin Leach and Sharif Street filed a comprehensive marijuana legalization bill on Tuesday. The legislation would allow adults 21 and older to possess, cultivate and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. It also includes provisions that automatically expunge prior marijuana convictions and provide interest-free loans to low-income individuals who want to participate in the market ( Marijuana Moment ).

“We need to stop arresting our kids and funding violent drug cartels,” Leach said. “This is going to be a tough battle, but so was passing medical marijuana. We did that, and we’ll do this too. The stakes are too high for us to fail.”

If Pennsylvania legalized marijuana, it would become the second-largest recreational marijuana market behind California. So this is one to watch.

Opioid crisis costs more than $600 billion: While we know the human cost of the opioid crisis (more than 400,000 Americans have died as a result), it’s hard to pinpoint the exact financial cost of the crisis. A recent study from the Society of Actuaries estimates it cost the U.S. economy $631 billion from 2015 to 2018 (High Times). However, a 2017 study from the White House Council of Economic Advisers estimates it costs just over $500 billion per year.

The Society of Actuaries study, which is partly intended to help the insurance industry understand how to factor opioid use disorder into policy pricing (how’s that for depressing?), estimates the cost will likely be between $171 billion and $214 billion this year alone.


Federal official calls for an independent blockchain dollar: Our own Adam Sharp is not the only one concerned about the dollar’s dominance coming to an end. J. Christopher Giancarlo, former chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), is worried that the dollar could lose its status as the most popular currency for international exchange. And he proposes a government-sanctioned digital dollar as a solution ( The Wall Street Journal ).

Among the benefits of this new system, Giancarlo lists higher transaction speeds, greater transparency, better privacy, and lower costs for individuals and businesses. But above all, he wrote, it would strengthen the dollar’s grip on global finance:

Most important, compared with a private or foreign digital currency, this system would extend the central role of the U.S. dollar in global finance and allow it to compete confidently in the new digital era. The first major digital-currency initiative to draw American users would be fully and unequivocally backed by the greenback.

Bermuda now accepting crypto tax payments: Bermuda’s government announced Wednesday that it will accept payments in USD Coin (a stablecoin pegged to the U.S. dollar that was launched by Coinbase and Circle) for taxes, fees and other government services. Around 60,000 Bermudians will be able to take advantage of this ( CoinDesk ).

Bermuda is a very crypto-friendly nation. The country launched a blockchain task force with the Bermuda Business Development Agency in late 2017, then went on to pass legislation on ICOs and create a regulatory sandbox for crypto companies. In fact, Bermuda is so crypto-friendly that Circle recently moved its exchange operations there.

Fed governor voices concern over Libra consumer protection: Lael Brainard, who chairs several Fed committees, said Facebook’s Libra users are at risk for a number of problems due to a lack of clarity over their rights to the token’s underlying assets and the system in general ( Cointelegraph ).

In a speech delivered at the Future of Money in the Digital Age forum in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Brainard said it’s unclear if Libra users will receive the same consumer protections that bank deposits do, such as insurance and standardized disclosures about account fees and interest payments. And it’s also unclear how much price risk consumers will face, since they don’t seem to have rights to Libra’s underlying assets.

These are all problems that can be solved. But this isn’t the only difficulty Libra has faced lately. Seven of the original 28 founding members of the Libra Association have now left the project. And the project has a number of kinks to work out before Libra can be successful. We’ll be watching this one closely.

And finally…

Earlier this week, a Florida sheriff’s department had to ask a man to stop calling 911 to report his stolen weed. Deputy Neal Zalva shared details about the call in a video posted to Twitter as part of the department’s “#TweetAlong” program.

“Alright, so I just received a call. A guy is calling in saying his roommate stole his weed, $20 worth, and he’s upset,” Deputy Zalva said in the video. “He keeps calling 911 so I have to give a call to tell him to stop calling about this weed.”

Medical cannabis is legal in Florida, but low-level possession (under 20 grams) without a patient certification is still a misdemeanor offense punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Luckily for this guy, the department is not pressing charges against him.

And that’s your News Fix. Have a great weekend!

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