Michael Avenatti: WTF Happened to the Democrats’ Anti-Trump Messiah?

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By CCN: The shocking headlines just keep piling on for disgraced attorney and onetime anti-Trump messiah Michael Avenatti. Following his arrest for allegedly embezzling from Nike, evidence has emerged suggesting Avenatti’s white-collar thievery extends deeper into the sports world.

Now, Avenatti – who toyed with running for president – stands accused of embezzling $1.5 million from Miami Heat star Hassan Whiteside. In 2017, the veteran center wired approximately $2.75 million in funds to Avenatti, intending for much of the money to be handed to his ex-girlfriend, Alexis Gardner.

Michael Avenatti: A Career in Thievery?

While Avenatti was entitled to roughly $1 million of the sum, prosecutors allege he hid the money and put nearly $2.5 million towards a private jet. He later told Gardner that she would be receiving monthly installments spread out over eight years, though these payments ceased in June 2018.

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Whiteside and Gardner expressed their dissatisfaction in a joint statement, claiming:

“We entered into a mutually agreed upon settlement more than two years ago following the end of our relationship. A settlement that reflected Alexis’ investment of time and support over several years as Hassan pursued a career in the NBA. It’s unfortunate that something that was meant to be kept private is now being publicly reported.”

Avenatti denies the allegation, and he claimed that he’s looking forward to all the evidence emerging in the coming weeks. On Twitter, Avenatti hinted at potential wrongdoing on Whiteside’s end, stating that he was looking forward to the “inquiry by the @NBA and its commissioner” regarding “why he paid the money.”

What all this suggests is that Avenatti is incapable of taking responsibility for himself or his actions. In just the last month alone, the lawyer was hit with 36 counts of fraud, including bank fraud in California. He’s also been accused of embezzling nearly $2 million from a separate client’s legal settlement to cover personal expenses for a failing coffee business. If found guilty, he could face more than 350 years in prison.

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Even alleged Trump mistress Stormy Daniels is laying into Michael Avenatti | Source: Shutterstock

His big claim to fame – former porn actress Stormy Daniels – has also dropped him like a hot potato, claiming she’s “not shocked” by his recent arrest and his strike at Nike. She hinted that there was “more to come” regarding her former lawyer’s “dishonesty.” Daniels had originally hired Avenatti to represent her in 2018 lawsuit against President Trump.

Despite the ongoing allegations, Avenatti claims that Nike’s efforts to have him arrested are a mere “stunt” to divert attention away from their own misdeeds. The lawyer claims he has proof that the company coaxed and paid certain high school students – including Zion Williamson – to attend Nike-sponsored colleges.

Avenatti Is the Worst Kind of Criminal – He Works for Democrats

In other words, his job has been to do what every Democrat has openly been doing for the last three years: point the finger at others so the world won’t notice the dastardly deeds they’ve committed.

The real irony here is that Avenatti has a long history of operating within the Democratic Party, having worked on nearly 150 campaigns in over 40 states for figures like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and even the Clintons. His job on each campaign has been to dig up dirt on his candidates’ opponents.

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The same thing occurred with the Mueller report. Designed to strike at Trump, the report has not only declared that no collusion occurred, but that Obama’s administration may have been aware of Russian interference in the 2016 election and did nothing about it.

In any case, Avenatti is operating in pure Democrat fashion. He’s accusing others of dirty deeds as a way of hiding his own, and like an alarming number of liberals, he’s incapable of taking responsibility for himself.

Israel: Institute Sues Professor for Alleged Blockchain Intellectual Property Violation

The Technion Israel Institute of Technology has filed a civil suit against a faculty member for allegedly establishing of a zero knowledge proof technology company and making use of the knowledge developed by him while working at the institute. The news was published by local media outlet Calcalist on April 22.

The Technion has filed a suit against senior lecturer Prof. Eli Ben-Sasson with the Haifa District Court for allegedly violating the institute’s intellectual property rules. Per the lawsuit, Ben-Sasson founded a company dubbed Starkware with a doctoral student at the Technion, wherein “the intellectual property on which the company was founded was developed using grants received at the Technion.”

Starkware is a company focused on the development of private solutions and encryption, that purportedly intends to improve the scalability of blockchains with zero knowledge proof technology. The zero knowledge protocol STARK developed by Ben-Sasson was allegedly created using resources, including millions of shekels granted to him by the Technion.

The institute claims that Ben-Sasson acted unilaterally to commercialize knowledge by establishing a company with the intention of dispossessing the Technion of its intellectual property rights. The institution is reportedly asking the court to transfer 50% of Ben Sasson’s shares in the company to the Technion.

The defense reportedly argues that “Starkware Industries did not use or intend to use an invention belonging to the Technion. The company has raised millions of dollars and has recruited workers to develop the software and intellectual property it needs. The Technion has no right neither in the part of Prof. Sasson nor in the part of anyone else in the company.”

As reported last October, Starkware completed a $30 million financing round, generating funds from such industry players as Intel Capital, Sequoia, Atomico, DCVC, Wing, Consensys, Coinbase Ventures, Multicoin Capital, Collaborative Fund, Scalar Capital and Semantic Ventures.

The financing followed a $6 million seed funding round completed in May, with the reported participation of Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin, Tezos’ Arthur Breitman, NEO’s Da Hongfei, and Bitmain among others.

Moon Enables Lightning Network Payments on Amazon

Crypto payment startup Moon has announced an online web browser extension that allows crypto users to make purchases on e-commerce sites like Amazon.com with Lightning Network payments, CoinDesk reported.

Once the extension has been added to a user’s browser, they will be prompted to register and integrate it with a Lightning-enabled wallet.

It should be pointed out that Amazon itself doesn’t accept bitcoin. Rather, the process begins with the user paying with crypto assets followed by a payment processor converting the assets into fiat currency and settling with the merchant.

At checkout, the Moon extension provides a typical QR code with the invoice for payments. Once payment is completed, the user should be redirected to Amazon’s Success Page. Moon is available in the Chrome Web Store but its Lightning Network feature is under review.

Tesla Stock Careens Toward 12-Month Low – No Relief in Sight?

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By CCN: Tesla stock continued its downward lurch, falling 3.5 percent on Monday. The Easter holiday gave investors no apparent good feelings toward the automotive stock, as it continues to suffer from chaotic boardroom intrigue.

Elon Musk’s Antics Shaking Everyone’s Confidence

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Tesla stock (TSLA) tumbled below $265 on Monday. | Source: Yahoo Finance

Recently, Tesla investors sued the board of directors over their failure to rein in itinerant CEO Elon Musk, who has had continued run-ins with regulatory agencies.

Musk has also had his security clearances – crucial for someone working in aeronautics – under review over his public usage of marijuana. The bad boy billionaire is shaking the confidence of investors and analysts, who once believed the unicorn electric car company would present a real challenge to traditional automakers.

Tesla stock dropped from close to $270 to around $263 by press time. The stock’s 12-month low is in sight at right about $250. If it reaches that point, there’s no telling what will happen, as more and more investors might decide to cut their losses or take profits from long-term positions.

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TSLA shares are within sight of their 12-month low near $250. | Source: Yahoo Finance

The market action is an essential reminder that the people who make up a company are every bit as important as its profitability and product, especially in an era where every prominent person is under a microscope. The crypto world saw a painful reminder of this recently when Bitcoin SV was delisted from several exchanges in direct retaliation for the courtroom antics of nChain chief scientist Craig S. Wright.

What Will Tesla Do About Its Founder Problem?

For his part, Musk has continued to rile the SEC and others. Musk was recently told by a federal judge, in essence, to grow up. But Musk isn’t backing down, and investor concern doesn’t bother him any. Last year he was removed as chair of the Tesla board but retained his position as CEO. The SpaceX founder has spent the intervening months without anything resembling a filter when it comes to Twitter, reminding one of a certain billionaire currently occupying the White House.

Musk recently addressed his Twitter activity – via Twitter:

He’s changed his biography there to read “meme necromancer,” and his profile image is something from a cartoon.

Some investors remain long on Tesla, betting that the company’s recent changes in sales strategy and historical chart data will push the price higher, combined with positive earnings calls.

The price is at the bottom of a very well respected channel which if it breaks will be a massive short, but we see a great long opportunity.

While Tesla probably isn’t going away anytime soon, major automakers continue to press into their business. Ford is aggressively moving into electric vehicles as well as e-scooters, and they’re seeing some traction as a result. Tesla’s superior electric car models will soon have a litany of competitors in the form of industry heavyweights who are prepared to manufacture at scale and without delay, likely at lower price points. Tesla’s road to mainstream adoption may be as long as cryptocurrency’s, and the company’s competitors have a century of successful relationships to build on.

The only question at this point is whether continued downward pressure on TSLA will lead to more drastic censuring of Elon Musk, or if a rebound will lead investors to rally behind the eccentric leader.

Gaming Firm Unitopia Raises $5 Million to Create Blockchain Equivalent of Steam

Blockchain-powered gaming platform Unitopia has received $5 million in funding from a group of investment and financial services companies, local media outlet BiShiJie.com reported on April 22.

Unitopia — a blockchain research lab of Chinese video game developer Electronic Soul — has reportedly received a strategic investment from Shuimu Fenghua Fund, Link Hui Capital, Jun Joint Venture, Digital Chain Capital and Super Brain Fund in the amount of $5 million.

The company will purportedly use the funds to boost research and development of blockchain-based games, as well as facilitate the growth of the industry. Specifically, Unitopia aims to create a blockchain-based equivalent of digital distribution platform Steam, on which users can purchase and play video games.

Unitopia claims that all games on its platform are decentralized, with the game revenue distribution controlled using smart contracts.

Earlier in April, blockchain games developer Lucid Sight raised $6 million to expand its digital games to traditional game platforms. The company will ostensibly use the investment to launch Scarcity Engine, a software developer tool that is designed to introduce Lucid Sight’s blockchain-powered games on gaming platforms such as consoles, PCs and mobile devices.

Blockchain startup Animoca Brands announced in March that it had signed a global licensing agreement with Formula 1 to publish a blockchain game based on the world-renowned racing series. Animoca claims the blockchain game will deepen fan engagement, and that the partnership aligns with Formula One owner Liberty Media’s aim to improve fan experience via significant investments in new technology.

As for digital tokens, which circulate in gaming ecosystems, cryptocurrency indices provider AltDex launched a benchmark index for the blockchain gaming category  dubbed AltDex Gaming Index. The index is designed to track cryptocurrencies and tokens of blockchain-based projects related to video games, esports, and other analogous decentralized applications.

Mt. Gox Is Automatically Filing Unregistered Creditors for Reimbursement

If you’re a creditor in Mt. Gox’s civil rehabilitation case, the defunct exchange may have automatically filed and approved a reimbursement claim for you — provided that your Mt. Gox account was verified when it was still operating.

According to a Reddit post from user DerEwige on April 22, 2019, Nobuaki Kobayashi, a Japanese attorney and trustee of the ongoing case, has alerted former Mt. Gox users who didn’t voluntarily apply for reimbursement that they will also receive compensation for their lost bitcoin as rehabilitation takes effect. The exchange is using KYC information that was originally submitted to verify accounts to register users who haven’t directly applied for rehabilitation.

Handling more than half of all bitcoin transactions at the time of its closure, the Japanese exchange suspended trades and declared bankruptcy in 2014 following an alleged hack. Since then, legal battles have been ongoing in Tokyo courts.

In June 2018, legal proceedings shifted from bankruptcy to civil rehabilitation following the court’s approval of a creditors’ petition that was filed in November 2017. The legal move provided more leeway for how creditors could be reimbursed. Two months after the shift, private individuals were allowed to begin filing claims for reimbursement and this same filing system was opened up to corporate clients that September.

In Kobayashi’s latest email to those who had assets stored on Mt. Gox and provided KYC information, he claimed that “the creditors who objected to your self-approved rehabilitation claim withdrew their objections,” and “as a result the approval of your self-approved rehabilitation claim has become effective, and you no longer need to file an application for claim assessment.”

The email also included an English translation of some of the court’s most frequently asked questions regarding the civil rehabilitation process. As section Q1-5 states, the process will now generate “self-approved claims,” wherein users will be notified that they are eligible for reimbursement even if they did not file a claim personally. DerEwige claimed that he fell into this category, as his sum of bitcoin stored in Mt. Gox was so small that he did not consider an arduous claims process to be worth the effort.

It is unclear how difficult it will be for non-KYC clients to pursue civil rehabilitation, just as it is unclear what form of reimbursement this will take and on what timetable it will be carried out.

The FAQ added that “the submission deadline for a rehabilitation plan is April 26, 2019, but it may be extended depending on the progress of the proceedings,” claiming that users “will be informed through the appropriate channels, including this website, when a rehabilitation plan is submitted.” Besides this deadline to make a plan, no concrete objectives in the roadmap have been made public knowledge yet.

Dow Languishes as Abysmal Housing Data Threatens Market Recovery

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By CCN: The Dow and broader U.S. stock market traded mixed-to-lower on Monday, as disappointing housing data threw cold water on hopes that the real estate sector was finally turning a corner after last year’s slowdown.

Dow Struggles; S&P 500 Flat-Lines

After losing as much as 101 points, the Dow Jones Industrial Average pared losses to trade 48 points lower at 26,511.52.

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Dow Jones Industrial Average heads lower on Monday. | Chart via Yahoo Finance.

The broad S&P 500 Index of large-cap stocks pared losses to settle at 2,905.16, where it was virtually unchanged. Energy stocks surged 2% as oil prices extended their rally. Real estate, the S&P 500’s smallest component, fell 1.7%.

Meanwhile, the technology-focused Nasdaq Composite Index edged up 0.1% to 8,006.64.

U.S. equity markets traded quietly on Monday, as investors shifted their attention to a bevy of big-tech earnings later in the week. Facebook Inc. (FB), Amazon.com (AMZN) and Dow blue-chip Microsoft Corp (MSFT) are all scheduled to report their financial results later this week.

Stock Market on Edge as Housing Slowdown Worsens

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U.S. housing market shows further signs of weakness at the end of the first quarter, which doesn’t bode well for the stock market over the long-term. | Source: Shutterstock.

U.S. existing home sales languished more than expected last month, as affordability challenges continued to weigh on consumer demand.

Previously-owned home sales, which account for the vast majority of the U.S. housing market, fell 4.9% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.21 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). That was the most significant monthly decline since November 2015. Analysts in a median forecast called for a drop of 3.8%.

“It is not surprising to see a retreat after a powerful surge in sales in the prior month. Still, current sales activity is underperforming in relation to the strength in the jobs markets. The impact of lower mortgage rates has not yet been fully realized,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

The U.S. housing market has slowed to a crawl in recent years, as a supply-demand mismatch at the lower end of the price range exacerbated affordability challenges in the market. There is a growing belief that 2019 will be a positive year for housing now that the Federal Reserve has all but abandoned its plans to raise interest rates any further. The federal funds rate impacts mortgages indirectly as banks pass on the higher costs to their customers.

Protocol Labs and Ethereum Foundation Team Up to Research Verifiable Delay Functions

Filecoin owner Protocol Labs is collaborating with the Ethereum Foundation to develop a Verifiable Delay Function (VDF). The company announced the partnership in a blog post on April 19.

VDFs are a relatively new cryptographic primitive that can protect systems relying on the generation of (pseudo) random values from manipulation strategies or attack.

Examples of everyday use cases include picking a lottery winner on the blockchain, as VDFs could help stop miners from intervening with a block hash to win the jackpot. Dan Boneh, one of the researchers who introduced the concept in a paper last June, explained that VDFs are a way to “slow things down verifiably.”

Protocol Labs says additional research is required to make them more robust, as it is still possible for malicious actors with custom hardware to break the security of the protocols that depend on VDFs. The team explained:

“This is an investment towards building publicly-verifiable randomness and VDFs as novel tools in the arsenals of cryptographers and decentralization projects.”

The blog post added that a successful outcome would be a big development in applied cryptography and distributed systems, noting that its use would apply beyond blockchain.

Protocol Labs and the Ethereum Foundation are planning to evaluate and co-fund grants to research the feasibility of developing optimized hardware for running a VDF. The blog post notes that this aims to help eliminate the “knowable uncertainty around the length of the verifiable delay based on the speed and quality of the hardware being used to generate it.”

A new website has been created to mark the partnership, and both organizations say they are open to hearing from academic institutions and manufacturers who want to get involved. A competition to research the fastest VDF construction is also in the pipeline.

In February, the Ethereum Foundation had denied that it was planning to spend $15 million on the development of VDFs for use in its transition to a proof-of-stake network. The amount of money to be spent in the development of VDFs with this new partnership is not disclosed.

Beyond Meat IPO: Vegans Turn Fake Beef into $1.2 Billion Cash Cow

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By CCN: IPO season is now in full swing, and yet another unicorn is ready to come to market. Beyond Meat, the vegan food manufacturer that wants to make fake beef mainstream, hopes to raise $183 million at a $1.2 billion valuation.

Since we have their filing in hand, let’s take a look at two critical aspects of this innovative company.

Beyond Burgers Are Everywhere

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Beyond Meat largely owes its billion-dollar valuation to one product: the Beyond Burger. You can purchase this meatless burger at Carl’s Jr. or TGI Friday’s at a slight premium to regular beef. They also have announced that Del Taco will be launching a Beyond Meat taco, presumably with the vegan “meat” as the filling.

Here’s how the Beyond Meat IPO filing describes the company’s mission:

“We employ a revolutionary and unique approach to create our products, with a goal of delivering the same satisfying taste, texture, and aroma as the animal-based meats we seek to replicate. In our Manhattan Beach Project Innovation Center, our scientists and engineers continuously improve our products to replicate the sensory experience of animal-based meat.”

Two Big Issues Facing Beyond Meat IPO

Having tested a Beyond Burger in anticipation of the company’s IPO, I can confirm that they’re remarkably tasty, even for someone like myself who is not vegan.

However, there’s one major caveat. Many consumers complain that they do not smell like beef. The holy grail of vegetarian food will be when scientists can not only make plants taste like meat but smell like it too.

Perhaps Beyond Meat will be the company to succeed, but from a product perspective, they are not exactly a unique opportunity until they do.

Beyond Meat’s more pressing concern is negative cash flow. Like other recent and upcoming IPOs, the company has yet to turn a profit.

“We have experienced net losses in each year since our inception. In the years ended December 31, 2016, 2017 and 2018 we incurred net losses of $25.1 million, $30.4 million and $29.9 million, respectively. We anticipate that our operating expenses and capital expenditures will increase substantially in the foreseeable future.”

Will Price Tag Prevent Beyond Meat from Appealing to Mass America?

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Can Beyond Meat overcome its negative cash flow issues to turn fake beef into a cash cow? | Source: Shutterstock

Disrupting an industry as powerful as global meat was always going to be an expensive job, and it appears that the costs of materials and supply chain are going to be an inhibitor for growth.

What’s the upside here? Well, people could realize you can eat similar food that doesn’t have the negative ethical or environmental impact that slaughtering 39 million cows a year has. Make this product smell like beef when you cook it, and you are really onto something.

Vegan meat is a growth industry. It’s not hard to see why.

However, there is one additional problem. These burgers carry a hefty price tag at the grocery store. At my local Target, a two-burger package runs a full $6. That’s hardly affordable for most consumers.

Regardless of these issues, Beyond Meat is already a sticky brand, and the company can undoubtedly innovate further with a capital injection.

The fact that my local Carl’s Jr. in Los Angeles was sold out of Beyond Burgers when I went to get one yesterday is probably a good sign.

South Korea’s Largest Car Supplier Hyundai to Use DLT in Smartphone-EV Pairing Tool

South Korea’s largest car manufacturer, Hyundai Motor Group, will use blockchain in its new tech for pairing electric vehicles (EVs) with smartphones. Sustainable mobility-focused news agency Green Car Congress reported on the development on April 22.

Hyundai reportedly announced development of smartphone-EV pairing based performance adjustment technology that allows users to customize primary functions via a smartphone application.

In the claimed industry-first, Hyundai will reportedly implement blockchain technology to prevent security issues while users upload and share their custom settings on the server.

As such, the upcoming system is set to encrypt major performance parameters on a blockchain network by creating new data blocks in the process of uploading and sharing custom settings in order to prevent unauthorized manipulation of data.

According to the report, drivers will be able to adjust seven performance features such as the maximum torque output of the motor, acceleration and deceleration abilities, regenerative braking capacity, maximum speed limit, responsiveness and energy use on climate control.

Earlier this year, Hyundai’s financial services subsidiary, Hyundai Commercial, partnered with American tech giant IBM to transform its business model with blockchain. The partnership is focused on deploying open source Hyperledger Fabric blockchain technology to create a new supply chain financing ecosystem for the Hyundai Commercial network.

Recently, IBM was granted a patent for a new system to manage data and interactions for self-driving vehicles.