Inside the Health Crisis of a Texas Bitcoin Town

Longtime Slashdot reader ArchieBunker shares a report from TIME Magazine: On an evening in December 2023, 43-year-old small business owner Sarah Rosenkranz collapsed in her home in Granbury, Texas and was rushed to the emergency room. Her heart pounded 200 beats per minute; her blood pressure spiked into hypertensive crisis; her skull throbbed. “It felt like my head was in a pressure vise being crushed,” she says. “That pain was worse than childbirth.” Rosenkranz’s migraine lasted for five days. Doctors gave her several rounds of IV medication and painkiller shots, but nothing seemed to knock down the pain, she says. This was odd, especially because local doctors were similarly vexed when Indigo, Rosenkranz’s 5-year-old daughter, was taken to urgent care earlier that year, screaming that she felt a “red beam behind her eardrums.” It didn’t occur to Sarah that these symptoms could be linked. But in January 2024, she walked into a town hall in Granbury and found a room full of people worn thin from strange, debilitating illnesses. A mother said her 8-year-old daughter was losing her hearing and fluids were leaking from her ears. Several women said they experienced fainting spells, including while driving on the highway. Others said they were wracked by debilitating vertigo and nausea, waking up in the middle of the night mid-vomit. None of them knew what, exactly, was causing these symptoms. But they all shared a singular grievance: a dull aural hum had crept into their lives, which growled or roared depending on the time of day, rattling their windows and rendering them unable to sleep. The hum, local law enforcement had learned, was emanating from a Bitcoin mining facility that had recently moved into the area — and was exceeding legal noise ordinances on a daily basis.

Over the course of several months in 2024, TIME spoke to more than 40 people in the Granbury area who reported a medical ailment that they believe is connected to the arrival of the Bitcoin mine: hypertension, heart palpitations, chest pain, vertigo, tinnitus, migraines, panic attacks. At least 10 people went to urgent care or the emergency room with these symptoms. The development of large-scale Bitcoin mines and data centers is quite new, and most of them are housed in extremely remote places. There have been no major medical studies on the impacts of living near one. But there is an increasing body of scientific studies linking prolonged exposure to noise pollution with cardiovascular damage. And one local doctor — ears, nose, and throat specialist Salim Bhaloo — says he sees patients with symptoms potentially stemming from the Bitcoin mine’s noise on an almost weekly basis. “I’m sure it increases their cortisol and sugar levels, so you’re getting headaches, vertigo, and it snowballs from there,” Bhaloo says. “This thing is definitely causing a tremendous amount of stress. Everyone is just miserable about it.” “By the end of 2024, we intend to have replaced the majority of air-cooled containers with immersion cooling, with no expansion required,” said a representative for Marathon Digital Holdings, the company that owns the mine. “Initial sound readings on immersion containers indicate favorable results in sound reduction and compliance with all relevant state noise ordinances.” They did not answer questions about the health impacts their mining site was causing.

“We’re living in a nightmare,” said Rosenkranz. She clocked the hum at 72 decibels in Indigo’s bedroom in the dead of night. “Indigo’s room directly faces the mine, which sits about a mile and a half away,” notes TIME. She had to be pulled from her school after she developed so many ear infections from the sound.

The report also said a resident’s dog “started going bald and developed debilitating anxiety shortly after the Bitcoin mine began operating four blocks away.” TIME added: “Directly next door, Tom Weeks’ dog Jack Rabbit Slim started shaking and hyperventilating uncontrollably for hours on end; a vet placed him on the seizure medication Gabapentin. Rosenkranz’s chickens stopped laying eggs for months. And Jerry and Patricia Campbell’s centuries-old oak tree, which had served as the family’s hub and protector for generations of backyard family reunions and even a wedding, died suddenly three months ago.”

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Crypto Industry Super PAC Is 33-2 In Primaries, With $100 Million For House and Senate Races

A super PAC called Fairshake, funded primarily by top cryptocurrency companies, achieved several wins in congressional primaries and plans to spend over $100 million to support pro-crypto candidates in the general elections. CNBC reports: Fairshake and its two affiliated political action committees, one for Republicans, one for Democrats, quietly racked up half a dozen other wins Tuesday as the candidates they backed glided to victory, although none of the races were competitive. They included Rep. John Curtis, who won the Republican nomination for Utah’s open Senate seat. Created last year as part of a joint effort between more than a dozen crypto firms, Fairshake PAC has emerged as one of the top-spending PACs in the 2024 election cycle. Fairshake and its two affiliated PACs have put more than $37 million so far into advertisements in primary races, according to AdImpact. Despite a broad mission to defend the entire $2.2 trillion crypto market, Fairshake is funded by a very small set of donors.

Of the $160 million in total contributions Fairshake has raised since it was founded, around $155 million — or 94% — can be traced back to just four companies: Ripple, Andreesen Horowitz, Coinbase and Jump Crypto. But it’s not just money that the crypto industry plans to deploy this fall. The nonprofit Stand With Crypto says it has collected more than 1.1 million email addresses of crypto “advocates” it hopes to engage all the way to the ballot box. The strength of the crypto groups is getting noticed on Capitol Hill, especially among lawmakers who are facing tough elections in 2025, where a few thousand voters, or a hefty donation, could make a difference in not only a race but in which party controls each chamber. […]

In the coming months, the group doesn’t plan to spend on the presidential race, but rather the House and Senate, according to a Fairshake spokesperson. Both of those chambers are in play for 2025. Fairshake has yet to start spending in the general election cycle, but several officials in the industry said they are keeping an eye on states such as Ohio and Montana, where Democratic incumbents who are bearish on crypto face challengers who have embraced the technology. […] Ads funded by Fairshake deliver messages that are typically less about a candidates’ support for or opposition to crypto, and more about broader issues that resound with voters, such as fairness and integrity.

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US Justice Department Indicts Creators of Bitcoin-Anonymizing ‘Samouri’ Wallet

America’s Justice Department “indicted the creators of an application that helps people spend their bitcoins anonymously,” writes

They’re accused of “conspiracy to commit money laundering.” Why “conspiracy to commit” as opposed to just “money laundering”?

Because they didn’t hold anyone else’s money or do anything illegal with it. They provided a privacy tool that may have enabled other people to do illegal things with their bitcoin… What this tool does is offer what’s known as a “coinjoin,” a method for anonymizing bitcoin transactions by mixing them with other transactions, as the project’s founder, Keonne Rodriguez, explained to Reason in 2022: “I think the best analogy for it is like smelting gold,” he said. “You take your Bitcoin, you add it into [the conjoin protocol] Whirlpool, and Whirlpool smelts it into new pieces that are not associated to the original piece.”

Reason argues that providing the tool isn’t a crime, just like selling someone a kitchen knife isn’t a crime:

The government’s decision to indict Rodriguez and his partner William Lonergan Hill is also an attack on free speech because all they did was write open-source code and make it widely available. “It is an issue of a chilling effect on free speech,” attorney Jerry Brito, who heads up the cryptocurrency nonprofit Coin Center, told Reason after the U.S. Treasury went after the creators of another piece of anonymizing software…

The most important thing about bitcoin, and money like it, isn’t its price. It’s the check it places on the government’s ability to devalue, censor, and surviel our money. Creators of open-source tools like Samourai Wallet should be celebrated, not threatened with a quarter-century in a federal prison.
Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike shared the article…

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Vitalik Buterin Addresses Threats To Ethereum’s Decentralization In New Blog Post

In a new blog post, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has shared his thoughts on three issues core to Ethereum’s decentralization: MEV, liquid staking, and the hardware requirements of nodes. The Block reports: In his post, published on May 17, Buterin first addresses the issue of MEV, or the financial gain that sophisticated node operators can capture by reordering the transactions within a block. Buterin characterizes the two approaches to MEV as “minimization” (reducing MEV through smart protocol design, such as CowSwap) and “quarantining” (attempting to reduce or eliminate MEV altogether through in-protocol techniques). While MEV quarantining seems like an alluring option, Buterin notes that the prospect comes with some centralization risks. “If builders have the power to exclude transactions from a block entirely, there are attacks that can quite easily arise,” Buterin noted. However, Buterin championed the builders working on MEV quarantining through concepts like transaction inclusion lists, which “take away the builder’s ability to push transactions out of the block entirely.” “I think ideas in this direction – really pushing the quarantine box to be as small as possible – are really interesting, and I’m in favor of going in that direction,” Buterin concluded.

Buterin also addressed the relatively low number of solo Ethereum stakers, as most stakers choose to stake with a staking provider, either a centralized offering like Coinbase or a decentralized offering like Lido or RocketPool, given the complexity, hardware requirement, and 32 eth minimum needed to operate an Ethereum node solo. While Buterin acknowledges the progress being made to reduce the cost and complexity around running a solo node, he also noted “once again there is more that we could do,” perhaps through reducing the time to withdraw staked ether or reducing the 32 eth minimum requirement to become a solo staker. “Incorrect answers could lead Ethereum down a path of centralization and ‘re-creating the traditional financial system with extra steps’; correct answers could create a shining example of a successful ecosystem with a wide and diverse set of solo stakers and highly decentralized staking pools,” Buterin wrote. […]

Buterin finished his post by imploring the Ethereum ecosystem to tackle the hard questions rather than shy away from them. “…We should have deep respect for the properties that make Ethereum unique, and continue to work to maintain and improve on those properties as Ethereum scales,” Buterin wrote. Buterin added today, in a post on X, that he was pleased to see civil debate among community members. “I’m really proud that ethereum does not have any culture of trying to prevent people from speaking their minds, even when they have very negative feelings toward major things in the protocol or ecosystem. Some wave the ideal of ‘open discourse’ as a flag, some take it seriously,” Buterin wrote.

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Woman With $2.5 Billion In Bitcoin Convicted of Money Laundering

mrspoonsi shares a report from the BBC: A former takeaway worker found with Bitcoin worth more than $2.5 billion has been convicted at Southwark Crown Court of a crime linked to money laundering. Jian Wen, 42, from Hendon in north London, was involved in converting the currency into assets including multi-million-pound houses and jewelry. On Monday she was convicted of entering into or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement. The Met said the seizure is the largest of its kind in the UK.

Although Wen was living in a flat above a Chinese restaurant in Leeds when she became involved in the criminal activity, her new lifestyle saw her move into a six-bedroom house in north London in 2017 which was rented for more than $21,000 per month. She posed as an employee of an international jewelry business and moved her son to the UK to attend private school, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said. That same year, Wen tried to buy a string of expensive houses in London, but struggled to pass money-laundering checks and her claims she had earned millions legitimately mining Bitcoin were not believed. She later travelled abroad, buying jewelry worth tens of thousands of pounds in Zurich, and purchasing properties in Dubai in 2019.

Another suspect is thought to be behind the fraud but they remain at large. The Met said it carried out a large scale investigation as part of the case – searching several addresses, reviewing 48 electronic devices, and examining thousands of digital files including many which were translated from Mandarin. The CPS has obtained a freezing order from the High Court, while it carries out a civil recovery investigation that could lead to the forfeiture of the Bitcoin. The value of the Bitcoin was worth around $2.5 billion at the time of initial estimates — but due to the fluctuation in the currency’s value, it has since increased to around $4.3 billion.

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Binance Executives Were Arrested In Nigeria For Allegedly Destabilizing Its Currency

Two top executives from the crypto exchange Binance have been arrested in Nigeria for allegedly destabilizing the national currency. Quartz reports: According to a Wall Street Journal report, Tigran Gambaryan, head of financial-crime compliance at Binance who previously worked at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British-Kenyan national and Binance’s regional manager for Africa, have been held against their will for the past two weeks in the country. As per reports, Nigerian government officials invited Binance executives to discuss an ongoing dispute about the world’s largest crypto exchange allegedly driving down the value of their national currency. Gambaryan and Anjarwalla arrived in Nigeria on February 25th; after their meeting with government officials, both were taken to their hotels. Later, they were instructed to pack their belongings and move to a guesthouse run by Nigeria’s National Security Agency, as stated by their families, per reports.

The Nigerian government has accused Binance of exacerbating the country’s foreign exchange challenges through rate manipulation for profit. The authorities have also accused the crypto exchange of illegal operations and have restricted access to the company’s website. There are also reports that Nigeria sought a $10 billion penalty from Binance for processing around $26 billion in untraceable funds in the country. […] The reason why and how Nigeria’s economic crisis is linked with Binance is yet to be found out. Binance is hoping to resolve the matter soon, according to CoinDesk. The report notes that Nigeria is experiencing its worst economic crisis in recent years due to inflation and the devaluation of their currency, the naira.

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Englishman Who Posed As HyperVerse CEO Says Sorry To Investors Who Lost Millions

Stephen Harrison, an Englishman living in Thailand who posed as chief executive Steven Reece Lewis for the launch of the HyperVerse crypto scheme, told the Guardian Australia that he was paid to play the role of chief executive but denies having ‘pocketed’ any of the money lost. He says he received 180,000 Thai baht (about $7,500) over nine months and a free suit, adding that he was “shocked” to learn the company had presented him as having fake credentials to promote the scheme. From the report: He said he felt sorry for those who had lost money in relation to the scheme — which he said he had no role in — an amount Chainalysis estimates at US$1.3 billion in 2022 alone. “I am sorry for these people,” he said. “Because they believed some idea with me at the forefront and believed in what I said, and God knows what these people have lost. And I do feel bad about this. “I do feel deeply sorry for these people, I really do. You know, it’s horrible for them. I just hope that there is some resolution. I know it’s hard to get the money back off these people or whatever, but I just hope there can be some justice served in all of this where they can get to the bottom of this.” He said he wanted to make clear he had “certainly not pocketed” any of the money lost by investors.

Harrison, who at the time was a freelance television presenter engaged in unpaid football commentary, said he had been approached and offered the HyperVerse work by a friend of a friend. He said he was new to the industry and had been open to picking up more work and experience as a corporate “presenter.” “I was told I was acting out a role to represent the business and many people do this,” Harrison said. He said he trusted his agent and accepted that. After reading through the scripts he said he was initially suspicious about the company he was hired to represent because he was unfamiliar with the crypto industry, but said he had been reassured by his agent that the company was legitimate. He said he had also done some of his own online research into the organization and found articles about the Australian blockchain entrepreneur and HyperTech chairman Sam Lee. “I went away and I actually looked at the company because I was concerned that it could be a scam,” Harrison said. “So I looked online a bit and everything seemed OK, so I rolled with it.” The HyperVerse crypto scheme was promoted by Lee and his business partner Ryan Xu, both of which were founders of the collapsed Australian bitcoin company Blockchain Global. “Blockchain Global owes creditors $58 million and its liquidator has referred Xu and Lee to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for alleged possible breaches of the Corporations Act,” reports The Guardian. “Asic has said it does not intend to take action at this time.”

Rodney Burton, known as “Bitcoin Rodney,” was arrested and charged in the U.S on Monday for his alleged role in promoting the HyperVerse crypto scheme. The IRS alleges Burton was “part of a network that made ‘fraudulent’ presentations claiming high returns for investors based on crypto-mining operations that did not exist,” reports The Guardian.

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