The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is scheduled to execute two death row inmates in March – Manuel Vasquez on the 11th and Randall Mays on the 18th – but if those procedures go according to plan, the state will then be completely out of pentobarbital, making the fate of other inmates scheduled to die unclear, the Associated Press reported.
Four inmates are scheduled to be executed in April and another is set to be killed in May.
The department won’t say why it cannot buy more pentobarbital from its current source – an unnamed compounding pharmacy which has supplied Texas with the drug for its last nine executions, after a previous facility stopped selling pentobarbital when its business was revealed to the public.
A state judge has ordered officials to disclose the name of its current supplier, though that ruling has been appealed. It’s unknown if the pending disclosure plays any role in Texas’ inability to purchase more pentobarbital from the supplier.
While other states use pentobarbital as part of a three-drug lethal injection combination, Texas has been using it as the sole execution drug since 2012. It is normally used as a sedative in medical situations, and also has applications in the veterinary field. However, it is lethal when administered in high doses, forcing respiratory failure.
Use of the drug by multiple states has come under fire from civil rights activists and lawyers, who argue that inmates are not spared excruciating pain when given a lethal injection and are subjected to cruel and unusual punishment – something that violates the Eight Amendment of the Constitution.
Texas criminal justice officials have declined to say much on the matter, according to AP, though the agency’s executive director, Brad Livingston, said in February that the state is working to address the matter.
“We’re focused on multiple fronts,” he said. “We’re not ruling anything out, but clearly securing additional pentobarbital is part of our game plan.”
In a separate report, AP stated that South Carolina Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling recently confirmed that the state’s supply of pentobarbital has been exhausted since 2013, when whatever remained of the drug expired. Since then, the agency has found no partner willing to sell the drug.
"We have been looking for a while for a solution to this issue," Stirling said. "I don't know what the answer is."
Despite having 44 inmates on death row, the state has not conducted an execution since 2011. Without pentobarbital, the only option left for South Carolina is death by electrocution – but that procedure can only go forward if the inmate chooses it weeks in advance.
Stirling told AP that it is possible that legislation granting pharmacies more privacy may make them amenable to selling lethal drugs, but there has been no progress on that front. Other states that have granted anonymity to pharmacies have also faced legal battles.
In response, some states are looking beyond lethal injections, with Oklahoma lawmakers recently suggesting the state use nitrogen gas to kill prisoners.
Meanwhile, even states who still have their deadly drug cocktails are grappling with complicated issues. Last week, Georgia stayed the execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner over a test of its compounded pentobarbital, which turned up a “cloudy” drug rather than clear one.
In an open letter organized by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., 47 Senate Republicans today warned the leaders of Iran that any nuclear deal reached with President Barack Obama could expire as soon as he leaves office.
Tomorrow, 24 hours later, Cotton will appear at an “Off the Record and strictly Non-Attribution” event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors.
The NDIA is composed of executives from major military businesses such as Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton, among other firms.
Cotton strongly advocates higher defense spending and a more aggressive foreign policy. As The New Republic’s David Ramsey noted, “Pick a topic — Syria, Iran, Russia, ISIS, drones, NSA snooping — and Cotton can be found at the hawkish outer edge of the debate…During his senate campaign, he told a tele-townhall that ISIS and Mexican drug cartels joining forces to attack Arkansas was an ‘urgent problem.'”
On Iran, Cotton has issued specific calls for military intervention. In December he said Congress should consider supplying Israel with B-52s and so-called “bunker-buster” bombs — both items manufactured by NDIA member Boeing — to be used for a possible strike against Iran.
Asked if Cotton will speak about his Iran letter tomorrow, Jimmy Thomas, NDIA Director of Legislative Policy, said, “[M]ost members…talk about everything from the budget to Iran…so it’s highly likely that he may address that in his remarks.” According to Thomas, the Cotton event was scheduled in January, “but certainly we bring people to the platform that have influence directly on our issues.”
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty
The Bitcoin Foundation has faced scrutiny in the past for multiple reasons. As of now, however, it seems the Foundation is a taking sharp turn to redirect the operation.
Some of their self-admitted challenges include reputation struggles, lack of focus, declining membership revenue, falling bitcoin price and a weak balance sheet.
In its latest press release, the Foundation says it is refocusing its efforts “to instill some organizational discipline around reducing expenses, eliminating distractions and focusing on revenue-generating activities.”
Additionally, the Foundation has announced that over the last two months it has been focusing on core development and other ways of producing revenue.
Staff reduction and other cost-cutting measures also have been put in place to further support Bitcoin research and development.
The Bitcoin Foundation has released a chart showing the results of their performance four months into their new plan.
Patrick Murck, executive director of Bitcoin Foundation, says “We made $60/attendee for our proof of concept in Boston and we are shooting to increase both the number of attendees and the profit per attendee for London. We’re able to keep ticket prices low by creating compelling sponsorship packages.”
According to their data, the trends reversed primarily due to the success of its DevCore event series and “the grit and determination of [their] staff.”
Patrick concludes, “The staff is busy on DevCore and diversifying the membership base. Additionally, we are rebuilding the website in a way that our members will have more input and control over the content.”
There are still many improvements needed for the foundation to be working at optimal levels, but their team is hard at work.
The post Bitcoin Foundation’s Development Focus Shows Results appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.
This week on Decentral Talk Live, hosts Ethan Wilding and Anthony Di Iorio have a new slate of guests covering topics like tipping, the ways companies get financing and pay employees in the bitcoin space, and the latest developments at Kraken.
We’ll start with Justin Maxwell of Tibdit who will answer the questions: What’s a “tib” and what’s a “dit”? And how will Tibdit help to level the playing field, by making the internet more of a meritocracy for content providers?
Similarly, Toronto-based http://cryptiv.com/ seeks to make tipping and microtransactions through its online wallet simple and fun. This crypto-agnostic system is designed to work across various social media platforms. Founder Mat Cybula drops in to Decentral Talk Live to chat about the potential cultural impact that social tipping could play in supporting content creators.
Finding the right system for paying employees is a challenge for all companies from the smallest start-up to the largest multinational. Adding digital currencies into the mix might seem like just one more headache. But is it really? David Shin from Paywise tackles the ins and outs of salary packaging and outsourced administration services on this episode of Decentral Talk Live.
Getting the money to start your new business venture is another financial challenge for new companies. Seedcoin is the world’s first seed-stage Bitcoin and Blockchain start-up virtual incubator. Eddy Travia discusses the ways that new Bitcoin and blockchain businesses can get the support they need to get off the ground. The objective of Seedcoin is “to invest in the creative entrepreneurs of the Bitcoin and Blockchain space and help them develop future services, products and applications” that will re-shape the way people manage and exchange financial and intellectual assets.
Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken, will also stop by to talk about the latest news from Kraken, the cryptocurrency exchange based in Japan. Last November, Kraken was tasked with assisting authorities in their investigation of Mt.Gox and with helping to redistribute recovered assets to its creditors.
Decentral Talk Live is a daily talk show hosted by Anthony Di Iorio and Ethan Wilding, along with a rotating panel of guest hosts. It airs on decentral.tv, Monday through Friday, at 3:00 pm, EST.
The post Talk about Tipping: This Week on Decentral Talk Live appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.
HONG KONG and London, UK March 9th, 2015.
Today, Tether and Factom jointly announced a partnership wherein Tether will leverage the Factom technology to enhance their transparency and audit strategy, and the Factom Foundation will use Tether as an important part of its asset allocation strategy.
Tether.to Wallet Transparency
Tether.to uses Factom for time-stamping and replication of its wallet database
Tether.to’s wallet transparency strategy focuses on eliminating trust through decentralization and cryptography. The Factom technology uses the same cryptography behind Bitcoin to mathematically prove the existence of any data it receives by hashing that data and embedding the resultant traces into the Bitcoin blockchain. This creates a provably time-stamped record keeping system capable of maintaining a near real-time, unforgeable audit trail of Tether.to’s wallet database.
“With Factom integration, Tether.to wallet users can take comfort knowing that transactions will be forever etched into Bitcoin’s rock-solid blockchain for public inspection” said Reeve Collins, Co-Founder and CEO of Tether.
Factom Hedging Plan
Factom uses Tether as part of its asset allocation strategy
Factom has selected Tether to be one of its partners on its asset allocation strategy. More details will be announced in the coming weeks, along with a breakdown of the best practices Factom will employ in its software sale. Since 1 tether USD token (USD₮) is always equivalent to $1.00 USD, this shields both the user and Factom from the volatility associated with market price swings and preserves the value contributed by Factoid purchasers.
Paul Snow, Factom Foundation’s CEO, stated “It’s important to us that the community be confident that the value contributed during the token sale will be preserved and Tether plays an important role in how we accomplish that goal.”
Who is Tether?
Tether is disrupting the legacy financial system by offering a more modern approach to money. Tether created the world’s first blockchain-enabled platform that converts fiat currency into a fully reserved, 1-to-1 backed digital currency. Tether’s mission is to allow all Bitcoin companies and individuals to transact with real-world currency as if it were bitcoin. With a commitment to full transparency, audits, and compliance, Tether is the most secure, fast, and low-cost way to store and transact with money. Tethers can be obtained at Tether.to, Bitfinex, Poloniex, Expresscoin, and Crypto Next, with more exchanges and wallets coming soon.
Who is Factom?
Factom is a data layer for the blockchain that allows users to secure and forever timestamp documents and even whole business processes. The Factom technology is especially compelling for those who want to build trust with users by providing complete transparency and real time audit ability of their systems, while at the same time maintaining user privacy.
A group of researchers from Princeton University, Stanford University and the City University of New York, have announced a new ECDSA threshold signature scheme that is particularly well-suited for securing Bitcoin wallets.
Threshold signatures can be thought of as “stealth multi-signatures.” The new Bitcoin security scheme is detailed in a research paper titled “Securing Bitcoin wallets via a new DSA/ECDSA threshold signature scheme.”
The announcement follows three previous posts by Steven Goldfeder on the Freedom to Tinker blog, hosted by Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy, a research center that studies digital technologies in public life. Goldfeder is a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Computer Science at Princeton, interested in cryptography, security, privacy and decentralized digital currencies.
Bitcoin wallets often are attacked by increasingly sophisticated cyber thieves. Coupled with the irreversibility of bitcoin transactions, that poses important security problems that decrease user confidence in Bitcoin and could prevent the digital currency from going mainstream if no robust and simple solution is found.
The researchers note that the Bitcoin ecosystem needs a breakthrough in security.
Banks use two or multi-factor authentication schemes: the user’s password – which may have been compromised by hackers – isn’t enough to initiate a transaction, but the user must provide at least one more authentication, often by replying to an email or using a smartphone authentication app or equivalent stand-alone device. Today, reputable Bitcoin services such as Circle and Bitstamp use two-factor authentication to provide security, but users must say goodbye to anonymity and provide proof of identity.
Even more secure three-factor authentication methods that include biometrics are emerging.
DIY-minded and privacy-conscious Bitcoin users can run their own wallet and “be their own bank,” but running a wallet has proved to be too much of a security risk. As soon as hackers gain access to the wallet, they can instantly and irreversibly take the money and run.
Cold storage – keeping the main bitcoin wallet on a device that is not connected to the Internet, and moving only the funds needed for daily expenses to online storage – often is seen as too much of a hassle.
Therefore, most security-conscious bitcoin users rely on external services, at the cost of compromising their anonymity and the “DIY spirit” of Bitcoin.
Multi-signature (multisig) wallets offer a solution. A multisig transaction, for example a 2-of-3 transaction, requires the agreement of the required number of authorized signatories, in this case two out of three. However, the paper shows that multisig transactions present significant usability problems, and serious anonymity and confidentiality drawbacks.
“Bitcoin currently lacks support for the sophisticated internal control systems deployed by modern businesses to deter fraud,” say the authors of the paper. “To address this problem, we present the first threshold signature scheme compatible with Bitcoin’s ECDSA signatures and show how distributed Bitcoin wallets can be built using this primitive.”
In a threshold signature scheme, the ability to construct a signature is distributed among different devices (for example a computer and a smartphone), and each device receives a share of the private signing key. For individuals, threshold signatures allow for two-factor security, or splitting the ability to sign between two devices so that a single compromised device won’t put the money at risk. For businesses, threshold signatures allow for the realization of access control policies that prevent both insiders and outsiders from stealing corporate funds.
The researchers built a prototype implementation of a two-factor secure wallet, a desktop client and an Android app, and released open source code on Github. A video shows how the system works: a user initiates a transaction on the computer, and the computer then begins the threshold signing protocol with the phone. The phone will show the user the transaction details and will proceed with the transaction only with the user’s explicit approval. The computer and phone use QR codes to initially pair, and for all subsequent sessions they communicate over the local Wifi network.
If threshold signature schemes become common, private bitcoin wallets will support the same multi-factor authentication offered by major wallet providers, while continuing to offer a high degree of anonymity.
The post Threshold Signatures: The New Standard for Wallet Security? appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.
Like International Women’s Day, “Bitcoin Women’s Day is not just for women,” says Sarah Boone Martin of the Digital Currency Council. The issues that women are concerned about – equal access to healthcare, to financial systems, to the world economy, to employment, to education; a sustainable environment, personal safety, security and autonomy – these are all issues that are important to the Bitcoin community as a whole.
The purpose of Bitcoin Women’s Day can be broken down into three key goals: first, to celebrate the accomplishments of women in the space; second, to raise awareness of issues and barriers they face both within and outside of that space; and third, to promote Bitcoin as a means of addressing some of the issues that women face around the world.
Leading up to Bitcoin Women’s Day, decentral.tv aired episodes that addressed some of these concerns.
On Tuesday’s episode, Tatiana Moroz discussed her role in helping to found the Women’s Crypto Association. She noted that there are few women in venture capital, which influences how projects are funded.
“Men value things differently than women. More diversity in the venture capital space will lead to more diversity in the products that are created and the companies that are born,” she said. Moroz encouraged more women to join the Women’s Crypto Association.
“There are a lot of great women in the space,” she said, but noted that they don’t necessarily get the invitations to speak at events. “We’d like to have more of a ‘best practices’ for conferences,” Moroz said. “We don’t want anything particularly special. We want it to be noticed that we are also contributing.”
She objected to the way that many conferences relegate women speakers to a “Women in Bitcoin” type of panel.
“That’s not enough,” says Moroz. “Lots of women have experience in a variety of different topics. Offering them actual speaking engagements rather than just a panel on women is a better direction for us to go in.”
Decentral Talk Live also featured a conversation with Connie Gallippi, whose BitGive Foundation is the first charity to receive 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. The type of projects that BitGive work on include Save the Children, which now accepts bitcoin directly; the Water Project, which brings clean and safe water to sub-Saharan Africa; and Medic Mobile, which uses mobile phones and open source software to improve healthcare in the developing world.
Gallippi recently has been to Africa to see a well that BitGive funded entirely through bitcoin donations. In co-operation with BitPesa, a short video is being produced that chronicles the Water Projects’ bitcoin-funded well and looks at the future social impact of bitcoin in developing countries.
“The technology is there but we just need to build out the infrastructure and user base,” says Gallippi.
The week ended with an interview with Anne Connelly, director of marketing and fundraising for Dignitas International, a charity that aims to transform healthcare for the most vulnerable. Dignitas delivers frontline care in Malawi, conducts research and develops practical solutions and advocates for better health policy and practice.
Connelly recently succeeded in convincing her boss that bitcoin could be a valuable addition to their fundraising goals.
It wasn’t easy. She had to overcome the organization’s fears of the unknown, not to mention bitcoin’s notorious volatility.
Connelly had to “come up with a better way of thinking about it,” and finally, through her repeated efforts, she was able to convince Dignitas to accept bitcoin donations in the same way that it accepts stock donations.
“It’s about sharing the knowledge about what we do in the Bitcoin community now” she says, “and hopefully in the future there will be some more donations.”
Donations help the foundation keep babies HIV-free, keep young people with HIV/AIDS on treatment and boost maternal health.
All three of these women have been instrumental in raising awareness about bitcoin and the way it can have a positive impact on society – as well as the ways in which women are making a difference in the Bitcoin space.
Decentral Talk Live airs daily, Monday to Friday, at 3:00 pm EST on decentral.tv.
The post Recognizing Women in Bitcoin – The Week in Review from Decentral.TV appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.