Iran Arrests Russian Journalist

Grind for October 8th
“We are all here on Earth to help others. What on earth the others are here for I don’t know.”
– WH Auden

Not Sure

The Headline

PayPal backs out of cryptocurrency deal with Facebook

The Grind

Facebook is gearing up to launch a new cryptocurrency that would make sending money as easy as sending a photo or text message.

It’s called Libra, and tests are already underway in India.

“And we have this bigger, or at least more exotic, project around Libra, which is to try and stand up to a new kind of digital money that can work globally,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “that will be stable…but it’s a big idea, and it’s a new type of system, especially to be implemented by big companies.”

Unlike PayPal, which runs on existing payments infrastructure, Libra will operate on a yet-to-be-developed blockchain network backed by real assets and real currencies.

The Details

When Libra was unveiled, it was immediately met with criticism from officials in the US and Europe who were concerned about Facebook’s abilities to protect user privacy and thwart cybercrime.

PayPal announced its decision to withdraw from the Libra network last week.

Days before PayPal’s surprise exit, The Wall Street Journal reported that MasterCard, Visa, and other major backers were reconsidering participating in the Libra network.

“Each organization that started this journey will have to make its own assessment of risks and rewards of being committed to seeing through the change that Libra promises,” said project lead Dante Disparte. “We’re better off knowing about this lack of commitment now, rather than later.”

According to Facebook, at least 1,500 entities have expressed interest in joining Libra.

Libra’s primary creator, David Marcus, is a former PayPal president who left the company in 2014 to lead Facebook’s Messenger unit. Marcus is credited with the introduction of Facebook Messenger’s P2P payment platform (released in the US in 2015).

Last year, he announced his departure from Messenger to lead Facebook’s blockchain program.

PayPal says it remains supportive of Libra despite its decision not to participate.

Locked Up

The Headline

Russian journalist arrested in Iran, accused of spying for Israel

The Grind

Iranian courts this weekend will decide whether to press charges against Yulia Yuzik, a Russian journalist who was arrested in Tehran last Thursday on espionage charges.

“She’s being accused of working for Israeli security services,” said Russian envoy Andrei Ganenko, adding that Yuzik flew to Iran on September 29th after receiving a private invitation.

According to Yuzik’s ex-husband, Boris Voytsekhovskiy, she was arrested after members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps broke down the door to her hotel room.

“She just went there as a private person,” said Voytsekhovskiy. “She just went there, stayed at the hotel, and chatted with local journalists.”

The Details

Government officials in Russia responded to the incident by summoning Iran’s ambassador to the foreign ministry “to facilitate a quick clarification of the circumstances of the incident and the protection of the rights of the Russian citizen,” said a ministry spokesperson.

Yuzik, 38, does not have a lawyer. She does not have Israeli citizenship or a visa from that country. According to Voytsekhovskiy, she hasn’t been to Israel in at least 15 years.

In the meantime, a representative from Russia’s consulate is at the Iranian foreign ministry trying to resolve the situation.

Did you know… Butterflies taste with their feet.