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Bored Ape metaverse frenzy raises millions, disrupts Ethereum

Yuga Labs, the creator of the popular Bored Apes Yacht Club collection of NFTs, shepherded a sale of virtual land related to its highly anticipated metaverse project, raising about $320 million in the largest offering of its kind.

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Demand was so strong that activity related to the event caused ripple effects across the entire Ethereum blockchain, disrupting activity and raising transaction fees.

Holders of the ApeCoin cryptocurrency who verified their identities jockeyed to buy deeds for the 55,000 parcels of virtual land in Otherside, the project’s planned metaverse game.

Anticipation of strong interest had pushed up the price of ApeCoin earlier this week ahead of the sale of the plots, Ethereum-based NFTs called Otherdeeds.

Each plot cost a buyer around $5,800 based on ApeCoin’s price of $19 as of Saturday, plus transaction costs, or “gas fees, in Ether, which skyrocketed after the sale went live at 9 p.m. New York time as the land grab attracted heavy demand.

Transaction costs just to mint Otherdeed NFTs after the launch reached $123 million, with each Otherdeed requiring about $6,000, or 2 Ether, in transaction fees to mint, according to data from Etherscan — or more than the price of the deed itself.

“Yuga Labs’ virtual land sale has triggered one of the highest spikes in transaction fees on Ethereum, said Jason Wu, founder of decentralized lending protocol DeFiner. “I have seen other NFT launches causing high gas fees, but this is definitely one of the highest, Wu said.

Minting a token or making a transaction on Ethereum requires token creators or traders to pay a fee to those that order transactions on the network. Transaction fees go higher when the network becomes congested given more fees are needed to prioritize a transaction. That can impact the Ethereum-based business of apps like Uniswap, effectively slowing the transactions on these other platforms.

Yuga Labs initially planned for the sale to be held in a Dutch Auction format in which the price of the Otherdeed NFT would go down over time to prevent Ethereum from being congested with high transaction fees.

However, it later scratched the format and went with another plan to cap the number of Otherdeeds that could be purchased per wallet in each wave of the sale.

The new plan failed to ease the anticipated congestion. Yuga Labs apologized on Twitter for “turning off the light on Ethereum, and suggested the possibility of establishing an ApeCoin blockchain.

The ApeCoins raised in the sale will be locked up — meaning that they can’t be sold, thus reducing coins in circulation — for one year, according to Otherside’s Twitter account.

A Yuga Labs spokesperson declined on Friday to say whom the raised money would go to, or whether large holders of ApeCoin, including Andreessen Horowitz, Animoca Brands and others planned to participate in the land sale.

“Yes, we will be purchasing as well, Animoca’s Yat Siu said in an email ahead of the sale, adding that there are restrictions on how many NFTs a single digital wallet can buy in different phases of the land deed sale.

Besides the 55,000 Otherdeeds sold Saturday, another 45,000 were to be made available to holders of Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape NFTs, as well as Yuga Labs and other project developers, with another 100,000 of the tokens expected to be awarded later to certain Otherdeed holders, according to the Otherside website.

ApeCoin is striving to become widely used in a variety of so-called web3 apps, using digital coins and blockchains. The idea is for owners to be able to access a variety of events, services, merchandise and games.

It’s also the governance token of ApeCoin DAO, whose board includes Reddit Co-founder Alexis Ohanian, FTX’s Amy Wu and Animoca’s Siu. Ahead of the Otherdeed sale Saturday evening, OpenSea said it would accept ApeCoin.
Venture capital investors that helped with ApeCoin’s March launch, including Andreessen Horowitz and Animoca, were some of the biggest recipients of ApeCoin, which was created as an “airdrop,” in which certain groups of crypto holders automatically received 1 billion tokens as a reward.

They and other launch partners received 14 percent, or 140 million tokens. ApeCoin’s price has nearly tripled since the coin’s release, according to data from CoinMarketCap.

The frenzy around the land is in sharp contrast to much of the crypto market, which has been trading sideways in recent months, with bellwether Bitcoin down about 18 percent since the beginning of the year.

Monthly sales volume on OpenSea, the world’s biggest NFT marketplace, were higher in April than in March, but still down from an all-time-high in January, according to data tracker Dune.

While many apps have sold virtual land for cryptocurrency before, most have seen only a small number of users and transactions. On Decentraland, for example, the number of transactions is down 35 percent in the last 30 days, according to data tracker DappRadar.

Otherside’s release date hasn’t been disclosed yet, according to the Yuga Labs spokesperson.

A trailer from Yuga Labs shows an ape fishing out a bottle and drinking up its contents before launching on an adventure. Metaverse software company Improbable will help to build the Otherside platform.

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Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in as first black woman on US Supreme Court

The United States made history on Thursday as Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

The 51-year-old’s appointment by Democratic President Joe Biden means white men are not in the majority on the nation’s highest court for the first time in 233 years.

While her confirmation is a milestone, it won’t change the 6-3 conservative majority on the court, which has come under fire for recent rulings broadening the right to bear arms and eviscerating abortion rights.

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Jackson spoke only to say her oaths during Thursday’s brief ceremony.

She had picked up support from three Senate Republicans during a grueling and at times brutal confirmation process, delivering Biden a bipartisan 53-47 approval for his first Supreme Court nominee.

Jackson’s swearing-in marks a major moment for Biden, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 1980s and 90s, meaning he has the unprecedented distinction of both naming and overseeing the appointment of a Supreme Court justice.

The appointment presents an opportunity for his administration to pivot from a spate of bad news in recent months, with Biden’s poll ratings still languishing below 40 percent amid runaway inflation ahead of midterm elections in November.

Crucially, it has allowed Biden to show the Black voters who rescued his floundering 2020 primary campaign that he can deliver for them.

At 42 days, the confirmation was among the shortest in history, although longer than it took to seat Donald Trump’s last court pick during his presidency, Amy Coney Barrett.

As the final word on all civil and criminal legal disputes, as well as guardian and interpreter of the Constitution, the Supreme Court seeks to ensure equal justice under the law.

Four of the justices on the nine-member court are now women, making it the most diverse bench in history – although they all attended the elite law schools of Harvard or Yale.

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US supreme court limits government powers to curb greenhouse gases

The US Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the government’s key environmental agency cannot issue broad limits on greenhouse gases, sharply curtailing the power of President Joe Biden’s administration to battle climate change.

By a majority of 6-3, the high court found that Environmental Protection Agency did not have the power to set broad caps on emissions from coal-fired power plants, which produce nearly 20 percent of the electricity consumed in the United States.

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The decision sets back Biden’s hopes of using the EPA to bring down emissions to meet global climate goals.

It was a significant victory for the coal mining and coal power industry, which had been targeted for tough limits in 2015 by the administration of then president Barack Obama in an effort to slash carbon pollution.

It was also a victory for conservatives fighting government regulation of industry, with the court’s majority including three right-wing justices named by former president Donald Trump, who had sought to weaken the EPA.

While EPA had the power to regulate individual plants, the court ruled, Congress had not given it such expansive powers to set limits for all electricity generating units.

The majority justices said they recognized that putting caps on carbon dioxide emissions to transition away from coal-generated electricity “may be a sensible solution” to global warming.

But they said the case involved a “major question” of US governance and jurisprudence and that the EPA would have to be specifically delegated such powers by the legislature.

“It is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme,” they said.

“A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body,” they said.

The three-member liberal minority of the cases castigated the majority for overruling powers they said EPA did in fact have.

“Today, the court strips the Environmental Protection Agency of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time,’“ they said.

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EU may not cross ‘finishing line’ on Iran nuclear deal

Major Western powers wrung their hands on Thursday at American and Iranian diplomats’ failure to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, with the European Union saying it “might not make it over the finishing line.”

Diplomats spoke at the UN Security Council one day after indirect US-Iran talks ended in Doha with no sign of progress on resurrecting the pact under which Tehran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from US, UN and EU sanctions.

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“I am concerned that we might not make it over the finishing line. My message is: Seize this opportunity to conclude the deal, based on the text that is on the table,” European Union Ambassador to the United Nations Olof Skoog said.

The EU coordinates the talks on resurrecting the agreement, which then US President Donald Trump reneged on in 2018 and restored harsh US sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to start violating its nuclear restrictions about a year later.

The Security Council met to discuss the latest report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the implementation of a 2015 council resolution that enshrines the nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

US, British and French diplomats all placed the onus on Iran for the failure to revive the agreement after more than a year of negotiations. Iran “should urgently take this deal – there will not be a better one,” Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward said.

“Iran has yet to demonstrate any real urgency to conclude a deal, end the current nuclear crisis and achieve important sanctions lifting,” Richard Mills, Deputy US Ambassador to the United Nations, told the meeting.

“Not only has Iran not taken up the offer on the table, but it also added yet more issues which fall outside the JCPOA with maximalist and unrealistic demands,” French UN Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said.

Iran, however, described the latest talks as positive and said it was ready to strike an agreement.

“Iran has demanded verifiable and objective guarantees from the US that JCPOA will not be torpedoed again, that the US will not violate its obligations again, and that sanctions will not be re-imposed under other pretexts or designations,” Iran’s UN Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi told the council.

“We were sincere in the Doha talks that were serious and positive,” he said. “Our negotiating team is ready to engage constructively again to conclude and reach a deal.”

Chinese and Russian diplomats faulted the United States, with Beijing’s representative urging Washington to ease unilateral US sanctions on Iran and Russia’s calling for all sides to show flexibility.

“It is indeed the (Trump) policy of maximum pressure on Iran, which the US administration continues to embrace, that this is the main cause of all of the current problems plaguing the JCPOA,” Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said.

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