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Bitcoin's volatility may dim its appeal; China's crypto crackdown

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Should Bitcoin enthusiasts be alarmed at its plunging value?

Well, I can only imagine it makes them a little less enthusiastic, although the value of Bitcoin is still a lot higher than it was a year ago. So I guess the level of concern much depends on when the enthusiasts started to invest in this volatile currency, which is also seeing more and more regulations coming its way. So if people choose to get out now, it further pushes down the value and so on. I'll be watching what happens next.

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What We’re Watching: China’s vaccination blitz, Nicaraguan opposition crackdown, Dems/GOP vs China

China goes big on vaccination: China is now vaccinating about 20 million people a day against COVID, accounting for more than half of the world's daily shots. Following a sluggish initial rollout, Chinese vaccine makers have scaled up production in recent months. That's good news for the world, particularly for developing countries that rely on vaccines distributed through the COVAX global facility, which now includes China's WHO-approved Sinopharm and Sinovac jabs. It's also good news for China's government, which for months has struggled to make its production capacity match its ambitious vaccine diplomacy program (though it has already supplied a whopping 350 million doses to more than 75 countries). And finally, it's good news for the Chinese people, who can travel without restrictions, both inside and outside China, once they're vaccinated. It's not good news for India, which earlier this year had a window of opportunity to compete with the Chinese on doling out jabs to low-income countries but then had to suspend exports in order to address its own COVID crisis.

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Bukele's Bitcoin gamble in El Salvador

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your week with a Quick Take. Hope everyone's doing well. I thought I would talk about El Salvador, a surprising amount of news coming out of this comparatively small country.

First of all, you've got a president who's been in power now for about a year, Nayib Bukele, he's all of 39 years old and 90% approval ratings, pretty consistent over the last year. And in part, that's because there's been massive violence and huge economic problems and extraordinary corruption in the country. And this is a guy who was a former advertising executive, he was a local mayor, and ran with a lot of charisma, with of course, an enormous amount of social media savvy. In fact, if you follow him on social media, he kind of styles himself the Elon Musk of the Northern Triangle, which is not really a great thing I grant you. The Northern Triangle is like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. And I mean, I guess if there is one such person that has to be Elon Musk, he's the guy.

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What We’re Watching: China bans crypto, commandos kill Jesús, EU opens anew

China bans cryptocurrency: China has banned financial institutions and payment companies from processing online transactions in cryptocurrencies. The move, which follows an earlier ban on cryptocurrency trading by Chinese firms, is a clear sign of China's suspicion of any digital currencies that it cannot control. In fact, what China really wants is to promote its own digital yuan that would track every single transaction. Other governments would love to do the same, of course, but they don't have nearly as much financial firepower as China. Meanwhile, the news from Beijing made the price of Bitcoin — the world's most prominent cryptocurrency — plunge to its lowest in three months. Who would have guessed just a couple of weeks ago, when everyone was still frantically buying Bitcoin, Etherium or Dogecoin on RobinHood, that all it would take to burst the digital currency bubble would be an Elon Musk tweet and China.

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The Graphic Truth: Crypto-mining sucks up lots of power

As the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed in recent months, so has the amount of energy that procuring it hogs. Research shows that Bitcoin "mining" now uses 80 percent more energy than at the start of 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sounded the alarm on crypto, saying that he would not invest in Bitcoin because mining for the digital currency requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is powered by fossil fuels that harm the environment. So where does Bitcoin rank in electricity consumption compared to nations?

Cryptocurrency going mainstream but EU & US regulators face challenges

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Has cryptocurrency finally gone mainstream?

Well, it certainly looks like that because after some people had invested in bitcoins out of curiosity or the quiet hope to make a fortune, now the EU and the European Central Bank are considering a digital euro. And this week, Visa announced that it would accept crypto coins, too. So those developments may help facilitate trust in an area that is also known to be a safe haven for criminal money.

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What can governments do about cryptocurrency?

Visa announced on Monday it'll be the first major electronic payments platform to accept some cryptocurrency to settle transactions on its network. The move is the latest sign of growing trust in such virtual currencies by mainstream financial institutions worldwide — and a development that presents big challenges for governments around the world.

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How Contact Tracing Apps Work; Trading Bitcoin & Digital Currency

What will digital contact tracing apps look like and how will they work?

Well, the basic idea is that if you opt in to one of these apps, your phone will use Bluetooth, it will scan, look for other devices that are also being used by people who have opted in. If one of you test positive for coronavirus, the other will get a notification and can then take corrective action. There are a lot of different ways these are being built, but that's the idea.

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