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Pro-Trump rioters storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

REUTERS/Leah Millis

What We’re Watching: Jan 6. hearings begin, Beijing’s Zero bet & Somalia famine warning

House holds first public Jan. 6 hearing in prime time

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol held its first public hearing on Thursday night, with most news channels airing it in prime time (notably not Fox News). Viewers were shown graphic, never-before-seen footage to demonstrate how, as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said, former President Donald Trump “lit the flame of this attack.” The hearing aired revelatory clips of testimony from former US Attorney General William Barr, who told Trump that claims about a stolen election were “bullshit,” and from Trump's daughter Ivanka, who said she’d accepted Barr’s perspective. And some participants in the attack testified that they were on hand because Trump had asked them to be there in Washington, DC, on that day. Will the hearings change hearts or minds? Unlikely in such a polarized environment, but Eurasia Group’s lead US analyst Jon Lieber says Democrats hope the hearings will help keep the focus on Trump ahead of November’s midterm elections, which are slated to be a washout for Democrats. Republicans, for their part, would rather make midterms a referendum on President Joe Biden and kitchen-table issues like inflation. The hearings — a culmination of one of the Justice Department’s largest-ever FBI investigations, which has led to more than 800 arrests across nearly all 50 states — will continue next week.

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El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele present the plan of "Bitcoin City."

REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

What We’re Watching: Bukele’s crypto bomb, Somalia needs a president

Has El Salavdor’s crypto experiment bombed?

Mass protests erupted last fall after Nayib Bukele, El Salvador’s youthful, tech-savvy president with an authoritarian streak, announced that the country would begin accepting Bitcoin as legal tender. Many Salvadorans said Bukele’s embrace of the volatile currency would spur inflation and financial instability. Those warnings have proven prescient. In recent days, the crypto world has been caught in a tailspin, in part because global inflation has lowered investors’ tolerance for risk. Bitcoin and Etherium, the biggest cryptocurrencies, have both declined in value by 20-25% this week – and El Salvador is recording losses of about 37% based on what it forked out for crypto in a series of purchases. This has proven to be a disaster for Bukele: two major credit rating agencies predict El Salavdor will default on its loans. San Salvador has an IMF repayment due in January worth a whopping $800 million, and amid ongoing negotiations earlier this year the international lender warned that “Bitcoin should not be used as an official currency with legal tender status.” Still, the enigmatic Bukele continues to double down: this week, he released plans for the Bitcoin city he touted last fall – a smart city based on the use of the flailing currency.

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