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

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.


Is Jesús dead? One of Colombia's most famous rebel commanders was reportedly killed in Venezuela earlier this week in an incident that could inflame tensions between the two countries. Seuxis Hernández Solarte — better known by his nombre de guerra Jesús Santrich — was a top leader of the FARC rebel group for decades, and helped negotiate the historic 2016 peace accord that ended a half century of conflict that had killed more than 200,000 people. But the ink was barely dry on the document before Santrich was jailed for returning to the drug trade, and after his release he joined a fresh call to arms among disaffected former FARC fighters. Santrich's own criminal gang says he was ambushed by Colombian commandos who stole across the border, killed him, and cut off one of his fingers before flying off in a helicopter. Colombian officials have not confirmed any of that story yet, but Bogotá has long claimed that Santrich was active in Venezuela, which for years harbored various FARC-affiliated groups.

EU to welcome (vaccinated) tourists: The European Union will allow tourists from non-EU member states that have been vaccinated with EU-approved jabs or considered safe from COVID to visit the bloc this summer. That's great news for tourism-reliant economies such as Greece or Spain which are eager to welcome visitors again from countries like the UK and the US. But other EU member states that depend less on tourists are skeptical — they want to be more cautious, for instance, about mixing vaccinated and unvaccinated groups of people. Either way, Brussels will let each member state decide its own policy, while working to ensure enough jabs are doled out by the fall to avoid getting crushed by another COVID wave. What still needs to be ironed out, however, is the EU-wide vaccination certificate, and whether the UK and the US will reciprocate by allowing EU visitors to go there without restrictions as the bloc (slowly) ramps up vaccinations. Expect a lot of back-and-forth on both issues in the coming weeks.

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A year of Biden

Joe Biden’s first year as US president included two major historic accomplishments and a series of (often bitter) disappointments that has his party headed toward likely defeat in November’s midterm elections. Biden’s own political future is increasingly uncertain.

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Two children and a robot. We have to control AI before it controls us, warns former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

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What's troubling about AI, he says, is that it’s still very new, and AI is learning by doing. Schmidt, co-author of “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future,” worries that AI exacerbates problems like anxiety, driving a human addiction cycle that leads to depression.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow, Russia January 19, 2022.

Iran and Russia heart each other. The presidents of Iran and Russia have little in common personally, but they share many geopolitical interests, including in Afghanistan and Syria. They also have a common resolve in countering "the West.” These issues are all on the agenda as Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi held their first in-person meeting in Moscow. Raisi is a hardline cleric who leads a theocracy with nuclear ambitions. Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is a wily autocrat who enjoys provoking America and Europe, and has ambitions to return to the glory days of the territorially expansive Soviet Union — as seen with the Kremlin's recent provocations on the Ukrainian border. With the Iran nuclear talks on life support and Joe Biden already bracing for Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, Tehran and Moscow now have even more reasons to scheme and cooperate. Indeed, Moscow and Tehran have increasingly been cooperating on energy and security issues (Iran might be buying Russian military technology) as their respective relations with the West deteriorate.

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A year of Biden

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Can we control AI before it controls us?

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Should China learn to live with COVID?

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China vs COVID in 2022

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