Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria

First, Fareed gives his take on the rise of cyberattacks and ransomware—and how cryptocurrency seems to be enabling it, by facilitating anonymous payments to hackers around the world.

“Many of cryptocurrency’s most ardent advocates see it as the way of the future, a decentralized and seamless monetary system that offers an alternative to national currencies,” Fareed says. “But none of that requires that it be anonymous. If those broader goals are what Bitcoin is really about, it should stay strong even while its illegal use is reined in. If, on the other hand, the crucial, distinctive and unique property of cryptocurrency is that it can be readily and efficiently used for crime, why exactly should governments around the world allow this?”

Next, as US President Joe Biden takes his first overseas trip as President—meeting with G7 leaders and the Queen of England, then Russian President Vladimir Putin—Fareed discusses what’s already happened and what’s to come with former top Obama aide Ben Rhodes and Economist Editor-in-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes.

With Israel’s new government expected to be sworn in today, Fareed talks with Martin Indyk, the former longtime US ambassador in the Middle East, about what to expect from the new Prime Minister and his coalition government cobbled together from across the political spectrum.

After that: Has the world gained an extra life? Author Steven Johnson tells Fareed that it has, as life expectancy has doubled in the last 100 years. Johnson discusses how and why that happened.

Finally, Fareed examines the real root causes of America’s southern-border crisis.

Four Americas

Americans aren’t just living in the two siloed realities, defined by left and right, that seem ever present in political life, George Packer writes in a long Atlantic essay; the country has in fact frayed into four.

According to Packer, they are: Free America, which includes those Americans who believe in the conservative ideals of small government and being left alone; Smart America, the stereotypical liberal, educated elite; Real America, which follows the term coined by former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin—a salt-of-the-earth cohort that leans right and looks skeptically on the globalized economic order; and Just America (which may as well be termed “Woke America”)—the heavily millennial cadre outraged by the country’s racial and social inequities.

These four segments overlap, interact, and compete, Packer writes: “They all anoint winners and losers. In Free America, the winners are the makers, and the losers are the takers who want to drag the rest down in perpetual dependency on a smothering government. In Smart America, the winners are the credentialed meritocrats, and the losers are the poorly educated who want to resist inevitable progress. In Real America, the winners are the hardworking folk of the white Christian heartland, and the losers are treacherous elites and contaminating others who want to destroy the country. In Just America, the winners are the marginalized groups, and the losers are the dominant groups that want to go on dominating. … Meanwhile, we remain trapped in two countries. Each one is split by two narratives—Smart and Just on one side, Free and Real on the other. Neither separation nor conquest is a tenable future. The tensions within each country will persist even as the cold civil war between them rages on.”

Big Red Sun

At The New York Review of Books, Ian Johnson reviews four histories of the Chinese Communist Party and questions its current self-conception, which mythologizes the CCP as having originated from pure idealism, ignores (in Johnson’s view) the brutal purges of the Mao Zedong era, and circumvents what that era really signified: a “sterilization of Chinese intellectuals” that (as Johnson casts it) curtailed the diversity of Chinese political thought. Explaining the lack of domestic opposition to the CCP today, as it prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary, Johnson reprises the analysis of Bruce J. Dickson’s “The Party and the People,” indicating that the CCP’s self-identified mission centers on providing security and prosperity, which Chinese citizens largely see it as delivering—and which the CCP sees itself as having been “anointed” by history to provide.

At Project Syndicate, Minxin Pei takes a similarly broad view of the party, portraying it as caught between liberalizing reforms that might weaken its hold on power (if the late Soviet Union is a useful precedent) and a turn toward even sterner repression. Disconcertingly, it’s heading toward a model more similar to North Korea’s than Singapore’s, in Pei’s view.

Myanmar’s Stalemate

As Myanmar’s opposition movement persists long past the military’s February coup, different analysts are emphasizing different influences on the country’s medium-term future. At The New York Review of Books, Delphine Schrank notes the opposition’s success in halting Myanmar’s economy and in seeking legitimacy through a parallel, shadow government; at The New York Times, Min Zin sees the country’s panoply of ethnically aligned militias as “kingmakers.”

At Foreign Affairs, the Burmese historian Thant Myint-U is bearish on what the next stretch of time will hold, writing that neither the ruling junta nor the popular opposition movement has enough clout to seize control in full; as a stalemate unfolds, he sees the country becoming a “failed state” of economic collapse, barring meaningful foreign intervention that likely won’t arrive.

So, It’s Okay Not to Listen to the CDC?

In an essay that seems to be aimed largely at the vaccinated, Dr. Aaron E. Carroll writes for The New York Times that for those who are burned out by pandemic anxiety, but have a good handle on the risks to themselves and others in various settings, it’s okay to rely on one’s own judgment when it comes to resuming normal life.

“Today, as the risk of Covid decreases with vaccinations, C.D.C. experts are still inundated with questions as to what is ‘safe,’” Carroll writes. “Is it safe to travel and see other vaccinated members of the family in their home? What if one of them is unvaccinated? What if that unvaccinated person is a child? What if we want to see friends who are vaccinated, except for their children, but they’re sheltering in place and seeing no one else? What if they have a baby? Many people, including experts, are angry that the C.D.C. isn’t clear on all of the answers. They’re upset when the C.D.C. makes recommendations too slowly, and they’re upset when the C.D.C. makes decisions too quickly. No one is there to tell us exactly what is safe and what is not.”

To Carroll, it’s alright to use the available information about Covid-19 and how it spreads and to decide on our own what activities to engage in and how—rather than wait for a traditionally cautious CDC to announce that the pandemic is all over, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

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