When President Biden announced sweeping workplace vaccine mandates last week, the US entered a new, more-mandatory phase of pandemic precaution since the lifting of restrictions and the arrival of vaccines.
At The New Yorker, John Cassidy depicts these mandates as potentially critical to the US economy, as studies have indicated that infection rates—not lockdowns—are really what drag on GDP. If the new mandates keep Covid-19 at bay, they could alleviate a labor shortage being felt across the country, Cassidy writes.
But will Biden’s new rules work? For the answer, we might look to France, an individualistic cradle of vaccine skepticism in spite of its rich scientific history, Eliza Mackintosh, Joseph Ataman, Saskya Vandoorne, and Melissa Bell write for CNN. President Emmanuel Macron imposed stern restrictions on Aug. 1, barring café attendance and long-distance train travel for anyone lacking a “health pass” certifying vaccination status or a recent negative PCR test.
The move produced a sharp reversal. “During the country’s second coronavirus lockdown in December 2020, two separate polls carried out by Paris-headquartered Ipsos and the French Institute of Public Opinion found that around 60% of French people surveyed said that if a vaccine for Covid-19 was available they would not take it,” the CNN authors write. “Today, France’s Covid-19 vaccination rate is among the highest in the world, with 73% of people having received at least one shot, according to Our World in Data.”
Whether or not the US mandates succeed, the pandemic is approaching a stretch of known unknowns, University of Edinburgh global-public-health professor Devi Sridhar writes for The Guardian, as the Northern Hemisphere’s winter figures to drive people indoors and as scientists watch for new variants.
Afghan Women Fight for Their Rights
Since the Taliban’s takeover, Afghan women have protested for rights under the new regime, as Ezzatullah Mehrdad writes for Newlines Magazine—and the Taliban have “responded with beatings and abuse, leaving the women no choice but to look outside for help.” Quoting one female activist who calls on the international community to deny the Taliban diplomatic recognition unless women’s rights are ensured, Mehrdad writes also of discontent with Western aid efforts that sought to develop rights for women in Afghanistan but, in the eyes of some, failed to embed them durably.
‘Al Qaeda Versus ISIS’
As international observers wonder if Afghanistan will again become a terrorist sanctuary, Cole Bunzel reminds us in a Foreign Affairs essay that jihadism is anything but monolithic. Al Qaeda has seen its star fall in recent years, but it has maintained ties with the Taliban and has praised the latter’s takeover of Afghanistan, Bunzel writes. Meanwhile, “[f]or ISIS,” the Taliban’s seizure of power “is not a triumph at all but rather further evidence of the Taliban’s willingness to collaborate with the Americans” as US and NATO troops withdrew.
A rivalry looms, Bunzel writes, concluding that jihadis’ ability to use Afghanistan to reestablish themselves “remains to be seen. Their success is by no means a foregone conclusion.”
About Those Abraham Accords
Have the Abraham Accords succeeded, or have they failed miserably?
Brokered by the Trump administration, the deals to normalize ties between Israel and a handful of Muslim countries—Bahrain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan—continue to stoke debate. Singing their praises in a Financial Times op-ed, Israeli Foreign Minister (and alternate Prime Minister) Yair Lapid and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan write that the deals “have proved extraordinarily durable, even with the Covid-19 pandemic … official ties have advanced quickly,” while the agreements reflect a “generational shift in mindset.”
Given Israel’s assault on Hamas positions in Gaza and internecine violence in Israel’s religiously and ethnically mixed cities this year, Jeremy Pressman writes for Foreign Affairs that the Abraham Accords—seen as eliding Palestinian demands in favor of Israeli rapprochement with Arabs and Muslims elsewhere in the region—left an important problem unsolved. “Bypassing” the Palestinian movement for statehood and rights “through regional diplomacy will not make it go away,” Pressman writes.
Would China Move to mRNA?
Having produced and exported its own vaccines, would China pivot to deploying mRNA-based shots like those developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna? At SupChina, Lucas Niewenhuis asks that question, citing recent Covid-19 outbreaks in China; unease with the efficacy rates of China’s vaccines; reports that other countries are declining them; and the testing of mRNA shots for potential use in China—including Chinese-made mRNA vaccines and a BioNTech shot using the same platform as in its partnership with Pfizer but co-produced with a Chinese firm.
Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Chris Good