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Will Joe Manchin thwart Biden's spending? FDA credibility hit

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does the disappointing jobs number mean for the Democrats' agenda?

Well, payroll employment in August came in well under expectations with under 300,000 jobs created. This is in contrast to the last several months, which really saw a torrid pace of job creation as the US started to recover from the pandemic and restrictions were lifted. With new mask mandates and the Delta variant spreading, Americans are slowing down their pace of activity and slowing down spending, which means you could see more economic volatility in the next couple of months. At the same time, Democrats are attempting to find consensus around a major new spending initiative, which would spend up to $3.5 half trillion over the next 10 years. This initiative isn't really about coronavirus pandemic recovery, or even stimulus, it's about expanding the size and scope of government for increased transfer payments and increased subsidies for education services and healthcare and also, of course, on infrastructure. The slowing jobs growth creates more fiscal space for Democrats to borrow more, and that's a real sticking point because you have moderates like Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, who says the US is already at their borrowing limit and shouldn't be borrowing more to spend money. This is going to be the major storyline in Washington for the next several months because it's also probably going to be the last big initiative of the Biden administration before the midterm elections next year.

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What We’re Watching: EU vs Belarus, US booster shots for all, Afghan lessons for Taiwan

Booster shots for Americans: After initially authorizing COVID vaccine booster shots for immunocompromised Americans, the Biden administration now says that most eligible people should get a booster beginning next month. It's quite an about-face for US health authorities, who just weeks ago insisted a top up was not necessary despite the spread of the more contagious delta variant, responsible for new COVID flare-ups in many parts of the country. Still, the US will likely face backlash from the World Health Organization, which has repeatedly asked nations with broad access to vaccines to hold off on booster shots until all countries inoculate at least 10 percent of their populations. The WHO's argument: if rich nations play me-first vaccine politics by doling out third doses instead of sending them to countries where most people haven't even had one dose, the virus will continue to mutate into new and potentially more lethal variants, making the pandemic harder to contain. But the US isn't the only country to go down the booster track: Israel has already distributed over 1 million, while Germany, France and the UK will begin in September.

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Biden's speech on Afghanistan ignores serious failures; Afghan refugee crisis

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on President Biden's Afghanistan speech, the Afghan refugee crisis that will follow the Taliban takeover, and booster shots in the US.

What did you think of President Biden's speech on the Afghan withdrawal?

Two things. One, I thought he made a very compelling case for why the United States needed to leave when we did. The reduction in US troops that already happened under Trump, the strengthening of the Taliban, the difficulty of any expansion, I get all of that, but it was, listening to it as if the last 72 hours hadn't happened. He said that, "this is on me, the buck stops with me," but didn't talk really about any of the serious failures and how they could have occurred on the ground in Afghanistan. And there's a lot to answer for there. So I certainly don't give high marks to the speech, if I'm being honest with you. I'm doing my best.

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What we're watching: COVID boosters, Israel-Lebanon border flareup, Mexico vs gringo guns

Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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