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US most unequal, least vaccinated in G7

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody, Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week, happy to be back in the offices, of course, in New York City. And by the way, and what do I have at my desk here? A fan sent me a Moose the dog cookie, which how does one eat that? You can't eat that because it's Moose, you just keep it! But that's pretty awesome, a Norfolk Terrier in a cookie right there, very talented. Thank you so much.

And let's get started. So what I was thinking about as I saw over this weekend, today. Not only is the United States today the most economically-unequal of the G7 advanced industrial democracies, and the most politically divided, but we're also now in terms of first jabs of the COVID vaccine, we are the least vaccinated of the G7, which is annoying because we were the most vaccinated of the G7 months ago. And of course, all of this speaks to the fact that the United States is enormously wealthy, enormously powerful, there are so many great things about this country, but the politics are deeply, deeply screwed up. And the problems we have are self-inflicted.

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Why CIA director Bill Burns met with the Taliban

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on the CIA director's secret meeting with the leader of the Taliban, the G7 emergency meeting on Afghanistan, and the future of vaccine mandates following the FDA's approval of Pfizer's COVID vaccine.

CIA director Bill Burns held a secret meeting with the leader of the Taliban. How will it impact the ongoing evacuations?

Well, at the very least, you have to think that America's top priority, ensuring that all Americans get out of Afghanistan, given that the US controls nothing on the ground but Kabul Airport, will be facilitated. I would think that that was the reason for him to be there, absolute top priority. That has been successful. If it was a failure, we would've heard something about it by now, and the situation on the ground would be quite different. That is very different though than what happens after August 31st, and whether or not all of the Afghan nationals working with the Americans and in physical danger are going to be let out. So far, I haven't heard that from the Taliban. Certainly that will be a big piece of the negotiations. But better that he's there than not.

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What We're Watching: VP Harris in Southeast Asia, FDA approves Pfizer jab, Qatar's first legislative election

Harris' Southeast Asia tour overshadowed by... Afghanistan: It's been a bad week and a half for the Biden administration, which has gotten terrible PR over its disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. But Vice President Kamala Harris is trying to flip the script a bit on a current, week-long tour of Southeast Asia. The main aim of the Veep's visit to Singapore and Vietnam is to shore up relations with Asian partners as a bulwark against an increasingly aggressive China, and to emphasize the Biden administration's "pivot" to the Indo-Pacific region more broadly. That's particularly true in Vietnam, which is extremely concerned about China's behavior in the disputed South China Sea. But when Harris held a press conference with Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong Monday, hoping to highlight new cooperation on climate change, cyber security, and COVID tracking, she was instead peppered with questions about violence at Kabul's airport and the administration's so-far botched evacuation plans for Americans there.

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Biden expected to announce vaccine mandate for federal workers

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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The Graphic Truth: Vax skepticism vs COVID deaths

In countries with access to COVID vaccines, the main challenge now is to convince those hesitant about the jab to roll up their sleeves, and this has become even more urgent given the spread of the more contagious delta variant. So, where are there more vaccine skeptics, and how do they compare to total COVID deaths per million in each nation? We take a look at a group of large economies where jabs are available, yet (in some cases) not everyone wants one.

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