The Big Story \n\nAmericans are leaving their jobs in record numbers—a trend that’s been dubbed “The Great Resignation.” The latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that while the country added 850,000 jobs in June, the number of people quitting their jobs is the highest on record since the bureau began tracking the trend in 2000. In April, roughly 4 million people, some 2.7% of the U.S. workforce, left their job. Economists cite both the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the current economic recovery as the cause of the dramatic workplace migration. The pandemic gave many people the time and space to think about their careers and look into other options (38% of 2,800 professionals surveyed felt their career was stalled, according to a recent study by Robert Half, a global human resources consulting firm, while leading others to relocate—especially out of large coastal hub cities. Now, with a record-setting 9.3 million job openings in the post-pandemic era, workers have greater options to pursue more competitive wages in their current field or pursue a different career path. “Morgan Stanley economist Robert Roesner notes that higher-wage industries have also struggled with record job openings and unusually high quit rates,” Axios recently reported.\n\nRead it here: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jul/03/us-jobs-report-june-trend\n\nToday’s Back Pages: Afghan Fact and Fiction\n\n\nThe Rest New preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that school enrollment is down by 3% for 2020-2021 compared to the previous school year. The impact is most dramatic for the youngest grades, with pre-K and kindergarten enrollment falling by a combined 13%.\n\nA prominent Star of David engraved along with a cross on the recently unearthed gravestone of Elvis Presley’s mother, Gladys, confirms long-standing rumors about the King’s Jewish heritage. Graceland’s vice president of archives and exhibits, Angie Marchese, who is responsible for bringing the headstone to the public, says that Elvis’s maternal great-great-grandmother was a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania named Nancy Burdine. Though Elvis was a practicing Christian, “he would often make a joke, ‘I don’t want to get left out of heaven on a technicality,’” Marchese told The Jewish Chronicle. “So he would wear a Star of David, a chai, and he would also wear a cross. He wanted to keep all his bases covered.”\nRead it here: https://jewishchronicle.timesofisrael.com/elvis-presley-was-jewish-a-grave-marker-locked-away-for-4-decades-confirms-it/\n\nAn investigation by tech publication The Markup reveals how facial recognition technology is being used in U.S. public schools. “We had over 164,000 detections the last 7 days running the pilot. We were able to detect students on multiple cameras and even detected one student 1,100 times!” boasted a sales manager for AnyVision, an Israeli tech firm profiled in the piece.\nRead it here: https://themarkup.org/privacy/2021/07/06/this-manual-for-a-popular-facial-recognition-tool-shows-just-how-much-the-software-tracks-people\n\nIn a sick burn, Nikole Hannah-Jones has rejected an offer of tenure from the University of North Carolina. The New York Times journalist, who helmed the paper’s 1619 project, became embroiled in controversy with her alma mater after UNC offered her a job as a nontenured professor, which Jones rejected while claiming that the absence of a tenure offer was evidence the school had caved to pressure from opponents hostile to her politics, race, and gender. Jones won the battle and got the school to make the full offer—at which point she revealed that she was instead headed to Howard University, where she and fellow journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates will be heading its new Center for Journalism and Democracy.Google’s parent company, Alphabet, as well as Facebook and Twitter are threatening to take their businesses out of Hong Kong over the Chinese government’s proposed changes to the island’s privacy laws that would make employees of the tech companies liable for the conduct of people using their platforms. The dispute signals a larger shift in Hong Kong’s status as the island loses the margin of political and economic autonomy it had long maintained from Beijing and gradually falls under the same surveillance and state powers as the rest of mainland China.\n\nAs oil prices hit a six-year high, The Wall Street Journal reports that a deadlock among member-states of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is prolonging the price hike and threatening the global economic recovery, which could in turn dampen demand for oil. With crude oil prices up 60% this year and July 4 gas prices in the United States hitting a seven-year high at a national average of $3 per gallon, Biden administration officials are pushing OPEC to reach an agreement that would boost production among member states and bring prices down.\nRead it here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-opec-deadlock-u-a-e-steps-out-of-saudi-shadow-11625495969\n\nOn July 19, dubbed “freedom day,” the United Kingdom will lift all remaining public coronavirus restrictions, England’s government recently announced. With 86% of British adults having received at least one vaccine dose, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the country will soon repeal remaining mask mandates as well as social distancing measures.\n\nIran’s doomsday clock—that charming public work’s project in Tehran’s Palestine Square that counts down the hours until Israel’s destruction—has stopped working. Photos show that the clock’s digital screen is blank, due reportedly to power outages across Iran.\nSee it here: https://twitter.com/sedaye_iran/status/1411833135176761348\nThe Back Pages Afghan Fact and Fiction\n\n“When we fully withdraw, the devastation and the killings and women, humanitarian crisis, fleeing across the border into Pakistan, President Biden is going to own these ugly images,” Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Fox News viewers in an interview on Sunday.\n\nRather than try and pick apart the disastrously misguided reasoning in McCaul’s statement, which would commit U.S. soldiers to a permanent occupation of Afghanistan—one wonders who exactly McCaul thinks “owned” the gruesome images coming out of Afghanistan over the previous two decades—here is some necessary context for understanding the flurry of news coming as the war ends.\n\n- If you felt a sense of déjà vu hearing new reports about the Taliban being stronger than ever, going on the offensive, routing Afghan forces, and controlling a majority of districts in Afghanistan—that’s because the same scenario has held for the past decade. The reason President Obama launched his big 2009 troop surge into Afghanistan in the first place was because the Taliban was making a comeback. At the cost of tens of thousands of lives of U.S. and Afghan troops, the surge failed to defeat the Taliban or to maintain control of critical contested areas that ended up falling back under Taliban control, and it did not end the war.\n\n- Following the failure of the surge, by 2010-2011, the U.S. military mission shifted to “training and assisting” the Afghan National Security Forces, whom the U.S. government was also funding. The purpose here was precisely to put the Afghans in a position where they would no longer need U.S. assistance. The reasons for the Taliban’s resilience are too complicated and numerous to expound here, but one is worth mentioning: The U.S. strategy evolved from defeating al-Qaeda and connected security threats to the United States to building, more or less wholesale, the civic infrastructure of a modern nation-state in Afghanistan. Under the leadership of President George W. Bush and the recently deceased Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the United States’ military was used as the shock troops in a much larger scheme of forced modernization and democratization, which entailed taking sides in Afghanistan’s fractious ethnic conflicts—this despite U.S. decision makers having little understanding of the internal dynamic of Afghan society.\n\n- The failure of the U.S. train and assist mission is most obvious not in the battlefield defeats of Afghanistan’s security forces but in the fact that, once the United States stops dispersing funding directly, these local troops frequently do not get paid by their own commanders. Predictably, armies that do not get paid—like armies that don’t get fed—collapse. The failure of the Afghan military has only empowered the country’s warlords, further inflaming the endemic civil conflict, which in turn strengthens the Taliban, as the group presents itself as an alternative to warlordism.\n\n- Reports about U.S. soldiers abandoning bases without warning their Afghan counterparts, such as this one in the Associated Press, should not be taken at face value. Perhaps some of this really is happening because of poor coordination, but after two decades, no one in Afghanistan is leaving by surprise. More to the point, the Afghans are understandably concerned about what will come after the United States departs and so have an incentive to play up worst-case scenarios. U.S. military contractors and nongovernmental organizations, who have depended on the war for their budgets, have similar incentives.\n\n- Finally, the fact that there will inevitably be exaggerations and scare stories about the fallout from the U.S. withdrawal, including from ranking members of Congress, does not detract from the severity of the security threat to Afghans. I applaud President Biden for finally ending the war, but he does, in fact, own the future of the U.S. relationship to Afghanistan. The United States still has an obligation to Afghan allies to whom we have made commitments. That starts with expediting visas for interpreters and other Afghans who worked with the U.S. military, but it also includes providing forms of direct military assistance when and if that becomes critical. With the lessons of our failures inside Afghanistan, perhaps the president will be more successful at honoring those commitments while protecting U.S. interests when he is no longer tied down to a lost cause.