ALTHOUGH OSAMA BIN LADEN is dead, and al-Qaeda a shadow of what it was back in 2001, the violent jihadist Islamism the group pioneered endures. On August 26th at least 13 American troops and at least 90 Afghans were killed in two suicide-bombings at Kabul airport. An offshoot of Islamic State is thought responsible. Al-Qaeda affiliates and other jihadist groups are active in conflicts not just in Pakistan and the Middle East but across the African Sahel and in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. The ability to mount outrages like that of September 11th has apparently been curtailed by better intelligence, pressure on finances and a drumbeat of raids and drone strikes. But jihadist doctrines continue to inspire attacks by loner jihadists in America and Europe, though not at the rate seen in the mid-2010s. As jihadist ideology has been espoused ever more widely, Western countries have sent troops, advisers and money to more and more places. Counterterrorism and “countering violent extremism” have become worldwide industries. In 2020 America had 7,000 active troops stationed in a dozen or so African countries, plus training missions in 40 more, with militant Islamism the predominant focus.
On August 24th Tim Cook celebrated his tenth anniversary as Apple’s boss. He has staged what is arguably the greatest succession success in tech. No chief executive in history has created as much overall shareholder value as Mr Cook. Growth looks healthy enough. To the surprise of those analysts who have for years predicted the iPhone’s decline, the device keeps raking in money. Other sources of revenue have come to the fore, too. The firm’s services business, including the App Store and Apple Music, has surged from $8bn in sales in 2011 to $65bn in the past four quarters.
Britain’s private rented sector is big and growing. Almost one in five English households rented privately in 2020, up from around one in ten in 2001. It is also strikingly amateur, dominated by individual landlords who own at most a handful of properties. But during the past decade the rental sector has started to professionalise. And the build-to-rent stock, though still a small share of the total, rose from around 1,000 in 2011 to over 62,000 in mid-2021, with 133,000 more under construction or in the planning process.
The City by the Bay avoided a heavy death toll from covid-19 but it could feel the coronavirus’s impact longer than other places. The city, with a GDP which roughly matches that of Greece, is facing a host of problems. These include emigration, a rise in some types of crime, drugs and homelessness. The cost of living in San Francisco is still around two and a half times higher than the national average and 44% more than in New York City. Faced with the prospect of paying steep rents while enduring some of the longest, strictest lockdowns in the country, people left—some permanently. Much attention has been paid to an exodus of techies, but the less well-off have moved too. In the first quarter of 2021 average wages increased by 34% year-on-year. This suggests a dearth of workers.
Jerome Powell has overseen a giant monetary response to the covid -induced slowdown. The Federal Reserve has bought more than $4trn in assets during the pandemic (equivalent to 18% of GDP), dwarfing the scale of its actions after the global financial crisis, and swelling its total balance-sheet to $8.3trn. Mr Powell has refined the way the Fed communicates and led a landmark shift in the way it thinks about interest rates. In the process, he has presided over a bold gamble, keeping policy ultra-loose even as inflation soars. To his supporters—of whom there are many—he saved America from an economic catastrophe. To his critics, however, he is steering it into danger. The question is whether President Joe Biden will reappoint him. His four-year term as chairman ends in February 2022. An announcement is expected in the next few weeks.