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Advances in health care, the rise of crypto, and a reckoning over racial justice

August 16, 2021, 11:04 AM UTC

Good morning.

Lots of smart, and many hopeful, responses to my Friday question about what the big impact event (rather than big news event) of the past year has been. Top picks:

-The MRNA vaccine, and the application of algorithms to health care.

-The separation of work and office.

-The rise of crypto and the decentralization of finance.

-The rise of stakeholder capitalism, and serious attention among companies to ESG.

-The growing split between the U.S. and China.

-The murder of George Floyd, and increased attention to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

-Increased awareness and attention to mental health issues.

Quite a year. I skipped the purely political responses, for the sake of my sanity. And I appreciate those who wondered if there has been some other big technological breakthrough out there that hasn’t yet caught our attention.

Speaking of high impact events, this past weekend was the fiftieth anniversary of the meeting at Camp David where Richard Nixon made the decision to break the link between the dollar and gold and bring an end to the post-World War II global financial order. Jeffrey Garten—who is Dean Emeritus of Yale School of Management, former Undersecretary of Commerce, and well-fed by his wife Ina—has just published a fascinating account of the decision called Three Days at Camp David. I read it last week and strongly recommend it to all enthusiasts of economic history and political economy.

More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

TOP NEWS

Kabul chaos

Chaos continues in Kabul this morning, after the Taliban took the Afghan capital after a stunningly quick capitulation. Meanwhile, the U.S. is rushing in troops to help airlift out Americans, after two decades in the country. Meanwhile, desperate Afghans are still scrambling for a way out. Young Afghan women are particularly at risk as the Taliban has taken control of the country. Fortune

$2 trillion 

The entire cryptocurrency market is now worth over $2 trillion—again—as Bitcoin had another market bounce. The market's incredible rise had hit headwinds this summer, mainly in the form of a regulatory crackdown from the Chinese government. CNBC

Hoarding cash 

Freaked out about the Delta variant, U.S. companies seem to be taking a cautious approach—and holding onto that cash. Cash and short-term investments on Q2 balance sheets were at a record $6.84 billion, according to S&P Global, 45% higher than the average in the previous five years. WSJ

Aramco push

After its oil-price powered earnings beat last week, Saudi Aramco is in acquisitions mode: it's reportedly in advanced talks to buy a 20% stake in the oil and chemicals business of India's Reliance Industries, for $20 to $25 billion in shares. Meanwhile, it's expanding into renewables, making its largest investment so far in a solar project. S&P Global

AROUND THE WATER COOLER

Debt spiral

This weekend, Fortune had an excerpt from Josh Mitchell's book The Debt Trap, which tells the story of Brandon, who leaves the Navy and becomes a student at Howard University, relying on grants and tens of thousands of dollars in loans to fund his education: nearly $40,000 in federal loans and $60,000 in private loans, which carries thousands more in interest. Fortune

Insurance blowout

It's supposed to be a new, in-person year for the U.S. college student. But, besides the rise of Delta cases, there's a hitch. "U.S. universities may be losing their luster in China, the U.S.’s largest source of international students," writes Fortune's Grady McGregor. That's a problem: in 2019, Chinese students contributed an estimated $15.9 billion spent on tuition and living expenses to the U.S. economy—roughly equal to the cost of Operation Warp Speed. Fortune

FEMA's funerals

A massive FEMA program is helping to reimburse the high costs of funerals in the COVID-19 era—so far, it's reached $1 billion in disbursements, a grim statistic, but less than half of what was originally earmarked for the program in December 2020. According to one official, funeral assistance is part of the regular disaster assistance program, “but not to this scale, normally." Fortune

Big Four 

The U.K. government has a plan to reduce the dominance of the Big Four accounting firms: force them to share work with smaller competitors. In response, the Big Four have said: uh, no. (Or Deloitte, EY and PwC said no; KPMG questioned the plan.) The companies are under fire not just for their dominance—they collectively audit the entire FTSE 100—but for a series of U.K.-based scandals where members signed off on companies' accounts right before they collapsed. FT

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Katherine Dunn. 

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