The Burn Bag Newsletter: April 6th
Billions from Biden, Covid in India, and an Impending Constitutional Crisis in Israel.
Welcome to The Burn Bag Newsletter. This week, make sure to check out the newest episode of The Burn Bag Podcast with former NSA General Counsel Glenn Gerstell.
The Tech Threat Matrix: Disinformation, Cybersecurity, and Geopolitics with Glenn Gerstell, former NSA General Counsel
This week, A’ndre and Ryan interview Glenn Gerstell, who, as General Counsel, was the top lawyer at the National Security Agency between 2015 and 2020. Throughout this wide-ranging discussion, we cover approaches the U.S. Intelligence Community can take to address disinformation and cyber-espionage, as well as the ways it must adapt to address a new meaning of “national security.”
The Regional Readout
Biden Infrastructure Proposal to Support U.S. Semiconductor Manufacturing
President Joe Biden’s recent infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan (AJP), includes, among its $2 trillion, $50 billion to subsidize chip manufacturing and research by the American semiconductor industry. Support for the domestic semiconductor industry has grown in recent years as the ever-growing global reliance on Taiwanese semiconductors — 22% of the world market — has become clear, particularly during the current semiconductor shortage. As a result of this support, the global industry leader, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), announced that it would establish manufacturing capabilities in Arizona next year.
While the $50 billion offered by the AJP is unlikely to establish the U.S. as a competitor to Taiwan on its own, it’s possible that the increased attention the proposed funding garners for the semiconductor industry may further spur markets into acting in the years to come. Furthermore, growing caution towards China and its proximity to and stated intentions towards a major supplier of U.S. semiconductors is likely to have a significant effect on public and private investment in the U.S. domestic manufacturing industry going forward.
Covid Cases Climb in India Raising Questions About Herd Immunity, Variants
On April 4th, India recorded 100,000 new cases of Covid-19. Although experts in the country believed that extraordinarily high levels of exposure to the virus throughout Indian cities in 2020 — as high as 50% through August — suggested impending herd immunity, the recent resurgence of the virus has belied those predictions. One explanation is that, in last year’s surge, the coronavirus spread like wildfire through the country’s urban slums and is only now reaching more affluent communities. Such a divide is a lesson for modelers in planning efforts to boost herd immunity across the globe.
At the same time, the discovery of a “double-variant,” a strain of the virus with a unique combination of mutations, in India raises further questions about the effectiveness of the existing vaccines against a further mutations of the coronavirus. So far, vaccines have proven to be effective against both the U.K. and Brazilian variants. The same remains to be seen for this new strain. Nevertheless, India is well on its way to vaccinating a roughly quarter of its population, 300 million people, by the end of July.
Constitutional Crisis Looms in Israel
In Israel, after a March general election left the country without a clear path toward a governing majority in parliament — the fourth election in two years to yield the same result — supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are petitioning President Reuven Rivlin to entrust the indicted leader with the opportunity to try form a government. If Netanyahu succeeds and is somehow able to form a governing coalition, the country may soon have to contend with the very real possibility that its prime minister is convicted of fraud and bribery in office, all while undermining the country’s institutions of justice.
Allies of the Prime Minister suggest that remaining in office is perhaps his safest path towards staying out of prison, as the political — if not de jure — immunity enjoyed by a sitting prime minister may be enough to confound a clear-cut conviction. While Netanyahu has yet to reach a majority of recommendations from members of the Knesset, with 51 of the 61 recommendations required in the 120-seat parliament, he remains far closer than rival candidates. As such, many suspect the country is heading toward a fifth election.
The world is a big place and we can’t cover it all. What did we miss? Let us know what you’re interested in reading more about at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below.