Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Clara Spera
Friday, April 25, 2014, 10:00 AM

Ukraine and Russia are moving closer to a direct armed confrontation, following, as the Washington Post puts it, “tit-for-tat military movements.” Several pro-Russian militants were killed by Ukrainian forces in a standoff, prompting Russia to increase its military presence along the Ukraine-Russia border and burying any hopes that the deal signed in Geneva last week will bring any lasting resolution to the conflict. The Economist has more.

Despite warnings from Russia, Ukraine has pledged that it will not back down in its efforts to regain control of the eastern parts of the country, reports the New York Times.

Reuters reports that President Obama is working to convince the EU to impose a new set of sanctions against Russia in light of the continuing and escalating situation in the Ukraine.

In Syria yesterday, violence overshadowed progress in surrendering the country’s chemical weapons stockpile. Al Jazeera reports that Syrian warplanes conducted a raid on a village market just outside Aleppo, killing at least 30 people. 

President Bashar al-Assad’s circle of support is growing uneasy, further abetting the confusion and unrest in Syria, reports the Times. The president’s “core supporters” are beginning to question whether or not they need---or want---Assad in power, or if they should be taking more power for themselves.

More information is surfacing about the recent U.S. drone strikes in Yemen. CNN reports that an unidentified U.S. official told the news agency that there is an “increased threat stream” from al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. That official told CNN that, among multiple credible threats that the U.S. had discovered, the potential of an attack on the U.S. embassy in Yemen was identified.

The BBC reports on the ongoing negotiations between the Pakistani government and the Pakistani Taliban. The peace talks, seemingly unconventional and counterintuitive from the outside, could reap great reward for the country---if the negotiations don’t break down, that is.

The Times considers the U.S.’s diplomatic approach to North Korea and explains why President Obama is in a tough spot with Kim Jong-Un. As the Times puts it: “Almost everything American intelligence agencies and North Korea-watchers thought they understood two years ago about Kim Jong-Un, the North’s young leader, turns out to have been wrong.”

Here's an interesting student note written by Eric Messinger, current 3L at NYU, about the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel and the publication of its opinions. Messinger argues against increased transparency, because "greater transparency at the OLC will reduce its effectiveness and independence."

Judges at the “lowest levels” of the federal judiciary are being more assertive than perhaps expected when it comes to government requests for citizens’ personal data. The Post reports that, more and more, magistrate judges are denying warrant requests for cell phone and other personal data, imposing higher standards for searches than in the past. The Post highlights one judge in particular---D.C. Magistrate Judge John. M. Facciola---as being particularly tenacious, even writing written opinions when denying requests, an unusual move for magistrate judges. This has been a subject of repeated discussion on the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast.

On Sunday, a highly anticipated comedy news show, “Last Week Tonight,” will premier on HBO. Those who are fans of “The Daily Show” will recognize the new show’s talented host, John Oliver; those who are fans of us here at Lawfare will undoubtedly recognize Mr. Oliver’s first guest on the show: former NSA chief, General Keith Alexander. This will be Gen. Alexander’s first appearance since he stepped down from the top NSA job in March.

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