Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Elliot Setzer
Tuesday, March 24, 2020, 2:52 PM

President Trump is questioning whether the government response to the novel coronavirus has gone too far and is considering lifting restrictions to reopen the economy, reports the New York Times. Public health officials warn that relaxing restrictions on nonessential travel could significantly increase the death toll from COVID-19 and economists claim that resuming normal activity prematurely could lead to a further recession.

The U.S. military is preparing to deploy field hospitals to New York and Seattle, two of the U.S. cities hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, and to send military hospital ships to Los Angeles and New York City, writes Reuters. And Defense Secretary Mark Esper yesterday upgraded the Pentagon’s health protection level to its second-highest level, limiting the number of access points and increasing the number of Defense Department personnel who will telework, according to the Hill.

Increasingly conflictual relations between Washington and Beijing are complicating efforts to get Chinese-made masks and other protective equipment to American medical personnel, reports the Times. China, which has already made sizable shipments to Italy, South Korea and the Philippines, signaled that it wants to work with the United States if the latter can provide the airfreight.

President Trump yesterday said a clinical trial of a possible treatment for the novel coronavirus will begin in New York soon, according to Reuters. Trump reiterated his belief that a combination of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin could prove effective against COVID-19.

The European Commission yesterday urged Europe’s telecommunications companies to share aggregated data from people’s mobile phones to track the spread of the coronavirus, writes Politico. Theirry Breton, Europe’s internal market commissioner, insisted the operation would respect the EU’s privacy rules.

FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor said the Trump administration today would formally implement the Defense Production Act (DPA) to mandate the production of 60,000 test kits, reports Politico. President Trump last week invoked the DPA but resisted actually activating the statute.

Hackers unsuccessfully attempted to break into the World Health Organization earlier this month, according to Reuters. The WHO warned that hacking attempts against the agency have doubled as they work to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced strict new curbs on life in the UK yesterday, writes the BBC. Shops selling non-essential goods have been ordered shut and public gatherings of more than two people who do not live together will be prohibited. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced “a total ban of coming out of your homes” for three weeks, reports the Times.

The New York Times described recent government surveillance and data-gathering efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic in South Korea, Italy, China, Singapore, Israel and the United States.

In response to the novel coronavirus, the Justice Department has asked Congress to implement reforms including expanded video court hearings and home detentions as well as suspending deadlines for arraignments, reports the Times. The proposal would also confer expanded powers on the executive branch over asylum law.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday announced that the Trump administration would immediately cut $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan because of the political standoff in Kabul following contested presidential elections, writes the Wall Street Journal.

The House Judiciary Committee has postponed a March 31 hearing with Attorney General William Barr, which House Democrats had seen as a crucial opportunity to get answers about President Trump’s efforts to include Justice Department decisions, according to Politico.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Alan Rozenshtein analyzed how the coronavirus outbreak will affect government surveillance law.

Eric Posner analyzed what the coronavirus pandemic can tell us about four theories of crisis government under the current constitutional system.

Scott Anderson and Margaret Taylor argued that Congress needs to move fast to establish a coronavirus failsafe as more legislators become sick or are forced into quarantine.

Taylor also shared the House Rules Committee’s recently released report on remote voting.

Richard Harknett argued that progress is being made in national cybersecurity strategy.

Michael Fischerkeller responded to Ben Jensen’s questioning of the strategic value of persistent engagement.

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk, discussing how Chinese government fundamentals impact health care and national security.

Lila Margalit discussed a recent decision by the Israeli Supreme Court overturning a decision to disqualify Palestinian-Isaeli Member of Knesset Heba Yazbak from running for office.

Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the most recent episode of the National Security Law Podcast.

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