Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Elliot Setzer
Friday, March 27, 2020, 1:20 PM

President Trump said yesterday that he plans to classify different regions of the U.S. by their level of risk of the spread of COVID-19 in order to help states determine whether to relax or step up their quarantine and social distancing measures, reports the New York Times. Trump also reiterated his desire to begin opening up some parts of the country in the near future, despite the reservations of public health officials.

President Trump and President Xi Jinping held a phone call yesterday during which the two leaders discussed the global response to the novel coronavirus and pledged cooperation in fighting the pandemic, writes NPR. Tensions between Washington and Beijing have reportedly hindered recent efforts to coordinate an international public health and economic response to the crisis. The leaders of the Group of 20 nations spoke by videoconference yesterday, pledging to collectively spend more than $5 trillion to protect the global economy from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, according to the Wall Street Journal.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that in the last 24 hours, 100 coronavirus-related deaths had been reported in the state, reports Politico. The state of New York’s death toll has now hit 385.

The White House called off its expected announcement of a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would have allowed for the production of as many as 80,000 ventilators, writes the New York Times. The decision to cancel came after FEMA said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated $1 billion price tag for the project was prohibitive.

Earlier this week the U.S. army ordered a halt to most training, exercises and other nonessential activities that require troops to be in close contact, but then abruptly reversed the decision a few days later, according to the Times. The Pentagon has now reported 600 cases of the novel coronavirus among U.S. armed forces members—a figure that has more than doubled in three days—as the military wrestles with the consequences of COVID-19 for force readiness.

The Trump administration has dropped its proposal to send U.S. troops to the Canadian border as a component of the administration’s response to the coronavirus, reports the Wall Street Journal. Canadian officials had forcefully objected to the plan.

Facebook has stepped up its efforts to combat the spread of COVID-10 misinformation on its platform and has pledged to remove coronavirus-related information that has the potential to cause physical harm, writes NPR. The company says it has directed over 100 million people to resources from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and regional health authorities.

Attorney General Bill Barr yesterday directed the federal Bureau of Prisons to expand the use of home confinement for at-risk inmates as the new coronavirus spreads rapidly through the country’s prisons, according to the Wall Street Journal.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, reports the BBC. He is self-isolating but will continue to lead the British government’s response to the pandemic.

The U.S. on Thursday introduced sanctions against 20 individuals and entities linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force over their support for armed groups in Iraq, writes the Hill.

Israeli politician Benny Gantz—elected a speaker of parliament on Thursday—has reportedly agreed to join an “emergency” unity government with Benjamin Netanyahu, ending a year of political deadlock, according to the BBC. Gantz had refused to serve under Netanyahu because the latter is facing trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Trump administration officials are discussing whether to expel employees of Chinese media outlets who they claim mainly act as spies, reports the New York Times. The move would be in response to Beijing’s expulsion of almost all American journalists from three American newspapers last week.

The State Department has halted adding new diplomats to its ranks due to the COVID-19 crisis, writes Foreign Policy. Observers fear that the move further strains the Department—already overstretched following a 2017 hiring freeze—as it attempts to coordinate the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared the most recent episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring a discussion of fact-checking with Baybars Örsek, the Director of the International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute.

Ashwin Phatak argued that Trump’s reliance on Justice Department memoranda to protect his financial records is misplaced.

Brandon Valeriano considered how to measure strategic success in cyber operations.

Joshua Rovner argued that cyber warfare exhibits all of the characteristics of an intelligence conflict.

Jordan Schneider shared the most recent episode of ChinaTalk featuring an interview with Sinocism’s Bill Bishop on the politics of coronavirus.

Elliot Setzer shared the criminal complaint against a Russian who allegedly operated a hacking platform for selling illegally-obtained data.

Setzer also shared indictments charging Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and other Venezuelan officials with drug trafficking crimes.

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