Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Elliot Setzer
Thursday, April 2, 2020, 1:09 PM

Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada and Pennsylvania yesterday issued statewide stay-at-home orders, reports the Wall Street Journal. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had previously resisted calls to implement such orders despite over 6,700 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. Preliminary data from two weeks of stay-at-home orders in California and Washington show that social distancing works, helping to flatten the curve of infections compared with other U.S. metro areas, writes the Washington Post.

The government’s emergency stockpile of protective equipment is nearly depleted due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Post. This has left the Trump administration and the states to compete for medical supplies in a competitive global marketplace as hospitals face a critical shortage of masks and gloves. And over 2,000 of the ventilators the federal government is holding in reserve to ship to the hardest-hit hospitals are not operational after the contract to maintain the stockpile lapsed last summer, reports the New York Times. Meanwhile, the U.K. continues to face a shortage of coronavirus tests despite frequent promises to “ramp up testing”, writes Politico.

Russia is sending a planeload of medical supplies to help the U.S. fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which will arrive today after President Trump accepted the country’s offer on Monday, according to Politico. In other news, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation yesterday to allow the government to declare a state of national emergency, writes Reuters. And the Russian government has begun a widespread campaign to crack down on what authorities call “fake news” about the pandemic, with lawmakers approving fines of up to $25,000 and prison terms of up to five years for anyone who spreads what is deemed to be false information, reports the Associated Press. Critics say the laws have been used to target those who question official data on the scale of the outbreak or the government’s response.

Suspicions of under-counting coronavirus cases are not just limited to Russia. China has concealed the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak in its country—under-reporting both deaths and total cases—according to a classified report to the White House from the U.S. intelligence community, writes Bloomberg. China has publicly reported only 3,300 deaths, but reports last week of stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in Hubei province have driven doubt about Beijing’s figures, according to the South China Morning Post.

President Trump said yesterday that he is considering restricting air travel between some U.S. cities in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, reports Politico.

Afghanistan yesterday began its first face-to-face talks with the Taliban on exchanging prisoners, as fears mount that coronavirus may be more widespread in the country that previously reported, reports the BBC. The prisoner exchange had been due to take place in early March. A Taliban spokesman said yesterday the militant group was willing to declare a cease-fire in areas of Afghanistan under its control if they are hit by a COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Post. In contrast, the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have both indicated they see the pandemic as an opportunity to increase attacks, writes the Associated Press.

President Trump said yesterday that Iran or its proxies had planned a “sneak attack” on U.S. targets in Iraq, but provided no details, according to Reuters. Trump warned in a tweet that “If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” As Iran struggles with one of the world’s most deadly coronavirus outbreaks, it has claimed that American trade sanctions are taking Iranian lives and asked the U.S. to lift them on humanitarian grounds, writes the Times. Iran’s plea has won support from the European Union and the U.N. secretary general, as well as its allies Russia and China. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has doubled down on sanctions and accused Iran’s leaders of “trying to avoid responsibility for their grossly incompetent and deadly governance.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared the most recent episode of Rational Security, discussing what the pandemic shows us about the strengths of a democracy versus an autocracy.

Brandon Valeriano argued that, without a firm grip on the potential for escalation in cyber conflict, the United States will be unable to contain the fallout when assertive operations are conducted.

Patja Howell also shared a bonus edition of the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview with Dan Drezner, professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, on zombies, viruses and toddlers.

Jacquelyn Schneider examined the challenges associated with developing a cyber strategy that specifically addresses the Department of Defense.

Adham Sahloul and Shadi Hamid analyzed how foreign policy factors for American muslims in the 2020 election.

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