Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Friday, July 24, 2020, 4:57 PM

On Thursday, a judge ordered five news organizations to turn footage of violence at a protest on May 30 over to the Seattle Police Department, according to the Washington Post. Seattle demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd were largely peaceful, but a smaller group engaged in acts of destruction such as smashing windows and looting. The police issued subpoenas to the news stations, arguing the images documented by journalists “may be the best evidence available to identify” suspects from the protests. Seattle Times Executive Editor Michele Matassa Flores warned that the decision would endanger journalists at other protests, stating, “We don’t work in concert with government, and it’s important to our credibility and effectiveness to retain our independence from those we cover.”

Crews removed statues of Christopher Columbus from two Chicago parks as cities across America continue to grapple with legacies of injustice, reports the New York Times. Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered their temporary removal, stating that she did so “in response to demonstrations that became unsafe for both protesters and police.”

The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General announced yesterday it will investigate allegations of improper use of force by federal authorities at protests in Oregon and Washington D.C., writes NPR. The inspector general will review conduct by federal law enforcement agents such as the use of tear gas and less-lethal munitions.

Russian disinformation campaigns have explicitly targeted African Americans in an effort to exploit racial tensions in the U.S. in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, according to a new analysis by the Washington Post. Using a data set containing 39,964 tweets from West African troll accounts linked to the Kremlin, the Post found that the online operatives encouraged distrust in Black communities using a mixture of sentiments often tied to the hashtags #blacklivesmatter, #racism and #policebrutality.

On Friday, Beijing ordered the U.S. to close its consulate in Chengdu within 72 hours, reports the Wall Street Journal. The move came as retaliation for Washington’s decision to shut down the Chinese Consulate in Houston earlier this week and marks the latest escalation in an intensifying feud between the U.S. and China that centers on a slew of issues including trade, technology, geopolitical influence and the handling of the pandemic.

Since the enactment of China’s new security law in Hong Kong, the city has experienced a frightening crackdown on freedom of speech, according to Time Magazine. Books have been purged from libraries and people have scrubbed their digital archives as Hong Kongers are going silent, gripped with fear of punishment by the Chinese government. Activist and former legislator Lee Cheuk-yan stated that the new bill is “so much worse than anyone expected.”

An Iranian passenger plane dropped elevation abruptly over Syria to avoid an American F-15 fighter jet on Thursday, writes the Times. A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command stated that the jet conducted “a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner” at “a safe distance of approximately 1000 meters.” Several passengers on the civilian jet were injured as the plane was jolted by the sudden swerve away from the F-15. Iranian officials described the incident as a “terrorist act, one of aggression,” according to Reuters.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rolled out new rules today preventing newly-enrolling international students from entering the country if their classes are entirely online, reports the Journal. Earlier this month, following national criticism, ICE back-tracked on new rules that would have forced all international students to leave the United States if their universities committed to entirely remote instruction.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered the release of President Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen from prison to home confinement, writes the Post. Judge Hellerstein found that the Justice Department’s decision to transfer Cohen to jail was “retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book,” in reference to Cohen’s plans to write a memoir detailing experiences that would cast the president in an unflattering light.

Nearly 70,000 COVID-19 cases were recorded in the U.S. on Thursday, reports the Times. The pandemic continues to worsen globally, as the virus has begun resurging in various places around the world once seen as a model for recovery, including Melbourne, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Black box transcripts from the Ukrainian airliner downed in Iran in January confirm that illegal interference with the plane occurred, writes Reuters. All 176 people on board were killed when Iranian forces accidentally struck down the plane after mistaking it for a missile.

In Afghanistan, violence has intensified as peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government remain stalled and the U.S. withdraws, according to the Times. Due to conflicting statements and outright denials, it’s nearly impossible to discern the true toll on Afghan civilians. But it’s clear that civilians are dying as bombs and airstrikes kill dozens of Afghans everyday.

Islamist militants executed four aid workers in northeast Nigeria, reports Reuters. The victims were affiliated with the International Rescue Committee and Action Against Hunger, two organizations working to combat the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded in Nigeria during the country’s decade-long conflict.

Facebook offered $650 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over the use of facial recognition technology, writes the Hill. Three Illinois residents sued the technology company under a state law called the Biometric Information Privacy Act, which grants residents legal protections against the scanning of facial data without written consent.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Scott Anderson and Benjamin Wittes announced they have filed a lawsuit in federal court to secure two data sets that should provide information on the current objectivity of the intelligence agencies.

Lester Munson shared an episode of Fault Lines featuring a conversation on U.S. arms control with Dr. Chris Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation.

Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith analyzed two House bills to regulate abuse of the presidential pardon power.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring an interview with Hany Faris, a professor at UC Berkeley, on the dangers of deep fakes, doctored photos and disinformation.

Chas Kissick posted documents related to Justice Department charges against four researchers accused of visa fraud for failing to disclose their status as active employees of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

Charles A. Stevenson discussed the enduring war powers implications that have arisen from the precedent set when Congress did not take action at the start of the Korean War.

Elliot Setzer shared a livestream of a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Trump administration’s 2021 foreign assistance budget request.

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