Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Anna Salvatore
Wednesday, September 2, 2020, 3:54 PM

The Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service determined that the agency isn’t prepared for the presidential election, according to The Washington Post. To ensure that election mail is delivered on time, the office recommends “higher level partnerships and cooperation between the Postal Service and various state officials, including secretaries of state and state election boards.” The office’s report urges the Postal Service to remove all obstacles to uniform election mail processing.

German doctors have “unequivocal evidence” that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned, writes CNBC News. Toxicology testing shows that he was poisoned by a chemical nerve agent called Novichok, which the Russian government also used against Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in 2018.

The Justice Department is preparing to charge former Republican National Committee fundraiser Elliott Broidy for lobbying on behalf of foreign governments, reports The Washington Post. Prosecutors are examining his alleged role in persuading the Trump administration to halt an inquiry into the Malaysian government’s corruption. Broidy also allegedly pushed for the extradition to China of an outspoken Chinese businessmen and critic of the Communist Party, Guo Wengui, on charges that may be politically driven.

The French magazine Charlie Hebdo has re-published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that prompted terrorists to massacre of the magazine’s Paris office in 2015, writes The New York Times. The publication comes on the same day that France is beginning a terrorism trial against the shooters. Editors of Charlie Hebdo wrote today that it would be “unacceptable” to start the trial “without communicating [the evidence] to readers and citizens,” even though some Muslims in France find the caricatures of the prophet blasphemous. French President Emmanuel Macron defended the principles of freedom of speech and the press today and refused to condemn the publishing of the cartoons.

In the spirit of President John F. Kennedy’s declaration that “Ich bin ein Berliner,” a Czech official visited Taiwan yesterday and told lawmakers, “I am Taiwanese,” according to Deutsche Welle. Even before this statement, Beijing warned on Monday that the Czech Republic would pay a “heavy price” for visiting and legitimizing the Taiwanese government. In response to the Chinese Communist Party’s warning, the Czech Republic said it would remove its China envoy from Prague.

The largest province in the Solomon Islands will soon hold a referendum on independence, according to the South China Morning Post. Malaita, a region in the eastern Solomon Islands with 200,000 people, has cited the Solomon Islands national government’s normalization of relations with Beijing as a reason for the move toward independence. Malaita has long been supportive of Taiwan and many in the region have disagreed with the national government’s decision to seek rapprochement with Beijing.

The Pentagon expects China’s stockpile of nuclear weapons to double in the next decade, according to Reuters. China will soon be able to launch nuclear strikes by land, air, and sea a package of capabilities known as a triad.

The United States will not join an international coalition to identify a Covid-19 vaccine, according to Forbes. A spokesman for the Trump administration said that the coalition, Covax, has ties to the World Health Organization (WHO), an international body that President Trump dislikes.

Apple and Google have announced a new software framework to track Covid-19 cases, reports The Verge. The new system should remove the need for states to create from scratch bespoke apps for contact-tracing, instead allowing them to customize the framework for their specific needs. The software is designed to tell people when they have encountered someone who tested positive for Covid-19. According to The Verge, Maryland, Nevada, Virginia and Washington D.C. have already agreed to use the framework in their statewide public health efforts.

Greece confirmed the first Covid-19 case in its crowded Moria refugee camp, according to ABC News. Health officials say they are tracing the contacts of the infected man. They are also locking down the camp of 12,714 people until September 15, meaning that no one will be allowed to enter or exit. The International Rescue committee excoriated Greece for the poor conditions in the camp, calling for immediate evacuation of at-risk residents like “elderly, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions.”

The Trump administration canceled a contract on Monday for almost 43,000 Philips ventilators, writes The Washington Post. A House oversight committee had concluded that the government overpaid for the ventilators by $500 million. The Post is also investigating senior White House official Peter Navarro for a botched government loan to transform Kodak into a pharmaceutical company and for allegedly verbally abusing his staff.

Turkey denounced the United States today for partially lifting an arms embargo on Cyprus, reports Deutsche Welle. The removal of the embargo comes as tensions flare in the eastern Mediterranean Sea over who is empowered to probe for oil and gas. Greece and Cyprus argue that the potentially bountiful area is inside their exclusive economic zone, but Turkey disagrees and has sent warships into the region to assert its strength.

Hamas announced a ceasefire agreement with Israel on Monday, reports Haaretz. The deal was brokered by Qatar.

Saudia Arabia announced today that it would allow Israeli flights to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to cross over Saudi territory, according to The New York Times. The decision cuts the flight time between the two countries from seven hours to three-and-a-half hours. The UAE became only the third Arab nation to formally recognize Israel last month, a development the Times suggests may lead to other Middle Eastern countries normalizing relations with the Jewish state.

Staffers at the U.S. government media company Voice of America have told NPR that recently appointed CEO Michael Pack is undermining their mission. "What we're seeing now is the step-by-step and wholescale dismantling of the institutions that protect the independence and the integrity of our journalism," says Shawn Powers, who formerly oversaw Voice of America. Pack has allegedly eliminated most of the executive staff and the heads of Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia. On Monday morning, a group of Voice of American journalists said he was also imperiling their foreign colleagues’ safety by refusing to extend their work visas.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Axel Hufford explained what’s going on with the U.S. Postal Service.

Ashley Deeks argued that Congress should push back against the Director of National Intelligence’s decision to halt in-person briefings about election security.

Masahiro Kurosaki describes Japan’s legal doctrine of self-defense and argues for certain changes to bolster the nation’s national security.

Jen Patja Howell posted an episode of The Lawfare Podcast featuring a conversation between Lawfare’s Margaret Taylor, Kevin Kosar of the American Enterprise Institute, and Anne Joseph O’Connell of Stanford Law School about how post-office-related anxieties may affect the presidential election.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.