Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Anna Salvatore, Tia Sewell
Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 12:49 PM

President Trump asked advisers about his options for launching  a missile or cyber strike against Iran’s Natanz nuclear site during an Oval Office meeting last Thursday, reports the New York Times.  The meeting occurred one day after the International Atomic Agency reported that Iran had a large buildup of uranium—enough to build two nuclear weapons, according to the Institute for Science and International Security. Trump’s senior advisers, including Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo, warned against such a provocative strike. The  president is reportedly considering other ways to push back against Iran and its allied groups in the region. 

The Times also reports that President Trump is preparing to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. Under a draft order at the Pentagon, the president would halve the number of soldiers in Afghanistan, slightly tweak the total in Iraq and remove almost all U.S. personnel from counterterrorism missions in Somalia by Trump’s departure in January. “Taken together,”  the Times notes, “the cuts reflect Mr. Trump’s longstanding desire to stop shouldering the cost of long-running military engagements against Islamist insurgencies in failed and fragile countries in Africa and the Middle East.” 

As coronavirus infection rates are exploding across the Midwest, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a statewide mask mandate yesterday, writes the Washington Post. California Gov. Gavin Newsom also said he was pulling the “emergency brake” on reopening his state, which means suspending indoor dining, religious services and fitness centers. The Post observes that the number of Americans dead from the coronavirus will likely reach 250,000 by the weekend. 

58 percent of Americans are willing to receive a coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest Gallup poll. These numbers are a rebound from a low point in September, when only 50 percent of Americans said they would get a vaccination when it becomes available. Most of those who are unwilling to get the vaccine cite safety concerns about its rushed timeline—a concern that may dissipate, Gallup suggests, after further rounds of clinical testing. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing today on social media companies’ content moderation during election season, reports CBS News. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey are both fielding  questions from senators. At one point, both Dorsey and Zuckerberg vowed to handle the Georgia Senate runoffs much as they handled the nationwide contest, meaning that the platforms will label misinformation and most likely disband groups which undermine the election’s legitimacy.  

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger accused Sen. Lindsey Graham yesterday of pressuring him to discard legally cast ballots, writes the Washington Post. In a widely circulated interview, Raffensperger (a registered Republican) dismissed claims that Georgia’s voting machines were built by a “leftist” company and defended his state’s recount process against “disillusioning” claims of fraud by other Republicans. 

The U.S. set a record for hate-crime killings last year, the Post also writes. There were 51 hate-crime killings recorded, a number inflated by the massacre of Latino Americans at an El Paso, Texas Walmart. Data released by the FBI shows that anti-Semitic crimes increased significantly as well. Southern Poverty Law Center CEO Margaret Huang says that these numbers “do not tell the full story,” adding that “hate crimes are consistently underreported due to the federal government’s failure to mandate hate crime data collection at the state and local levels.”

SpaceX has successfully launched its second-ever crewed mission into space, writes the Verge. The new Crew Dragon spacecraft will spend the next few days in flight before docking at the International Space Station on Monday. 

Ethiopia warned today that a deadline for rebel forces to surrender in the country’s northern region of Tigray has expired, meaning that the Ethiopian government will push further into the region,  according to Reuters. Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, launched an offensive against the armed rebels on Nov. 4. The escalating conflict has killed hundreds of people and created tens of thousands of refugees.

Germany will soon commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Nuremberg trials, where the Allied Powers prosecuted Nazi leaders for their role in the Holocaust. Deutsche Welle reports on Germany’s ongoing efforts to work through its national trauma. 

China signed a major trade agreement with partners in the Asia-Pacific region, reports CNN Business. The free trade partnership includes 50 countries and 30 percent of the world’s population, with Japan, South Korea and Australia among the signatories. Although CNN notes that the scope of the deal is still unclear, member countries say that it will reduce tariffs and quotas on 65 percent of goods exchanged in the region. 

 ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

William Ford summarized House Republicans’ legal challenge to proxy voting in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 

Jen Patja Howell shared the latest episode of The Lawfare Podcast entitled “Homegrown: ISIS in America.” Jacob Schulz sat down with Seamus Hughes, who wrote a book of the same title with Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens and Bennett Clifford. 

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