Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Anna Salvatore
Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 3:11 PM

Canada became the third country this week to approve Pfizer and BioNtech’s coronavirus vaccine, following the United Kingdom and Bahrain. A spokeswoman for Pfizer said that the drug company will supply Canada with up to 76 million doses of the vaccine, which would be enough for each of the country’s 38 million residents. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set a goal of inoculating three million Canadians by the end of the first quarter. The Wall Street Journal reports that Canada also has a contract to acquire millions of doses of Moderna’s vaccine, which could be approved by regulators later this month.

British regulators are warning that the new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can cause anaphylactic reactions in people with “significant” allergies, writes the Washington Post. The warning comes a day after the United Kingdom began inoculating thousands of citizens, most of whom were nursing home residents or medical professionals. Britain’s National Health Service says that two staffers with a history of serious allergies received the vaccine yesterday had anaphylactic reactions, and are now recovering.

More than a dozen U.S. states—including Washington, New Mexico and Indiana—are trying to obtain enough dry ice to store doses of the coronavirus vaccine, reports Reuters. “This is the most challenging vaccination program ever attempted. (It) will be especially complicated in rural and remote communities,” said Dr. Kelly Moore, an advisor to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine program.

According to New York Attorney General Letitia James, 48 states and the Federal Trade Commission are suing Facebook for becoming an illegal monopoly and using its power to eliminate smaller competition. The lawsuit calls for Facebook to divest from Instagram and WhatsApp, require that the company seek permission for future mergers and acquisitions and stop “imposing anticompetitive conditions on software developers.”

Satellite images show that Iran is moving a major nuclear facility underground, writes the New York Times. “The new facility is likely to be a far more secure location for centrifuge assembly — it is located far from a road and the ridge offers significant overburden that would protect the facility from air attack,” wrote Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Iran suspects that the older facility, located in Natanz, was sabotaged by the U.S. and Israel when it exploded in July.

According to the Associated Press, the Supreme Court declined last night to hear the Trump campaign’s challenge to Pennsylvania’s election certification. The state’s electors will meet on Dec. 14 to officially cast their votes for Biden. In court filings, lawyers for Pennsylvania had called the president’s lawsuit “fundamentally frivolous” and “one of the most dramatic, disruptive invocations of presidential power in the history of the Republic.”

Political appointees from the Trump administration are monitoring transition meetings alongside career officials, reports the New York Times. Experts say that it’s not uncommon for political appointees to attend transition meetings, but that their presence sends a dangerous signal in light of President Trump’s refusal to concede. “The norm is that the political people are not involved in the nuts and bolts of this,” said Michael E. Herz, an administrative law professor at the Cardozo School of Law. Because political appointees are micromanaging the process, several federal employees told the Times that briefings given to Biden’s team “gloss over anything controversial” and are “politically influenced.”

More than 500 people have been hospitalized in southeastern India for an illness that causes loss of consciousness, vomiting or seizures, writes the Washington Post. A high-ranking local official said that the illness is “a case of acute intoxication of toxins.” Indian doctors are working with the World Health Organization to discover whether water, milk or certain types of food are responsible for the widespread poisoning.

A few days after Times columnist Nicholas Kristof accused Pornhub of hosting child rape videos, the company has announced that only verified users will be able to upload content. Starting next year, writes BBC News, unverified users will no longer have the power to immediately post pornographic images or videos to the site. Pornhub released a statement saying that it will take “major steps to further protect our community.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast entitled “It’s Time to Pay Attention When Attention Stops Paying.” Baker interviewed Tim Hwang, a research fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, about the complexities of the tech industry. The podcast also features conversations with Jordan Schneider of the ChinaTalk podcast, Sultan Meghji and Michael Weiner.

Rohini Kurup shared D.C. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order dismissing Michael Flynn’s case as moot.

Anna Salvatore shared a New Zealand government report on a white supremacist’s shooting of 51 worshippers in Christchurch mosques in March 2019.

Michael Warner shared his Hoover Institution essay, “U.S. Cyber Command’s First Decade.”

Jim Eisenmann argued that President Trump is gutting the civil service by empowering federal agencies to shift political appointees into career roles.

Bryce Klehm shared the link to this Thursday’s episode of Lawfare Live. Suzanne Maloney, the vice president and director of the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution, and Lawfare senior editor Scott R. Anderson will join Lawfare editor-in-chief Benjamin Wittes to answer questions from the Lawfare community about the challenges facing U.S.-Iranian relations during the transition period from the Trump to the Biden administration.

Eleanor Runde explained the ongoing lawsuits against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in D.C. District Court.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of The Lawfare Podcast featuring a conversation between Alan Rozenshtein and Kyle Langvardt, a law professor at the University of Nebraska. Langvardt recently wrote a paper called “Platform Governance and the First Amendment: A User-Centered Approach,” which examines how the First Amendment applies to content moderation.

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.