Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Matt Gluck, Tia Sewell
Monday, January 4, 2021, 3:25 PM

In a phone call on Saturday, President Trump urged Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to “find 11,780 votes” in order to overturn President-elect Biden’s win in Georgia, reports the Wall Street Journal. At one point during the roughly hour-long conversation, which was posted by the Washington Post on Sunday, the president told Raffensperger that he would be taking “a big risk” and threatened vague legal consequences if he did not do as told. News of the unprecedented conversation comes days before Tuesday’s runoff elections in Georgia, which could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

President Trump’s continued efforts to overturn the U.S. election that he lost have become the most serious test of the American democratic system in generations, writes Peter Baker in a New York Times analysis. Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud have failed to gain legitimate traction despite dozens of lawsuits brought forth by the president and his allies–including in the Supreme Court, where three of the current justices were appointed by President Trump.

Interviews with those investigating the SolarWinds cyberattack reveal that Russian hackers likely breached up to 250 U.S. networks, according to the New York Times. The interviews also revealed that the hackers managed their breach from servers within the U.S. and that “early warning” sensors implanted in foreign networks by U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency to detect potential attacks failed.

Two lawyers who were hired to help a group of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists are now facing punishment by the Chinese government, reports the Times. The lawyers were initially barred from aiding their defendants, who were forced to rely on government-appointed lawyers. More recently, Beijing has threatened to revoke their licenses to practice law in the country.

Iran announced today that it has resumed uranium enrichment at an increased level of 20 percent, returning Iran’s program to its maximum level prior to the 2015 nuclear agreement reached with the Obama administration, writes the BBC. The International Atomic Energy Agency, an international nuclear watchdog, confirmed Iran’s increased enrichment in a report on Monday. Uranium enriched at 20 percent would give Iran the ability to develop a nuclear weapon with its current stockpiles within six months. This is the latest move in a series of escalations that began with President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which limited Iran to enrichment levels of four to five percent.

Iranian media outlets said on Monday that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps seized a South Korean tanker in Gulf waters and detained the crew on the ship, reports Reuters. The South Korean government confirmed Iran’s seizure of the vessel and is calling for the ship’s release. This seizure comes as Iran demands that South Korea release $7 billion in Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks due to U.S. sanctions. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that the “ship was taken to shore for polluting the sea.”

A British judge has rejected the U.S.’s request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on espionage charges, citing Assange’s mental health problems that put him at risk of suicide, according to the Associated Press. At a regularly-scheduled press conference, Mexican President López Obrador said that he supports the U.K. decision and asserted that his government is prepared to offer political asylum to Assange, writes Reuters.

On Monday, the U.K. became the first country to administer the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, reports France24. This vaccine can be stored at refrigerator temperature, which makes it easier to administer than other coronavirus vaccines that must be stored at extremely cold temperatures. India approved the vaccine for emergency use on Sunday. Approval for the vaccine in the United States appears far off as regulators want to evaluate data from more participants in clinical trials.

OpenAI, a leading artificial intelligence (AI) research laboratory, has released a heavily anticipated natural language processing model poised to redefine AI, according to Forbes. The model, named GPT-3, offers an easy-to-use application programming interface on a commercial basis, meaning that developers can use the product in the form of a “text in, text out” interface. Unlike previous AI advancements, the code of GPT-3 is not revealed to the useran unprecedented move that both monetizes the AI research and creates a unique dependence on a closed model for any businesses that use GPT-3.

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