Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Wednesday, March 10, 2021, 1:37 PM

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package today, reports the New York Times. The bill would send direct payments of up to $1,400 to many Americans, extend unemployment benefits and provide funding for state and local governments, among other aid measures. Biden is scheduled to showcase the legislation tomorrow, as the country comes upon one year since shutdowns were implemented throughout the nation to control the spread of the virus.

Politico’s chief economic correspondent Ben White writes that Biden’s deal, which is the largest injection of federal cash in U.S. history, could accelerate the growth of the American economy and raise Biden’s legacy “to the kind of economic hero status enjoyed by the likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt after the Depression and Ronald Reagan in the boom-time 1980s.” On the other hand, White notes that it could also be “a fiery accelerant for global markets as gas prices surge, home prices jump, speculative assets soar and investors increasingly fear the kind of sharp inflation spike that can hit with remarkable speed if the government pours too much gasoline on an already warming economy.”

This package, which includes aid provisions to further accelerate vaccine distribution, comes as the U.S. vaccination program is in full swing, according to the Times. Biden has stated that the U.S. will have enough doses to vaccinate every American adult—about 260 million people—by the end of May. And today, Biden will announce that the White House is seeking to secure another 100 million shots of Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of this year in order to vaccinate children and bolster protections against emerging variants if necessary.

Researchers have concluded that at least 10 different hacking groups are using a recently discovered flaw in Microsoft’s email server to exploit targets internationally, reports Reuters. The vulnerabilities in the widely used software allow malicious actors to access and steal emails, creating an opportunity for industrial-scale cyber espionage. As Nicholas Weaver detailed on Lawfare yesterday, the impact of exploitation could be even more significant than that of the SolarWinds breach revealed earlier this year.

Myanmar’s young people are leading the nation’s protests against the Feb. 1 military coup and detainment of the country’s democratically-elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, writes the Wall Street Journal. Though a new generation is powering the movement forward, the resistance to the coup is coming from all layers of Myanmar society, from students to state employees. In the past two weeks, at least 59 protesters have died.

Experts claim that a British-Iranian woman named Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Tehran since April 2016, has been trapped in a geopolitical game dubbed “hostage diplomacy” that actually has nothing to do with her actions, according to France 24. Iranian officials, who initially detained the 43-year-old mother on charges of “plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime,” told Zaghari-Ratcliffe that she would be released when London settled a debt of more than $400 million originating from a U.K.-Iranian arms contract that was signed before the 1979 Islamic revolution. While Britain announced it would pay the bill in 2017, it was unable to do so because U.S. sanctions that were reimposed during the Trump administration prohibited such a financial transfer. And Zaghari-Ratcliffe is not alone—about a dozen other individuals are trapped in the same situation, victims of hostage-taking deployed by Tehran as a foreign policy tool.

Russian and Chinese space agencies announced yesterday that the two countries have signed an agreement to build a lunar station together, reports the Verge. The station, described as “a complex of experimental research facilities created on the surface and/or in the orbit of the Moon,” will be designed to support a variety of research projects, including “the possibility of long-term unmanned operation with the prospect of a human presence on the moon.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Nicholas Weaver warned that the world is probably days away from a mass exploitation of Microsoft Exchange servers, a hack which could have a far greater impact than the SolarWinds breach.

Stewart Baker shared the latest edition of the Cyberlaw Podcast, featuring conversation on the zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange servers with Weaver and Dmitri Alperovitch.

Erica D. Borghard examined the gap between how White House officials are framing the nature of the SolarWinds hack and what the available evidence indicates about the incident.

Bruce D. Brown and Gabe Rottman presented an orientation memo detailing the Biden Justice Department’s press freedom cases that have carried over from the Trump era.

Tia Sewell shared the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the nominations of Lisa Monaco and Vanita Gupta as deputy attorney general and associate attorney general at the Justice Department.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring an interview with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon on her new book, “The Daughters of Kobani,” about the all-female Women’s Protective Units that have played a central role in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria.

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