Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Matt Gluck
Friday, May 21, 2021, 2:53 PM

Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire early Friday morning that took effect at 2 a.m. local time, reports the Wall Street Journal. Israel said the deal did not involve any preconditions, while Hamas claimed Israel pledged to stop aggressive activities in Sheikh Jarrah and at the Al Aqsa mosque. The U.S., Egypt, Qatar and a number of European nations assisted in the cease-fire agreement. More than 200 people died in the fighting, most of whom were from Gaza. Israel said it killed more than 200 militants during the conflict and destroyed over 60 miles of Hamas’s underground tunnels. Israel’s strikes also hit civilian areas, including factories and health facilities. Israel says Hamas placed military individuals and infrastructure among civilians. Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups launched more than 4,300 rockets toward Israel during the fighting.

On Friday, Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Israeli police after prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, writes the Associated Press. Encounters between Israeli Police and Palestinians at this mosque earlier this month contributed to the outbreak of the conflict. It is not clear what provoked the violence on Friday. Israeli police deployed stun grenades and tear gas, and Palestinians threw rocks following celebratory demonstrations praising Hamas. Israeli police said officers arrested 16 individuals.

The Justice Department covertly obtained the personal and work-related phone and email records of a high-level CNN reporter who covers the Defense Department as part of a probe into the disclosure of classified information, reports the New York Times. CNN said the department had gained access to information that allowed it to see the timing of emails and who sent them but was not able to read the contents of the emails. This revelation comes less than two weeks after prosecutors said they had secretly acquired the phone records of three Washington Post reporters during the first months of the Trump presidency. A spokesman for the Justice Department said on Thursday that “the records at issue relate to 2017, and the legal process to seek these records was approved in 2020.”

Arizona Secretary of State and chief elections officer Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, recommended on Thursday that Maricopa County should replace all of its voting machines that it gave to a private contractor for an audit of the November election, according to the Washington Post. The chief executive of the private company that conducted the audit has made baseless allegations about the integrity of the 2020 election. Hobbs said that after the machines were given to the Arizona state senate and the private company, no election official or observer was permitted to oversee the examination of the machines, and that “it is unclear what, if any procedures were in place or followed to ensure physical security and proper chain of custody.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday that deaths due to the coronavirus and related causes are likely two to three times higher than the 3.4 million documented in countries’ official reporting, writes the New York Times. The significant discrepancy between the countries’ data and the WHO’s estimates highlights many countries’ limited ability to test their populations for the coronavirus, among other shortcomings in health data. The WHO will present its estimates to its policymaking assembly during an annual meeting next week, where it will press for increased investments in health data and monitoring technology.

Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech said on Friday that they would send two billion doses of their jointly produced coronavirus vaccine to middle- and low-income countries during the next 18 months, writes the Associated Press. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the companies expect to deliver one billion doses this year and an additional billion in 2022. Bourla said Pfizer adopted a policy last year that would allow low-income countries to purchase shots at cost and middle-income countries to pay approximately half the price wealthier nations pay.

Since early 2020, New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski has purchased or sold approximately $1 million of stock in health and tech companies that were involved in the coronavirus response—and $3.2 million in total—without properly disclosing his trading activities, writes the Associated Press. At least three senators were investigated last year for making financial choices based on insider information—though none of them were charged. Two complaints have been filed against Malinowski by the Office of Congressional Ethics. In April 2020, Malinowski said, “This is not the time for anybody to be profiting off of selling ventilators, vaccines, drugs, treatments, PPE (personal protective equipment), anywhere in the world.”

Former President Trump charged the Secret Service over $40,000 for rooms at his Mar-a-Lago Club occupied by Trump’s protective detail since leaving office in January, reports the Washington Post. During his presidency, Trump charged the U.S. government more than $2.5 million—often for Secret Service agents to stay in rooms near the former president. Historians and representatives for recent presidents said Trump’s rent charges for the Secret Service are unprecedentedly high.

Amazon halted work on a fulfillment center in Windsor, Connecticut, after several nooses were seen at the construction site over the past month, writes the Washington Post. The FBI and Connecticut State Police are helping local police investigate the incidents—which are being examined as possible hate crimes.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared the next episode of Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth series, featuring a conversation about New Zealand and France’s Christchurch Call—an initiative established following the Christchurch shooting “to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.” Lawfare’s Quinta Jurecic and Evelyn Douek spoke with Dia Kayyali, a co-chair of the Advisory Network to the Christchurch Call, about the Biden administration’s recent decision to join the call and some risks of potentially moderating content too aggressively.

Kellen Dwyer argued that the Justice Department should prioritize proactive investigations into cybercrime to fight ransomware attacks.

Cornell Overfield reviewed the new book, “The Arctic and World Order,” edited by Kristina Spohr and Daniel Hamilton and co-edited by Jason Moyer.

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