Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Friday, June 18, 2021, 2:18 PM

President Biden signed a bill declaring Juneteenth to be a federal holiday after it made its way through Congress with minimal opposition, reports the New York Times. Because June 19 is on Saturday this year, Thursday’s signing made Friday the first federal Juneteenth holiday. Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 in Texas, proclaiming that “all slaves are free” per the Emancipation Proclamation. This event is widely considered to mark the end of slavery in the United States. Biden expressed that Juneteenth, the first federal holiday recognized after Martin Luther King Day in 1983, holds “profound weight and profound power” and provides an opportunity for reflection.

European Union officials added the U.S. to a list of countries considered epidemiologically safe on Friday, writes the New York Times. The decision means that EU member states are advised to allow even unvaccinated Americans to enter their countries, provided they can produce a negative PCR test for a coronavirus infection. While the EU cannot compel its member states to allow Americans to enter, countries including Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain have already begun to welcome American tourists or have announced plans to do so soon.

Staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are under lockdown after a coronavirus outbreak, according to the Washington Post. The outbreak comes amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in Afghanistan during the past month and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country, which has added to the strain on resources for American personnel. The American Foreign Service Association, a union representing American diplomats, says 114 employees of the embassy in Kabul have been infected. State Department spokesman Ned Price revealed that 95 percent of those infected were partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, despite having had access to vaccinations in recent months. 

Iranians vote on Friday to elect a new president, according to the Wall Street Journal. The race is between conservative Ebrahim Raisi and centrist Abdolnaser Hemmati. Raisi, the country’s chief justice, is the front-runner, known for his relationship with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Because millions of liberal Iranians are boycotting the election due to disqualification of nearly all nonconservative candidates, Raisi is expected to win easily.

Israeli airstrikes hit several targets in Gaza for the second time in three days, reports the New York Times. The Israeli Army said it targeted military compounds and a rocket launch site in the city. The attacks come after Hamas sent incendiary balloons into Israeli farmland for the third day in a row. No one was injured in the attacks, but they signal the possible return of conflict after the two groups signed a ceasefire following an 11-day air war last month.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said his country must prepare for “dialogue and confrontation” with the U.S., writes the BBC. This statement is the first time Kim has directly referenced the Biden administration. Kim’s government had previously not responded to the administration’s diplomatic communication.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Arbiters of Truth series of the Lawfare Podcast in which Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke to Bobby Chesney about Trump administration actions targeting TikTok and what Biden’s latest executive orders have in store for the app. 

Eric Halliday and Rachael Hanna summarized the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision in El-Hady v. Kable, in which the court upheld the constitutionality of the FBI’s Terrorism Screening Database. 

Rasheed Griffith analyzed the sources of Chinese influence and power in the Carribean.

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