Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Friday, July 23, 2021, 12:20 PM

A Chinese official was indicted in relation to the “Fox Hunt” operation, in which Chinese authorities sought to intimidate Chinese dissidents in the U.S into repatriation so that they could be punished, reports the Washington Post. Tu Lan, a Chinese prosecutor, was charged in a superseding indictment on Thursday following the indictment of eight other Chinese agents in October of last year. U.S. authorities acknowledged that some targets of the Chinese operation may have been legitimate law enforcement targets, but many were political opponents or critics of the Chinese government. The indictment also adds new counts of stalking and obstruction of justice. 

The European Union announced its support for independent Russian media and civil society organizations amid what a statement described as a “continued crackdown” on dissent, writes Deutsche Welle. A spokesperson for Josep Borell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, highlighted Russia’s classification of certain NGOs, media organizations and journalists as “foreign agents” and “undesirable organizations,” under a law that could impose criminal penalties for their activities. The statement notes that targeting dissenting voices before the Russian State Duma elections in September is “particularly worrisome.” 

The Turkish ministry of defense reported that eight people are still missing after a vessel carrying migrants and refugees sank southwest of the Turkish town of Kas, according to Al Jazeera. Thirty-seven of those aboard the boat were rescued as part of the rescue mission led by the Turkish navy. The nationalities of the migrants and refugees on the vessel is not yet known. 

Officials are warning of challenges to the U.S. health system posed by the delta variant of the coronavirus, which now comprises at least 83 percent of cases in the United States, reports the Washington Post. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky referred to the delta variant as “one of the most infectious respiratory diseases that we know of.” The increased viral load of those infected with the variant has allowed it to propagate especially quickly among unvaccinated populations. A recent wave of infections has hit states with low vaccination rates in the South and the Midwest the hardest and the daily average of new cases has quadrupled from around 13,000 to 43,243 during July. 

The Taliban is insisting on a new Afghan government and the removal of President Ashraf Ghani before a settlement is reached, writes the Associated Press. Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson, told the Associated Press that the Islamist group does not “believe in the monopology of power.” However, he accused Ghani of warmongering and challenged the validity of the 2019 Afghan election while emphasizing that a new government should be “acceptable to us and to other Afghans.” Shaheen emphasized that, under a new government, women should be required to wear a headscarf, but could have certain freedoms. Reports from districts recently captured by the Taliban following the exit of foreign troops have indicated militants reimposed harsh restrictions on women, which Shaheen asserted did not accord with the Taliban’s orders to its commanders. He also mentioned that there are currently no plans for an offensive on Kabul and that, despite the Taliban’s growing power, the group has avoided taking any provincial capitals. 

The war in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray has spilled over into the neighboring region of Afar, reports the BBC.  At least 20 civilians have been killed and over 54,000 displaced so far as the conflict opens a new front. Witnesses said that the rebel T​​igray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has killed civilians in the region in the last week, and there are reports of airstrikes targeting TPLF positions in Afar. A spokesperson for the region said the TPLF has captured three districts already, and activists are pleading for food, water and shelter.

A judge in Hong Kong sentenced seven men for their involvement in a 2019 mob attack on unarmed people, including pro-democracy protestors, in a subway station , according to the New York Times. The sentences ranged from three and a half to seven years for the men. The defendants were seven of the more than 100 men wearing white t-shirts and wielding sticks and clubs who beat people returning from a demonstration in the town of Yuen Long. The demonstrations had begun that June to oppose a bill that would have allowed extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic talk to Renee DiResta, the research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, and Brendan Nyhan, professor of government at Dartmouth College, about the showdown between Facebook and the White House over vaccine misinformation in this week’s installment of Arbiters of Truth.

Stewart Baker and Bryce Klehm discussed the implications of the FBI’s ANOM project that ensnared hundreds of criminals through encrypted cell phones.

Gabriel Band analyzed the challenges of countering online foreign covert influence.

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