Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Christiana Wayne
Friday, August 20, 2021, 3:59 PM

In remarks on Friday, President Biden promised to evacuate all Americans from Afghanistan, writes the New York Times. He called the effort “one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history” and acknowledged his administration does not know how many U.S. citizens are still trapped in the country, but he estimated that 18,000 people have been evacuated since July. The president committed to rescuing Afghans who had supported the U.S. during the war but said Americans are his top priority. The U.S. has reached an agreement with the Taliban to allow safe passage of American citizens to the Kabul airport, but Biden did not promise safety, saying, “We can’t count on anything.”

European forces crossed Taliban lines and entered Kabul to help evacuate civilians, according to the Washington Post. The Taliban is blocking access to the Kabul airport, and soldiers have beaten people trying to flee the country. An elite French police force entered Kabul to rescue French and Afghan citizens sheltering at the French embassy. Germany has announced it will send two helicopters to the city on Saturday to aid rescue efforts, and there have been reports of British paratroopers leaving the airport to find British nationals and Afghan allies. The United States has dedicated its 5,000 troops still in the city to maintaining security at the airport.

A report prepared for the United Nations says that the Taliban is hunting for Afghan security officials and others who worked with the United States or NATO, reports the Washington Post. The documents reports militants in major cities going house to house, setting up checkpoints and threatening to kill the targeted individuals’ families. Despite the Taliban’s claim earlier this week that it would grant amnesty to government officials, the report says those in central military positions are in greatest danger.

Facebook announced it is hiding friends lists on accounts in Afghanistan to protect users from Taliban searches, according to the New York Times. Since the Taliban takeover, many Afghan users have deleted their accounts and messages to protect themselves from feared reprisal attacks. Facebook’s head of security Nathaniel Gleicher said the site has introduced a feature to allow Afghan users to quickly lock their accounts and encouraged users with friends in Afghanistan to also tighten their own privacy settings. Though the company has banned the Taliban, the site is seeing a rise in new Taliban accounts.

Zaki Anwari, a 17-year-old member of the Afghanistan men’s national soccer team, died after falling from a U.S. military plane, according to the New York Times. Anwari clung to the plane as it took off after crowds rushed the tarmac trying to board the plane evacuating civilians from Kabul. The Pentagon confirmed that two people had fallen off the plane during its flight to Qatar. When asked about the deaths, President Biden dismissed the question and continued to defend the U.S. exit strategy.

China has approved a new security law that will limit data collection by technology companies, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Personal Information Protection Law is similar to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation and includes any organization handling Chinese citizens’ personal data to minimize data collection and obtain prior consent. Experts say, though, that the law will likely not limit the Chinese government’s access to personal data. The regulations, which take effect on Nov. 1, are a part of a broad government campaign to rein in control of the tech sector in China.

China has formally passed a new policy allowing families to have up to three children in an effort to boost the country’s birth rate, according to the BBC. China announced the change in law in May, but the National People’s Congress voted on the measure today. The revision to the previous policy also removes the “social maintenance fee,” which penalized couples for having more children than allowed. The one-child policy was replaced in 2016 with a two-child limit, but the change failed to lead to the sustained upsurge in birth rates the government hoped it would.

A lone woman was found on an upturned inflatable dinghy 138 miles off the coast of the Canary Islands, according to the BBC. She is the only survivor of an incident which appears to have resulted in 52 deaths. A merchant ship spotted her, and Spanish emergency services flew her to safety. The route from Morocco to the Canary Islands has become an increasingly popular migration path from North Africa to Europe as routes through the Mediterranean have become more difficult. United Nations migration officials say more than 350 people have died this year trying to reach the islands.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast which covers Facebook’s cease and desist letter to two New York University researchers collecting data on the ads Facebook hosts on its platform. Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Alex Abdo, the litigation director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, for this week’s installment of Arbiters of Truth.

Ryan Hass discussed how China will seek to benefit from the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan.

Jack Goldsmith responded to Neil Eggleston’s defense of the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium.

Anoush Baghdassarian and Todd Carney explained the United States’ use of special immigrant visas to aid the evacuation of Afghan allies of the U.S. military after the Taliban takeover.

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