Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Emily Dai
Thursday, November 4, 2021, 2:26 PM

The Commerce Department on Wednesday added Israeli firms NSO Group and Candiru to its so-called entities list, effectively banning them from buying software components from U.S. vendors without a license, according to CNN. The Biden administration accused the companies of supplying spyware that has been used by foreign governments to “maliciously target” journalists, embassy workers and activists. The move is one of the biggest steps the United States has taken to curb abuses in the global market for spyware, which is poorly regulated. Cybersecurity analysts and human rights activists have long scrutinized NSO Group for allegedly selling hacking software to repressive governments. Russian firm Positive Technologies and Singaporean firm Computer Security Initiative Consultancy, also accused of providing hacking software, were also added to the entities list.

Igor Danchenko, a contributor to the Steele dossier, was indicted as part of a broad investigation by Special Counsel John Durham, reports Bloomberg. Durham is investigating the origins of the FBI’s 2016 probe on potential ties between then presidential-candidate Trump and Russia. The indictment charges the analyst with five counts of making false statements to the FBI.

An independent Pentagon review has concluded that a U.S. drone attack that killed 1o Kabul civilians, including seven children, in August was not caused by misconduct or negligence and doesn’t recommend disciplinary action, says AP News. Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said said that execution and communication errors contributed to the attack. The review recommended that military officials should do more to prevent “confirmation bias” and improve its procedures to ensure civilians and children are not present before an attack.

Some of the world’s biggest financial institutions that have some combined $130 trillion in assets vowed Wednesday to reach net zero emissions by 2050, writes the New York Times. The United Nations Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero is composed of 450 banks, insurers and asset managers across 45 countries. This pledge will incorporate climate change into most major financial decisions for decades to come. Some environmentalists criticized the pledges, saying many banks still invest in coal, oil and gas companies. A new international body will be created by the group to set standards for the climate-related goals and develop rules on how companies and investors should disclose information.

The Biden administration announced that companies with 100 or more employees have until Jan. 4 to ensure that their workforces are fully vaccinated or undergo weekly coronavirus testing, according to NBC News. This new federal regulation will affect an estimated 84 million workers, more than two-thirds of the country’s workforce. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is planning on implementing this rule by relying on tips and spot checks to find employers who are in violation. However, it is unclear how it will enforce the rules; the already-overextended agency recently lost a number of inspectors.

On Wednesday, the United States surpassed 750,000 deaths due to the coronavirus, reports the Washington Post. This summer, deaths due to the delta variant soared, especially among unvaccinated people. The number of new coronavirus cases have since dropped by more than half between mid-September and mid-October.

OPEC and a group of Russian-led oil producers rebuffed pressure from the U.S. to pump significantly more oil and lower U.S. gasoline prices, writes the Wall Street Journal. The United States has also contacted Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq to increase oil production. A Saudi oil official justified the decision, saying“[i]f we increase output all of a sudden and demand is hit in one area because of a new wave of [the coronavirus], the price would collapse.”

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in an interview with AP News that she is expecting more arrests related to ransomware as the Justice Department escalates its response to ransomware and cyber crime. The number of ransomware attacks have dramatically increased in the last year, affecting private companies and government agencies alike. According to the Justice Department, at least one employee had their email compromised in more than two dozen U.S. attorneys’ offices.

At least seven people who were present at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that turned into a deadly insurrection were elected to public office Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. Three of the winning candidates were elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.

The center of Italy’s anti-vaccine protests has seen a dramatic spike in coronavirus cases, writes the New York Times. The number of new cases in Trieste doubled last week, overwhelming beds in intensive care units.


ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, in which Jacob Schulz sat down with Alan Rozenshtein and Quinta Jurecic to discuss the metaverse and the content moderation problems virtual reality poses.

Jurecic and Rozenshtein examined how the metaverse could recreate and exacerbate existing problems in a new environment.

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security on the Havana Syndrome, China’s new supersonic missile capabilities and whether Biden will be able to repair relationships with his foreign counterparts.

Matthew Tokson analyzed federal and state judgments applying Carpenter v. United States and discusses the present state of the law and the paths along which it will likely continue to develop.

Emily Dai shared the Department of Defense’s recently released report on military and security developments in China.  

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