Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Emily Dai
Thursday, December 2, 2021, 2:04 PM

The parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Meta Platforms, said on Wednesday that it has taken down more than 600 accounts, pages and groups connected to a China-based network spreading a false narrative of the U.S. government’s attempts to blame the coronavirus pandemic on China, according to Bloomberg. The disinformation campaign involved an account purporting to be a Swiss biologist named Wilson Edwards, which claimed that U.S. authorities were pressuring World Health Organization scientists to blame the pandemic on China. Meta Platforms also removed a network of accounts based in Italy and France connected to an anti-vaccination movement.

The tense relations between the United States and Russia took a turn for the worse Wednesday after Russia ordered the U.S. Embassy staff, who have been in Moscow for more than three years, to leave the country by Jan. 31, says the Wall Street Journal. Foreign Ministry officials indicated the decision was in retaliation to the United States’s decision to not extend the visas for more than 50 Russian diplomats, who would need to depart by June 30. The announcement comes amid fears that Russia could be preparing to invade Ukraine.

Scientists claim to have discovered the cause of rare blood clots in some people who received the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, writes the Washington Post. A new study published Wednesday found that a protein in blood can bind to a key element of the AstraZeneca vaccine, causing antibodies to attack the protein. It is still unclear whether the binding is a direct cause of blood clots. The shot, which has not been approved in the United States, caused public health experts to worry that the clots could fuel vaccine hesitancy. The U.K. Health Security Agency maintains the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks associated with it.

President Biden is set to launch a more urgent campaign for Americans to get a coronavirus booster shot on Thursday as part of his winter plans to tackle the virus and its omicron variant, reports AP News. The plan includes a mandate that private insurers cover the cost of at-home coronavirus tests and a strict testing procedure for people entering the country.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Thursday that it held a second call with Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai amid ongoing concerns after she disappeared from public view more than a month ago in the wake of sexual assault allegations she made against Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of China, according to the New York Times. In a statement, the IOC expressed concern over the safety of Peng, but it did not release any details of the call. The statement also said the I.O.C. had offered Peng “[w]ide-ranging support” and pledged to “[s]tay in regular touch with her.” Although the IOC has adopted a campaign of “quiet diplomacy,” the Women’s Tennis Association opted for a more confrontational approach and on Wednesday announced an immediate suspension of all its events in China until Peng’s well-being can be confirmed.

Law enforcement authorities told a judge Wednesday that investigators of the recent shooting that left four high school students dead and seven wounded in Oxford, Michigan, recovered videos the suspect made the night before the shooting talking about killing students, writes the New York Times. Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old suspect, was charged with terrorism, four counts of first-degree murder and an array of other charges.

Rep. Liz Cheney said Wednesday that former President Trump could be held responsible for any falsehoods exchanged with the House select committee investigating the Capitol Riot, writes the Hill. Cheney criticized Trump for repeating false claims about a stolen election, and warned “[i]f persists in lying, then he will be accountable under the laws of this great nation and subject to criminal penalties for every false word he speaks.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that travel restrictions were imposed on nations that reported cases of the omicron coronavirus variant is “[d]eeply unfair and punitive,” says Reuters. Guterres stressed it is possible to reduce the risk of transmission while allowing for travel.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Shane Harris sat down with David Priess to discuss a new chapter in the CIA’s “Getting to Know the President” series by John L. Helgerson and Trump’s relationship to the intelligence community.

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security in which the hosts discuss the week's national security news, including: the new omicron strain of the coronavirus, the talks seeking to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and a new lawsuit before the Supreme Court asking if prepublication review requirements imposed on former federal employees consistent with free speech.

Brian Liu and Raquel Leslie wrote the most recent issue of SinoTech, in which they talk about new export controls on Chinese quantum computing companies and Alibaba and Tencent being fined following the launch of China’s expanded anti-monopoly bureau, along with a series of shorter updates.

Bryan Klehm announced this week’s Lawfare Live, in which Alexander Vindman and Dominic Bustillos will discuss recent developments in Ukraine.

Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren analyzed how inauthentic social media accounts attributed to China are used as part of a disinformation campaign to defend the country’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang.

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