Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Emily Dai
Tuesday, December 21, 2021, 2:50 PM

With the omicron variant becoming the most dominant strain of the coronavirus, President Biden will announce a plan to provide 500 million free at-home rapid tests to Americans starting in January in an effort to combat the spread of the more transmissible virus, says ABC News. A senior administration official informed reporters Monday night that the rapid tests will be mailed to people who request them, marking a slightly different approach from European countries that elected to send tests to all citizens. The effort demonstrates agreement among White House officials on the need to enhance the country’s testing apparatus, which was unprepared for the high demand of pre-holiday testing.

For the first time, the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 is seeking testimony and documents from a House representative, reports the New York Times. Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, the incoming chairman of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, was asked to meet with investigators and voluntarily turn over his correspondence during the lead-up to the riot. The panel has been hesitant to issue subpoenas for information from sitting members of Congress because of the deference and respect members of Congress are expected to exhibit to one another. In the weeks after the 2020 election, Perry collected a dossier of voter fraud charges and orchestrated a plan to try and replace the acting attorney general, who was rejecting former President Trump’s attempts to overturn the election.

The Countering Extremism Working Group put out a clearer definition of extremist behavior as part of an ongoing effort to combat extremism inside military ranks, updating the older guidance that was deemed to imprecise on what was and was not authorized, says CNN. The new guidance also includes a two-part test to evaluate whether something is prohibited extremist activity.

China is expanding its grip on data of the world’s cargo flows, raising concerns among U.S. government officials and industry experts that believe China may use the data for economic or political gain, according to the Wall Street Journal. Cargo-industry officials say that China’s control over the flow of goods and information provides the country unique insight into global trade and potentially the means to affect it.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht told German soldiers in Lithuania on Sunday that NATO will examine Russia’s proposals for the alliance’s military activities on its eastern border, but that the Russian government will not be allowed to “dictate” its security issues, writes Deutsche Welle. Lambrecht’s remarks come after the Russian government provided the United States and its allies a list of military demands on Friday, which included the withdrawal of NATO forces from the Baltic states and a legal guarantee that NATO will stop military operations in Eastern Europe and Ukraine.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been denied access to $1.95 billion in gold held by the Bank of England following a ruling by the U.K. Supreme Court, writes BBC. Maduro claims the cash will be used to buy medical supplies to combat the coronavirus pandemic in Venezuela. According to critics, Maduro would use the money to pay off his foreign allies who back his administration. The court ruled that only opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who the United Kingdom recognizes as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, may determine what happens to the gold.

Following U.S. sanctions this month on Chinese people and organizations over allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, China has prohibited four people from the U.S. commission on religious freedom from entering the country, says Reuters. The four people will also have their assets frozen, and Chinese institutions and individuals will not be allowed to engage with them. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which David Priess and Aki Peritz talk about an al-Qaeda plot to destroy a passenger plane over the Atlantic ocean in 20016and the heroic efforts by the intelligence services of the United States, Great Britain and even Pakistan to uncover and crush it.

Christina Koningisor wrote about how Glomar operates, and whether Pennsylvania State Police should be permitted to append it to every public records response it issues.

Claudia Swain announced the Lawfare Podcast will take questions for its of-the-year episode.

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk, in which Yangyang Cheng and Alex Liang talk about what it’s like to live across the U.S.-China scientific divide.

Theodore Christakis, Kenneth Propp and Peter Swire analyzed how the OECD works to identify principles on government access to data for law enforcement and national security purposes, but also face political hurdles.

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