Early Edition: March 23, 2021

A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours.

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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news

U.S. DEVELOPMENTS

Secretary of State Antony Blinken today pledged the United States steadfast commitment [to NATO] and confirmed the Biden administration wants to rebuild our partnerships, first and foremost with our NATO allies, we want to revitalize the alliance, the top U.S. diplomat told reporters during a meet with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Robin Emmott report for Reuters.

Trump ally Roger Stones name and picture have appeared in several Capitol attack-related court filings over the past week. “On Wednesday, U.S. prosecutors produced a photograph they said was shared on Facebook on Dec. 15 showing two Florida members of the right-wing Oath Keepers group who were later charged in the riot posing with five others next to someone who appears to be Stone at a book signing … All the faces are redacted except for the two charged Oath Keepers in the picture, which prosecutors introduced to show that the defendants knew each other. Three of Stone’s books are displayed in a room that looks like the White House Oval Office,” report Spencer S. Hsu, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Devlin Barrett for the Washington Post.

The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to review a lower court ruling that vacated the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the brothers convicted in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured hundreds more. The federal appeals court said last July that Tsarnaev will remain in prison for the rest of his life, but did direct a new penalty-trial phase trial to be held, citing jury selection issues and potential bias. The Supreme Court will hear the case later this year. Ariane de Vogue reports for CNN.

President Biden yesterday announced his plan to nominate Lina Khan as a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commissioner, the youngest FTC commissioner if confirmed by the Senate. Chris Mills Rodrigo reports for The Hill.

At least 10 people, including a police officer, have been killed in a mass shooting at the King Soopers supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, police said. Updates are provided by Veronica Rocha, Elise Hammond, Joshua Berlinger and Adam Renton for CNN.

Evanston, Illinois, yesterday approved the nations first reparations program for African Americans,which advocates say signifies a significant step in rectifying wrongs caused by slavery, segregation and housing discrimination and in prompting similar compensation efforts across the nation. Mark Guarino reports for the Washington Post.

Georgia sheriff confirms that his office is still probing the Atlanta spa shootings that left eight dead, but wouldnt confirm any further details. Dan Whitcomb reports for Reuters.

IMMIGRATION

The State Department has named Ricardo Zúñiga as its new special envoy for the Northern Triangle Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador  tasked with addressing surging migration levels from those countries into the U.S. Zúñiga will work with the Northern Triangle, Mexico and other countries “on a range of issues in order to seek to improve conditions in Central America,” which will help support Biden’s pledge to invest $4 billion in the area to address the “root causes” of migration. “He also will hold our partners accountable for their commitments to address root causes of migration and the increase in arrivals of unaccompanied children at the U.S. southern border,” the State Department said in a statement. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.

Top Biden officials are being sent to Mexico and Guatemala this week to discuss the concerning increase in migrants travelling from Central America to the U.S. “Roberta Jacobson, a former ambassador to Mexico during the Obama administration who now serves on Biden’s National Security Council, and Juan Gonzalez, the NSC’s senior director for the region, will travel to Mexico, a senior administration official told reporters,” reports Franco Ordoñes for NPR.

Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellars (TX) office yesterday published photos that reveal extremely crowded conditions in a temporary Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility holding migrant children. “The photos show migrant children, who had crossed into the US alone without a parent or guardian, being held in crowded rooms with mattresses on the floor surrounded with clear plastic at a detention facility in Texas,”reports Al Jazeera.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 29.86 million and now killed over 542,990 people in the United States,according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 123.77 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.72 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.

A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.

Latest updates on the pandemic at The Guardian.

CHINA

The U.S., E.U., U.K. and Canada have unleashed sanctions on China in a joint effort to hold the country to account for human rights abuses against Chinas Uighur Muslim minority community in the Xinjiang region.

The Treasury Department yesterday announced sanctions against Chinese officials for their alleged ties to serious human rights abuses. “These designations include Wang Junzheng, the Secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), and Chen Mingguo, Director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB),” the Treasury Department announced, adding, “The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to promote accountability for the serious human rights abuses occurring in Xinjiang.” “The sanctions stem from the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which allows the president to deny entry into the U.S., revoke already-issued visas, block property under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit American businesses from entering into business with foreign entities,” reports Joseph Choi for The Hill.

The E.U. also placed sanctions on Wang Junzheng and Chen Mingguo, as well as Zhu Hailun, former deputy Communist Party head in Xinjiang, Wang Mingshan, member of the Xinjiangs Communist Party standing committee, and the Public Security Bureau (PSB). Sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans. Stuart Lau and Jacopo Barigazzi report for POLITICO EU.

China hit back with its own sanctions on the E.U. Stuart Lau reports for POLITICO EU.

Chinas double-barreled sanctions attack on the E.U. on Monday means the landmark Beijing-Brussels trade deal is now on life support, writes Stuart Lau for POLITICO EU.

The second Canadian  Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig  was put on trial yesterday in China on charges for espionage. Following over two years detention, Kovrig’s trial was held in secret, with a Beijing court spokesperson stating that the trial would reveal “national secrets.” “However, an agreement signed by Canada and China in 1999 explicitly states a consular official can attend such trials. Canadian diplomats also say they have not been granted regular consular access to Michael Spavor, a Canadian businessman also on trial in China for espionage,”reports Emily Feng for NPR.

China Makes It A Crime To Question Military Casualties On The Internet, reports Emily Feng for NPR, adding, “[t]he new law penalizes “infringing on the reputation and honor of revolutionary heroes.” At least six other people have been detained or charged with defaming “martyrs.” The government uses the terms “revolutionary heroes” and “martyrs” for anyone it memorializes for their sacrifice for the Communist Party.”

MIDDLE EAST

The Saudi-led coalition yesterday offered Yemens Iran-backed Houthi rebels a ceasefire, but the rebel group dismissed the offer as nothing new. The kingdom’s foreign ministry said the ceasefire is intended to apply to “the entire conflict” and will take effect as soon as the Houthis agree to it. “The proposal would also allow for fuel and food imports through the western port of Hodeidah — Yemen’s main port of entry — and restarting political negotiations between the Saudi Arabia-backed government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthis,” reports Al Jazeera.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stumbles before Israels general election as the U.A.E. deal-signing is blocked, which would have included around $10 million in joint infrastructure projects connecting the Middle East together with a vast rail network, ports and pipelines, writes Jonathan H. Ferziger for Foreign Policy.

Will latest push for accountability for Syria torture succeed? Jillian Kestler-D’Amours writes in an analysis for Al Jazeera.

OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

At a time of increasing global political turbulence, a summit of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council is particularly necessary to establish direct dialogue about ways to resolve humankinds common problems in the interests of maintaining global stability, China and Russia said in a statement published on the Russian foreign ministry’s website. Stella Qiu and Andrew Osborn report for Reuters.

The Human Rights Council adopted a resolution today mandating U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to collect and preserve information and evidence of crimes related to Sri Lankas civil war. “The vote at the 47-country forum in Geneva was 22 in favor, with 11 against including China and Pakistan, and 14 abstentions including India,” report Stephanie Nebehay and Alasdair Pal for Reuters.

The E.U. and U.S. yesterday imposed sanctions on at least 11 individuals for their link to Myanmars Feb. 1 military coup. E.U. sanctions included General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar military, who Washington had already sanctioned. The United States has reportedly expanded its list of targets. Reuters reporting.

Two Russian diplomats have been given 72 hours to leave Bulgaria for alleged espionage. “Preliminary investigations have shown that two Russian nationals carried out intelligence activity incompatible with diplomatic relations,” prosecutors said. Al Jazeera reporting.

At least 137 killed in southwestern Niger villages by gunmen on motorbikes Sunday, the government said. In the villages of Intazayene, Bakorat and Wistane, close to Mali’s border, gunmen unleashed bullets at “at everything which moved”, according to a local official. Al Jazeera reporting. 

About the Author(s)

Siven Watt

Associate News Editor at Just Security and Legal Fellow at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK. Follow him on Twitter (@SivenWatt)