Early Edition: March 26, 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

Dominion Voting Systems today filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, accusing the network of intentionally airing false claims that the voting-machine company had rigged the 2020 presidential election. The suit was filed in a Delaware court and accuses Fox of spouting conspiracy theories and allowing false claims by its guests to go unchecked. “Fox engaged in this knowing and reckless propagation of these enormous falsehoods in order to profit off these lies,” reads the lawsuit, adding, “Fox wanted to continue to protect its broadcast ratings, catering to an audience deeply loyal to President Trump.” Elahe Izadi reports for the Washington Post.

Around $360 billion of the stimulus checks paid to many Americans will be spent on imports, increasing Chinese exports to the country by $60 billion in 2021-2022, according to Allianz SE. “While U.S. neighbors Canada and Mexico will see the biggest impact relative to the size of their economies, the stimulus package could increase China’s gross domestic product by 0.5% over the next year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Bloomberg Economics estimates that a 1% boost to U.S. demand adds about 0.08% to China’s GDP,” reports Tom Hancock and Jinshan Hong for Bloomberg.

President Biden yesterday gave his first news conference since taking office, speaking on a number of challenges his administration faces, including the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. economy, immigration, voting rights, and new threats posed by North Korea. Speaking on North Korea’s recent missile testing, including last weekend’s short-range missiles tests and Thursday’s first ballistic missiles, Biden said that the country had violated U.N. Resolution 1718 and that the administration was talking with its allies. “We will respond accordingly,” Biden said, adding, “But I’m also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization.” Den Leonard reports for POLITICO.

“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline … in term of tactical reasons” for withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Biden said. The Biden administration is talking with its NATO allies who have troops in Afghanistan, and any withdrawal of troops would be done in a “safe and orderly way,” the president confirmed. He also said that he could not imagine it being the case that the United States remains in Afghanistan into 2022. David E. Sanger reports for the New York Times.

Key takeaways from Biden’s White House conference are provided by Kevin Liptak for CNN.

“[T]he capabilities that the U.S. provides for the Afghans to be able to combat the Taliban and other threats that reside in Afghanistan are critical to their success,” said Gen. Robert Clarke, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It’s clear that the Taliban have not upheld what they said they would do and reduce the violence,” Clarke said, adding, “While on the positive side, they have not attacked U.S. forces, it is clear that they took a deliberate approach and increased their violence since that since the peace accords were signed.” Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp yesterday signed into law a sweeping Republican-sponsored overhaul of state elections after the state legislature passed the bill in both chambers. The law introduces new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, removes the secretary of state from the state election board, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, and makes it a criminal offense to approach voters waiting in lines to give them food and water. Zach Montellaro reports for POLITICO.

During a fundraising event Wednesday at his golf club in West Palm Beach, FL, former President Trump held a backroom meeting with four Republican Senate candidates battling for Ohio’s senate seat. The candidates were former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, former state GOP Chair Jane Timken, technology company executive Bernie Moreno and investment banker Mike Gibbons — and all reportedly attempted to prove their support of Trump in what has been called a scene straight out of ‘The Apprentice.” “In virtually every Republican primary, candidates are jockeying, auditioning and fighting for the former president’s backing. Trump has received overtures from a multitude of candidates desperate for his endorsement, something that top Republicans say gives him all-encompassing power to make-or-break the outcome of primaries,” Alex Isenstadt reports for POLITICO.

The CEO’s of top tech companies Facebook, Google and Twitter yesterday testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee regarding “misinformation and disinformation plaguing online platforms.” Grilling the tech chiefs on whether their platforms contributed to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, Twitter chief Jack Dorsey said, “yes,” whereas the other two chiefs avoided answering it directly. “The tech bosses were also peppered with questions about how their companies helped spread falsehoods around Covid-19 vaccines, enable racism and hurt children’s mental health,” David McCabe and Cecilia Kang report for the New York Times.

The establishment of a U.S. special envoy for Ethiopia has been approved, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirms, as the region sees multiple political crises. “The envoy, who is expected to be appointed in the coming weeks, will focus on the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia over a disputed border area, the department said in a statement Wednesday. The person will also tackle a disagreement between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, it said,” Samuel Gebre reports for Bloomberg.

CHINA

China has imposed sanctions on nine Britons, including British lawmakers, over alleged “lies and disinformation” about alleged human rights abuses by China of its Uighur community in Xinjiang. “China sanctioned four entities and nine individuals, including lawmakers such as former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, and the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, that “maliciously spread lies and disinformation” … Targeted individuals and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering Chinese territory, the Chinese foreign ministry said, adding that Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them,” Reuters reporting.

Retail giant Nike and H&M are facing a backlash in China after the brands voiced concern about alleged use of Uighur forced labor in cotton production. “Searches on Thursday for clothing from H&M, the Swedish retailer, turned up no results on Alibaba’s T-mall and JD.com, China’s two biggest online retailers. Searches for H&M’s physical shops on Baidu and Gaode, China’s leading mapping apps, also turned up no results … The apparent halt came after China’s Communist Youth League accused H&M of “boycotting” cotton produced in Xinjiang. It pointed to a company statement from the retailer last year that said H&M was “deeply concerned” about reports of forced labor in the western Chinese region, where 1m Uyghurs have been detained and officials have been accused of human rights abuses,” Christian Shepherd reports for the Financial Times.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

Tom Andrews, U.N. Special Rapporteur investigating human rights in Myanmar, “warned that the pace and scope of the international response to the military coup in Myanmar is falling short of what is required to head off a deepening crisis,” and urged “U.N. Member States, including those in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the European Union, the United States and China, to hold an emergency summit of all stakeholders, including the duly elected illegally deposed parliamentarians who make up the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH),” it was reported on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s website. UN News reporting.

A 7-year-old was shot and killed by Myanmar security forces Tuesday as they raided her family home, her father, U Maung Ko Hashin Bai, told U.K. broadcaster Sky News Wednesday. Siobhan Robbins and Henry Austin report for NBC News.

A joint investigation is being carried out by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into serious abuses and rights violations in Ethiopia’s Tigray region “as part of the much-needed accountability process for the victims,” a joint press statement said. UN News reporting.

The outcome of Israel’s general election is still unknown, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu falls short of securing the parliamentary majority needed to remain in office, according to the official election count announced Thursday, suggesting Israel’s political stalemate will continue. “The results of Tuesday’s election confirm that Netanyahu’s Likud party won the most seats in the Israeli Knesset. But the bloc of parties that are certain to support him has only won 52 seats, nine shy of the number needed for a majority in the parliament. His opponents, too, failed to garner a majority, with the disparate group of anti-Netanyahu parties securing 57 seats,” reports Steve Hendrix for the Washington Post.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 30.07 million and now killed over 546,800 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 125.59 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.75 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

AstraZeneca has updated the efficacy results of its coronavirus vaccine trial in the U.S. after the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that results published Monday, which said the vaccine was 79% effective, were based on an “incomplete view of the efficacy data.” AstraZeneca has now release further findings, adjusting its efficacy rate from 79% to 76%, based on its complete primary analysis. It also said the vaccine had 85% efficacy against symptomatic Covid-19 in people 65 and older, and 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization. BBC News reporting.

A group of advocacy organizations and public health academics have called for the U.S. government to ensure its upcoming patent for technology being used by five manufacturers of mRNA coronavirus vaccines is used to increase access to and distribution of vaccines worldwide. In a letter to U.S. health officials, the organizations and academics said the patent is an “important policy tool that the US government could use to facilitate scale up of production” the vaccines, adding that licensing agreements could be used to “ensure rapid, equitable global access.” The letter was sent to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dr Francis Collins, and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Dr Anthony Fauci. Al Jazeera reporting.

Israel has administered two doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to over half its population, the health minister said Thursday, meanwhile “vaccination is far slower in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has relied on donations and limited supplies from Israel. The 5.5 million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip have received only about 120,000 vaccines so far,” Al Jazeera reporting.

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. 

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)