Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Friday, April 15, 2022, 3:37 PM

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Russia sent a formal diplomatic note to the United States that warned that shipments of the “most sensitive” weapons systems by the U.S. and NATO to Ukraine were “adding fuel” to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and could bring “unpredictable consequences” as a result, reports the Washington Post. The note was delivered to U.S. officials following President Biden’s approval of an $800 million weapons package to Ukraine that includes 155 mm howitzers, coastal defense drones, armored vehicles,  portable anti-aircraft weapons, anti-tank weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition. 

Russia has turned to Brazil to ask for support in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Group of 20, writes Reuters. Russian officials are reportedly asking for Brazil’s help to counter sanctions imposed by Western countries for its invasion of Ukraine. Russian Finance Minister Anton Silunaov sent a letter to Brazilian Economy Minister Paulo Guedes asking for Brazil’s “support to prevent political accusations and discrimination attempts in international financial institutions and multilateral fora." Silunaov claimed in the letter that the U.S. and its allies are attempting to expel Russia from the international decision-making process. In response to the letter, the Brazilian Economy Ministry's Secretary of International Economic Affairs Erivaldo Gomes expressed some support for Russia’s presence at multilateral organizations saying, “ From Brazil's point of view ... keeping open dialogue is essential. Our bridges are the international bodies and our assessment is that these bridges have to be preserved."

More than 150 Palestinians and three Israeli police officers were injured in clashes  at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem as thousands gathered for prayer during Ramadan, according to AP News. Israeli authorities say police entered the site after Palestinians threw rocks at police. Israeli police entered in force, firing tear gas and stun grenades in the area surrounding the mosque, while dozens of Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the mosque. Israeli police then entered the mosque and arrested people inside. The clashes come during a period of heightened tensions, after at least 25 Palestinians have been killed, most after carrying out attacks or in clashes with Israeli security officials.

China sent the J-20, its most technologically advanced fighter jet to patrol the East and South China Seas, reports CNN. Chinese military personnel report that the deployment of the aircraft is intended to “better safeguard China's airspace security and maritime interests.” 

TikTok is under investigation for how it addresses child sex abuse content on the app, writes the Financial Times. The Department of Homeland Security has reportedly launched an investigation into how the company handles child sex abuse materials, while the Department of Justice is reviewing a specific privacy feature on the app is exploited by predators. Unit Chief of the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit at the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber crime division described TikTok as the “platform of choice” for predators and described it as the “perfect place for [them] to meet, groom and engage children.”

Stephen Miller—a top White House adviser to former President Trump—testified before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol for eight hours, according to the New York Times. The select committee reportedly questioned Miller about Trump’s speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol and his use of the word “we” during his remarks. Miller allegedly argued that the use of the word was no different from any other political speech, while the committee suspected Trump may have used the word “we” to direct his supporters to join him in his attempt to overturn the election, thus prompting the riot. Miller was subpoenaed in November 2021. This was his first appearance before the panel. 

An Ohio man was convicted of six charges related to his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, reports the New York Times. Dustin Thompson’s main defense throughout his trial was that former President Trump was legally responsible for his decision to infiltrate the Capitol and steal items from the Senate parliamentarian’s office. Thompson testified that he had fallen down a “rabbit hole” of election misinformation, and that he felt like he was simply obeying Trump’s orders to “fight like hell” when he joined the mob. Thompson told the jury, “If the president’s giving you almost an order to do something, I felt obligated to do that.”

A federal judge ordered that the man who allegedly fired shots and set off smoke bombs in a Brooklyn subway is to be detained until his trial, reports the New York Times. Federal prosecutors argued Frank James presents a continued threat to the public following his premeditated and violent attack on New York City subway riders. The recent shooting was reportedly the “bloodiest crime in New York’s public transit system in nearly four decades.”

After the attack this week on a New York City subway, city officials are considering the use of weapons-detection technology in its transit system, writes the Wall Street Journal. In interviews, New York City Mayor Eric Adams reported that security officials are reviewing new screening technology that he hopes will improve safety in New York’s transportation system while also maintaining the flow of pedestrian traffic. According to New York Police Department data, crimes on the city’s subway system have increased 68 percent from this time last year. 

The Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use authorization for coronavirus breath tests, according to the New York Times. Rather than a nose or mouth swab, this new test can detect traces of the coronavirus in a breath sample with a high accuracy rate in just three minutes. The InspectIR Covid-19 Breathalyzer test is likely to be administered in doctors offices, hospitals and testing sites by trained operators. A study on the test’s effectiveness found that it can detect 91 percent of positive samples and 99 percent of negative samples correctly.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Evelyn Doek and Quinta Jurecic sat down with Nickel Waters about how open-source investigators go about documenting evidence of atrocity.

Lucas Kello and Monica Kaminska explained how cyberspace offers attractive alternative options for hackers and security planners in Moscow in retaliation for Western economic and financial sanctions.

David Priess shared an episode of the Chatter Podcast which featured a discussion with Jacob Ward about his new book “The Loop: How Technology is Creating a World Without Choices and How to Fight Back.”

Quinta Jurecic and Molly E. Reynolds questioned why the Jan. 6 committee hearings on its findings have yet to begin. 

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Katherine Pompilio is an associate editor of Lawfare. She holds a B.A. with honors in political science from Skidmore College.

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