Early Edition: October 19, 2021 | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack | #education | #technology | #infosec

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

JAN. 6 ATTACK

Former President Trump is suing both the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack and the National Archives to block the release of his White House records related to the Jan. 6 attack. Trump’s lawyers filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia District Court yesterday, arguing that the select committee’s record request is too broad and therefore unconstitutional and that the select committee lacks a legislative purpose for requesting the documents. The suit asks the federal judge to invalidate the entire document request. Betsy Woodruff Swan and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO.

The Jan. 6 select committee has rejected Steve Bannon’s claim of executive privilege and is scheduled to vote today on whether to refer Bannon to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for criminal charges. Bannon refused to comply with the committee’s subpoena last week, asserting that questions of executive privilege should be resolved first. The committee sent a letter to Bannon’s attorney on Friday rejecting Bannon’s assertion of privilege. Zachary Cohen and Ryan Nobles report for CNN.

The Jan. 6 select committee has released a criminal contempt report detailing how it has pushed back on Bannon’s claims of executive privilege. The “report lays out all the correspondence between the committee and Bannon, revealing new details about what happened the day of his scheduled deposition and making his full subpoena publicly available for the first time. Throughout the report, the committee makes the case for why Bannon’s claim of executive privilege does not hold up and lays out the legal argument for why he must comply with the subpoena,” Annie Grayer, Zachary Cohen, Ryan Nobles, and Whitney Wild report for CNN.

The criminal contempt report from the Jan. 6 select committee also includes a previously undisclosed list of documents and information the committee sought from Bannon. “Among details about his role in planning rallies on Jan. 6, the request asks for information about his coordination with another figure subpoenaed alongside Bannon, Kash Patel, who was then serving as the chief of staff to acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller. It also asks if Bannon discussed the election with extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, far-right radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), who was recently highlighted as a key figure in Trump’s pressure campaign on the DOJ in the waning days of his presidency, according to a report from the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.

The 26-page complaint filed by Trump suing the Jan. 6 select committee and the National Archives argues that the White House records must remain secret as a matter of executive privilege. Trump’s attorney says that “the Constitution gives the former president the right to demand their confidentiality even though he is no longer in office — and even though President Biden has refused to assert executive privilege over them,” Charlie Savage and Luke Broadwater report for the New York Times.

Trump’s lawsuit claims that Biden “has refused to assert executive privilege” over the White House records in “a political play to accommodate [Biden’s] partisan allies.” The lawsuit also lambasts the current congressional inquiry, calling it “a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition” that “has decided to harass President Trump and senior members of his administration (among others) by sending an illegal, unfounded, and overbroad records request” for his presidential papers at the National Archives. Adam Rawnsley, Jose Pagliery, and Asawin Suebsaeng report for The Daily Beast.

HAITI KIDNAPPING

The U.S. government has a team on the ground in Haiti working with the U.S. embassy and local authorities to recover the group of 17 missionaries and their children who were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, the White House and law-enforcement officials have said. The FBI and the State Department are working to bring the individuals “home safely,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a news briefing. “We can confirm their engagement, and the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is coordinating with local authorities and providing assistance to the families to resolve the situation,” Psaki said. Maria Abi-Habib reports for the New York Times.

The Haitian gang called 400 Mawozo that abducted the group is asking for $1 million each for their release, a total of $17 million, a top Haitian official said yesterday. Justice Minister Liszt Quitel said the FBI and Haitian police are in contact with the kidnappers and seeking the release of the missionaries as well as five children, one an 8-month baby and the others 3, 6, 14, and 15 years old. Quitel said negotiations could take weeks. “We are trying to get them released without paying any ransom. This is the first course of action. Let’s be honest: when we give them that money, that money is going to be used for more guns and more munitions,” he said. Kris Maher, Juan Montes, and Clare Ansberry report for the Wall Street Journal.

Local unions representing Haitian public transportation drivers, schools, and other businesses have gone on strike to protest the nation’s lack of security and the growing wave of kidnappings in the country. “This strike is our way of saying that we can’t take it anymore,” Diego Toussaint, a Haitian entrepreneur said. Gessika Thomas reports for Reuters.

U.S. RELATIONS

The U.S. Treasury has warned that digital currencies could weaken the U.S. sanctions program. In a new report, the Treasury Department said that the U.S. needs to modernize how sanctions are deployed so that they remain an effective national security tool. “Technological innovations such as digital currencies, alternative payment platforms and new ways of hiding cross-border transactions all potentially reduce the efficacy of American sanctions…these technologies offer malign actors opportunities to hold and transfer funds outside the traditional dollar-based financial system,” the Treasury report said. “The Treasury Department also raised concern that America’s adversaries have been taking steps to reduce their reliance on the U.S. dollar and said new digital payments systems could exacerbate this trend and could erode the power of American sanctions,” Alan Rappeport reports for the New York Times.

In a potential turning point in U.S. foreign policy, the Biden administration plans to limit the use of economic and financial sanctions, so that the use of sanctions is better calibrated and their impact is strengthened. Following a nine-month Treasury-led audit of sanctions policy, Treasury Department officials said yesterday that “the interagency vetting process for sanctions will be refocused to more heavily weigh the potential for unintended harm to vulnerable groups, resistance from allies and other economic and geopolitical fallout,” Ian Talley reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has signed an agreement to continue U.S. support for Georgia’s military for six years. The deal will take the place of a similar pact between the two countries set to expire at the end of the year. The agreement is meant to help Georgia “further develop its defense capacity and advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” according to a Defense Department statement. Austin also said the support will help Georgia build “effective deterrence and defense,” and includes military exercises with the country’s troops. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

CYBERSECURITY

Sinclair Broadcast Group has announced that it was hit by a ransomware attack over the weekend. The attack resulted in data theft and network disruption of one of the largest television station operators in the nation. Sinclair said it was in early states of investigation and could not assess impact on its business or operations at the time. Sinclair has notified an unnamed government agency which is also investigating the breach. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill

Three federal agencies yesterday warned that critical infrastructure groups, particularly agricultural organizations, are being targeted by a prolific ransomware group named BlackMatter. The FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the National Security Agency put out a joint advisory connecting the group to previous attacks this year. “Since July 2021, BlackMatter ransomware has targeted multiple U.S. critical infrastructure entities, including two U.S. Food and Agriculture Sector organizations,” the agencies wrote. “BlackMatter actors have attacked numerous U.S.-based organizations and have demanded ransom payments ranging from $80,000 to $15,000,000 in Bitcoin and Monero,” they warned. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill

TECHNOLOGY

Five members of the House Judiciary have accused Amazon of lying to Congress about its business practices.  In a letter addressed to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, lawmakers referenced a Reuters report that found that Amazon engaged in a “systematic campaign” to rig search results to boost sales of its own brands — activity that Amazon has denied in sworn testimony. Steve Stecklow, Aditya Kalra, and Jeffrey Dastin report for Reuters.

In the letter to Jassy the five members of Congress asked Amazon to provide “exculpatory evidence” to corroborate the sworn testimony that several Amazon leaders, including then-CEO Jeff Bezos, provided to the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee in 2019 and 2020. The letter was signed by Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI), Ken Buck (R-CO), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL). “We strongly encourage you to make use of this opportunity to correct the record and provide the Committee with sworn, truthful, and accurate responses to this request as we consider whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate,” the members wrote in the letter. Dana Mattioli reports for the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS

The Supreme Court has ruled in two cases that the doctrine of qualified immunity protects police officers from excessive force lawsuits. The Supreme Court disposed of the two cases, from California and Oklahoma, with unsigned opinions and without argument or dissent. Jess Bravin reports for the Wall Street Journal

Former President Trump was deposed yesterday for four and a half hours in a lawsuit alleging that his security guards assaulted several men who were protesting outside Trump Tower in 2015. The plaintiffs’ attorney said that they examined Trump on a number of issues including statements at events and rallies that encouraged violence. Trump answered questions “as expected” according to the attorney. The deposition was on hold while Trump was in the White House. Kara Scannell and Chandelis Duster report for CNN.

Trump has released a statement discussing his deposition, saying that he is “pleased to have had the opportunity to tell my side of this ridiculous story.” “Trump appeared to shoot down the protesters’ claims of peaceful protest, saying that they ‘intentionally sought to rile up a crowd by blocking the entrance to Trump Tower,’” Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.

Colin L. Powell, who in four decades of public life served as the nation’s top soldier, diplomat, and National Security Advisor, has died of complications from Covid-19. Powell has been fully vaccinated but had undergone treatment for multiple myeloma, which compromised his immune system, a spokesperson said. Powell served as the U.S.’s first African American National Security Advisor, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. His speech at the United Nations in 2003 was a key moment in allowing the U.S. to go to war in Iraq. Eric Schmitt reports for the New York Times.

Powell’s death has been met with an outpouring of grief from across the political spectrum, as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle united in hailing the U.S.’s first Black Secretary of State, praising his leadership and integrity. Laura Kelly, Ellen Mitchell, and Hanna Trudo report for The Hill.

Senate Republicans have put a hold on President Biden’s choice to lead the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Biden’s pick, Matt Graves, a former federal prosecutor, would oversee the hundreds of prosecutions stemming from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton accused the Senators of using the nomination hold as “leverage.” C. Ryan Barber reports for Business Insider

AFGHANISTAN

President Biden’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is departing from the government, the State Department has said. Khalilzad was a veteran of past Republican administrations who helped former President Bush plan the overthrow of the Taliban in 2002, and was then appointed by former President Trump to pursue peace negotiations with the Taliban, leading to the Doha agreement signed in February 2020 with Taliban representatives. In an Oct. 18 resignation letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Khalilzad said that he was asked to join the Trump administration “after the decision had been made to substantially reduce or end the military and economic burden of the Afghan engagement on the U.S. and to free those resources for vital priorities, including domestic needs and the challenge of dealing with issues related to China.” Khalilzad lamented in his letter that “the political arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban did not go forward as envisaged…The reasons for this are too complex and I will share my thoughts in the coming days and weeks, after leaving government service.” Michael Crowley reports for the New York Times.

State Department acting Inspector General Diana Shaw is launching a number of inquiries into the Biden administration’s diplomatic operations in Afghanistan and the handling of the U.S. withdrawal. According to State Department and congressional officials, as well as a notification sent to Congress, Shaw yesterday notified the chairs and ranking members of relevant committees in the House and Senate that the investigative body would be launching “several oversight projects related to the suspension of operations at U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan.” “The reviews by the internal watchdog will focus on the State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa program; Afghans processed for refugee admission into the U.S.; resettlement of those refugees and visa recipients; and the emergency evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul ‘to include evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan nationals,’ according to an Oct. 15 action memorandum to Secretary of State Antony Blinken,” Lara Seligman, Andrew Desiderio and Nahal Toosi report for POLITICO.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has said that Tehran will host a meeting of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, as well as Russia, on Oct. 27. During a press conference on Monday, a spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry said Iran will bring together the foreign ministers of Russian, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. The spokesperson said that “the six countries will be focused on how they can help form an inclusive government in Afghanistan with the presence of all ethnic groups, and how they can help shape a future of peace and security in Afghanistan.” The meeting will continue discussion that the countries had during an early-September virtual meeting. Maziar Motamedi reports for Al Jazeera

The U.S. will not be participating in talks on Afghanistan being held by Russia due to logistical reasons, the State Department has said. “The Troika Plus has been an effective…constructive forum. We look forward to engaging in that forum going forward, but we’re not in a position to take part this week,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a briefing yesterday. Members of the Taliban were invited by Russia to attend the talks, set to take place tomorrow in Moscow. Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.

U.N. agencies are to launch a polio vaccination campaign in Afghanistan with the Taliban’s permission. “The campaign, slated to start Nov. 8, will mark the first polio immunization drive since the Taliban took control of the country in August — and the first in more than three years to reach all children in Afghanistan, according to a news release from UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency,” Claire Parker reports for the Washington Post.

An informal network, that includes former government and military officials as well as veterans, has developed to fulfil a pledge to save Afghan colleagues who put their lives on the line for the U.S. So far the network has evacuated 69 people from 23 families from Afghanistan since mid-August. But 346 people from 68 different families remain on its list of endangered Afghans, including interpreters who worked with U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Roger Cohen reports for the New York Times.

The Taliban have ordered technocrats from the former Afghan government to return to work to help run the country and address the crisis facing the economy. “Four employees from financial institutions told The Associated Press how the Taliban commanded bureaucrats from the previous government’s Finance Ministry, central bank, and other state-owned banks to return to work. Their accounts were confirmed by three Taliban officials. ‘They told us, ‘we are not experts, you know what is better for the country, how we can survive under these challenges,’ recalled one state bank official,” Samya Kullab reports for AP.

RUSSIA

Russia has announced that it will cease its diplomatic engagement with NATO after the expulsion by NATO of eight Russians alleged to be “undeclared intelligence officers.” By early next month, Russia will shut its office at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels. Moscow took issue with the early-October expulsions, saying that the move undermined efforts to normalize relations between it and NATO. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that “NATO is not interested in equitable dialogue and joint work…If that’s the case, then we don’t see the need to keep pretending that changes in the foreseeable future are possible.” According to Lavrov, Russia will strip the accreditation of all staff at NATO’s military mission in Moscow and will close the alliance’s information office in the country. Reuters reports. 

NATO’s response was relatively limited, with a spokesperson saying that the alliance “[has] taken note of the decision by Russia to suspend the work of its diplomatic mission…NATO’s policy toward Russia remains consistent. We have strengthened our deterrence and defense in response to Russia’s aggressive actions, while at the same time we remain open to dialogue.” Andrew E. Kramer reports for the New York Times.

NORTH KOREA AND SOUTH KOREA

North Korea has conducted its first test in two years of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. The South Korean military said that the missile was fired from the east coast of North Korea, but did not provide any further details of the test. The National Security Council of South Korea expressed “deep regret” that North Korea has launched a missile amid international efforts to continue dialogue over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The test came just hours after U.S., South Korean and Japanese special envoys on North Korea met in Washington yesterday to discuss how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.

South Korean, Japanese, and U.S. intelligence chiefs are to meet in Seoul to discuss North Korea. Sung Kim, the U.S. envoy to North Korea, is travelling to Seoul to discuss how to restart dialogue with Pyongyang, including on whether there should be a formal declaration of the end of the Korean War. Kim has recently reiterated the stance of President Biden’s administration that it is open to meeting with North Korea without pre-conditions. BBC News reports.

South Korea opened its largest ever defense exposition today, showing off its next-generation fighter jet, drones, and other technology in an effort to boost exports following the Covid-19 pandemic. Josh Smith reports for Reuters.

NIGERIA

Gunmen killed at least 43 people in Nigeria’s northern Sokoto state on Sunday, the state governor’s office said yesterday. The assault began at a weekly market and continued into Monday morning, Sokoto Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said in a statement. A local resident and trader told Reuters that there were 60 bodies at Goronyo General Hospital mortuary, adding that the gunmen had initially overpowered police who tried to intervene. Reuters reporting.

A Sokoto government spokesperson said in a statement yesterday that “we’re not sure of the [death toll] figure. But it is 30-something.” “We’re faced and bedevilled by many security challenges in our own area here, particularly banditry, kidnapping and other associated crimes,” the spokesperson added. Al Jazeera reports.

Nigerian troops have killed 24 suspected Islamist insurgents in two attacks in the northeast of the country and recovered some weapons, the Nigerian army has said. “Major General Christopher Musa, commander of the anti-insurgency task force, told Reuters that soldiers killed 16 Boko Haram insurgents a few kilometres from Maiduguri city, the capital of Borno state,” Reuters reports.

IRAN

Iran and Venezuela have announced plans to sign a 20-year cooperation agreement when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visits Tehran in the coming months. The announcement came in a joint press conference during Venezuelan Foreign Minister Feliz Plasencia’s visit to Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also shared that a joint economic cooperation commission will be formed in Tehran before the end of the year, which will work to finalize the details of the agreement between the two countries. The intention for Venezuela and Iran to sign a long-term accord came shortly after an Iran-flagged supertanker carrying two million barrels of heavy crude provided by the Venezuelan state-run oil firm set sail for Iran. Maziar Motamedi reports for Al Jazeera

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said yesterday that the U.S. should lift the sanctions against Iran to prove it is serious about restarting the stalled talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. In an interview with Iranian state TV, Raisi said Iran is after “goal-oriented” talks with the West and that Iran “never left” the negotiation table. “Lifting sanctions is an indication of [the] seriousness of the other party,” Raisi said. AP reporting.

CHINA

U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood has expressed concern about reports that China recently launched a hypersonic missile with nuclear capacity. Over the weekend, the Financial Times reported that China launched a hypersonic missile in August that circled Earth in low orbit. Beijing denied the report. Vincent Ni and Julian Borger report for the Guardian.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has said that it was in fact testing a reusable space vehicle. When asked about the reports that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile this summer, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that the “test was a routine spacecraft experiment to verify the reusable technology of spacecraft, which is of great significance for reducing the cost of spacecraft use. It can provide a convenient and cheap way for humans to use space peacefully. Many companies in the world have carried out similar experiments.” He explained that “what separated from the spacecraft before returning was the supporting equipment of the spacecraft, which was burned and disintegrated in the process of falling into the atmosphere and landed on the high seas.” Hannah Ritchie reports for CNN.

Protestors have interrupted an Olympic flame lighting ceremony in Greece to challenge China’s human rights violations. The protestors carried a Tibetan flag and a banner reading, “No Genocide Games.” The protestors also called out Beijing’s genocide of the Uyghurs and other Muslim and minority populations. The protestors were arrested by police on the scene. Matt Bonesteel reports for the Washington Post.

SUDAN

The U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, is set to visit the Sudanese capital of Khartoum this week amidst protests against the Sudanese transitional government. Monday afternoon thousands joined in a sit-in in Khartoum after protests blanketed the city over the weekend calling for the military to replace the interim government. The protests come just weeks after a failed military coup. David Lawler reports for Axios.

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has formed a “crisis cell” to resolve what he has called the country’s “most dangerous” political crisis since the 2019 military coup, state news agency Suna has reported. In announcing the committee yesterday, Hamdok called for restraint and dialogue to end weeks of political tensions that have threatened to derail the country’s transition to democracy. The announcement also comes after the police dispersed military-backed protests over the weekend demanding the dissolution of the transitional government. BBC News reports.

OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

Rebel forces in Tigray have accused the Ethiopian government of launching airstrikes on the Tigrayan city of Mekelle. A spokesperson for the Ethiopian government initially denied the attack, saying “why would the Ethiopian government attack its own city? Mekelle is an ethiopian city.” The state-run Ethiopian Press Agency however subsequently reported that the air force conducted an air strike aimed at communications infrastructure in Mekelle. The infrastructure belonged to the government, but recently fell under the control of the Tigrayan forces. It is believed three civilians were killed in the attack, according to media controlled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Reuters reports.

A roadside bomb exploded near a police bus in southwest Pakistan, killing at least one officer and wounding 17 others. The attack occurred in the city of Quetta, at the gate of the University of Balochistan’s campus in the city. Four civilians were injured in the blast. The provincial counter-terrorism department said the explosives were planted in a motorcycle that was remotely detonated when the truck passed by. No one has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Asad Hashim reports for Al Jazeera.

Iraq has detained the mastermind allegedly behind a deadly 2016 suicide car bombing in a Baghdad shopping center, which killed around 300 people and wounded 250. “Two Iraqi intelligence officials said the man identified as Ghazwan al-Zobai, an Iraqi, was detained during a complex operation that was carried out with the cooperation of a neighboring country they did not name. He had been tracked by authorities for months,” Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports for AP.

Bangladesh has arrested 450 people for attacks and violence against Hindus, Bangladeshi police have said. The arrests follow some of the worst religious unrest for over a decade in the Muslim-majority nation. The violence began last Friday when hundreds of Muslims protested in the southeastern Noakhali district accusing Hindus of a blasphemous photo involving the Quran that was posted on social media. Several Hindu religious sites have been vandalised and homes have been attacked. At least six people have died, local media reported, as police have fought to restrain angry mobs. Reuters reporting.

Hundreds of people have protested in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, calling for an end to the religious violence that has gripped the country since last Friday. Al Jazeera reports.

Turkish prosecutors have ordered the arrest of 158 suspects, including 33 serving soldiers, in an operation targeting people allegedly linked to the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who Turkey says was behind a 2016 failed coup. The investigation, stretching across 41 provinces, was part of a five-year-old crackdown against Gulen’s network. So far 97 people have been detained in the latest operation, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported. Reuters reports.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, declared yesterday that his militant group has 100,000 trained fighters. Nasrallah’s speech, his first since seven people were killed in gun battles on the streets of Beirut last Thursday, appeared to be meant as a deterrent to domestic foes. “It is difficult to verify the 100,000 fighters figure as Hezbollah is largely secretive. If true, it would be larger than the size of Lebanon’s armed forces, estimated at about 85,000,” Sarah El Deeb reports for AP.

The Colombian government is responsible for the kidnapping and rape of a female Colombian journalist in 2000, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has said. Jineth Bedoya, a reporter for El Espectador, a Colombian newspaper, was kidnapped at gunpoint, beaten by a group of men and then gang-raped in May 2000. It took 19 years for three paramilitary leaders to be convicted in Bedoya’s kidnapping and yesterday the Inter-American Court of Human Rights “found the Colombian state responsible for violating Bedoya’s rights, saying it found ‘serious evidence’ of state participation in the attack, which it described as ‘torture.’ The court condemned Colombian officials, saying they delayed the investigation of the kidnapping, did not properly address the threats Bedoya received leading up to the assault and discriminated against the journalist on the basis of her gender,” Samantha Schmidt reports for the Washington Post.

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso has declared a state of emergency to confront drug trafficking and other crimes in Ecuador. Lasso, in a national broadcast last night, said that the military and police would take to the streets to provide security. “There is only one enemy: drug trafficking,” Lasso said, adding that “this is not only reflected in the amount of drugs consumed in our country, but in the number of crimes that today have a direct or indirect relationship with the sale of narcotics.” AP reports.

One hundred days after nationwide demonstrations in Cuba, when dissidents and ordinary citizens turned out in mass to protest the Cuban government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, energy shortages and the economy, the extent of the government and police’s crackdown on the protest is becoming clear. According to a sweeping report released by Human Rights Watch, which provides the most detailed accounting yet of Cuba’s swift shutdown of dissent, many individuals arrested following the protests were subjected to beatings, humiliation and psychological abuse. “Massive sweeps by security forces in the hours and days after the protests saw more than 1,000 people detained. Even now, nearly 500 — the most political prisoners held in Cuba in at least two decades — remain behind bars and locked in murky legal proceedings, according to Cubalex, a nonprofit that has monitored the detentions,” Anthony Faiola and Ana Vanessa Herrero report for the Washington Post.

The attacker who killed five people last week in a town in Norway killed his victims using a “sharp object” and not a bow and arrow as had been widely reported, Norwegian police have announced. “Espen Andersen Brathen, who confessed to the crime, did shoot arrows at people from a hunting bow during part of his attack last Wednesday in the town of Kongsberg, which also wounded at least three people. At some point in the rampage, the police said at a news conference Monday, he discarded the bow. The fatal blows are now said to have been delivered by a stabbing weapon or weapons, which the police did not identify,” Cora Engelbrecht and Henrik Pryser Libell report for the New York Times.

A group of 10 naval vessels from China and Russia sailed through a strait separating Japan’s main island and its northern island of Hokkaido yesterday, the Japanese government has said. “The government is closely watching Chinese and Russian naval vessels’ activities around Japan like this one with high interest,” Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told a regular news conference. Al Jazeera reports.

CORONAVIRUS

The coronavirus has infected over 45.05 million and has now killed over 726,200 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 241.21 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.90 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.



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