As Taliban Attack, Esper and Milley Downplay ‘Mixed’ Results of Peace Deal | Defense One


Defense Secretary Mark Esper acknowledged to Congress that the “results have been mixed” in the four days since the United States inked a peace deal with the Taliban, which has conducted at least 76 deadly attacks on Afghan forces since Saturday.

In a Senate hearing, Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley downplayed the increase in violence, with Milley calling them “small, low-level attacks” that were within the boundaries of the agreement.

Source: As Taliban Attack, Esper and Milley Downplay ‘Mixed’ Results of Peace Deal – Defense One

Understanding China’s ‘preventive repression’ in Xinjiang


The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) crackdown on Uighur and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has attracted intense scrutiny and polarized the international community. At least 1 million people, maybe as many as 1.5 million, have been detained in a large network of recently constructed camps, where they undergo forced reeducation and political indoctrination.

These developments have shaped not only Chinese domestic politics but also international politics and debate. Chinese authorities have put pressure on Uighur diaspora networks, increasing surveillance and pressuring other countries in which Uighurs live to repatriate them to China.

Source: Understanding China’s ‘preventive repression’ in Xinjiang

Lawmakers grill Mnuchin on Treasury’s cyber sanctions | FCW


Lawmakers pressed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a Mar. 4 House Appropriations Committee hearing about how effective the department’s financial sanctions against other nations for conducting cyberattacks were in deterring future behavior and how it was defining their success.

“If a sanction is enforced upon another foreign entity, how does that restore or make whole the U.S. entity?” asked Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) at the hearing. He also asked Mnuchin if he’s noticed “any sizable positive impact on the reduction of breach attempts on U.S. companies” as a result.

Mnuchin said sanctions are “just one of the many tools” the U.S. government uses to help protect federal and private IT infrastructure.

Source: Lawmakers grill Mnuchin on Treasury’s cyber sanctions — FCW

Lawmakers vent over slow telecom transition | FCW


Leaders of a House panel hammered the General Services Administration’s official in charge of its $50 billion, next-generation telecommunications contract, demanding answers about which agencies aren’t keeping up with the plan to migrate to it.

“We really have to put the pressure” on agencies that haven’t kept up with multiple deadlines to implement GSA’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract, Rep. Mark Meadow (R-N.C.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations, said in a March 4 hearing.

“I’m tired of talking. I want the three worst offenders for missed milestones — who’s responsible?” he demanded of Bill Zielinski, assistant commissioner, information technology category at GSA, during the hearing on some of the agency’s IT projects.

Source: Lawmakers vent over slow telecom transition — FCW

Mexican private sector pitches $92 billion in energy investment | Reuters


Mexico’s private sector has drawn up a broad package of proposed energy investments for the government worth almost $92 billion, according to a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday, providing a potential lift to the country’s misfiring economy.

With 275 projects from 2020 to 2024 encompassing everything from power generation, storage and transportation to exploration and production of natural gas, the 1.787 trillion peso ($91.5 billion) package could significantly influence the government’s national energy plan, which is due to be presented soon.

Source: Exclusive: Mexican private sector pitches $92 billion in energy investment – document – Reuters

OPEC backs biggest oil cut since 2008 crisis, awaits Russia | Reuters


OPEC agreed on Thursday to cut oil output by an extra 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in the second quarter of 2020 to support prices that have been hit by the coronavirus outbreak, but made its action conditional on Russia and others joining in.

The oil demand outlook has been pummelled by global measures to halt the spread of the virus, prompting the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to consider its deepest cut since the 2008 financial crisis.

Source: OPEC backs biggest oil cut since 2008 crisis, awaits Russia – Reuters

Before coronavirus, China bungled swine epidemic with secrecy | Reuters


When the deadly virus was first discovered in China, authorities told the people in the know to keep quiet or else. Fearing reprisal from Beijing, local officials failed to order tests to confirm outbreaks and didn’t properly warn the public as the pathogen spread death around the country.

All this happened long before China’s coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed more than 3,000 lives worldwide in less than three months. For the past 19 months, secrecy has hobbled the nation’s response to African swine fever, an epidemic that has killed millions of pigs.

A Reuters examination has found that swine fever’s swift spread was made possible by China’s systemic under-reporting of outbreaks. And even today, bureaucratic secrecy and perverse policy incentives continue undermining Chinese efforts to defeat one of the worst livestock epidemics in modern history.

Beijing’s secretive early handling of the coronavirus epidemic has troubling similarities to its missteps in containing African swine fever, but with the far higher stakes of a human infection.

Source: Special Report: Before coronavirus, China bungled swine epidemic with secrecy – Reuters

Judges say investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan can proceed | Reuters


The decision, which comes days after the United States agreed to pull its troops from the long-running conflict, overturns a lower court decision and opens the way for prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to launch a full investigation, despite U.S. government opposition.

“The Appeals chamber considers it appropriate to…authorize the investigation,” said presiding Judge Piotr Hofmanski, noting that Bensouda’s preliminary examination had found reasonable grounds to believe war crimes were committed in Afghanistan and that the court has jurisdiction.

Afghanistan is a member of the Hague-based court, though the United States is not and U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration imposed travel restrictions and other sanctions against ICC employees a year ago.

Source: Judges say investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan can proceed – Reuters

Coronavirus | Live Events | Reuters

California declares emergency over coronavirus as death toll rises in U.S.

The U.S. death toll from coronavirus infections rose to 11 on Wednesday as new cases emerged around New York City and Los Angeles, while Seattle-area health officials discouraged social gatherings amid the nation’s largest outbreak.

Source: Coronavirus | Live Events | Reuters

Coronavirus death toll jumps to 107 in Italy, all schools shut | Reuters


Italy closed all schools and universities and took other emergency measures on Wednesday to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Europe’s worst-hit country as the death toll and number of cases jumped.

The total number of dead in Italy rose to 107 after 28 people died of the highly contagious virus over the past 24 hours, the Civil Protection Agency said.

Source: Coronavirus death toll jumps to 107 in Italy, all schools shut – Reuters