US imposes quarantine; Drones with nets; Turkey to Russia: rein in Syria; More nations reject Trump’s Mideast plan; And a bit more.

With the coronavirus death toll at 420 and counting, the U.S. just imposed a federal quarantine for the first time in more than 50 years, the New York Times reports

The quarantine effort involves four U.S. military bases in Texas, California and Colorado that are “preparing to house American citizens for up to two weeks as part of a highly unusual federal effort aimed at slowing the spread” of the virus. The measures stem from a White House order “that as of Sunday afternoon, any American citizen who in the last two weeks had visited the Hubei province, whose capital city is Wuhan, was subject to a quarantine of up to 14 days after arriving in the United States.”

The military sites include Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas; Fort Carson, Colo.; and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. More from the Defense Department, here.

So far, “The only people under federal quarantine were fewer than 200 people who had been in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and were flown to a base in Riverside, Calif., last week,” the Times reported Monday. 

For the record, “The federal government has the power to declare a quarantine under the 1944 Public Health Service Act, an authority that derives from the commerce clause of the Constitution,” the Times notes. “But the federal government’s quarantine authority is effectively limited to people coming into the country at the border, and it has rarely been exercised.” As a part of the effort, “Customs and Border Protection officers have “been told to question travelers upon their arrival at some airports and comb through a travel history database to determine if they were in China.”

Meanwhile in China, Hong Kong reported its first death, Macau is closing its casinos, and movement has been severely restricted in a technology hub near Shanghai, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Some groceries are price-gouging. One supermarket was fined $70,000 for charging $9 for a head of cabbage. More from the New York Times, here, and WSJ, here.

Johns Hopkins has a coronavirus dashboard, updated with each new case.

Economic impacts seem to be at least temporarily easing, WSJ reports. But the “clock is ticking for U.S. companies that depend on China imports,” like auto manufacturers as well as producers of TV and laptop monitors, AP reports.


From Defense One

Under Trump, US Is Less Ready for Infectious Disease Outbreaks Like Coronavirus // Linda J. Bilmes, The Conversation: The administration has cut CDC funding and disbanded the White House’s own global health security team.

The Pentagon Is Spending Millions on Hunter Drones With Nets // Patrick Tucker: Shooting drones down over cities isn’t ideal. Nabbing them in midair is an intriguing alternative.

Iraq Is the One War Zone Trump Doesn’t Want to Leave / Kathy Gilsinan: The president’s resistance to withdrawing from the country boils down to three of his main enemies: ISIS, Iran, and Obama.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1945: day one of the Yalta Conference began, wherein U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin met in Crimea to sketch out the future of post-war Europe. The occasion would span eight days and involve meetings at three different Russian palaces.


Happening this evening: POTUS45 is scheduled to deliver the annual State of the Union address on Capitol Hill. The Wall Street Journal reports President Trump’s speech will be an “optimistic” one, “in contrast to the outrage he frequently expresses on the campaign trail and on social media over the investigations that have dogged him for much of his presidency.” 
The theme of the speech: “The Great American Comeback,” which is intended to reflect a “booming U.S. economy” under Trump. More behind the paywall, here. Or read AP’s preview, here.

Turkey wants Russia to “rein in” Syrian regime forces who fired on Turkish troops on Monday in northwestern Syria, AP reports from Ankara. If you’re just catching up, “The assault on the Turkish troops came amid a Syrian government offensive that has been advancing since December into the country’s last rebel stronghold, which spans Idlib province and parts of the nearby Aleppo region. Turkish troops are deployed in some of those rebel-held areas to monitor an earlier cease-fire that has since collapsed.”
Said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu today in Ankara: “I told my counterpart Sergei Lavrov that the regime was carrying out provocative attacks on our observations posts around Idlib, that we will retaliate if they continue this, and that they need to stop the regime as soon as possible… We also don’t accept the excuse of ‘we cannot fully control the regime’ here,” he added.
Turkey has a dozen observation posts set up in the area around Idlib. And while some of those are reportedly surrounded by Syrian regime troops, a Turkish official tells Reuters today Turkey has no plans to abandon any of those OPs. 

The Taliban accuse the U.S. of delaying peace talks for Afghanistan, Reuters reports from Kabul. “Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said issues from the American end, including a tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump halting the signing of an agreement last year, were the reason for challenges in the peace process.”
For the U.S. part, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that Washington needed “demonstrable evidence” of a reduction in violence before proceeding. Tiny bit more, here

One day after Muslim nations rejected President Trump’s Mideast plan (AP reporting from Dubai on Monday), the EU has now rejected the plan as well, Reuters reports today from Brussels. 
In Dubai, it was the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation that called the White House’s approach “biased” against Palestinians. According to the group, Jared Kushner’s plan “lacks the minimum requirements of justice and destroys the foundations of peace.”
Worth noting: “While the public rebukes by the 22-nation Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation reflect public sentiment among Arabs and Muslims,” AP writes, “neither group called for concrete actions to be taken by its member states.” 
In Brussels today, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell released a statement saying, “To build a just and lasting peace, the unresolved final status issues must be decided through direct negotiations between both parties,” that is, Israelis and Palestinians. “The U.S. initiative, as presented on 28 January, departs from these internationally agreed parameters.” More from Reuters, here.

  • Extra reading: “In blessing annexation, Trump erodes an international norm,” AP’s Tamer Fakahany writes separately in an explainer that looks at “some of the most striking cases of annexation and how they have lasted or been reversed.” 

North Macedonia could join NATO as soon as next month, President Stevo Pendarovski said today during a visit to Warsaw. “The last NATO member that needs to ratify the accession is Spain,” Reuters reports, “and Pendarovski said he expected that Madrid will be ready to do so next month.” 

More unfortunate news from U.S. troops who spent time at Karshi-Khanabad, Uzbekistan: “The last government count, done by the Army in 2015, was that 61 service members who had been at K2 were diagnosed with cancer,” McClatchy’s Tara Copp reports. Since the story has come to light, a growing number of veterans think they may have developed cancer from traveling through K2 — 310 different veterans, Copp reports. “Some of those K2 veterans will be in Washington this week, looking for help from Congress,” she writes. Read on, here.

And finally today: After 18 months of negotiations in Yemen, the first humanitarian flight out of the Houthi-held capital city has departed for medical assistance in Jordan, the New York Times reported Monday from Cairo. “The seven people onboard the flight require urgent treatment for life-threatening conditions, such as kidney transplants, aid officials said. An additional 23 Yemenis, most of them women and children, are expected to follow by the end of the week on flights to Jordan and Egypt.”
Why this matters: It’s one small positive indicator. “Fighting in Yemen has eased for much of the past six months as Saudi officials have engaged in back-channel talks with the Houthi rebels who control most of northern Yemen, including Sana, with the apparent goal of moving toward peace talks.” However, there’s been “a sharp escalation in violence over the past week, including a wave of Saudi-led airstrikes and heavy Houthi shelling, has complicated the Yemen talks and quelled hopes for an early settlement.”
Get to better know the roots of this conflict in our award-winning #LongRead and podcast on how Yemen became a “chaos state” here and here, respectively.

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