Decades of Lax Rules Enable Train Disasters | The Polarized Pandemic | ‘The Last of Us’ May Already Be Here, and more

Squeezed by Investigations, Trump Escalates Violent Rhetoric  (Mike Lillis, The Hill)
Under increasing pressure from state and federal investigators, former President Trump escalated his violent rhetoric this week, heightening tensions as prosecutors weigh whether to bring criminal charges and sparking sharp criticism from Democrats, who are warning of another Jan. 6.
In several social media posts over the past two days, Trump appeared to threaten Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) with a baseball bat and warned any indictments brought against him may lead to “potential death & destruction” around the country.
The messages were remarkably direct, even for a figure with a long history of promoting violence, and they’ve led to new warnings from Trump’s critics that the former president is aggravating partisan hostilities and inflaming national unrest.
Trump asserted that he broke no law, and that no charges should be brought against him.
“Why & who would do such a thing [bring charges]? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely [sic] hates the USA!”

Far-Right Activists Wary of “Trap” after Trump Calls for Protests  (Gram Slattery, Reuters)
Former President Donald Trump’s call to supporters to protest what he said was his imminent arrest provoked conspiracy-fueled debate on far-right social media platforms on Monday, with some supporters fearing an elaborate government trap to arrest them.
Trump said on his Truth Social platform on Saturday he expected to be arrested this week for alleged hush money payments to a porn star during the 2016 presidential campaign and urged supporters to “protest, take our nation back!”
Critics worried his comments could provoke a repeat of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, when his supporters tried to overturn his 2020 presidential election defeat.
Security analysts who monitor far-right chatter on social media, said initially the impulse of Trump’s followers was to heed his call and hit the streets. But by Monday, the tone had shifted, according to the analysts and messages on several social media platforms examined by Reuters.
Many far-right grassroots activists appeared to see Trump’s possible arrest in the coming days as part of a trap set by Democrats to lure supporters into a riot that will ultimately hurt the Republican former president’s chances of winning back the White House in 2024 from Democratic President Joe Biden.

Cyber Warfare is Upon Us: Why the Next Generation of ‘War Games’ so Important  (Avishai Avivi, Infosecurity)
After September 11, 2001, the nature of modern warfare and the way we think about our enemies changed. Up to that point, the enemy was generally a nation-state or a subset of a nation-state. After 9/11, the loosely organized terror cells responsible for the attacks became the main targets, wherever they were based geographically.

Infectious Disease as a Security Threat: A Mental Framework for Future Emergency Preparedness  (Ryan Scott Houser, Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management)
The emergence of COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on human lives as well as economic and social stability. The United States has a complicated history with biosecurity. The September 11th terror attacks uncovered various weaknesses in the national biosecurity infrastructure that have persisted into the current pandemic. This study explores the implications of framing the infectious disease biothreat as a security threat to improve our capabilities while protecting against the potential accelerated threat of bioterrorism in the post-COVID-19 era. To counter the increasing biothreats, the United States must invest in revamping the biodefense infrastructure to increase our resilience to various biothreats.

OK, But Where Will the Next Pandemic Come From?  (Angela Kane and Jaime Yassif, The Hill)
As questions about the source of the COVID-19 pandemic grabbed headlines once again, a critical question is being ignored: How do we figure out the origins of the next pandemic? And there will be a next one. Can we put systems in place now to tackle this challenge and support a more rapid, effective response? 
Assessing the origins of a pandemic is a difficult but critically important task. Done correctly, such an assessment can provide information to inform the public health response and curtail the pathogen’s spread. In the event of a deliberate outbreak or accident, it can help us understand what happened so we can close dangerous biosecurity and biosafety gaps. Having a credible capability to discern pandemic origins is also essential for preventing future human-caused high-consequence biological events by signaling to malicious actors that they are likely to get caught if they attempt to carry out a bioweapons attack.
While the politics surrounding an outbreak cannot be ignored, the international community needs to get better at conducting evidence-based assessments of pandemic origins, in order to minimize and deflect the most polarizing voices in favor of objective scientific analysis. Nearly 7 million deaths from COVID-19 worldwide prove the stakes are high. 

The Polarized Pandemic  (David P. Fidler, Think Global Health)
COVID-19 will be remembered as the polarized pandemic that cast a divisive shadow on U.S. public health, domestic politics, and foreign policy.

The Real Horrors of ‘The Last of Us’ May Already Be Here  (Eric English, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)
The Last of Us, HBO’s latest prestige drama about a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested America. It’s noteworthy that within the first half of the episode, the main character encounters someone who is faced with a moral choice. He had just saved a father and his daughter from a zombie; the daughter is visibly injured but it’s unclear what the source was. Should he let them pass and hope they’re not infected? Will that risk the safety of non-infected populations if they are, indeed, infected? Ultimately, he is ordered to shoot them in the hopes of serving the greater good.
These questions will reverberate throughout the show and are typical of the storytelling style of The Last of Us. On its face, it’s a fairly boilerplate zombie apocalypse show, focused on survival. But looking a little deeper, it’s clear the show has a great deal to say about our modern political moment. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories tend to reflect the social fears and anxieties of their time and can be useful metaphors for broader understanding. After three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that a post-apocalypse zombie story has had such a strong reception. As Daniel Drezner, the preeminent zombie scholar, explains, “Popular culture often provides a window into the subliminal or unstated fears of citizens, and zombies are no exception.”

We’ve Lost the Aqueduct”: How Severe Flooding Threatens a Los Angeles Water Lifeline  (Louis Sahgun, Los Angeles Times)
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is struggling to maintain the city’s Eastern Sierra aqueduct amid continued flooding from snowmelt.

Six Oath Keepers Convicted in Connection with January 6 U.S. Capitol Riot  (Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, CNN)
Six people affiliated with the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia, were convicted Monday of various charges related to the January 6, 2021, US Capitol insurrection.