The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 61

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, April 22nd, 2024

Good morning everyone,

Let’s jump right in today.

In Europe, France recalls its ambassador to Azerbaijan, a Russian Scientist is convicted on charges of treason, and a member of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) appears in court.

Over in the Middle East, Hamas calls for escalations in the West Bank, Qatar reconsiders its role as a mediator in Gaza, and Hezbollah and Israel clash once again.

Meanwhile, in Africa, the UK’s Rwanda plan may finally come to fruition, and the UN hosts a fundraiser for operations in Ethiopia.

In the Americas, widespread protests shake Colombia, Argentine Senators give choose to double their pay, and a suspect in an assault case on two US Embassy personnel is extradited to the US.

In Asia and Oceania, North Korea launches more advanced missiles, the US Secretary of State is traveling to China, and Japan launches a search for two downed helicopters.

All in all, it’s just another day at the office. Let's dive in:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, Trent Barr, & the Atlas team

Analysis: The TikTok Bill and the US Constitution

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) walks through the U.S. capitol building as U.S. Senate attempted to pass legislation to ban TikTok in 2022 (Photo - Getty Images/Anna Moneymaker)

April 19th, 2024: (4 Minute Read) Ever since Rep. Mike Gallagher (WI-8) introduced H.R. 7521—formally known as Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act and informally known as the “the bill to ‘ban’ TikTok”—early last month, there has been a whirlwind of responses: United States Senator Tom Thillis received a voicemail threatening his life if he voted in favor of the bill; President Joe Biden has signaled that he plans to sign the proposed legislation into law; mega-donors have threatened to cut off funding to any candidates that vote in favor of the bill; and former president Donald Trump has done an about-face, and now says he is against a TikTok “ban.”

The majority of the commotion was primarily spurred on by two concerns: the Bill violates the First Amendment rights of United States citizens; and the Bill broadly increases the President’s power, which could enable them to use their new-found power against other media companies that they deem as controlled by a foreign adversary.

The debate surrounding H.R. 7521—which aims to divest Chinese entity ownership in TikTok—and the concerns raised are justified. However, upon closer examination of the Bill’s language, and the precedents in similar statutes and judicial interpretations reveal that H.R. 7521 is consistent with the United States Constitution and is crucial for safeguarding our national security interests.

The first primary concern raised is whether H.R. 7521 infringes upon the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech. It is crucial to note that the First Amendment prohibits Congress from “abridging the freedom of speech,” but does not prevent the regulation of non-expressive conduct, including conduct that falls into the realm of “economic activity.” H.R. 7521 falls into the latter category as it regulates conduct—the ownership and control of a platform—rather than restricting speech directly. This distinction is significant as it means that the First Amendment likely does not apply directly to the Bill per Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc. (2011).

Even if one were to argue that the First Amendment is implicated, the Bill would have to face our most demanding constitutional test, strict scrutiny. This means that in order to pass, the government must show that the law serves a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Given the precision of the Bill’s language and that it is necessary to combat a pervasive national security threat, it would likely pass the strictest of scrutiny. Moreover, per United States ex rel. Turner v. Williams (1904), ByteDance Ltd.—the foreign entity primarily regulated by H.R. 7521—lacks First Amendment rights, further supporting the constitutionality of the Bill’s provisions.

The second concern surrounding the increased authority vested in the President by H.R. 7521, and their ability to designate applications as foreign adversary controlled stems from a misunderstanding of the Bill’s language. H.R. 7521 clearly defines who the foreign adversaries are: China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. Additionally, the phrase “subject to the direction or control” in the Bill is often misinterpreted to encompass vague influence or alignment with foreign interests, contrary to its plain meaning and legal precedent. The phrase, as used in similar statutes and judicial interpretations—i.e. United States v. Rafiekian (4th Cir. 2021), Attorney General v. Irish People, Ind. (1986), 18 U.S.C. § 951, 22 U.S.C. § 611, etc.—requires an actual, binding relationship akin to a traditional agent-principal relationship, where an entity is obliged to follow foreign instructions.

Congress has repeatedly used this phrase in statutes including, but not limited to, regulating agents of foreign governments and entities providing material support to terrorism. In these contexts, the phrase has been consistently interpreted to require more than mere alignment or agreement with foreign interests. Courts have ruled that individuals or entities must be subject and obedient to foreign government commands. 18 U.S.C. § 2339B(h) explicitly states that “Individuals who act entirely independently of the foreign organization to advance its goals or objectives shall not be considered to be working under the foreign organization’s direction and control.” (Emphasis added)

Applying these principles to H.R. 7521, it becomes clear that the Bill’s provisions align with established legal interpretations and statutes. The limited authorization given to the President regarding foreign adversary-controlled applications does not constitute broad, sweeping powers akin to a “digital PATRIOT Act” like some of H.R. 7521’s detractors say. On the contrary, according to Sinologist Bill Bishop, it provides a narrow, practical approach to addressing a national security threat and is well within the authority vested in the executive branch.

Lastly, a scenario like this has already played out in recent history, specifically with the dating app Grindr. In 2016, Chinese company Kunlun Tech Co. Ltd bought a majority stake in Grindr. After a slew of data leaks, unethical uses of data, and privacy violations of users, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) stepped in. CFIUS, which is chaired by the secretary of the Treasury, has the ability to scrutinize (and reject) foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies that it thinks pose a threat to American security. And it did just this in 2020 by encouraging a “conscious uncoupling” under the auspices of the potential national security threats the app could pose if it remained in Chinese hands (keep in mind that in China there’s no such thing as a private company, thus all companies are compelled by law to comply with the Chinese Communist Party). In March 2020, Kunlun sold its 98.59% stake in Grindr to the U.S.-based company San Vicente Acquisition LLC.

In conclusion, is TikTok a pernicious threat? Absolutely. However, we can’t simply sidestep the Constitution when we deem something to be a dangerous threat. That said, H.R. 7521 is specifically tailored to ensure that constitutional principles are upheld while helping to protect our national security interests from our foreign adversaries. Its regulation of non-expressive conduct, clear criteria for foreign adversary designation, and adherence to established legal interpretations and precedents demonstrate its constitutionality. By addressing critical concerns regarding foreign influence and control of digital platforms, H.R. 7521 strengthens the United States’ ability to safeguard its democratic values and security in the modern age, and therefore should be passed and signed into law ASAP.


April 16th, 2024 - France has recalled its ambassador to Azerbaijan amidst deteriorating relations with the nation. French President Emmanuel Macron claimed Azerbaijan had taken “unilateral actions damaging to the relationship between our two countries” and recalled Ambassador Anne Boillon in order to discuss the situation. Relations between Azerbaijan and France have suffered extensively in the last few months, particularly since Azerbaijan seized full control of the separatist region of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) in September of 2023. The Azeri seizure of Artsakh prompted the exodus of virtually all of the region’s 120,000 Armenians, which was subject to strong criticism from France. Since then, the senates of both France and Azerbaijan have called for sanctions to be implemented on the other, and France has grown significantly closer, both politically and militarily, to Armenia.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan pictured with French President Emmanuel Macron (Photo from

April 18th, 2024 - A Russian scientist who previously worked on hypersonic missiles has been sentenced to seven years in a maximum-security prison on Thursday, following his original arrest in 2021. Alexander Kuranov worked as the general director of a government research facility that specialized in the development of hypersonic missiles. Kuranov oversaw the development of such weapons, which eventually led him to sell information regarding the production and development of hypersonic missiles by an undisclosed foreign national. However, Russian authorities would arrest Kuranov in 2021, charging the scientist with treason and espionage. This conviction follows a broad trend of Russian scientists being arrested on similar charges, with the government recording that 39 people were convicted on charges of treason.

April 18th, 2024 - Björn Höcke, a member of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party who is currently running for office in Thuringia, made his first court appearance on charges of using a banned Nazi slogan. Höcke used the slogan “Alles für Deutschland,” or “Everything for Germany,” to end a fiery campaign speech in 2021. The phrase is banned under Germany’s Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code) alongside a variety of other symbols and phrases deemed to have been used by extremist groups, including fascist, communist, and Islamic extremist organizations. Both Höcke and his lawyer claim that he was unaware that the slogan was illegal. Höcke doubled down in a heated debate with CDU rival Mario Voigt. If convicted, Höcke can either be fined or imprisoned for a maximum of three years and be barred from holding office, which would force the politician to drop out of the Thuringia Landtag race.

Middle East

April 17th, 2024 - Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani has announced that Qatar is reconsidering its role in Gaza negotiations. The PM’s announcement came after negotiations being held in Doha, Qatar, had reportedly stalled as both Hamas and Israel reiterated points they deemed necessary and points the other side deemed unacceptable. Hamas has called for a permanent ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. In turn, Israel demands the ceasefire only be temporary, being determined to “destroy Hamas” in its entirety. As such, Israel proposes a six-week ceasefire, a proposal that Hamas denied. PM Sheikh Mohammed claimed that certain participants in negotiations were using Qatar’s mediation for their own “narrow political interest.”

Qatari PM/FM Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, pictured in 2017 (Photo from the US State Department).

April 17th, 2024 - The IDF reported that 14 of its soldiers were injured, six of which critically, in an attack by Hezbollah on the town of Arab al-Aramshe in northern Israel. The attack was carried out by a missile and a drone. Notably, the drone impacted before any raid sirens had gone off. The IDF responded just 41 minutes later, by striking Hezbollah targets in Aita al-Shaab, Lebanon. Arab al-Aramshe has been attacked by Hezbollah on several occasions. As such, the town was evacuated of its civilian population several months ago. The strike, particularly notable due to the higher amount of casualties amongst the IDF stationed there, comes amidst heightened tensions between the IDF and Hezbollah, tensions that have been steadily escalating since Hamas’ October 7th attack on Israel.

April 15th, 2024 - Hamas released a statement calling for “escalating popular anger” in the West Bank after two Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli West Bank settlers amidst clashes nearby the city of Nablus. It is unclear how the altercation began, but they ended with the two Palestinians being killed and another three having been injured. Palestinian sources further claimed that the settlers blocked ambulances from reaching those who were injured in the incident. Clashes in the West Bank have become increasingly frequent as of late, with gangs of Israeli settlers attacking Palestinian towns on numerous occasions. A number of buildings and vehicles have been set on fire during the attacks. Attacks further escalated after April 12th, when a 14 year old Israeli boy was reported to have been kidnapped. He was found dead the next day in a Palestinian area of the West Bank, and is presumed to have been murdered. Israeli authorities pledged to find whoever was responsible for the murder.


April 22nd, 2024 - British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stated that the UK’s “Safety of Rwanda” bill will pass today as the House of Commons and House of Lords convene tonight to vote on the bill. PM Sunak said the vote will take place today “no matter how late it goes,” after saying that “enough is enough.” The PM’s words come after repeated delays in passing the bill, which will allow the government to fulfill its plan of deporting illegal migrants and illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda. Notably, the PM also made the claim that flights to Rwanda would take off in “10-12 weeks.” This is outside of the PM’s initial promise that flights would take off by Spring, meaning his promise has been broken. While that represents yet another defeat for PM Sunak’s Conservative government, passing the bill would represent a victory at a time when one is desperately needed. The Conservatives are trailing behind the Labour Party by more than 20 points in polls, meaning it is very likely that PM Sunak is going to lose the UK’s upcoming election. The Safety of Rwanda bill seeks to establish Rwanda as a ‘safe’ country under UK law, after previous legal challenges to the plan had established that the UK could not send migrants to Rwanda on the grounds it was not a ‘safe’ country. The plan was announced over two years ago, and has faced continuous legal challenges that have grounded flights. As such, no migrants have left the UK under the plan. Originally, the plan was created in an attempt to deter small boat crossings of migrants across the English Channel. Notably, as the plan is finally coming to fruition, 2024 is set to be the busiest year on record for small boat crossings into the UK.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Rwandan President Paul Kagame pictured at 10 Downing Street in London, the UK (Photo from Paul Kagame on instagram).

April 18th, 2024 - The UN hosted a fundraiser in an attempt to garner funds for its humanitarian operations in Ethiopia. The fundraiser, hosted in Switzerland, received donations from 20 different nations, including the EU. The UN had set out a short-term goal of 1 billion USD in order to address its immediate needs over the next several months. For the year, they will require approximately $3.24 billion in order to address all of their needs for their operations in Ethiopia. However, they fell short of both goals, only raising $600 million USD. The US was the top donor, pledging $243 million. The UN was seeking to expand their services of "life-saving assistance" to 15.5 million people and food aid to 10.4 million people. Ethiopia is suffering extensively from years of conflict, drought, and now floods that have created a dire situation for many, in particular in Tigray and Amhara, in the north of the country.

The Americas

April 21st, 2024 - Hundreds of thousands of protestors clad in white t-shirts took to the streets on Sunday of some of Colombia’s largest cities in opposition to recent policies and reforms introduced by President Gustavo Petro. Protestors included healthcare workers, opposition leaders, and social activists all joined together in opposition to the president’s healthcare and pension reforms alongside Petro’s controversial “total peace” policy, intended to bring an end to the nearly 60 year long internal struggle that has left hundreds of thousands dead. Protestors in Bogotá were joined by members of the Transporter’s Guild who arrived in an estimated 150 semi-trucks and 80 special service buses. These new arrivals demanded that Petro's government address a number of concerns relating to the welfare and safety of workers in the field. They spoke against Petro’s “total peace” plan, criticizing the peace deals granted to armed guerillas such as the FARC and the ELN, a criticism which a number of other protestors similarly levied against the president. The protest was peaceful, and ended without any reported damages or need for forced dispersion.

Thousands converged on Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá to protest against President Gustavo Petro’s reforms.

April 18th, 2024 - Argentine senators passed a bill to double their monthly salary in a bill which originally covered ambassador appointments and international treaties on Thursday. The ruling party, the Libertarian Party, did not vote in favor of the bill, with the bill being proposed following recent discussions once the assembly learned of the pay increase afforded to the Spokesman for the Presidency turned Secretary of State, Manuel Adorni, who saw a $200,000 increase in pay, according to La Nacion. After the assembly learned this news, they began their plan to increase the pay of senators during a Parliamentary Labor meeting with the motion passing later in the day, increasing their monthly salary from $1.7 million pesos to $4.1 million, resulting in a gross yearly salary of $7 million, far exceeding the pay of reigning President Javier Milei and is set to take effect in July. Following the pay increase, the right-wing coalition, La Libertad Avanza, which is led by President Milei, proposed a separate bill in order to cut this pay increase on Friday, following concerns expressed by Milei. La Libertad was joined by fellow right-wing party, Republican Proposal (PRO), which stated that they would begin the process of reversing the salary increase.

April 17th, 2024 - The National Central Bureau of the International Police (Interpol) in the Chilean capital of Santiago extradited a Colombian citizen to the United States on Wednesday on charges related to the kidnapping and robbery of two US Embassy employees in Bogotá, Colombia's capital. Pedro José Silva Ochoa was a member of a gang that specialized in kidnapping individuals in what has been termed "millionaire rides," wherein attackers will kidnap victims, drive them to an ATM, and force the victim to withdraw money, where they then violently beat the victim before fleeing the scene. After Silva Ochoa kidnapped two members of the United States Army stationed at the embassy, the United States launched an official investigation into the attack, locating Silva Ochoa after he used one of the victim’s phones to call their family. US authorities pinpointed Silva Ochoa in Santiago, where the Colombian fled in 2021.

Asia and Oceania

April 20th, 2024 - North Korea has tested a “super-large warhead” for a “strategic cruise missile,” as well as a new Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system, as reported by state-run media. The Korean Central News Agency said the missiles were tested over the Yellow Sea. North Korea’s Missile Admiration claimed the super large warhead is designated for the “Hwasal-1 Ra-3,” a strategic cruise missile. The SAM system tested is referred to as the “Pyoljji-1-2.”Specifications or details for either missile systems are currently not known. South Korean military officials claimed they detected both missiles flying toward the Yellow Sea around 3:30 p.m. local time and are currently attempting to analyze the specifications of both missiles.

A photo of a North Korean cruise missile launch in 2023. (Photo - KCNA via EPA)

April 20th, 2024 - The U.S. Department of State announced that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on April 24-26. He will meet senior Chinese officials in Shanghai and Beijing to “discuss a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues” according to the announcement. The announcement also states that, key talking points are going to be: The crisis in the Middle East, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “cross-Strait issues” (Taiwan), and the South China Sea. The issues in the Middle East and Ukraine could possibly divest American attention away from China. Increased cooperation between the U.S. and China on these issues likely helps increase diplomatic ties and it also likely entangles China with these issues.

April 21st, 2024 - A search is underway near the Izu Islands, east of Torishima, Japan, for two Japanese SH-60Ks that went down during nighttime training. The helicopters were carrying four crew members each and were conducting Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) training when they lost contact around 10:38 p.m. local time. While the official cause of the crash is unknown, Defense Minister Minoru Kihara stated that it is “highly likely” the helicopters collided before hitting the water. Search and rescue efforts involve at least 12 warships and multiple aircraft. Rescuers have already found one crewmember who was pronounced dead. They’ve also recovered the flight data recorder, a blade from each helicopter, and fragments from both helicopters.

To access all the benefits of an Atlas News subscription, sign in or subscribe.

Thanks for reading.

Join the fastest-growing news company in the world. Covering geopolitics, conflict, terrorism, crime, business, wall-street, underreported stories, and places in the world you've never heard of. Comments, twitter-style brief updates, long-form articles, full podcasts, and documentaries. Join 30,000+ members today on the Atlas News App.

Atlas News

What do you think of todays Atlas Newsletter?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.


If you'd like to get involved in anyway with Atlas News, please reach out to us with your experience or ideas. If you're a solid fit, we'll be in touch. – The Atlas News Team

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2022 Atlas News.1