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On a recount, a single vote turns the balance of power in Virginia’s legislature. A Republican media monitoring firm cancels its contract with the Environmental Protection Agency after reports of its links to a GOP opposition research firm that filed Freedom of Information Act requests for communications from EPA staffers who had been critical of the Trump administration or the EPA administrator. The writer Ta-Nehisi Coates deletes his Twitter account, with more than 1.25 million followers, after a posted critique by Harvard philosopher Cornel West sparks online sparring among the two thinkers’ supporters. -Dru Menaker, Chief Operating Officer

The most pressing threats and notable goings-on in free expression today


A single vote leads to a rare tie for control of the Virginia legislature
The balance of power in Virginia’s legislature turned on a single vote in a recount that flipped a seat in the House of Delegates from Republican to Democratic, leaving control of the lower chamber evenly split.

GOP firm ends controversial media monitoring contract with EPA
The Republican media monitoring firm Definers Public Affairs canceled its $120,000 contract with the Environmental Protection Agency after a media backlash because of the company’s links to GOP opposition research firm America Rising.

Ta-Nehisi Coates Deletes Twitter Account Amid Feud With Cornel West
Twitter feuds claimed another high-profile casualty when the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates deleted his account after sparring with the Harvard philosopher Cornel West. On Sunday, West published an article in The Guardian calling Coates “the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle,” and accusing him of “fetishizing white supremacy” while ignoring “Wall Street greed, U.S. imperial crimes, or black elite indifference to poverty.”

Iowa Supreme Court justice lifts ‘prior restraint’ order against Des Moines Register
An Iowa Supreme Court justice lifted a highly unusual order prohibiting the Des Moines Register from publishing information it obtained from court records. The order pertains to court records that include information related to Jaysen McCleary, an Iowa-licensed lawyer now living in Montana who asked several judges to seal public records in various court proceedings where he has acted as either the plaintiff or an attorney.

Myanmar says probe of two Reuters journalists almost finished, court case to follow
A spokesman for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said he had been informed that the police had almost completed their investigation of two Reuters journalists arrested over a week ago, after which a court case against them would begin.

Reporter shot to death at school Christmas party was 10th journalist killed in Mexico this year
Attackers burst into an elementary school where a Christmas party was taking place and shot reporter Gumaro Perez to death, making him at least the 10th journalist slain in Mexico this year in what observers have called a crisis of freedom of expression.

China’s stealthy holiday crackdowns
The Chinese government has a long history of sentencing free expression activists or ramping up censorship while observers in leading democracies are distracted with major holidays. This year may be no different.

Twelve Days in Xinjiang: How China’s Surveillance State Overwhelms Daily Life
Security checkpoints with identification scanners guard the train station and roads in and out of town. Facial scanners track comings and goings at hotels, shopping malls, and banks. Police use hand-held devices to search smartphones for encrypted chat apps, politically charged videos, and other suspect content. To fill up with gas, drivers must first swipe their ID cards and stare into a camera.

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