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Big Brother News Watch

Dec 06, 2021

NYC Indoor Vaccine Mandate Expanded to Cover Kids Ages 5-11 + More

Vaccine Requirement for Kids to Enter NYC Restaurants Among Strict New COVID Restrictions

Newsweek reported:

New York City will require proof of coronavirus vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 to enter restaurants, gyms, theaters and other places. Beginning Dec. 14, children between 5 and 11 will have to receive their first shot to be able to eat in restaurants, use indoor fitness areas and for indoor entertainment spaces such as movie theaters, museums, arcades and other places.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the mandate on Monday morning, citing the new Omicron variant and ongoing Delta surge as reasons to take a new step to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The mayor also announced a “first-in-the-nation” vaccine mandate for all private-sector workers that goes into effect Dec. 27.

New York City Imposes Vaccine Mandate for All Private-Sector Employers, Mayor De Blasio Says

CNBC reported:

New York City is imposing a vaccine mandate for all private-sector employers as a preemptive measure to fight a surge of COVID cases this winter, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday.

The mandate covers 184,000 businesses and will go into effect on Dec. 27, and it doesn’t give unvaccinated employees the option to get tested regularly, de Blasio said. They must have at least one dose by that date. The policy applies to in-person employees who are in a workplace with other co-workers, de Blasio said during a news conference Monday.

Senate Set to Vote on Bill Barring Biden Vaccine Mandate, Likely to Pass With Manchin Support

Fox News reported:

The Senate is set to vote this week on a resolution to nullify President Biden’s vaccine mandate for private companies, as Republicans and at least one Democrat push back on the administration’s rule requiring vaccines or inconvenient testing rules for workers at large businesses.

All 50 Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., backed a challenge to the vaccine mandate last month under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). That law allows Congress to officially disapprove of an executive branch regulation via a resolution passed through each chamber.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said last week he also supports the Braun resolution.

More Than 40,000 March in Vienna Against Coronavirus Lockdown

Reuters reported:

More than 40,000 people marched through Vienna on Saturday to protest against a lockdown and plans to make vaccinations compulsory to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with a surge in infections, the government last month made Austria the first country in Western Europe to reimpose a lockdown and said it would make vaccinations mandatory from February.

“I am here because I am against forced vaccinations. I am for human rights, and the violation of human rights should be stopped,” one protester told Reuters Television. “We are protecting our children,” said another.

Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Aultman Pause COVID Vaccine Worker Mandates

Akron Beacon Journal reported:

Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and Aultman Hospitals are pausing their requirements for employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after a federal judge temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate for healthcare workers from going into effect in Ohio.

The preliminary injunction temporarily blocks enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine federal mandate by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The clinic said that it will put in place additional safety requirements for employees who are unvaccinated, including periodic testing for those providing direct clinical care.

Digital Vaccine Passes Will Soon Be in More Than 30 States — Here’s How That Will Make Travel a Lot Easier

Forbes reported:

Travelers are being asked more often to show proof of vaccination at different points along a trip, whether that is to board an international flight, dine at a particular restaurant, visit a certain museum or attend a concert or play.

This trend cannot be dismissed as merely a coastal phenomenon. Bindle, a health verification app that helps venues verify attendees’ vaccine status, has hundreds of clients spanning more than 30 states, from blue strongholds like California and New York to red leaners like Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Missouri and Georgia.

While the United States does not have and will never have a federal vaccine pass, a growing number of states are recognizing the need to provide their residents with access to a digital proof of vaccine that can be easily verified.

I Worked at Rikers Island. Mishandling the Vaccine Mandate Could Cost Lives

Newsweek reported:

When I worked as a correction officer at Rikers Island, it was understood that you were going to do overtime on your first day back from your day off and on the last day before you were going to be off again.

But while overtime did occur, it was understood that there had to be limits, and for good reason: Being a correctional officer requires for you to be vigilant, awake and on your feet for most of the eight hours of a normal shift.

This rule book has been thrown out the window for most of the pandemic. NBC reported that correctional officers have been forced to work triple shifts for 24-hours straight, due to a shortage of officers, many of whom were out sick or had died of COVID-19. So it’s dismaying to see Mayor Bill de Blasio throwing fuel on this fire with a vaccine mandate that has already exacerbated the situation.

Dozens of Employees Fired for Refusing COVID Vaccine File Lawsuit Against Rady Children’s Hospital

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported:

More than three dozen nurses and other employees at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego have sued the medical center alleging they were wrongfully fired for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The plaintiffs, who filed their case in San Diego Superior Court late last month, accused Rady Children’s Hospital of violating their religious freedoms, among other allegations, by issuing blanket terminations rather than judiciously considering applications for religious exemptions.

Federal Appeals Court Lifts Block on San Diego Unified School District’s COVID Vaccine Mandate

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted on Saturday to lift a block that it had placed on San Diego Unified School District’s student coronavirus vaccine mandate.

The rare weekend decision, reached by a 2-1 vote, lifts a temporary injunction the court had placed on the mandate about a week ago. Judges had said the injunction would continue as long as the district continued to allow vaccine deferrals for pregnant students. But now that San Diego Unified removed that condition, the block has been removed, too.

Ralliers Across Longmont, Boulder Protest Vaccine Passports Saturday

Longmont Times-Call reported:

More than 200 people marched Saturday through downtown Boulder to protest vaccine passports in indoor settings. The crowd rallied past late-morning brunch-goers eating outside, people waiting in line to get a photo with Santa near the Boulder County Courthouse and weekend shoppers bustling from shop to shop.

Boulder County is among Colorado counties with a vaccine verification program that’s optional to business owners. The program allows businesses to opt out of the indoor mask order, if they assure that at least 95% of the people they’re serving have been vaccinated. This requires customers to prove their vaccination status through several options, including with a photo or copy of their COVID-19 vaccination record card.

Patients Waiting for Life-Saving Organ Transplant to Be Denied Treatment Unless Vaccinated

Newsweek reported:

In Queensland, Australia, patients will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in order to receive vital organ transplants.

Queensland Health confirmed that a patient seeking to receive a kidney, lung or heart transplant must have “a minimum requirement of two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine,” 7News reported Monday. The policy will be reviewed in February.

Belgian Police Use Water, Tear Gas on COVID Protesters

Associated Press reported:

Belgian police used water cannon and tear gas Sunday to disperse some rowdy protesters in Brussels after most demonstrators marched peacefully to protest tightened COVID-19 restrictions that aim to counter a surge of coronavirus infections.

Thousands came to reject the new measures announced Friday, the third week in a row that the government has tightened its rules as an avalanche of new cases strains the country’s health services, depriving people with other life-threatening diseases of treatment.

On Friday, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced that day care centers and primary schools will close for the holiday a week early, and children must now wear masks from the age of 6. Indoor events will only be allowed with a maximum of 200 people.

Unvaccinated Italians Face New Restrictions as Holidays Near

Associated Press reported:

Italy is making life more uncomfortable for unvaccinated people this holiday season, excluding them from indoor restaurants, theaters and museums starting Monday to reduce the spread of coronavirus and encourage vaccine skeptics to get their shots.

Italian police have been empowered to check whether diners in restaurants or bars have a “super” green health pass certifying that they are either vaccinated or have recently recovered from the virus. Smart phone applications that verify people’s health pass status have been updated to prevent entry to concerts, movies or performances to those who have merely tested negative in recent days. The measures run through Jan. 15.

In the capital, Rome, dozens of police were out at transportation hubs checking both green passes and personal identification, finding a cooperative mood among commuters.

Still, a 50-year-old Roman became the first to receive a 400-euro ($450) fine after getting off the bus at the northern Flaminio station without the “basic” health pass, said Stefano Napoli, deputy chief of Rome’s municipal police force.

Amazon’s Employee Surveillance Fuels Unionization Efforts: ‘It’s Not Prison, It’s Work’

The Seattle Times reported:

Courtenay Brown works in a giant refrigerated section of the Avenel, New Jersey, Amazon Fresh warehouse, sometimes 10 hours a day, making sure groceries find their way to the right delivery truck.

Amazon, which keeps tabs on workers through the handheld scanners they use to track inventory, regularly presses her to move more items with fewer people, she said. There are cameras everywhere. “They basically can see everything you do, and it’s all to their benefit,” Brown said. “They don’t value you as a human being. It’s demeaning.”

That sentiment, that Amazon’s culture of surveillance constitutes inhumane working conditions, has become fuel for unionization efforts to organize hundreds of thousands of workers at the country’s second-largest private employer.

Clearview AI’s ‘Search Engine for Faces’ Set to Receive Patent

Gizmodo reported:

Clearview AI, the notorious facial recognition company which has partnered with over 2,400 law enforcement agencies across the U.S, is about to receive a patent for what it describes as a first of its kind, “search engine for faces.”

In an interview with Politico, Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That claimed his company’s tool would represent the first of its kind to use “large-scale internet data.”

That translates to, the first facial recognition service to scrape billions of photos from social media and other publicly available databases, almost always without users’ consent. That sweeping database of faces includes somewhere around 10 billion images, according to Ton-That.

Dec 03, 2021

COVID Vaccines Mandatory for More Than 200 Million People Worldwide + More

COVID Vaccines Compulsory for More Than 200 Million People Worldwide

Newsweek reported:

Making COVID-19 vaccines compulsory was once an unthinkable prospect. But governments around the world are losing patience with people who have decided not to get inoculated — and some are imposing mandates in efforts to save thousands of lives and avoid disastrous new waves of infection.

At least 203.15 million people worldwide are affected by these mandates, according to a calculation by Newsweek based on figures from World Population Review.

This figure does not include countries such as the U.S., which have introduced compulsory vaccination for some workers and public officials but not for the rest of the population. The calculation only includes countries that have enacted mandates for their whole adult population.

Vaccine Holdouts in Navy, Marines Hit 19,000 as Deadline Passes to Comply With Mandate

The Washington Post reported:

As many as 19,000 active-duty Marines and Navy sailors chose not to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by their shared Nov. 28 deadline, a dilemma for military leaders who have threatened to expel personnel refusing to comply with the Biden administration’s mandate.

While the Marines’ margin of 5% unvaccinated had been anticipated, it was an unexpected outcome for the Navy, which in announcing its final tally this week acknowledged that officials had uncovered last-minute “discrepancies” with its data-tracking system that revealed a larger pool of unvaccinated sailors than had been projected.

These personnel now join more than 8,000 in the Air Force who declined to get vaccinated. Army data shows 4% of its active force — about 19,000 soldiers — have not received any vaccine dose, with the compliance deadline of Dec. 15 now less than two weeks away.

Unvaccinated Nevada State Workers to Pay Insurance Surcharge

Associated Press reported:

Nevada will be the first state to charge state workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge if they aren’t vaccinated.

The state Public Employees’ Benefit Program Board voted on Thursday to charge unvaccinated workers up to $55 per month to offset the costs of testing those who haven’t gotten shots are required to undergo in certain workplaces.

“This is pandemic has been shouldered on the burden of everyone. And now this particular burden — the testing — should be shouldered on the burden of those who refuse to (be vaccinated),” said DuAne Young, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s policy director.

Biden Signs Stopgap Funding Bill to Keep Government Running

Associated Press reported:

President Joe Biden on Friday signed into law the stopgap spending bill that will keep the federal government running through Feb. 18, after congressional leaders defused a partisan standoff over federal vaccine mandates.

Both chambers of Congress passed the legislation Thursday avoiding a short-term shutdown of the government into the weekend. The bill keeps the federal government running for 11 more weeks, generally at current spending levels, while adding $7 billion to aid Afghanistan evacuees.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Suspends Vaccine Mandate Enforcement

The Epoch Times reported:

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) suspended enforcement of its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers after two court orders earlier this week.

A memo issued by the agency, posted by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Twitter Thursday, said that CMS “remains confident” it will prevail in court but is “suspending activities related to the implementation and enforcement of this rule pending future development in the litigation.”

Rhode Island Union Agrees to Contract With $3K Vaccine Bonuses

Associated Press reported:

The largest state employees’ union in Rhode Island has approved a new four-year contract that includes $3,000 COVID-19 vaccination bonuses, officials said.

Council 94 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 3,800 workers, overwhelmingly approved of the deal on Thursday. The contract also includes 2.5% annual raises.

Workers can get the bonus without being vaccinated for COVID-19 if they are granted a religious or medical exemption.

NYC to Require COVID Vaccines for Staff at Private, Religious Schools

Associated Press reported:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is extending his order requiring COVID-19 vaccines to include teachers and staff at private and religious schools.

De Blasio, a Democrat, said Thursday that employees at nonpublic schools will be required to show they’ve received at least one dose of a vaccine by Dec. 20. The order will apply to about 56,000 employees at 938 schools in New York City.

The Democratic mayor had issued a mandate that took effect in October requiring the shots for workers in the city’s public school system, which is the largest in the country. De Blasio extended the mandates to cover the city’s workforce, including police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers, and broadened the order this week to include childcare workers.

Oklahoma Sues Biden Administration Over Pentagon Vaccine Mandate

Axios reported:

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees. The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s (R) request to exempt the state’s National Guard from the mandate.

The complaint argues that the mandate is unconstitutional and “ensures that many Oklahoma National Guard members will simply quit instead of getting a vaccine, a situation that will irreparably harm Oklahomans’ safety and security.”

The suit is asking the court to block the mandate for all federal employees, not just the National Guard.

New Jersey GOP Lawmakers Defy New Statehouse COVID Vaccine Mandate, Refuse to Leave Floor

Fox News reported:

Several New Jersey Republican state Assembly members refused to comply with a new statehouse COVID-19 policy, walking past state police officers enforcing the rules and refusing to leave the Assembly floor.

“We’re standing up for people who haven’t gotten or can’t get the vaccine and those who have natural immunity,” Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber, one of the lawmakers who refused to comply with the new rules, told Fox News Thursday.

At issue was a new rule issued by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, both Democrats, Thursday that mandated lawmakers show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from up to 72 hours prior to entering the Senate or Assembly chambers.

Biden Wants COVID Testing for Air Travelers 24 Hours Before Overseas Flights

Fox News reported:

President Biden‘s planned requirement for incoming international travelers to have a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of departing is set to begin next week.

A senior administration official confirmed to Fox News on Thursday that the 24-hour testing requirement, which Biden officially announced earlier in the day, will take effect Monday. All travelers, regardless of vaccination or citizenship status, will be subject to the changed regulation.

Previously, only the unvaccinated were required to show a negative test 24 hours prior to departure, while those that were vaccinated had to show a negative test within 72 hours.

Joe Manchin Takes Aim at Biden’s Business Vaccine Mandate

Newsweek reported:

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has taken aim at President Joe Biden‘s COVID mandate, saying he supports legislation that would overturn the requirement for employers to ensure staff are vaccinated or tested.

Manchin, a key Democratic vote in the evenly divided Senate, made the comments in a statement on Thursday following a deal to prevent a shutdown of the federal government.

The senator went on: “But let me be clear, I do not support any government vaccine mandate on private businesses. That’s why I have co-sponsored and will strongly support a bill to overturn the federal government vaccine mandate for private businesses.

Explainer: Must Employers Follow Biden’s Vaccine Mandates?

Associated Press reported:

Millions of healthcare workers across the U.S. were supposed to have their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by this coming Monday under a mandate issued by President Joe Biden’s administration. Thanks to legal challenges, they won’t have to worry about it, at least for now.

Same goes for a Jan. 4 deadline set by the administration for businesses with at least 100 employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly for the virus.

Judges responding to lawsuits brought by Republican-led states, businesses and other opponents have blocked some of Biden’s most sweeping initiatives intended to drive up vaccination rates. Numerous other legal challenges are pending.

Maximum Censorship: School Board Critics Arrested by School Board Cops

Technocracy News reported:

In recent months, as parents express their frustration over COVID lockdowns, mask mandates and critical race theory, local school districts and federal law enforcement have upped the ante by monitoring parents, requesting undercover agents at school board meetings and even arresting parents who attend board meetings to express dissent.

The latest and most egregious example comes from Round Rock, Texas.

In September, with the district’s controversial mask mandate on the agenda, the school board locked the majority of parents out of the room, preventing them from speaking. A retired Army captain named Dustin Clark and other frustrated parents asked the board to open the nearly empty room to the public. Instead, school board president Amy Weir directed officers to remove Clark from school property.

Google Fired Its Star Artificial Intelligence Researcher One Year Ago. Now She’s Launching Her Own Institute.

The Washington Post reported:

Timnit Gebru, a prominent artificial intelligence (AI) computer scientist, is launching an independent AI research institute focused on the harms of the technology on marginalized groups, who often face disproportionate consequences from AI systems but have less influence in its development.

Gebru helped pioneer research into facial recognition software’s bias against people of color, which prompted companies like Amazon to change its practices.

A year ago, she was fired from Google for a research paper critiquing the company’s lucrative AI work on large language models, which can help answer conversational search queries.

Facebook Exiting the Facial Recognition Game

Forbes reported:

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, is planning to delete more than one billion people’s individual facial recognition templates, and will no longer automatically recognize people’s faces in photos or videos as a result of this change, according to its own post.

More than 600 million daily active users on Facebook had opted into the use of the face recognition technology.

Let’s not forget that Facebook’s push into the facial recognition space came in 2012 with its acquisition of Israeli start-up Face.com. Fast forward to 2020, Facebook agreed to settle a lawsuit for $650 million for violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Essentially, Meta was collecting and storing biometric data without first getting user consent. Transparency is not necessarily something the company is known for upholding.

Amazon Charges Sellers Fees That Are High Enough to Offset Losses From Prime, a New Report Says

The Verge reported:

The massive reach of Amazon’s e-commerce platform is appealing for any small business that wants to sell its products online.

But a new report suggests that the cost of doing business can become a Faustian bargain for a third-party seller, as the fees that Amazon charges them can quickly eat into profits.

Its Amazon Prime subscription service — believed to be a money loser for the e-commerce giant — provides Amazon a loyal base of shoppers who want to get their money’s worth of free shipping. The profits Amazon makes from seller fees subsidize the losses from its Prime division, according to the report.

Dec 02, 2021

Germany Locks Unvaccinated Out of Public Life; Mandate Looms + More

Germany Locks Unvaccinated Out of Public Life; Mandate Looms

Associated Press reported:

Unvaccinated people across Germany will soon be excluded from nonessential stores, restaurants and sports and cultural venues, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Thursday, and parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate as part of efforts to curb coronavirus infections.

She said officials also agreed on a nationwide requirement to wear masks, new limits on private meetings and a goal of 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year — an effort that will be boosted by allowing dentists and pharmacists to administer the shots.

Merkel said authorities plan to require staff in hospitals and nursing homes to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and she backed the even more contentious idea of imposing a general vaccine mandate. She said parliament would debate the proposal with input from the country’s national ethics committee. The mandate could take effect as early as February.

California School District Will Let Unvaccinated Students Have In-Person Learning, Defying State Mandate

The Washington Post reported:

A California school district has announced plans to create in-person learning for unvaccinated students, defying the state’s vaccine mandate for schools, which goes into effect next year.

The Alpine Union School District in San Diego County will allow unvaccinated students to continue learning in person and be taught by district teachers at an off-campus location, the superintendent said in a letter to parents last week.

The small district’s plans come weeks after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that all students and employees at public and private schools will need to be vaccinated, tentatively by next July.

HR 550: House Passes Bill to Fund Federal Vaccination Database

Technocracy News reported:

Eighty House Republicans voted with Democrats on Tuesday to pass the Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act, which if passed by the Senate and signed into law would fund a federal vaccination database.

According to the bill, also called  H.R. 550, the government would provide $400 million in taxpayer dollars to fund “immunization system data modernization and expansion,” a system otherwise defined as “a confidential, population-based, computerized database that records immunization doses administered by any healthcare provider to persons within the geographic area covered by that database.”

The text specifically outlines an expansion of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Public Health Department capabilities and the ability for state and local health departments, as well as public and private healthcare providers, to share health data with the federal government.

Any Omicron Restrictions Will Deepen Prejudice Against Unvaccinated People

The Guardian reported:

We’re not back into lockdown, of course, or anything even vaguely resembling it yet. Instead we are tumbling once again down the rabbit hole of uncertainty, into that wearily familiar world where every plan feels made to be potentially broken.

The current wave of COVID-19 surging in Europe has seen a growing backlash emerging against unvaccinated people, the most obvious scapegoats for the fact that the virus still hasn’t gone away, and this is increasingly seeping into policy.

Utah Hospitals Suspend Vaccine Requirement After Court Blocks Federal Mandate

The Washington Post reported:

A major healthcare system in Utah has paused its vaccine requirement for employees after a mandate pushed by the Biden administration was blocked by a federal judge.

Intermountain Healthcare, which operates about two dozen hospitals, mainly in Utah, is “temporarily pausing enforcement of the vaccine requirement for caregivers until there is clearer direction from the courts,” said spokesman Jess Gomez.

Hospitals Among Tennessee Entities Banned From Asking Workers for COVID Vaccine Proof

Newsweek reported:

Hospitals are among Tennessee entities banned from asking workers for proof of COVID vaccination, the Tennessee Hospital Association said.

State Comptroller Jason Mumpower announced a reversal of a number of exemptions that allowed entities to employ COVID measures against a state law that restricted them. Court rulings that also blocked a few of President Joe Biden‘s vaccine mandates were cited, the Associated Press reported.

Bristol Myers Is Sued for Refusing COVID Vaccine Religious Exemptions

Reuters reported:

Bristol Myers Squibb Co (BMY.N) was sued on Wednesday by four employees who said the drugmaker refused to grant them religious exemptions from its COVID-19 vaccination requirement, and threatened to fire them on Dec. 6 for remaining unvaccinated.

The plaintiffs in the proposed class action filed in Manhattan federal court accused Bristol Myers of violating a federal civil rights law known as Title VII by “systematically manufacturing” reasons to refuse religious accommodations.

The plaintiffs allege that Bristol Myers is concluding their politics is the real reason they won’t be vaccinated, regardless of whether they have sincere religious beliefs that independently would justify exemptions.

Biden Pushes for More COVID Vaccines, Boosters and Testing in Fight Against Delta, Omicron

New York Daily News reported:

President Biden is hoping this will be the winter of COVID-19 vaccines, booster shots and testing — not lockdowns.

With the fast-spreading Omicron variant on its way, Biden is set to kick off a winter campaign for more Americans to get vaccines and booster shots to prevent a punishing new surge of illness and death.

Biden previewed his winter plan by saying the winter COVID fight will advance “not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”

Judge Blocks Texas Social Media Censorship Law

The Hill reported:

A federal judge has blocked Texas from enforcing a law that aimed to block social media companies from banning users based on political views.

Judge Robert Pitman issued the order Wednesday in favor of two industry associations that sued to block the Texas law.

The order underscored that social media platforms are “privately owned platforms” and not “common carriers.”

Zoom’s New Attendance Tool Will Snitch On Attendees Who Are Late to a Meeting

Gizmodo reported:

Zoom is adding in a new feature that may make it more difficult for you to casually coast your way into a meeting without your boss noticing. The new “Attendance Status” tool, first spotted by TechRadar, allows Zoom hosts and co-hosts to use calendar integration from Google and Microsoft to easily see whether or not invited participants joined the meeting on time.

According to Zoom’s support page, meeting participants who have been invited but who have not joined will be siloed into a “Not Joined” section where their names will appear alongside other lazy deplorables.

The new meeting monitoring tool may also be used by teachers and professors who have been forced to turn to Zoom to conduct remote classes. The feature may rub some students the wrong way, especially given how they’ve been subjected to historic levels of surveillance and remote monitoring during the pandemic.

Leaked Doc Reveals Which Messengers Send the Most Data to FBI

RT International reported:

An internal FBI report reveals how WhatsApp and iMessage happily hand over users’ data to the Feds, sometimes providing the source and destination of messages every 15 minutes.

The sensitive Federal Bureau of Investigation paper, unearthed by the transparency group Property of the People, spells out in concise yet shocking detail the Bureau’s ability to secure messaging app content and associated metadata via warrants and subpoenas — and shows that WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage turn over the most information to authorities.

It’s a rare insight into the systematic manner in which U.S. authorities can access private information, and can only cast significant doubt on the publicly avowed positions of Apple and Facebook/Meta in respect of user privacy.

Rhode Island to Release a COVID Vaccine Passport App

The Boston Globe reported:

Rhode Island plans to release a proof-of-vaccination passport program in the form of an app, staff members in the governor’s office told the Globe on Wednesday.

The app, called 401 Health, will include a QR code that can be scanned to confirm that the individual is fully vaccinated against the virus, according to Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the state health department.

“We are converting the Crush COVID app into a more comprehensive health app. Rather than a passport, it is more a Health Smart Card,” said Wendelken in an email to the Globe.

Croatia Unveils Heavy Fines for Failure to Apply COVID Certificates

Reuters reported:

Croatia’s government on Thursday proposed heavy fines for heads of public institutions or municipalities who fail to enforce digital certificates for their employees or visitors designed to help curb a renewed surge of COVID-19.

Since the certificates were introduced in Croatia, however, the heads of several municipalities have refused to apply them, saying they did not want to create divisions among citizens.

“We propose fines amounting to between 30,000 and 50,000 kuna ($7,537.27),” Health Minister Vili Beros told a cabinet session. Parliamentary approval is expected later this month, given the government’s majority.

Israel Halts Controversial Tech to Track Omicron Variant

Associated Press reported:

Israel said Thursday it was halting the use of a controversial phone tracking technology to trace possible cases of the new coronavirus variant, days after it was authorized as an emergency measure.

Earlier this week, the government announced a package of emergency measures to contain the new variant, including travel restrictions and authorizing the country’s internal security agency to use the phone monitoring technology for contact tracing people infected by the Omicron variant.

But late Thursday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said the “cellular monitoring” would expire at midnight and not be extended. The reversal came following days of public criticism of a practice whose use in the past has been criticized by civil liberties groups and challenged in court.

Dec 01, 2021

Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey Quit, Now Censorship on Social Will Likely Get Even Worse + More

Twitter’s Jack Dorsey Has Quit as CEO and Now Censorship on Social Media Will Likely Get Even Worse

Fox News reported:

Independent thinkers beware: censorship on social media is likely to get even worse.

That depressing forecast is the only reasonable conclusion from the news Monday that Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, is leaving the company he co-founded in 2006.

Dorsey spoke passionately for years about Twitter’s role in serving free speech. “We believe our purpose is to serve the public conversation,” Dorsey said in an interview with Wired magazine in 2018. “And that does take a stance around freedom of expression and defending freedom of expression as a fundamental human right.”

Unfortunately, Twitter no longer believes in free speech.

Government Nears Weekend Shutdown as Republicans Take Aim at Vaccine and Testing Mandates

The Washington Post reported:

The U.S. government on Wednesday teetered one step closer to a potential weekend shutdown, as Republicans seized on a fast-approaching fiscal deadline to mount fresh opposition to President Biden’s vaccine and testing mandates.

At least one Republican in the Senate — Utah’s Mike Lee — threatened to block swift debate on the measure. GOP leaders on Wednesday found themselves bracing for others to join, either by stalling the process or trying to force a vote on an amendment to defund the vaccine and testing mandate.

“We’re opposed to the mandate,” said GOP Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.). “We don’t want the federal government to be able to fund them in any way shape or form.”

Judge Halts Biden’s COVID Vaccine Mandate for Healthcare Workers Nationwide

Forbes reported:

A judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked the federal government from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for workers at Medicare- or- Medicaid-funded healthcare facilities, the latest legal setback in the Biden Administration’s effort to require vaccines in many workplaces.

Louisiana-based federal Judge Terry Doughty issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday evening, prohibiting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from enforcing its healthcare worker vaccine mandate while a legal challenge brought by several Republican-led states works its way through the federal court system.

The injunction applies to 40 U.S. states — in a separate ruling Monday, a federal judge in Missouri temporarily blocked the CMS vaccine mandate in the other 10 states.

Judge Blocks Biden’s COVID Vaccination Mandate for Federal Contractors in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee

Business Insider reported:

The Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement for federal contractors received another blow from US District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove, who granted a request Tuesday to block the federal mandate in three additional states: Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.

By issuing the mandate, Tatenhove determined that Biden exceeded his authority under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, even for a “good cause” like slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The decision is the latest in a string of rulings against the vaccination mandate.

National Guardsmen Without COVID Vaccine to Have Pay Withheld, Barred From Federal Drills

Newsweek reported:

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has announced that National Guard members who decline the COVID-19 vaccination will be banned from drills and training that are required to maintain their guard status, losing their pay, retirement funds and other federal benefits.

Under Federal law, members of the National Guard must assemble for drills and participate in training a specific number of days per year.

Austin’s announcement comes after Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt requested that his Guard members be exempt from the vaccine mandate, arguing that as governor he has authority to allow members of his state’s Guard to avoid the vaccine while they are under state control, not federal.

U.S. Moving to Toughen Testing Requirement for Travelers

Associated Press reported:

The Biden administration is moving to toughen testing requirements for international travelers to the U.S., including both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, amid the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Tuesday statement that it was working toward requiring that all air travelers to the U.S. be tested for COVID-19 within a day before boarding their flight. Currently those who are fully vaccinated may present a test taken within three days of boarding.

Waterville Doctor Suspended for Spreading COVID Misinformation

Portland Press Herald reported:

Dr. Paul Gosselin, who operates the Patriots Health clinic on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville, was suspended from the practice of medicine and prescribing medication in a Nov. 19 decision by the state’s Board of Osteopathic Licensure. The suspension is effective until Dec. 18, but it could be lifted or extended following an adjudicatory hearing.

The decision came after state regulators reviewed multiple vaccine exemption letters Gosselin signed. They also received reports from other medical providers who were concerned Gosselin was spreading misinformation about the coronavirus, although the board’s notice of suspension does not specify what misinformation he shared.

The decision also does not explain why the vaccination exemption letters were questionable.

COVID: Why California Is Moving Forward With Firing Vaccine-Resistant Healthcare Workers

Times-Herald reported:

Healthcare providers across California are closing in on firing possibly hundreds of workers who have let the clock tick down on a requirement to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The dismissals come in the Golden State despite a federal judge late Tuesday blocking — at least temporarily — the Biden administration’s attempts to require healthcare workers nationwide to be vaccinated by January.

That’s because California has its own vaccination order, issued earlier this year, applying to workers at healthcare facilities — from hospitals to nursing homes and clinics to dialysis centers. The order doesn’t just cover nurses and doctors but security guards, housekeeping staff and other workers.

LA Sheriff Refuses County’s COVID Testing Over Alleged China Connection to Test Provider

Newsweek reported:

A letter sent Monday by LA County Sheriff Alex Villaneuva stating his department would not be using the county’s coronavirus testing provider due to its alleged ties to the Chinese government was not intended for public circulation.

In the letter, Villaneuva insisted that his department would not be participating in COVID-19 registering or testing with Fulgent Genetics Corporation because the DNA data obtained by the technology company, he claimed, “is not guaranteed to be safe and secure from foreign governments and ‘will likely be shared with the Republic of China’.”

Villanueva said that he was contacted on November 24 by the FBI‘s Weapons of Mass Destruction coordinator briefing county leaders on “very concerning information” they had obtained regarding COVID-19 testing of employees.

Hundreds of NYC Jailers Face Suspension Over Vaccine Mandate

Associated Press reported:

New York City’s troubled jail system is facing more turmoil: the suspension of potentially hundreds of corrections officers for failing to meet a Tuesday night deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The city’s Department of Correction reported 77% of its staff had gotten at least one vaccine dose as of 5 p.m. Monday, the lowest of any city agency, meaning about 1,900 employees had yet to comply with the mandate. It was delayed a month for jail workers because of existing staffing shortages.

NorthShore May Take Action Against Workers With Religious Objections to COVID Vaccine Mandate as Case Is Underway, Judge Decides

Chicago Tribune reported:

NorthShore University HealthSystem may take action against workers with religious objections to getting COVID-19 vaccinations, for now, while a case over the matter is underway, a federal judge decided Tuesday.

Fourteen NorthShore employees are suing the hospital system alleging that NorthShore won’t let them keep their jobs because of their religious objections to getting COVID-19 vaccines.

The judge’s decision Tuesday effectively means that NorthShore may fire those employees or put them on unpaid leave while the case is pending, if it chooses.

EU Must Consider Mandatory COVID Jabs, Says Von Der Leyen

The Guardian reported:

The EU must consider mandatory vaccination in response to the spread of the “highly contagious” Omicron COVID variant across Europe, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has said.

In a call to action, Von der Leyen said the EU’s 27 member states should rapidly deploy booster doses and a commission communique backed countries that opted to temporarily enforce pre-travel PCR tests even within the bloc’s borders.

U.S. Government Agencies Bought Chinese Surveillance Tech Despite Federal Ban

TechCrunch reported:

At least three U.S. federal agencies, including the military, have purchased China-made video surveillance equipment banned from use in the federal government.

Purchasing records seen by TechCrunch and video surveillance news site IPVM show the agencies collectively spent thousands of dollars on purchasing video surveillance equipment manufactured by Lorex, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dahua Technology.

Dahua is one of several China-based companies banned from selling to the federal government under a 2019 defense spending law over fears that the technology could help the Chinese government conduct espionage.

Qualcomm’s New Always-On Smartphone Camera Is a Privacy Nightmare: Next Year’s Android Smartphones Will Be Watching You

The Verge reported:

“Your phone’s front camera is always securely looking for your face, even if you don’t touch it or raise to wake it.”

That’s how Qualcomm Technologies vice president of product management Judd Heape introduced the company’s new always-on camera capabilities in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor set to arrive in top-shelf Android phones early next year.

For those of us with any sense of how modern technology is used to violate our privacy, a camera on our phone that’s always recording images even when we’re not using it sounds like the stuff of nightmares and has a cost to our privacy that far outweighs any potential convenience benefits.