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Mar 14, 2022

LeBron James, Durant Slam NYC Vax Mandate: ‘Makes Absolutely Zero Sense’ + More

LeBron James, Durant Slam NYC Vax Mandate: ‘Makes Absolutely Zero Sense’

Newsweek reported:

NBA stars Lebron James and Kevin Durant criticized New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private-sector employees that bars Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving from playing in home games.

The comments by James came shortly after Irving was seen sitting courtside at the Nets vs. Knicks game on Sunday, despite the point guard being prohibited from playing in home games since he is unvaccinated.

In New York City, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for consumers was recently lifted amid decreasing virus case rates, but a vaccine mandate for private-sector employees remains in place. While Irving is not allowed to play home games for the Nets, he is allowed to practice with the team at their facility in Brooklyn. Other NBA players who are unvaccinated are also allowed to play games in New York City, but Irving is not.

In addition to James, Irving’s teammate, Durant, also criticized the city’s vaccine mandate after the point guard was seen courtside. “It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it at all,” Durant said during a post-game press conference on Sunday. “It just feels like, at this point now, someone is trying to make a statement or point to flex their authority.”

These Schools Did Less to Contain COVID. Their Students Flourished.

The Washington Post reported:

As school systems around the country were battening down for their first remote start-of-school in the fall of 2020, the Lewis-Palmer district, in the suburbs of Colorado Springs, was embarking on another kind of experiment: Elementary students would be in class full time, sitting maskless at communal tables. The band program would resume in-person classes, saxophonists and flutists playing a few feet apart. The high school football teams would practice and compete.

In the country’s largest school systems, such as those in New York City, Los Angeles, D.C. and Chicago, teacher unions and concerned parents fought plans to reopen. Public health officials warned that social distancing would save lives, and schools responded by devising hybrid programs or simply sticking with virtual learning. But, over time, these measures also imposed costs: Today, students are contending with significant learning loss and mental health issues.

Thousands of school districts — typically small ones in conservative-leaning counties — reacted to the pandemic like Lewis Palmer District 38 did. Officials in this largely White and affluent school district of 6,600 students near the U.S. Air Force Academy argue they took the right approach to reopening schools. No child was hospitalized with the virus; two school system employees were admitted, though contact tracers did not determine where they contracted the virus, school officials said.

DuckDuckGo Updates Search Engine, Will Penalize Sites ‘Associated With Disinformation’

The Epoch Times reported:

The search engine DuckDuckGo has begun penalizing sites linked to “Russian disinformation” amid the Russia–Ukraine war, according to the company’s CEO.

DuckDuckGo is an alternative to Google that has been growing in popularity in recent years in part because it doesn’t track users. Weinberg has in the past promised “unbiased results” as part of his pitch to people to switch from Google.

Some users quickly questioned the CEO’s update, including Tom Fitton, president of the Judicial Watch nonprofit. DuckDuckGo, “contrary to its implicit promises to the contrary, is now in the censorship business,” he wrote on Twitter. “Are there any search engines that respect users?”

Los Angeles Unified School District Says It’s Keeping Mask Mandate

ABC News reported:

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) said it’s keeping its mask mandate in place — at least temporarily — even as California drops its requirement for masks in indoor public settings.

Several K-12 schools across the state dropped their face covering requirements Monday after the state lifted its mandate over the weekend.

LAUSD, the second-largest school district in the country, said it does not want to drop the mask requirement yet as it works towards a plan with partners, including teachers’ unions, to move away from mandates and towards “strongly recommending” masks indoors.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot Warns Police and Other City Employees Will Lose Pay if They Don’t Get 1st COVID Vaccine by Sunday

Chicago Tribune reported:

Mayor Lori Lightfoot will put Chicago Police officers and other city workers who don’t get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Sunday on non-disciplinary no-pay status, her administration said late Friday.

The city will also consider disciplining workers, though it will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis as the Lightfoot administration balances its public health policies with staffing problems in the police department.

Lightfoot’s latest pronouncement comes after the city won another round in court this week in its legal battle with the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police over the vaccine mandate. But she faces pressure not just from the police union — which has appealed the latest legal ruling and claims the mandate will results in an exodus of officers — but also from a group of aldermen still seeking to undo the rule.

Chicago Public Schools Will Still Require Masks in Some Settings; Mask-Optional Policy Begins Monday Despite CTU Opposition

Chicago Tribune reported:

Students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are slated to shift to a mask optional policy Monday, despite an agreement with the teachers union, which had successfully negotiated for the COVID-19 safeguard to remain in place through the end of the school year.

The vast majority of Illinois schools ended masking requirements late last month, following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s halting of the school mask mandate and prompted by new federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But CPS officials had continued to uphold their mask mandate, in large part due to an agreement they’d reached with the Chicago Teachers Union following five days of canceled classes in January, after union members declined to teach in person due to safety concerns.

JPMorgan Rolls Back COVID Precautions Including Masking and Mandatory Testing as U.S. Cases Drop

CNBC reported:

JPMorgan Chase on Monday told its U.S. employees that the bank was rolling back several coronavirus precautions as cases continue to drop.

Wearing a mask at corporate buildings will be “completely voluntary” for workers starting today, regardless of their vaccination status, the bank said in the memo. Next month, the bank will stop mandatory testing for unvaccinated workers and will open up hiring to the unvaccinated, it added.

JPMorgan said New York City employees are still covered by the local vaccine mandate, and workers will need to continue logging responses into the bank’s vaccine program.

France Lifts COVID Rules on Unvaccinated, Mask Wearing

Associated Press reported:

France lifted most COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, abolishing the need to wear face masks in most settings and allowing people who aren’t vaccinated back into restaurants, sports arenas and other venues.

Starting from Monday, people aren’t required anymore to show proof of vaccination to enter places like restaurants and bars, cinemas, theaters, fairs and to use interregional transport. The so-called vaccine pass had taken effect at the end of January.

In hospitals and nursing homes, unvaccinated people must provide a recent negative test or proof of recent recovery to enter. Wearing masks are no longer required in schools, businesses and offices. They remain mandatory on public transportation and at hospitals and other health facilities.

Chinese Stocks Continue to Melt Down as Spike in COVID Cases Spurs New Lockdowns and Threatens Global Supply Chain

Business Insider reported:

Chinese stocks continued their decline on Monday, with the MSCI China ETF falling as much as 6% after a surge in COVID-19 cases led to lockdowns in areas including Shenzen and Shanghai.

Lockdowns in China are threatening its local economy and could exacerbate ongoing constraints in the global supply chain, as tech-hub Shenzen was targeted with lockdowns. Those lockdowns shut down factories operated by Foxconn that are used to assemble products for Apple, including the iPhone.

How Silicon Valley’s Russia Crackdown Proves Its Power — and Its Threat

The Guardian reported:

Less than a day after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, the head of security at Meta (formerly Facebook) announced the company would no longer accept ad money from Russian state media outlets like Russia Today and Sputnik. Twitter said it would pause all ads from both Russia and Ukraine. And the next day, Feb. 26, YouTube quietly shared that it had begun blocking a handful of Kremlin-run media outlets from monetizing and running ads on their channels too.

It was the start of a cascade of corporate denials of service: one after the other, prominent social media and tech companies intensified restrictions on Russian state media’s presence on their platforms.

Together, the moves to take down Russian state content, which ultimately led to RT shutting down its American operations entirely, highlight that tech companies play a crucial role in deciding what information gets disseminated in times of crisis and which narratives can gain traction. But without real regulations and without companies crafting and consistently following policies of their own, we can only expect more confusion.

Meta Changes Stance on Violent Posts in Ukraine as Russia Bans Instagram

Newsweek reported:

Meta Platforms said this weekend that it will narrow a content moderation policy for Ukraine that temporarily allowed users to call for violence against Russian soldiers or the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The decision came as Russia moved to ban Instagram from the country over the issue.

“We are now narrowing the focus to make it explicitly clear in the guidance that it is never to be interpreted as condoning violence against Russians in general,” Meta announced in an internal company post on Sunday, according to Reuters. “We also do not permit calls to assassinate a head of state.”

The company’s latest decision comes after it initially announced on Thursday that users could call for violence against Russians within the context of war. Meta also temporarily allowed users in Russia, Ukraine, Poland and other eastern European countries to post calls for the death of Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Exclusive: Ukraine Has Started Using Clearview AI’s Facial Recognition During War

Reuters reported:

Ukraine’s defense ministry on Saturday began using Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology, the company’s chief executive told Reuters, after the U.S. startup offered to uncover Russian assailants, combat misinformation and identify the dead.

Ukraine is receiving free access to Clearview AI’s powerful search engine for faces, letting authorities potentially vet people of interest at checkpoints, among other uses, added Lee Wolosky, an adviser to Clearview and former diplomat under U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

The plans started forming after Russia invaded Ukraine and Clearview Chief Executive Hoan Ton-That sent a letter to Kyiv offering assistance, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

The Clearview founder said his startup had more than 2 billion images from the Russian social media service VKontakte at its disposal, out of a database of over 10 billion photos total.

Google ‘Hijacked Millions of Customers and Orders’ From Restaurants, Lawsuit Says

Ars Technica reported:

Google is being sued by a Florida restaurant group alleging that the tech company has been setting up unauthorized pages to capture food orders rather than directing them to the restaurant’s own site.

Google uses “bait-and-switch” tactics to get customers to place takeout or pickup orders through “new, unauthorized, and deceptively branded webpages,” according to the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Left Field Holdings, a restaurant company that runs Lime Fresh Mexican Grill franchises. On those pages, customers are prompted with large buttons to order with food delivery companies like GrubHub, DoorDash, or Seamless.

“Google never bothered to obtain permission from the restaurants to sell their products online,” the lawsuit says. “Google purposefully designed its websites to appear to the user to be offered, sponsored, and approved by the restaurant, when they are not — a tactic, no doubt, employed by Google to increase orders and clicks.”

A U.S. Surveillance Program Tracks Nearly 200,000 Immigrants. What Happens to Their Data?

The Guardian reported:

The Biden administration is proposing to expand a controversial surveillance program that tracks the whereabouts of more than 180,000 immigrants awaiting their day in court. But there is little transparency about what data is collected by the private company with an exclusive contract to run the program, or what may happen to that data in the future.

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. lawmakers on Feb. 23 raised fresh concerns about the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program, and the data collection practices of BI Inc, the private company running the effort for U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (Ice).

Without sweeping federal laws regulating consumer data, there are few mechanisms to compel BI to share much beyond the basics and even fewer to limit its ability to collect, store and share personal data as it wishes.

Mar 11, 2022

How a New Digital Dollar Could Shake the U.S. Financial System + More

How a New Digital Dollar Could Shake the U.S. Financial System

Wired reported:

President Joe Biden yesterday issued an executive order that could lead to the U.S. creating a digital currency.

Biden’s order said a U.S.-issued digital currency could be used to “support efficient and low-cost transactions, particularly for cross‑border funds transfers and payments, and to foster greater ​​access to the financial system, with fewer of the risks posed by private sector-administered digital assets” such as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. But there are “potential risks and downsides to consider,” and Biden ordered federal agencies to prepare a report within six months analyzing the implications.

Digital currency issued by a central bank can be used as a tool for government surveillance of citizens and control over their financial transactions. This has been a concern with China’s digital currency, which is in the early stages of rollout.

Priest Who Balked at COVID Precautions Removed From Parish

Associated Press reported:

A priest who balked at some of the Vermont Roman Catholic diocese’s COVID-19-related precautions has been removed from his parish. Bishop Christopher Coyne announced the decision about the Rev. Peter Williams in a letter to the Holy Family Parish of Springfield and Chester community on Tuesday, myNBC5 reported.

Williams posted a message on the parish’s YouTube page in January objecting to the bishop’s request that priests get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be required to wear a mask in certain situations and get tested every other week, which Williams said he would not do.

He said he had hired a lawyer and was asked by the diocese to resign from the parish but had no intention of doing so.

The Vaccine Mandate Remains at Some New York City Restaurants

The New York Times reported:

On Tuesday night, about 20 people descended on Dame, in Greenwich Village, to protest the restaurant’s request that indoor diners provide proof of vaccination, a day after the city dropped its vaccine mandate.

When the city on Monday ended its requirement that restaurants ask indoor diners for proof of vaccination, it left it up to owners to decide whether to voluntarily continue those requests. And some restaurants, like Dame, are not ready to let go of the safety measure, which they see as a way to protect their customers and employees.

House OKs Bill Protecting Disclosure of COVID Shot Status

Associated Press reported:

The Kentucky House voted Thursday to prevent state and local governments and public colleges from requiring employees or students to disclose their COVID-19 immunization status.

The measure also would allow parents to opt out of a coronavirus vaccine for their school-aged children on the basis of “conscientiously held beliefs.” The proposal won 71-22 House passage and moves on to the Senate. Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers.

The bill was introduced more than two months ago, but it didn’t start advancing until this week. Its sponsors agreed to a more limited version that dropped a proposed ban on private employers from inquiring about the vaccination status of their employees or customers.

High Fuel Costs Put Damper on Trucker Convoy Encircling DC

Newsweek reported:

Rising gas prices across the nation are making it difficult for the “People’s Convoy,” a group of truck drivers protesting COVID-19 mandates and currently encircling Washington, DC.

The People’s Convoy, similar to Canada’s Freedom Convoy that cut off major supply routes to the U.S. while protesting COVID, left Southern California on February 23 for a cross-country trip to Washington, DC. Republican Senator Ted Cruz visited the convoy in Maryland and claimed high gas prices were hurting the truckers’ protest.

Cruz confirmed his visit and shared photos and videos with the convoy. He dubbed the truckers “patriots” and was seen riding in the passenger seat of the convoy’s lead truck. “Thank you to The People’s Convoy for speaking out for freedom,” Cruz tweeted. “Petty government tyrants shouldn’t force people to make private healthcare decisions.”

Brown University Lifts Mask Mandate, Makes COVID Testing Optional for Undergraduates

The Boston Globe reported:

Brown University is shedding its mask mandates for students and employees starting Monday, according to an email sent Friday by Russell Carey, executive vice president of planning and policy.

Undergraduate students also won’t have to be tested regularly for COVID-19, according to the university. Undergraduates were previously required to take two COVID-19 rapid antigen tests per week since the beginning of the spring semester due to the surge caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

“As with vaccination status, no one should ask another individual about their personal choice to wear a mask,” he wrote Friday.

Brown announced last year it would require COVID-19 vaccines — including booster shots —for all employees and students who would be on campus or engage in any level of in-person instruction. Those with a medical or religious exemption, however, will still have to test twice per week and wear a mask indoors, said Carey.

GiveSendGo Says It Will Refund Remaining Donations to Truckers Convoy

Newsweek reported:

GiveSendGo, the fundraising platform turned to by many who looked to support the Canadian trucker convoy after GoFundMe refunded donations made to campaigns supporting the group, announced Thursday that it will also be refunding donations from several campaigns.

“The Canadian government has criminalized the receiving of funds from the Canadian trucker campaigns and are now trying to seize the funds to redistribute,” the company said in a Thursday morning tweet.

“In order to protect our Givers and the intended purposes of their gifts, funds not already transferred to the recipients from the ‘Freedom Trucker Convoy’ campaign will be refunded. Additional information will be posted shortly. Thank you for your patience.”

Last month, Canadian officials allowed banks to begin freezing the accounts of people who were confirmed to be involved in the protests, which included those who donated to the GoFundMe and GiveSendGo fundraisers for the convoy.

Students Trapped in Quarantine Beg for Help Online as China Faces Biggest COVID Outbreak Since 2020

CNN World reported:

China is fighting its biggest COVID-19 outbreak since the early days of the pandemic, with discontent spreading on social media after one university cluster left students reportedly without access to bathrooms or drinking water.

Throughout the pandemic, China has adhered to a strict zero-COVID policy that aims to stamp out all outbreaks and chains of transmission using a combination of border controls, mass testing, quarantine procedures and lockdowns.

At the Jilin Agricultural Science and Technology University in northeastern Jilin province, students took to social media to plead for help, saying they had been left to fend for themselves after a cluster was detected on campus.

Facebook Allows Posts With Violent Speech Toward Russian Soldiers in Specific Countries

The Verge reported:

Facebook and Instagram have instituted a temporary change in policy that allows users in some countries to post content that’s usually forbidden, including calls for harm or even the death of Russian soldiers or politicians. The change first surfaced in a report by Reuters, citing internal emails to moderators. In them, the outlet reports mods are told that calls for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will be allowed, as long as they don’t contain threats toward others or “indicators of credibility” like saying where or how the act will take place.

In a statement sent to The Verge, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said, “As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.”

The New York Times confirmed this policy applies to people using the service from Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

The Observer: Living in the Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Seacoastonline reported:

You’ve probably had the experience. You go online to look into buying something, a pair of walking shoes perhaps. You land on a website, search styles, prices and reviews.  You’re not ready to purchase so you quit and move on.

Soon you begin receiving ads for shoes, socks and even walking tours. You start visiting these websites, too, and eventually more ads come your way. You are experiencing what Harvard Business Professor Shoshana Zuboff called surveillance capitalism. It is the focus of her 2019 book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.”

EU and UK Open Antitrust Probe Into Google and Meta Over Online Ads

Ars Technica reported:

Regulators in Europe and the UK have opened an antitrust probe into a deal between Google and Meta on online advertising, in the latest effort to tackle the market power of the world’s biggest technology companies.

The move follows U.S. antitrust investigators who are also probing an agreement informally known as “Jedi Blue.” The search engine giant and Facebook’s parent company have been accused of working together to carve up advertising profits, acting together to buttress their businesses.

The EU and UK probes represent the latest assault on Big Tech from global regulators that are also preparing to unleash new rules designed to challenge the primacy of groups such as Google, Meta and Amazon. In response, U.S. tech groups have launched lobbying efforts in Washington and Brussels in an effort to protect their interests.

Mar 10, 2022

Novak Djokovic to Skip Two More Tournaments Over Vaccination Status + More

Novak Djokovic to Skip Two More Tournaments Over Vaccination Status

Newsweek reported:

Novak Djokovic, the world’s top men’s tennis champion, will not compete in two upcoming U.S. tennis tournaments because he is unvaccinated, the same reason he was kept out of the Australian Open.

Djokovic had been waiting for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to possibly grant him an exception to travel to the United States despite being unvaccinated.

However, in a Wednesday afternoon tweet, Djokovic said that he won’t compete in The Indian Wells Masters tournament (also known as the BNP Paribas Open) held in California from March 7 to 20. He also said he will not compete in the Miami Open tournament held in Florida from March 21 to April 3.

It’s likely that Djokovic’s vaccination status will also prevent him from playing in the French Open in May and the French Monte Carlo Masters in April. He will also likely be barred from Spain’s Mutua Madrid Open in May due to the country’s vaccination requirements.

United Airlines Will Let Unvaccinated Employees Return to Their Jobs This Month

CNBC reported:

United Airlines, citing a steep decline in COVID-19 cases, told staff Thursday that it will allow unvaccinated workers to return to their jobs starting March 28, a shift from a company that had one of the country’s strictest inoculation mandates. Last August, United said it would require U.S. employees to be vaccinated against COVID or face termination.

In January, CEO Scott Kirby said the company didn’t have any COVID deaths among unvaccinated workers over the past eight weeks, despite a surge in cases of the Omicron variant, which has since subsided.

United had said the roughly 2,200 workers who received exemptions on medical or religious grounds would go on unpaid leave or be moved to non-customer-facing roles. For example, unvaccinated flight attendants couldn’t work their regular jobs. Roughly 200 employees were fired for not being vaccinated or having an accommodation.

Spotify Says Joe Rogan Not to Blame as It Loses 1.5 Million Subscribers

Newsweek reported:

Streaming giant Spotify is bracing for a loss of about 1.5 million paying subscribers in the first quarter of 2022, and it said that Joe Rogan isn’t to blame.

Rogan has faced a backlash over the past several weeks amid accusations of spreading COVID vaccine misinformation on his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. Several musicians also pulled their work from Spotify, protesting the platform’s decision to stand by him.

While the embattled comedian had faced what appeared to be a tide of detractors vowing to pull their Spotify subscriptions, the company revealed that its decision to suspend its premium service in Russia, amid its invasion of Ukraine, has had more of an impact.

Big Bureaucracy Fumbled COVID and Our Faith in Institutions

Fox News reported:

From locking us all down to frequently providing conflicting information and lying that the “science” had “changed,” our health agencies were a complete disaster.

Again and again, they pushed failed mitigation policies that had actual harm on Americans. The leaders at the agencies, Dr. Rochelle Walensky at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health either straight-out bungled any task or comment or simply lied to us. This isn’t about the fog of the pandemic, the spring of 2020, this is to the present day.

​​As late as November 2021, Walensky was alleging that masking was at least 80% effective in stopping all viruses! That would be miraculous if true. It is not true. There has not been a single study that showed masking to be an effective way of stopping COVID-19, let alone the common cold.

And yet, right now, in New York City, toddlers are masked because of the broken and unscientific policies pushed by these organizations.

U.S. Extends Airplane Mask Mandate Through April 18

CNBC reported:

The Transportation Security Administration is extending a federal requirement that travelers wear masks on airplanes, at airports and on trains and buses through April 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The mandate was set to expire on March 19. An extension of the mandate comes as the Biden administration, cities and states have rolled back mask mandates and other pandemic policies elsewhere as COVID cases drop.

The Biden administration ordered air, bus and rail travelers to wear masks, including at airports and train stations, shortly after the president took office in 2021. The government repeatedly extended it over the past year.

Sen. Cruz Rides With ‘People’s Convoy’ Truck to DC As Beltway Protest Enters Fourth Day

The Washington Post reported:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) visited the “People’s Convoy” at the Hagerstown Speedway on Thursday and rode shotgun in the lead truck, with plans for the vehicle to head into Washington for a news conference, while the rest of the convoy circles the Capital Beltway to protest pandemic health restrictions aimed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Though many pandemic-related restrictions at the federal and local levels have been blocked or rescinded, the convoy organizers have rallied supporters by calling mandates an infringement on their freedoms.

Brian Brase, the group’s organizer, said the convoy will continue to protest until mandates for health workers, federal employees and military personnel are eliminated, but he warned the convoy against heading into the capital.

COVID Vaccine Verification Requirements to Be Lifted in More States, Cities

Fox News reported:

With COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths falling around the U.S., more cities and states have moved to lift pandemic restrictions this week.

On Wednesday, officials in Los Angeles took steps to end requirements patrons to show proof of full vaccination at certain businesses. It also eliminates proof of vacation requirements for large outdoor events.

Traveling up California’s Highway 1, San Francisco will stop requiring proof of vaccination to enter indoor businesses starting on Friday. The San Francisco Department of Public Health said it will be up to businesses to choose whether to require proof of vaccination or a negative test from their staff and customers.

Mississippi Advances Bill Against COVID Vaccine Mandates

Associated Press reported:

Anyone in Mississippi could cite “a sincerely held religious objection” to avoid a public or private employer’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, under a bill that advanced Wednesday at the state Capitol.

The bill says Mississippi government entities could not withhold services or refuse jobs to people who choose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. That prohibition includes state agencies, city and county governments and schools, community colleges and universities.

The bill specifies that COVID-19 vaccinations could not be required for children to attend school or daycare, although Mississippi has some of the tightest requirements in the nation for other types of childhood vaccinations.

Chicago Public Schools’ COVID Vaccine Mandate Challenged in Court by Employees

Chicago Tribune via MSN reported:

A small group of Chicago Public Schools employees is asking a judge to stop the district from enforcing its policy requiring staff members to receive the COVID-19 vaccination or undergo weekly testing.

“The Plaintiffs are suffering continuing harm in that each is being subjected to an unlawful vaccination or testing policy without being provided their statutorily protected rights of due process of law,” read the paperwork downstate attorney Tom DeVore submitted Thursday to Sangamon County court.

According to the filing, two of DeVore’s six CPS clients were told to submit proof of vaccination or test by Friday or risk being placed on a non-disciplinary administrative leave of absence without pay starting Monday.

Thursday’s filing is the latest in DeVore’s fight with CPS over policies such as universal masking and quarantine for unvaccinated people who come in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19.

Seattle Schools Will Drop COVID Mask Mandate

Associated Press reported:

Seattle Public Schools says it will lift its COVID-19 mask mandate beginning Monday.

Late last month Gov. Jay Inslee said the statewide mask requirement for schools would lift on March 12 as cases and hospitalizations have been declining following a surge during caused by the Omicron variant. Inslee had said going forward decisions about masking would be left to local districts.

NC Governor’s Veto of School Mask Mandate Opt-Out is Upheld

Associated Press reported:

The North Carolina legislature failed on Wednesday to override another of Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes, this one on a bill that would have allowed K-12 students to opt-out of COVID-19 mask-wearing mandates, even as those schools with such directives have become few.

The Senate’s 27-22 vote fell short of the three-fifths majority required to overcome Cooper’s most recent veto. The result means the Democratic governor’s streak of upheld vetoes — stretching from early 2019 — continues.

The legislation would have given children, with their parents’ permission, the option not to wear a mask in school districts that have ordered students and staff to wear face coverings. Mask mandates have been issued to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Red Rocks Amphitheater Will No Longer Use Amazon’s Palm-Scanning Tech

Engadget reported:

Red Rocks Amphitheater, one of the most recognizable concert venues in the U.S., no longer plans to use Amazon’s palm-scanning technology for ticketless entry. Activists and artists including Fight for the Future, Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) and Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill) pressured Denver Arts and Venues to refrain from using Amazon One at the venues it manages.

Amazon announced in September that it was expanding the tech beyond its stores for the first time at Red Rocks and other venues, including sports stadiums. Hundreds of artists, activists and human rights groups called on Red Rocks, its ticketing provider AXS and AXS parent AEG to drop the technology and to ban all biometric surveillance at their venues.

“Other venues should similarly listen to the hundreds of artists, organizations and fans who don’t see this technology as ‘convenient’ but recognize it as a tool of corporate surveillance and super-charged state violence,” said Fight for the Future campaigner Leila Nashashibi.

It Took a War for Big Tech to Take a Side

Vox reported:

The internet is global. But tech companies do business in individual countries. So tech companies have to obey those countries’ rules, even if they’re onerous or worse.

That’s the rubric that Big Tech companies — almost all of which are based in the United States — have used for years, even when it’s been uncomfortable for the companies, their employees, or their customers.

Now that’s over: Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Big Tech has finally taken a side. It’s a move that has real-world consequences today but may be even more meaningful down the line.

One by one, Google, Meta, TikTok, and every other consumer tech company have sided with Ukraine in some way.

Tech’s Dealmaking Cry: Damn the Lawsuits, Full Speed Ahead

Axios reported:

Google is plowing ahead with a $5.4 billion acquisition as it fends off a Justice Department lawsuit charging monopolistic practices and inquiries by lawmakers who argue the search giant is already too big.

An increasingly hostile regulatory climate over the past five years hasn’t stopped Big Tech giants from making billion-dollar deals. Google’s bid to buy cybersecurity firm Mandiant is the latest in a string of high-dollar acquisitions by Big Tech.

Google is already facing a lawsuit from the Justice Department accusing it of illegally monopolizing the online search and search advertising markets.

Mar 09, 2022

Vaccine Mandate for Federal Employees Awaits Court Ruling + More

Vaccine Mandate for Federal Employees Awaits Court Ruling

Associated Press reported:

A federal judge in Texas overstepped his authority when he blocked President Joe Biden’s requirement that all federal employees get vaccinated against COVID-19, an attorney for the administration told a federal appeals court panel Tuesday.

Department of Justice lawyer Charles Scarborough argued that the Constitution gives the president, as the head of the federal workforce, the same authority as the CEO of a private corporation has to require that employees be vaccinated. “This is the president exercising his authority as an employer,” Scarborough said.

Arguing for those challenging the mandate, lawyer Trent McCotter said it was the administration that was exceeding its statutory and constitutional power. McCotter referenced the recent Supreme Court opinion that the government cannot force private employers to require employee vaccinations. He said the federal employee mandate was the same kind of “coercive choice” struck down in that case. “It’s a sort of freestanding, ongoing constitutional injury,” McCotter said.

Navy Says It Can’t Deploy Destroyer While Commander Remains Unvaccinated

Newsweek reported:

Navy warship remains docked and can’t be deployed because it’s commanded by an officer who refuses to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Navy officials said.

The ongoing legal battle over whether the military can force troops to get the jab has left the ship docked in Norfolk, Virginia. U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday issued an order last month banning the Navy and Marine Corps from taking any disciplinary action against the unnamed Navy warship commander and a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel for refusing to get the vaccine.

Merryday granted a preliminary injunction barring the Navy from requiring the commander or the lieutenant colonel to take the vaccine or issuing “any punitive or retaliatory measure against [them] pending a final judgment in the case,” according to Stripes and Stars.

On Thursday, Merryday denied the U.S. Department of Defense’s request to halt the injunction.

Governments, Colleges May Be Barred From Asking Workers, Students About COVID Shot Status

Louisville Courier Journal reported:

State and local governments and public colleges would be prohibited from requiring employees or students to disclose their COVID-19 vaccine status under a bill that cleared a House committee Tuesday.

Filed by Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, HB 28 would ban state government, local governments and state colleges from forcing employees or applicants to disclose whether or not they have received any COVID-19 vaccine shots, or “take adverse action” against those who do not disclose their vaccine status.

If a governmental entity violates the provisions, it would be subject to possible civil action with penalties of up to $1,000 per day, per violation. If public colleges violate the law — inquiring about the vaccine status of their faculty, staff and students — they could be denied state funding or their authority to operate.

Ted Cruz Says People Hug Him on Planes for Protesting Vaccine Mandates in Viral Video

Newsweek reported:

A clip of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, posted on Twitter by The Recount, was recorded while Cruz was speaking to the media following a meeting with leaders of the “People’s Convoy” and fellow GOP Senator Ron Johnson.

While discussing the meeting, which was promoted as being about the “harmful effects of President Biden‘s vaccine mandates,” Cruz told a story about how people on planes thank him for attempting to stop the restrictions and rules targeting federal employees and large businesses.

“Every week, I fly back and forth to Houston. Almost without exception every time I’m on an airplane, either the captain or a flight attendant will come up to me, will hug me and say thank you for fighting for us,” Cruz said.

“Because I’ll tell you United Airlines — sadly Houston’s a hub of them — has fired thousands of pilots and flight attendants. What difference does it make? We’re in the District of Columbia, right now there are mandates affecting kids in DC. This is wrong,” Cruz added.

Djokovic Is Included in the Draw at Indian Wells Despite His Unclear Vaccination Status

The New York Times reported:

Novak Djokovic, one of the world’s most prominent sports stars to hold out against getting a coronavirus vaccination, was included in the field for this week’s Indian Wells tennis tournament in Southern California, even though there are doubts over whether he will be able to enter the United States and participate.

Djokovic has expressed reluctance to be vaccinated against coronavirus, saying that he was not convinced by the science. He said the issue was more important to him than adding to the 20 Grand Slam tournaments he has won.

Under U.S. immigration law, people who are not citizens and also not immigrants must show proof of full vaccination as well as a negative coronavirus test to enter the country by air.

GOP Senators Cruz and Johnson Meet With ‘People’s Convoy’ Truckers

ABC News reported:

Trucker protesters against COVID vaccine mandates and restrictions met Tuesday with a pair of Republican lawmakers for two hours on Capitol Hill.

Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Ted Cruz of Texas spoke with a small group of protesters from “The People’s Convoy,” who said they won’t end their now three-day long circuit along the DC beltway — traveling around 55-60 miles per hour along the often congested corridors of Maryland and Virginia — until they sit down with other members of Congress and their demands for the rollbacks of a national state of emergency and vaccine mandates are met.

Convoy truckers are also asking for congressional hearings on the origins of the pandemic along with an investigation into state and federal COVID responses.

One point of contention for protestors who spoke during a roundtable discussion is that while COVID mandates are being rolled back, healthcare workers and members of the military have already been dismissed and discharged for refusing to get vaccinated.

Austria Says It Is Putting Its COVID Vaccine Mandate on Ice

Reuters reported:

Austria is suspending its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, its ministers for health and constitutional affairs said on Wednesday, six days before fines for breaches were due to start being imposed.

The measure, the most sweeping in the European Union as it applied to all adults with few exceptions, has been in effect since Feb. 5, but enforcement was only due to begin on March 15.

“We will…suspend the vaccine mandate in accordance with the principle of proportionality,” constitutional affairs minister Karoline Edtstadler told a news conference. “Why? Because there are many convincing arguments at the moment that this infringement of fundamental rights is not justified.”

German Government Produces New Legal Framework for Pandemic Rules

Associated Press reported:

The German government introduced a legal framework for pandemic regulations and rules Wednesday. Most of the country’s current coronavirus restrictions are set to end by March 20.

The country’s health and justice ministers said if German lawmakers pass the framework, the country’s 16 state legislatures could adopt the new “hot spot” measures if virus cases rise again in certain regions, if hospitals are at risk of becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients or if new virus variants start spreading.

The regulations cover matters such as mask requirements, social distancing, and requiring proof of vaccination, recovery from the illness or negative tests to be able to participate in certain parts of public life. Nationwide, masks would remain mandatory on long-distance trains and flights.

Amazon May Face Criminal Liability for Lying to Congress, House Lawmakers Allege

CNN Business reported:

House lawmakers who spent much of 2019 and 2020 probing Amazon for possible antitrust violations now accuse the tech giant of lying to Congress and want the Justice Department to investigate “potentially criminal conduct” from the company and some of its executives.

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland dated March 9, members of the House Judiciary Committee say “Amazon lied through a senior executive’s sworn testimony” about how the company had used the data it collects from third-party sellers. The lawmakers further allege the company “engaged in a pattern and practice of misleading conduct,” which may have been an attempt “to influence, obstruct, or impede” the House committee’s investigation.

Facebook Gives Group Admins New Tools to Block Misinformation

Engadget reported:

Facebook is once again trying to stem the flow of misinformation within Groups. The social network is giving group admins new tools to help prevent misleading information from spreading.

With the update, group admins will be able to “automatically decline” posts that have been determined to be false or misleading by Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers. Admins who want to take an even tougher stance can use the feature to decline the post and block or suspend the user from future posts in the group.

China State-Backed Hackers Compromised Networks of at Least 6 U.S. State Governments, Research Finds

CNBC reported:

A Chinese state-sponsored hacking group successfully compromised the computer networks of at least six U.S. state governments between May 2021 and February this year, according to research published by cybersecurity firm Mandiant on Tuesday.

The group, known as APT41, allegedly exploited vulnerabilities in web applications to get their initial foothold into state government networks, Mandiant said.

APT41, which Mandiant claims carries out state-sponsored espionage on behalf of Beijing, took advantage of software flaws and quickly exploited security vulnerabilities that were made public by researchers. The hackers also adapted their tools to attack via different methods, it said.

Mandiant, the company behind Tuesday’s research, is a Nasdaq-listed cybersecurity firm based in the U.S. On Tuesday, Google said that it plans to acquire the company for around $5.4 billion.

HBO Hit With Class Action Lawsuit for Allegedly Sharing Subscriber Data With Facebook

Engadget reported:

HBO is facing a class-action lawsuit over allegations that it gave subscribers’ viewing history to Facebook without proper permission, Variety has reported. The suit accuses HBO of providing Facebook with customer lists, allowing the social network to match viewing habits with their profiles.

It further alleges that HBO knows Facebook can combine the data because HBO is a major Facebook advertiser — and Facebook can then use that information to retarget ads to its subscribers. Since HBO never received proper customer consent to do this, it allegedly violated the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), according to the lawsuit.

Twitter Quietly Launches Tor Service in the Face of Russian Censorship

Mashable reported:

Twitter just struck a blow against government censorship, even if the tech giant won’t come out and say so directly.

On Tuesday morning, Alec Muffett, a cybersecurity professional with a long history of working with the Tor network, announced he’d brought skills to bear at Twitter. Specifically, Muffett wrote that he’d helped the company launch a censorship-resistant way for users to access the social media platform — even if government officials in, say, a country like Russia, wanted to prevent that.

Tor works by sending users’ internet traffic through random servers, and encrypting that traffic at every step. This means a website can’t see who specifically is browsing it, and an ISP can’t see what sites its customers are viewing. Tor is great, to put it bluntly, for doing things you wish to keep to yourself.