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Amazon’s Latest Purchases Are a Surveillance Nightmare

MSNBC reported:

On Friday, Politico reported that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Amazon’s agreement to acquire two companies that would help the tech giant become an even bigger hoarder of people’s personal information.

Yes, Amazon is making a play to own even more private data. These acquisitions would add to an already huge arsenal of surveillance devices in Amazon’s portfolio. The company currently owns Alexa, a “virtual assistant” for your home that already gobbles up troves of personal data whenever people speak into enabled devices. And Amazon also owns Ring, the company that sells doorbell cameras that can record a disturbing amount of audio and video, a fact evident by the historic amount of data that Ring has turned over to the federal government.

It’ll be important to keep an eye on the FTC’s investigation as it unfolds, as well as keep a close watch on other large companies making plays for our personal data. Books like Jaron Lanier’s “Who Owns the Future?” have predicted our current era, in which the companies that possess the most user information tend to be the most powerful.

We know personal data can be used maliciously, and Amazon is not to be taken at its word that it has no plans to do so. And we certainly can’t assume Amazon won’t pass off personal data to third parties that do plan to use it maliciously.

Hochul Drops Mask Mandate for New York Transit Riders as New COVID Booster Shots Become Available

New York Daily News reported:

New York transit riders are allowed to uncover their faces for the first time in more than two years.

Gov. Hochul on Wednesday dropped the mask requirement that’s been in effect for the state’s public transportation systems since April 2020, when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a mandate in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Masks will still be required in hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities, Hochul said. The governor said her decision to drop the mandate was due to the launch of new vaccines targeted at the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.

New York kept its mandate even after the Centers for Disease Control lifted its rule requiring masks on public transit in April when a Florida federal judge struck it down as unconstitutional.

Judge Orders Biden Admin to Turn Over Fauci, Jean-Pierre ‘Misinformation’ Emails Sent to Social Media Giants

Fox News reported:

A federal judge in Louisiana ruled Tuesday that the Biden administration has 21 days to turn over all relevant emails sent by White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Dr. Anthony Fauci to social media platforms regarding alleged misinformation and the censorship of social media content.

The decision by Judge Terry Doughty, who was appointed by former President Trump, came as part of a lawsuit filed in May by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, accusing the Biden administration of suppressing the constitutionally protected right to free speech on elections, the COVID-19 lab leak theory, coronavirus-related lockdowns and other issues.

The Justice Department objected to the handing over of the email correspondence under executive privilege and presidential communications privilege, but Doughty decided, “This Court believes Plaintiffs are entitled to external communications by Jean-Pierre and Dr. Fauci in their capacities as White House Press Secretary and Chief Medical Advisor to the President to third-party social media platforms.”

Staten Island Officials Call on NYC to Toss Remaining COVID Vaccine Requirements for Public School Students

SI Live reported:

Staten Island elected officials are calling for an end to New York City’s requirement of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine for public school students participating in extracurricular and sports programs deemed “high-risk,” as well as parents and visitors entering school buildings.

Borough President Vito J. Fossella and other officials sent a letter last week to Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor David Banks and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan requesting the agencies reconsider the COVID-19 guidance ahead of the new school year.

Additionally, a COVID-19 vaccination requirement applies to students participating in high-risk after-school extracurricular activities like chorus, musical theater, dance/dance team, band/orchestra (with concern for woodwinds), marching band and cheerleading/step team/flag team.

DC’s Vaccine Mandate for Students Will Unravel a Decade of Progress. Mayor Bowser: Reconsider

Newsweek reported:

When the Council of the District of Columbia passed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for in-person learning, I along with many others was concerned about the negative impact this would have on the unvaccinated. I presumed that the legislation, passed in March, would be amended given updates in the CDC guidance issued in August. But it seems that the “no-learning” option is still on the table for DC students who aren’t vaccinated.

DC’s official position mandates that by January 2023, students 12 years and older be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for returning to in-person learning, and there is no virtual learning option. Among the impacts of this policy, it will almost certainly broaden racial educational gaps, given that the vaccination rate for 12-to-17-year-old Black students is under 60%.

And this would be an absolute disaster.

If the current policy holds and near-universal compliance is not achieved by the time students return from winter break, a significant number of students and families will either continue to refuse vaccination and therefore be refused schooling, or they will capitulate despite persistent and significant reservations.

‘Freedom Convoy’ Organizers Ask Judge to Unfreeze $450,000 in Donations to Fund Legal Fees, Appearance at Federal Inquiry Into Emergencies Act

Vancouver Sun reported:

Freedom Convoy” leaders are asking the court to release hundreds of thousands of dollars in frozen donations to pay for their appearance at the federal inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act.

The funds, donations made to the “Freedom Convoy” and later frozen by court order, were placed into escrow — an arrangement where a third party holds the funds until certain conditions are met — awaiting the conclusion of a proposed class action lawsuit against the “Freedom Convoy” leaders.

In a notice of motion filed Friday, a group of defendants in that class action suit said they needed access to $450,000 from the escrow account to pay for their legal representation at the Public Order Emergency Commission, the federal inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act.

Judge Rules Anti-Vaccine Mandate Protester Outside Boston Mayor Wu’s Home ‘Wrongfully Arrested,’ Drops Charges

Fox News reported:

A judge ruled the first protester criminally charged for picketing against coronavirus-related mandates outside Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s home was “wrongfully arrested” months ago.

Wu, a Democrat, had advocated for an ordinance restricting picketing outside private residences from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. after months of demonstrations outside of her home in Roslindale voicing opposition to the mayor’s proposals for mask mandates in public places and vaccination requirements.

Shannon Llewellyn was the first protester to be arrested outside Wu’s home in April at approximately 7:45 a.m. after the picketing ban took effect, the Boston Herald reported.

But Judge Steven Key, of the Roxbury Division of Boston Municipal Court, decided last week, that “this should not have been a criminal complaint at all” under the ordinance passed by City Council along a 9-4 vote.  Key dropped the charge against Llewellyn in the April arrest and ordered it expunged from her record.

As China’s Economy Slows, One Industry Is Seeing Record Profits: COVID Testing

CNN Business reported:

China’s zero-COVID strategy of endless testing and lockdowns has hammered its economy and taken a toll on company profits, but it has delivered a windfall for test makers.

Twelve of China’s top COVID testing firms have recently posted huge increases in both revenues and net profits for the first half of this year.

Andon Health, which supplies COVID test kits both at home and abroad, reported that its net profit skyrocketed by 27,728% in the first six months of 2022, reaching 15.24 billion yuan ($2.2 billion). It was the biggest increase recorded by any listed company in mainland China. Meanwhile, its revenue surged by 3,989%.

The company benefits not only from China’s aggressive testing campaign at home but also from huge demand in the United States, as its iHealth Lab had recently won U.S. government contracts for supplying antigen rapid tests.

Beijing’s Plan to Control the World’s Data: Out-Google Google

Newsweek reported:

The rise of Big Data — the vast digital output of daily life, including data Google and Facebook collect from their users and convert into advertising dollars — is now a matter of national security, according to some policymakers.

The fear is that China is vacuuming up data about the U.S. and its citizens not just to steal secrets from U.S. companies or to influence citizens but also to build the foundation of technological hegemony in the not-too-distant future.

Data — lots of it, the more the better — has, along with the rise of artificial intelligence, taken on strategic importance.

In recent months, some of the more hawkish national security mavens in Washington, DC, have warned that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is aggressively moving to control all the data that flows through the country — even data that originate from American and other Western firms working in China.

UN Education Agency Launches War on ‘Conspiracy Theories’

The Epoch Times reported:

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, better known by its acronym, UNESCO, is escalating its global war on ideas and information it considers to be “misinformation” and “conspiracy theories.”

According to the Paris-based U.N. education agency, which released a major report on the subject for educators this summer, conspiracy theories cause “significant harm” and form “the backbone of many populist movements.”

“There are plenty of crazy thoughts on the Internet, many of which are patently false,” explained Citizens for Free Speech Director Patrick Wood. “The only thoughts being ‘corrected’ are those contrary to the globalist narrative. This proves that the focus is on protecting their own narratives and nothing else.”

“UNESCO joins a censorship cartel that now includes the European Union, the U.S. government, the World Economic Forum, social media giants like Facebook and Twitter and notably, Google,” Wood told The Epoch Times. “Anyone who does not parrot the globalist narrative is by default considered to be a ‘conspiracy theorist.’”

‘One of the Biggest Problems Confronting Medicine Today’: University of Chicago Offers Class on Misinformation

Chicago Tribune via MSN reported:

Patients have long been told to turn to their doctors for accurate, trusted health information. But in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors’ voices have sometimes been drowned out by social media users who blast misinformation across the globe, leading patients to make questionable, and sometimes dangerous, choices about their health.

Now, a Chicago medical school is offering a new class aimed at better equipping doctors and other medical professionals to be heard: a course on how to battle medical misinformation. The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine began offering the class to medical students last year and recently developed a condensed version for nurses studying for their doctorates, pharmacy residents and senior medical students.

The class is one of the first of its kind at a U.S. medical school. Though it grew out of the pandemic, Dr. Vineet Arora, who teaches the class with Serritella, said misinformation in medicine extends far beyond COVID-19.

Judge Rules That Elon Musk Can Use Twitter Whistleblower Claims

Axios reported:

A Delaware court on Wednesday ruled that Elon Musk will be allowed to introduce claims from Twitter whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko into his countersuit against the social media company. It also denied Musk’s request to delay the October trial.

Why it matters: The whistleblower’s claims, which include that Twitter violated a 2011 consent decree with the U.S. government, introduce a new legal wrinkle into Musk’s attempt to back out of his $44 billion takeover offer for the social media company.