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Court Narrows Hold on COVID Vaccine Mandate for Contractors
More than 1 million construction workers across the U.S. won’t have to comply with a federal COVID-19 vaccination requirement, but an appeals court cleared the way for President Joe Biden’s administration to potentially enforce the mandate on some federal contractors.
Biden’s Office of Management and Budget said Monday that federal attorneys were still reviewing the ruling issued Friday and that no immediate steps have been taken to implement it. The vaccine requirement for employees of federal contractors has been on hold nationwide since a U.S. district judge in Georgia issued an order in December barring its enforcement.
A split ruling by a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta lifted that nationwide injunction but continues to bar enforcement of the vaccine mandate against seven states that sued — Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. It also bars enforcement against members of Associated Builders and Contractors — which joined the lawsuit — or any of their subcontractors on federal projects.
The association, which has about 21,000 member companies employing more than 1 million workers, called the ruling a “huge victory” even though it narrows the scope of the previous injunction.
U.S. Supreme Court’s Sotomayor Keeps New York City COVID Vaccine Mandate
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Monday declined to block New York City from enforcing its mandate that all municipal workers be vaccinated against COVID-19, rebuffing a police detective who challenged the public health policy.
The liberal justice denied Detective Anthony Marciano’s request for a stay of the vaccination requirement while an appeal over his claims continue in a lower court. A federal judge threw out Marciano’s case in March.
Marciano argued that neither state nor federal law allows government officials to impose vaccines on adults without “informed consent,” telling the justices in a legal filing that “he cannot and will not assume the health risks associated with an illegal, experimental” vaccine that he “does not need.”
Marciano remains on active duty while he appeals the denial of his vaccine exemption request. The city’s health department ordered the mandate in October 2021. In February of this year, 1,430 municipal workers were fired for failing to comply.
California Advances Medical Misinformation Bill
A California bill designed to combat disinformation and misinformation on COVID-19 by medical professionals passed in the state Senate on Monday evening.
Why it matters: The bill could see doctors and other medical professionals who spread COVID misinformation or disinformation face disciplinary action for “unprofessional conduct” from the Medical Board of California or the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, which could include having their state license suspended or revoked.
If Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) were to sign the bill into law, California would be the first state to take legal action against medical practitioners in response to the spread of false COVID information, per the New York Times.
Newsom has three weeks to sign the bill, but he’s yet to take a public position on it, per the NYT.
Ph.D. Candidate Renounces Studies in Protest of Western University’s COVID Vaccine Policy
Jason Falbo said he has made the difficult decision to withdraw from his doctorate program at Western University after nearly seven years of study after the university announced a COVID-19 vaccine policy that mandates three shots for all staff and students.
On Aug. 22, the London, Ontario, university released its latest COVID-19 vaccine policy, requiring all individuals who come on campus to have received a complete primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine as well as a booster dose by Oct. 1, 2022. A primary series typically means two doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine. The policy is set to remain in place until Aug. 22, 2023.
Falbo, who has been studying electronics and communications engineering at Western University since 2015, said he found the policy “completely unacceptable” and decided to take action to protest against it. He said he would have graduated after submitting and defending his final thesis, but by dropping out of the doctorate program, he hopes to raise awareness of the difficult position that the policy has put students in.
‘One of the Fittest People on the Planet’: Journalist Blasts U.S. for Barring Novak Djokovic From Open
An Australian journalist is coming to the defense of tennis great Novak Djokovic, who’s been barred from competing in the U.S. Open for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID.
A rule from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bars the Serbian star from entering the U.S. without proof of vaccination.
“It is embarrassing and it defies logic and science,” journalist and sports host Ben Fordham slammed the U.S. rule, Sportskeeda reported. “He is one of the fittest people on the planet,” the journalist said of Djokovic. “He doesn’t drink, he travels with his own personal doctor and nutritionist.”
Fordham noted that the athlete has already recovered from having COVID, meaning his body has produced antibodies.
West Virginia’s AG Comes out in Support of COVID Vaccine Exemptions for Navy Personnel
West Virginia’s Attorney General was one of 22 attorneys general who came out in support Monday of Navy personnel seeking religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for servicemembers.
The 22 attorneys general filed an amicus brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where an injunction against the vaccine mandate is currently under appeal, according to a press release from West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s Office.
That release also cites U.S. Department of Defense data showing that of 105,277 reported COVID cases within the U.S. Navy, only 17 deaths and 1 hospitalization have occurred; 47 religious accommodation requests have been approved and 4,251 are still pending.
Vaccine Mandate Created ‘Acute’ Staffing Issues in Transportation Industry: Declassified Document
The COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federally regulated workforces caused severe staffing and operational challenges for the transportation sector, according to a secret briefing delivered to the cabinet in June before the mandates were suspended.
“Operators are reporting acute challenges in staffing critical operating positions across sectors, citing current vaccination mandate as a key factor,” says a now declassified and heavily-redacted document meant to brief government ministers on policy considerations for the mandates.
“In air, operators are losing some pilots to jurisdictions like the U.S. who don’t require vaccines and ground crew to other sectors that do not have mandates,” says the briefing marked “Secret — Confidence of the Queen’s Privy Council.”
‘It Felt Like My Insides Were Crying’: China COVID Curbs Hit Youth Mental Health
Zhang Meng had a breakdown last December. The 20-year-old found herself sobbing on the stairs of her dorm, driven to despair by repeated COVID lockdowns of her university campus in Beijing.
The lockdowns had meant she was mostly confined to her room and unable to meet up with friends. There were also strict curbs on when she could visit the canteen or take a shower. Describing herself as someone who craves in-person social interaction, Zhang said the restrictions had “removed the safety net that was holding me up and I felt like my whole being was falling down”.
China has employed some of the world’s harshest and most frequent lockdown measures in its determination to stamp out every COVID outbreak, arguing it saves lives and pointing to its low pandemic death toll of around 5,200 to date.
It’s an effort it has shown little sign of abandoning, but the policy’s impact on mental health alarms medical experts and as Zhang’s and Yao’s experiences have shown, it is already taking its toll.
Chinese Think Tank Makes Rare Public Call for Beijing to Ease Zero-COVID Policy
A Chinese think tank has issued a rare public disagreement with the ruling Communist party’s severe “zero-COVID” policy, saying curbs that shut down cities and disrupt trade, travel and industry must change to prevent an “economic stall.”
The Anbound Research Center gave no details of possible changes but said on Monday that Xi Jinping’s government needed to focus on shoring up sinking growth. It noted the U.S., Europe and Japan were recovering economically after easing anti-disease curbs.
“Preventing the risk of an economic stall should be the priority task,” the think tank said in a report titled: It’s Time for China to Adjust Its Virus Control and Prevention Policies.
FTC Accuses Data Broker of Letting Anyone Track Millions of Americans for Free
The Federal Trade Commission announced a lawsuit Monday against a major data broker, accusing it of offering services that allow for the tracking of Americans at sensitive locations, such as addiction clinics or domestic violence shelters.
Commissioners voted 4-1 this week to bring a suit against Kochava, Inc., which calls itself the “industry leader for mobile app attribution” and sells mobile geo-location data on hundreds of millions of people.
The suit accuses the company of violating the FTC Act, and the agency warns that the company’s business practices could easily be used to unmask the locations of vulnerable individuals — including visitors to reproductive health clinics, homeless and domestic violence shelters, places of worship and addiction recovery centers.
Elon Musk Files Another Notice to Cancel Twitter Takeover, Citing Whistleblower’s Data Privacy Concerns
Tesla CEO Elon Musk filed another notice Monday of his intent to cancel his purchase of social media platform Twitter, citing a whistleblower’s recent claims.
Musk‘s latest attempt to backpedal out of the deal cites revelations found in the “Zatko complaint” — a memo released by a former security chief for Twitter that alleged the platform has misused user data and lacks control of the site’s core systems.
Musk’s camp filed the notice despite claiming it was legally unnecessary due to a previous motion to cancel the purchase. The Aug. 29 filing is intended to ensure the deal is terminated even in the event Musk’s previous complaints fail to hold in court.
In the Musk vs. Twitter Trial, Americans Are the Winners
The Depp-Heard lawsuit is behind us, and we’re onto the next celebrity trial: Musk v. Twitter. This Page Six-style trial has everything: public confrontations, billions of dollars at stake, the future of Internet speech and even a high-profile affair. And the story keeps getting juicer with billionaire businessman Elon Musk recently subpoenaing his friend and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.
Twitter is suing to force Musk to go through with an acquisition he no longer wants and a marriage that Twitter itself never wanted in the first place — like an industrial shotgun wedding. And just like the Depp-Heard trial, this one is being played out in both the courts of justice and public opinion.
Regardless of legal verdict, the American people have already won. In the 6 months since the made-for-TV acquisition began, we’ve seen the platform expand free speech in response to public scrutiny.
Since Musk’s announced acquisition, Twitter has changed what content it allows and removes. Twitter lifted a “lifetime ban” on reporter and author Alex Berenson and is more aggressively removing bots. It changed the way users see their timelines. And it’s reviewing long-held policies on what is and is not allowed on the platform.