Miss a day, miss a lot. Subscribe to The Defender's Top News of the Day. It's free.

COVID: EU Drops Air Travel Face Mask Mandate

Deutsche Welle reported:

Face masks will not have to be worn in airports and on flights in Europe, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Wednesday.

The easing of the measure will be effective as of May 16. However, authorities stressed masks were still the most effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“It is a relief to all of us that we are finally reaching a stage in the pandemic where we can start to relax the health safety measures,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said. “For many passengers, and also aircrew members, there is a strong desire for masks to no longer be a mandatory part of air travel. We are now at the start of that process.”

Italy, France, Bulgaria and other European countries have already been easing or ending their COVID measures.

Musk, Bezos, Gates Lose Billions in Net Worth in Tech Downturn

FOX Business reported:

Three big-name tech billionaires have been hit with sizable blows to their net worth as the technology sector has soured in recent days.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq sank 4% on Monday, making the total decline approximately 10% since the Federal Reserve announced continued hikes of half percentage points on interest rates.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Microsoft founder Bill Gates are often ranked as the three most wealthy private individuals in the world — and all three have been hurt by recent market developments.

Musk lost approximately $12.8 billion Monday, according to the Dow Jones Market Data Group. Bezos’ net worth fell $5.97 billion, and Gates lost $1.05 billion.

LA School Board Delays Student COVID Vaccine Mandate Without Any Discussion

Los Angeles Times reported:

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved a delay of a student vaccine mandate for COVID-19 that had been scheduled to take effect next fall, under a recommendation from Supt. Alberto Carvalho.

The 8:30 p.m. vote at the conclusion of a nearly 12-hour board meeting took place without comment from either Carvalho or board members. It was a striking anticlimax after board members had determinedly adopted the vaccine requirement last year — and were resolute in defending it against lawsuits.

The decision aligns with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement last month that he is pausing a state mandate that, at one point, was expected to take effect before the upcoming school year.

Ted Cruz Bill Would Give Troops Refusing COVID Vaccine Honorable Discharge

Newsweek reported:

GOP Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is calling for all service members who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine to be granted an honorable discharge under new legislation introduced.

Cruz and 13 of his Republican colleagues sponsored the Allowing Military Exemptions, Recognizing Individual Concerns About New Shots (AMERICANS) Act, which will require the secretary of defense to make an effort to retain unvaccinated service members. This comes as all U.S. military services have begun disciplinary actions and discharges of troops for vaccine non-compliance.

Cruz said the proposed bill is a counter to the Biden administration’s efforts to “coerce and punish service members who decline the COVID-19 vaccine.”

“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Biden administration is trying to coerce our men and women in uniform to violate their conscience and religious beliefs, let alone on an issue as polarizing as the COVID-19 vaccine,” Cruz said in a statement. “The AMERICANS Act will ensure that these and similar efforts to politicize our military on this issue are blocked.”

King County Sheriff’s Office Gives Update on Deputy Firings Due to Vaccine Mandate

KIRO 7 News reported:

With vacancies soaring at the King County Sheriff’s Office, acting King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall gave an update on how the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination mandate has impacted staffing and operations at the sheriff’s office during a King County Council committee meeting Tuesday.

During the council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee meeting, Cole-Tindall said her number-one priority is finding a solution to recruit more deputies.

Recently, King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn pushed to end the firing of unvaccinated deputies due to the staffing shortages amid an uptick in violence in King County.

“I’ve disagreed with the policy, and the vaccine mandate at the sheriff’s office from the beginning because of the substantial loss of personnel,” said Dunn. “Whether they were forced into retirement … or the fear of disclosing information, or not granted an exemption and I see there are (around) 112 deputy vacancies. It’s substantial.”

WHO Chief Censored on China’s Internet After Calling Zero-COVID Unsustainable

CNN World reported:

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) is being censored on China’s internet after questioning the sustainability of the country’s zero-COVID policy.

The censorship on Weibo and WeChat, China’s two largest social media platforms, targets WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ comments that expressed rare disagreement with Beijing’s policies.

“When we talk about the zero-COVID strategy, we don’t think that it is sustainable, considering the behavior of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” Tedros told a media briefing Tuesday, citing the increased transmissibility of Omicron.

The criticism from Tedros, who was accused of being too close to China earlier in the pandemic, came just days after Chinese leader Xi Jinping vowed to double down on the policy and “resolutely struggle” against all critics.

Scarred by COVID Lockdown, Some Indian Migrants Stick Closer to Home

The Straits Times reported:

Hungry and thirsty, Mohammed Tanveer walked and hitchhiked 1,900 km home after losing his job in the first coronavirus wave in 2020 — and, like many Indian migrants, has vowed never to work so far from his family again.

Mr. Tanveer was among 11 million migrants who traveled thousands of miles home in scorching heat, many dying of exhaustion or in accidents, after losing their jobs in one of the world’s longest and strictest COVID-19 lockdowns.

With recurring waves of COVID-19 and precarious working conditions, many migrants are finding jobs closer to home where possible, or forging stronger support networks in destination cities, according to labor rights campaigners.

Elon Musk Slams ‘Strong Left-Wing Bias’ in Twitter Censorship

New York Post reported:

Billionaire Elon Musk, Twitter’s presumptive future owner, took a public swipe Monday at what he called the platform’s “left-wing bias,” when asked to weigh in on censorship decisions.

Twitter obv has a strong left-wing bias,” Musk wrote on Twitter.

Musk’s comment came in response to alt-right conservative commentator Mike Cernovich, who accused Twitter of turning a blind eye to tweets from liberal accounts that incite violence. “When Twitter employees invariably lie to you about enforcement policy, maybe they can explain why a verified account is allowed to incite terrorism without any care in the world about being banned,” Cernovich wrote.

Musk later followed up by sharing more thoughts on speech on the social media platform.

The EU Wants Big Tech to Scan Your Private Chats for Child Abuse

Wired reported:

All your WhatsApp photos, iMessage texts, and Snapchat videos could be scanned to check for child sexual abuse images and videos under newly proposed European rules. The plans, experts warn, may undermine the end-to-end encryption that protects billions of messages sent every day and hamper people’s online privacy.

The European Commission today revealed long-awaited proposals aimed at tackling the huge volumes of child sexual abuse material, also known as CSAM, uploaded to the web each year. The proposed law creates a new EU Centre to deal with child abuse content and introduces obligations for tech companies to “detect, report, block and remove” CSAM from their platforms.

The law, announced by Europe’s commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, says tech companies have failed to voluntarily remove abuse content and has been welcomed by child protection and safety groups.

Thousands of Popular Websites See What You Type — Before You Hit Submit

Wired reported:

When you sign up for a newsletter, make a hotel reservation, or check out online, you probably take for granted that if you mistype your email address three times or change your mind and X out of the page, it doesn’t matter. Nothing actually happens until you hit the Submit button, right? Well, maybe not. As with so many assumptions about the web, this isn’t always the case, according to new research: A surprising number of websites are collecting some or all of your data as you type it into a digital form.

Researchers from KU Leuven, Radboud University and the University of Lausanne crawled and analyzed the top 100,000 websites, looking at scenarios in which a user is visiting a site while in the European Union and visiting a site from the United States.

They found that 1,844 websites gathered an EU user’s email address without their consent, and a staggering 2,950 logged a U.S. user’s email in some form. Many of the sites seemingly do not intend to conduct the data-logging but incorporate third-party marketing and analytics services that cause the behavior.

GOP State Legislators Move to Police Social Media

The Hill reported:

Republican state legislators across the country are eyeing new restrictions on the type of content that major social media companies can police. In the absence of federal action on tech reforms, the state-level proposals are leaving industry experts worried about a patchwork of regulations and a flood of litigation.

Legislators in at least 18 states have considered bills that would impose penalties for censorship or content limits based on ideological viewpoints. The specifics vary, but many of the proposals would allow users who believe their views have been censored or silenced to bring lawsuits in state courts.

By preventing Big Tech companies from continuing to engage in viewpoint discrimination, we hope to protect the free exchange of ideas and information in Ohio,” Ohio state Rep. Scott Wiggam (R) said at a recent committee hearing introducing his state’s version of the measure. He called it “an anti-discrimination bill, at its heart. It will prevent Big Tech from censoring the expressions of Ohioans based upon their point of view.”