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

Feds Withhold $1.2M as Florida Refuses to Enforce COVID Vaccine Rule for Healthcare Workers

SunSentinel reported:

As Gov. Ron DeSantis fights COVID-19 vaccination passports and mandates — most recently by threatening the Special Olympics with a $27.5 million fine — there’s one mandate he can’t stop.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is enforcing a federal vaccine requirement for healthcare staff that offers only medical or religious exemptions. The rule, which the U.S. Supreme Court validated in January, contradicts a state law that requires employers to offer broad exemptions that are not allowed by CMS.

Though the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration has vowed not to monitor or report whether Florida healthcare facilities are following the requirement, that isn’t stopping the federal government from checking. CMS required 100% of eligible Florida healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated or receive an exemption by Feb. 28.

CMS has reduced Florida’s federal allocation of survey and certification funding by $1.2 million and will pay contractors to check if healthcare facilities are following the law, which would typically be the state’s responsibility, a CMS spokesperson said. The agency plans to cut funds to non-compliant states in future years until they start overseeing the vaccine requirement, a Feb. 9 memorandum said.

Brock Juarez, communications director for the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, in a Thursday email said the CMS moves do not change the agency’s policy. “1.2 million dollars is a small price to pay to protect the freedom of healthcare workers,” he wrote.

How Defending Your Privacy in the Metaverse May Be More Challenging Than You Think

Newsweek reported:

Most people can understand the importance of data privacy and the countless protection measures that many cybersecurity professionals have to lean into to protect personal and corporate data. However, as many have already learned by now, Meta Platforms, Inc., otherwise doing business as Meta and formerly known as Facebook, Inc., is a multinational technology conglomerate and the parent organization of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, among other subsidiaries.

As digital consumers start to integrate the term ‘metaverse’ into their vocabulary, the way data is protected may have to shift dramatically. The days when hackers tap into your bank account through some loose password are over; instead, known technology companies are tapping into your biometrics, digital real estate locations and your metaverse avatar’s favorite shade of eye color.

According to one source, “One aspect of the metaverse that raises privacy concerns is the vast amount of personal data that may be collected on participating individuals. However, compared to traditional social media, metaverse platforms can more closely track individuals.

For example, companies can monitor physiological responses and biometric data such as facial expressions, vocal inflections and vital signs in real time while participants are in their metaverse. This depth of information allows companies to understand users’ behavior, which can be used to tailor advertising campaigns in an exceptionally targeted way.”

Andrew Giuliani Says He’s Banned From GOP Debate Over Vax Proof

NBC New York reported:

Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Giuliani said he has been barred from an upcoming primary debate because he has refused to submit proof he’s been vaccinated against COVID-19.

At a news conference Sunday outside the offices of CBS-TV, which is televising the debate Monday night, the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he has chosen not to be vaccinated but that he told debate organizers he would take multiple tests leading up to and on the day of the debate.

Giuliani said he was told initially that he only needed to take a test on the day of the debate, then was told he had to show proof of vaccination. Giuliani has criticized vaccine mandates in New York City and said Sunday that, if elected, he will restore the jobs of public workers fired for not getting the vaccine.

Shanghai’s Censors Can’t Hide Stories of the Dead

Wired reported:

Zhou Shengni needed a doctor, and fast. The 49-year-old, who was having an asthma attack, was being driven by her family to Shanghai East Hospital, where she worked as a nurse, for urgent treatment. It was March 23, and the Chinese city was under a strict COVID lockdown.

However, when they arrived at the emergency department, Zhou’s family found that it was closed for disinfection under Shanghai’s rules to contain the spread of COVID. In urgent need of medical care, they had no choice but to drive to another hospital about 9 kilometers away. Zhou later died.

Zhou’s death caused outrage on Chinese social media, but it was not an isolated incident. Shanghai’s citywide lockdown lasted two months, with most restrictions removed on June 1. But, for those two months, almost nothing moved — including the city’s hospitals, which were hit by sudden closures, with many restricting their services to emergencies only. Patients in need of medical help were told to present a negative PCR test to access care.

From February to May, health authorities in Shanghai had reported 588 deaths related to COVID-19, the majority elderly residents. But officials didn’t count people like Zhou, who may have died as a result of the city’s lockdown restrictions.

Beijing Tests Millions to Stem ‘Developing’ COVID Cluster at 24-Hour Bar

Reuters reported:

Authorities in China’s capital Beijing raced on Monday to contain a COVID-19 outbreak traced to a 24-hour bar known for cheap liquor and big crowds, with millions facing mandatory testing and thousands under targeted lockdowns.

The outbreak of 228 cases linked to the Heaven Supermarket Bar, which had just reopened as restrictions in Beijing eased last week, highlights how hard it will be for China to make a success of its “zero-COVID” policy as much of the rest of the world opts to learn how to live with the virus.

Google Places Engineer on Leave After He Claims Group’s Chatbot Is ‘Sentient’

Ars Technica reported:

Google has ignited a social media firestorm on the nature of consciousness after placing an engineer on paid leave who went public with his belief that the tech group’s chatbot has become “sentient.”

Blake Lemoine, a senior software engineer in Google’s Responsible AI unit, did not receive much attention last week when he wrote a Medium post saying he “may be fired soon for doing AI ethics work.”

But a Saturday profile in the Washington Post characterizing Lemoine as “the Google engineer who thinks the company’s AI has come to life” became the catalyst for widespread discussion on social media regarding the nature of artificial intelligence. Among the experts commenting, questioning or joking about the article were Nobel laureates, Tesla’s head of AI and multiple professors.

At issue is whether Google’s chatbot, LaMDA — a Language Model for Dialogue Applications — can be considered a person. Lemoine, who had been given the task of investigating AI ethics concerns, said he was rebuffed and even laughed at after expressing his belief internally that LaMDA had developed a sense of “personhood.”

Anger at Big Tech No Excuse to Abandon Free Market

Fox News reported:

No one is angrier at YouTube than I am. When I used that platform to educate the public on the potentially deadly consequences of relying on ineffective cloth masks to prevent transmission of COVID-19, YouTube took my video down and suspended my ability to upload additional videos for a week.

Such was my punishment for the crime of daring to disagree with Chief Medical Advisor to the President Anthony Fauci, for which there was no appeal, even though the Centers for Disease Control now admits I was correct.

I was appalled that YouTube rejected the principle of free speech and embraced the Orwellian tactic of disappearing messages that did not adhere to the official party line. In response, I simply used my power as a consumer to post my videos to YouTube’s free-speech supporting competitor, Rumble.com.

While many of my colleagues share my anger with big tech companies, they do not share my free-market principles. Instead, the bipartisan zeal for vengeance inspired an antitrust crusade against Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter. But these proposals to ostensibly cut the tech giants down to size would, instead, perpetuate the dominant position of these companies and deprive consumers of the technological innovation that only free-market competition can provide.

Rune Labs Gets FDA Clearance to Use Apple Watch to Track Parkinson’s Symptoms

Reuters reported:

San Francisco-based startup Rune Labs on Monday said it received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use the Apple Watch to monitor tremors and other common symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The Rune Labs software uses motion sensors built into the Apple Watch, which can already be used to detect when a person falls. Rune Labs Chief Executive Brian Pepin said in an interview that Apple Watch data will be combined with data from other sources, including a Medtronic Inc (MDT.N) implant that can measure brain signals.

Digitization Dominates: What Financial Leaders Say the Market Will Look Like in 30 Years

ZeroHedge reported:

Investing is often all about capitalizing on and getting in early on revolutionary and secular trends that are going to shape the economy going forward for decades. In an attempt to try and determine what the future holds in that regard, this week Bloomberg asked several prominent members of the financial world what markets would look like in the year 2052, thirty years from now.

The CEO and President of NASDAQ, Adena Friedman, focused on cloud infrastructure and digitization of assets, telling Bloomberg: “The next 30 years I think are going to be really focused on value-added intermediation in the markets. The technology will exist to allow for every asset on the planet to be digitized and available to be bought and sold in an instantaneous way.”

Among her “digitization” predictions was a call for a central bank digital currency:

“If the blockchain can scale a lot more than it can today, I think you would see regulators get more comfortable bringing the digital-asset construct into traditional markets. You could see the potential for a central bank digital currency really forming the basis for a much more digital payment structure. And then you could see capital markets opening up into a much more globalized format.”