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Novak Djokovic Denied Entry Into U.S. Again Over COVID Vaccine Status

New York Post reported:

The Novak Djokovic vaccine saga has extended into 2023. The world No. 1 Serbian tennis star was denied entry into the United States due to his being unvaccinated against COVID-19, forcing him to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open, which starts Wednesday in Indian Wells, Ca.

Djokovic had requested a vaccine waiver but was denied by Homeland Security. It’s not the first time that Djokovic has been forced out of competition due to his vaccination status.

The 35-year-old was forced to withdraw from the 2022 Australian Open after arriving in Melbourne, first having his visa canceled and then being deported out of the country.

Djokovic also did not play in the 2022 U.S. Open, which Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz ended up winning.

America’s COVID Response Was Based on Lies

Newsweek reported:

Almost all of America’s leaders have gradually pulled back their COVID mandates, requirements, and closures — even in states like California, which had imposed the most stringent and longest-lasting restrictions on the public. At the same time, the media has been gradually acknowledging the ongoing release of studies that totally refute the purported reasons behind those restrictions. This overt reversal is falsely portrayed as “learned” or “new evidence.” Little acknowledgment of error is to be found.

We have seen no public apology for promulgating false information, or for the vilification and delegitimization of policy experts and medical scientists like myself who spoke out correctly about data, standard knowledge about viral infections and pandemics, and fundamental biology.

The historical record is critical. We have seen a macabre Orwellian attempt to rewrite history and to blame the failure of widespread lockdowns on the lockdowns’ critics, alongside absurd denials of officials’ own incessant demands for them.

The tragic failure of reckless, unprecedented lockdowns that were contrary to established pandemic science, and the added massive harms of those policies on children, the elderly, and lower-income families, are indisputable and well-documented in numerous studies. This was the biggest, the most tragic, and the most unethical breakdown of public health leadership in modern history.

California to Alter COVID Rules in Healthcare Settings: Masks and Vaccinations Not Required

Los Angeles Times reported:

With the COVID-19 state of emergency a thing of the past, California health officials on Friday unveiled plans to relax guidance on masking in high-risk settings and to end vaccination requirements for healthcare workers.

Among the changes announced by the California Department of Public Health is the end of statewide mask requirements in healthcare and other indoor high-risk settings — including correctional facilities and emergency and homeless shelters — beginning April 3.

Effective the same day, California will no longer require COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers, including those in adult and direct care settings, correctional facilities and detention centers.

In other changes, starting March 13, an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 can exit isolation after five days, provided they feel well, symptoms are improving, and they have been fever-free for 24 hours.

Washington, Oregon to End Healthcare Settings Mask Mandate

Associated Press reported:

Washington and Oregon will soon drop mask requirements in healthcare settings, state health officials said Friday, moving to lift the last major masking requirements meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Mandates in both states will end on April 3, meaning healthcare workers, patients and visitors will no longer be required to wear a mask in facilities including hospitals, urgent care centers and dental and doctors’ offices. Washington’s mask requirements in correctional facilities will also end on April 3.

Some healthcare settings may decide to continue requiring masks even after the statewide requirements are lifted, officials said.

Twitter Discloses Another Possible Government Censorship Effort

The Hill reported:

An old saying, attributed to Henry David Thoreau, maintains that you do not have to find a trout in your glass to know someone is watering down the milk. This week Americans found a veritable school of trout in their milk — an unintentional demonstration by the Biden administration of why such a gathering of fish is often called a “lie.”

In the 17th release of the “Twitter Files,” journalist Matt Taibbi disclosed that the U.S. government is funding a group that has supported the censorship of dissenting viewpoints on social media, including those of U.S. citizens. This week, Taibbi reported that the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) may have supported a different disinformation blacklisting operation.

Yet, even Twitter censors reportedly balked at the size of the suggested blacklists and lack of supporting evidence. One list submitted by the GEC included several CNN journalists and Western government accounts, according to Taibbi.

The most chilling aspect of these latest two controversies is that they involve the blacklisting of individuals and groups. We have citizens who were unaware that their government was flagging them to be silenced or suspended from sharing their views on subjects ranging from Indian corruption to COVID to election fraud.

Matt Hancock Wanted to ‘Frighten Everyone’ Into Following COVID Rules

The Guardian reported:

Matt Hancock told aides he wanted to “frighten the pants off everyone” to ensure compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, according to the latest batch of leaked messages which reveal discussions over when to “deploy” details of a new strain.

The WhatsApp exchanges suggest the then health secretary and others discussed how to use an announcement about the Kent variant of the virus to scare the public into changing their behavior.

The messages, published in the Sunday Telegraph, show that cabinet secretary Simon Case suggested in January 2021 that the “fear” factor would be “vital” in stopping the spread of the virus.

A Privacy Hero’s Final Wish: An Institute to Redirect AI’s Future

Wired reported:

About a week before the privacy and technology luminary Peter Eckersley unexpectedly died last September, he reached out to artificial intelligence entrepreneur Deger Turan. Eckersley wanted to persuade Turan to be the president of Eckersley’s brainchild, a new institute that aimed to do nothing less ambitious than course-correct AI’s evolution to safeguard the future of humanity.

In the preceding days, while still fully expecting to recover, Eckersley had already told the board of his nascent organization — the AI Objectives Institute, or AOI — that Turan would be its president. The 44-year-old technologist and activist had also written a rough, incomplete will in Google Docs, in the unlikely event of his death. It began by naming AOI as the inheritor of all his U.S.-based assets. “We started something important,” Eckersley wrote. “I’d want to see whether the people involved could get it a little further.”

Turan had never actually had the chance to tell Eckersley he accepted his request. But as soon as he learned of Eckersley’s death, he knew that the role at AOI was not only the most important work he could be doing but also a way to help establish a central pillar of his friend’s legacy. “So I said yes,” Turan says. “Let’s do this — not a little further, but all the way.”

Eckersley envisioned the institute as an incubator and applied laboratory that would work with major AI labs to take on the problem Eckersley had come to believe was, perhaps, even more, important than the privacy and cybersecurity work to which he’d devoted decades of his career: redirecting the future of artificial intelligence away from the forces causing suffering in the world, toward what he described as “human flourishing.”

A Better Kind of Social Media Is Possible — if We Want It

The Washington Post reported:

Talk to almost anyone today about social media, and you’ll hear that it’s toxic. One might diagnose it with having an excess of outrage, another with too little free speech. Some bemoan the invasion of privacy, the scourge of lies and hate, the capricious rule of technology titans, and the trashing of attention spans. And some feel that no matter how delicious any morsel it offers, the indulgence leaves a bad aftertaste.

The pendulum has fully swung from early Pollyanna predictions that social media would unite families and topple repressive regimes to today’s declarations that it is depressing teenagers and destroying democracy. Frustration is widespread; calls for change across the political aisle. Pioneers have decamped from Twitter and Facebook to join experimental platforms such as Mastodon and Post, despite clunky features and the sacrifice of caches of followers and friends.

But for many of us, the dream of digital town squares where we openly discuss important matters has lost its luster. Messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, where chats take place in private groups, have for years been more popular than broadcasting thoughts to a public feed. And who can blame teenagers for preferring TikTok? Even on a good day, a whimsical video has more appeal than a heated exchange with a vitriolic stranger.

Where all this momentum leads is anyone’s guess. But there’s no going back to a world before Facebook, however pretty it might look in the foggy rearview mirror. What we should hope for instead is a new era of social media — one that serves the best interests of society instead of exploiting its worst impulses. To get there will require new business models and funding sources — and probably some smart and not heavy-handed legislation. It also will require something sorely lacking from most social media conversations today: imagination.

TikTok ‘Acting Too Slow’ to Tackle Self-Harm and Eating Disorder Content

The Guardian reported:

TikTok has been urged to strengthen its content moderation policies around suicide and eating disorder material by organizations including the NSPCC and the Molly Rose Foundation.

The groups claimed TikTok had not acted swiftly enough following the publication of research suggesting the app’s recommendation algorithm pushes self-harm and eating disorder content to teenagers within minutes of them expressing interest in the topics.

In a letter to TikTok’s head of safety, the organizations asked the app to take “meaningful action” including improving moderation of eating disorder and suicide content; working with experts to develop a “comprehensive” approach to removing harmful content; supporting users who may be struggling with eating disorders or suicidal thoughts; and regular reporting on the steps being taken to address those issues.

DHS Has a Program Gathering Domestic Intelligence — and Virtually No One Knows About It

Politico reported:

For years, the Department of Homeland Security has run a virtually unknown program gathering domestic intelligence, one of many revelations in a wide-ranging tranche of internal documents reviewed by POLITICO. Those documents also reveal that a significant number of employees in DHS’s intelligence office have raised concerns that the work they are doing could be illegal.

Under the domestic-intelligence program, officials are allowed to seek interviews with just about anyone in the United States. That includes people held in immigrant detention centers, local jails and federal prisons. DHS’s intelligence professionals have to say they’re conducting intelligence interviews, and they have to tell the people they seek to interview that their participation is voluntary. But the fact that they’re allowed to go directly to incarcerated people — circumventing their lawyers — raises important civil liberties concerns, according to legal experts.

That specific element of the program, which has been in place for years, was paused last year because of internal concerns. DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which runs the program, uses it to gather information about threats to the U.S., including transnational drug trafficking and organized crime. But the fact that this low-profile office is collecting intelligence by questioning people in the U.S. is virtually unknown.