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

Omicron Makes Biden’s Vaccine Mandates Obsolete

The Wall Street Journal reported:

Federal courts considering the Biden administration’s vaccination mandates — including the Supreme Court at Friday’s oral argument — have focused on administrative-law issues. The decrees raise constitutional issues as well. But there’s a simpler reason the justices should stay these mandates: the rise of the Omicron variant.

It would be irrational, legally indefensible and contrary to the public interest for government to mandate vaccines absent any evidence that the vaccines are effective in stopping the spread of the pathogen they target. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening here.

Unvaccinated Italians Now Barred From Public Transport Unless Recently Recovered From COVID

Newsweek reported:

Italian lawmakers added new restrictions on January 10, 2022, including proof of vaccination or recovery from the virus, to use public transportation and enter shops, gyms and other locations.

While nearly 86% of Italy’s over-12 population is fully vaccinated, 2 million people are currently testing positive for the virus. The government’s new restrictions, which limit Italians from both recreations and essential activities, encourage those who have yet to get the vaccine to do so.

Citizens can no longer just show a negative COVID test if they hope to use public transportation such as the bus or subway. These new restrictions even limit citizens’ entry into places such as coffee shops, gyms and hotels.

Italians have supported past mask mandates and the new restrictions, including police checking train commuters’ vaccine status and enforcing wearing proper Ffp2 face masks, now required on public transportation.

In Much of the West, the Walls Are Closing in on Anti-Vaxxers

The Washington Post reported:

Republican governors in the United States may be championing the cause of the vaccine resistant and suing to stop mandates imposed by the Biden administration. But elsewhere in the West, the jab-less are increasingly becoming personae non gratae.

Studies suggest Omicron causes milder symptoms. Even so, the unvaccinated — at least those without valid medical reasons — are being blamed for overburdening hospitals by putting themselves, and society, at risk.

In Florida, for instance, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a law that barred companies and schools from insisting all their employees be vaccinated. Within the week, Disney halted its vaccine requirement for Walt Disney World workers.

Compare that to the stance of French President Emmanuel Macron, who vowed in less-than-tactful language last week to make the life of the unvaccinated a living hell.

COVID Mandates Keep Americans From Getting Back in the Game

Fox News reported:

A recent New York Times article, “If You’ve Had COVID, Do You Need the Vaccine?” argues that vaccination is still the best choice after recovering from the disease.

We argue, on the contrary, that the scientific evidence does not favor vaccination — nor warrant coercive mandates or restrictions — for those with natural (infection-induced) immunity. Furthermore, we affirm that all people should maintain the right to informed consent or refusal for COVID vaccines.

The natural immunity debate, to which Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said he has no firm answer, is not about whether people should try to acquire natural immunity by deliberately getting infected; nobody is suggesting this.

It is about the level of immunity afforded to those who have already recovered from COVID (estimated at more than half of all Americans) compared to immunity from the vaccine.

Citigroup Will Fire Employees Who Haven’t Been Vaccinated Against COVID, According to Reports

Business Insider reported:

Citigroup has warned U.S. office staff that they’ll be fired at the end of the month if they don’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 14, according to multiple reports. The vaccine policy is the strictest so far among big financial companies, The New York Post reported.

An internal memo from last Friday added that staff who don’t get jabbed will be placed on unpaid leave before being terminated on Jan. 31, both Bloomberg and the Post reported.

Citigroup said in the memo that some fired staff would be eligible for year-end bonuses, but that they’d only get the money if they signed agreements saying they wouldn’t pursue legal action against the company, Bloomberg and the Post both reported.

GOP Governor Says Large Businesses Should Not Comply With ‘Oppressive’ Vaccine Mandate

The Hill reported:

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Sunday said large businesses should not comply with the Biden administration’s “oppressive” vaccine or testing mandate.

“[T]his mandate of [the Occupational safety and Health Administration], the federal government, needs to be struck down. And that’s why we’re fighting against it. And I expect the Supreme Court, hopefully, to rule against the Biden administration on that oppressive vaccine mandate,” Hutchinson told co-anchor Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Asked if eligible businesses should comply with the vaccine-or-test mandate, which is set to take effect on Monday, Hutchinson said “no,” pointing to the pending litigation in the Supreme Court.

Massachusetts Unveils Digital COVID Vaccine Card Option

Associated Press reported:

Massachusetts residents who have received their COVID-19 vaccinations can now create a digital vaccine card proving their status using a new tool unveiled Monday by the state.

The tool, called My Vax Records, lets people create the digital card that includes information similar to that on the paper card given to individuals at the time of their vaccination.

The tool can be located at MyVaxRecords.Mass.Gov. About a dozen other states have similar digital cards.

The Baker administration isn’t requiring residents to create the digital card and isn’t mandating residents show proof of vaccination to enter any venue.

Thousands Protest in France Against Proposed New Vaccine Pass

BBC News reported:

French authorities say more than 105,000 people have taken part in protests across the country against the introduction of a new coronavirus pass.

A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.

Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes.”

The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative COVID-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues. Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.

Anti-Vaccine Protesters Rally in France, Germany, Austria, Italy

ALJAZEERA reported:

Protesters have taken to streets across western Europe in protest against COVID-19 vaccine requirements, with more than 100,000 people rallying in France alone to oppose what they called the government’s plans to restrict the rights of the unvaccinated.

More than 40,000 people also protested in the Austrian capital, Vienna, where vaccination against COVID-19 is set to become compulsory from next month. In Germany, protesters rallied in several cities on Saturday, with the largest event held in Hamburg, where some 16,000 people attended, according to the police.

Protests also took place in Italy, with hundreds of people in the city of Turin protesting against rules that make vaccines mandatory for anyone more than the age of 50. Tougher laws are also coming into force for others — from Monday, those who are unvaccinated can no longer use public transport or visit restaurants.

Novak Djokovic Can Remain in Australia, Judge Rules

The New York Times reported:

Novak Djokovic, the Serbian tennis star, moved one step closer to competing for his record 21st Grand Slam title after an Australian judge ordered his release from immigration detention on Monday, the latest turn in a five-day saga over his refusal to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

The judge, Anthony Kelly, found that Djokovic had been treated unfairly after his arrival at a Melbourne airport for the Australian Open, where he had been cleared to play with a vaccination exemption.

Restoring the visa does not, however, guarantee that Djokovic will be able to vie for his 10th Open title when the tournament begins next Monday. In court, the government’s lawyers warned that the immigration minister could still cancel his visa, which would lead to an automatic three-year ban on his entering the country.

Thousands Rally in Prague Against Vaccination Mandate

Associated Press reported:

Thousands of people marched through the Czech Republic’s capital on Sunday to protest against compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for certain groups and professions.

The protesters gathered at Wenceslas Square in central Prague to question the effectiveness of the current vaccines and reject the vaccination of children before marching through the capital, chanting “Freedom, freedom.”

The previous government released an order in early December, making vaccination mandatory for the 60 and over age group, as well as medical personnel, police officers, firefighters and medical students. The order is due to take effect in March, but it still might end up being overturned.

In Virtual Reality, There Are No Rules, so Parents Are Making up Their Own

CNN Business reported:

Last summer, Allen Roach saw something that really disturbed him: His then-11-year-old son, Peyton, used a sword to slice off the arms and legs of characters in a virtual reality medieval fantasy game, Blade & Sorcery, then threw the dismembered digital bodies off a bridge.

Roach, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri and works as community manager for VR-based learning platform Edstutia, stopped letting his three oldest children play that game.

Roach is one of a growing number of parents navigating a new frontier in technology, and learning as they go. More kids have access to VR headsets than ever before — and with it, access to a still-niche but expanding virtual world of games, avatar-driven hangouts and many more activities.

Big Tech Stocks Will Benefit From Metaverse and Crypto but Apple Least Likely to Grow, Analyst Says

CNBC reported:

Large U.S. tech stocks will shrug off inflation and keep on rising this year thanks to several emerging technologies, according to Cyrus Mewawalla, head of thematic research at data analytics and consultancy firm GlobalData.

Tech firms will benefit from the metaverse, Web 3.0, cryptocurrencies and quantum computing if they operate in those areas, Mewawalla told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” Monday.

Big Tech firms are investing billions into new technologies that have the potential to fundamentally change the way we live and work.

My Business Will Boycott the Metaverse. Yours Should Too.

Newsweek reported

Google Glasses promised to turn us into all-knowing, super-productive cyborgs. Segways promised to transform the future of cities and transportation. In the end, they both just made us look a little bit silly. My hope is that the metaverse headset will go the same way.

Approximately a third of American adults say they are almost constantly connected to the internet. We’re suffering as a result; too much time online is making us obese, depressed and socially disconnected.

That’s why the metaverse terrifies me. As the lovechild of social media and virtual reality, the metaverse will only make our addiction to trash entertainment, virtual validation and e-scapism even worse.