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Texas Appeals Court Rules Against Gov. Abbott, Says He Can’t Ban Mask Mandates

Newsweek reported:

The governor of Texas and the state’s attorney general were dealt a loss in court Thursday.

A Texas Court of Appeals ruled that Governor Greg Abbott does not have the authority to ban mask mandates. In July, Abbott issued an executive order attempting to keep local governments and officials from instituting mask mandates, threatening an up to $1,000 fine for failure to comply.

The order also sought to keep both public entities and private businesses that are receiving or will receive money from the state from requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

The Third District Court of Appeals in Austin issued their ruling Thursday. Harris County, Texas was challenging the governor’s order, saying that they did have the right to issue such mask mandates.

Germany to Require Proof of COVID Booster Shot to Enter Bars, Restaurants

Newsweek reported:

German leaders announced tougher requirements to enter restaurants and bars on Friday in response to the spread of the Omicron variant.

Citizens have been required to show proof of full vaccination or COVID recovery to enter restaurants, bars, shops, theaters and cinemas. However, Friday’s decision means customers will have to show that they have either received a booster shot or provide a negative test along with vaccination proof.

Additional COVID changes include mirroring other countries by shortening the quarantine or self-isolation periods. Fully boosted individuals or those who have been fully vaccinated or recovered in the past three months won’t have to quarantine, even if exposed to the coronavirus.

Unvaxxed Pediatrician Still out of Work Despite Hospital’s Mandate Drop — Judge Rules Against Indiana Doc Who Cited Religious Exemption

MedPage Today reported:

An Indiana pediatrician who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 has been unable to work at his hospital job for several weeks and is now speaking out, according to reports and a court document.

In November, Paul Halczenko, MD, was removed from his position at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis after declining to follow the health system’s vaccine mandate. Halczenko asked to be reinstated, citing a religious exemption, but Ascension declined.

Halczenko and four other employees sued to stop the hospital’s vaccine mandate Nov. 8 in Southern Indiana District Court, The Indiana Lawyer reported.

In mid-December, Ascension decided not to enforce its mandate and reinstated the four other employees who also declined to get vaccinated, yet Halczenko has remained suspended for reasons that remain unclear.

New GOP Leaders Say Virginia to Join Vax Mandate Challenges

Associated Press reported:

Virginia will join other Republican-led states and business groups in challenging Biden administration mandates intended to increase the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rate once GOP Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares take office, the two said in a statement Friday.

The announcement came the same day the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether to allow the Biden administration to enforce a vaccine-or-testing requirement that applies to large employers and a separate vaccine mandate for most healthcare workers.

Court Keeps COVID Vaccine Mandate Ban in Place for Federal Contractors in 3 States

Newsweek reported:

Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio will continue to have vaccine mandate bans.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined in a 2-1 vote that the vaccine mandate bans for federal contractors currently active in the states can continue to be implemented. The bans were implemented by the states as they argued that the proposed vaccination mandate proposed by President Joe Biden is unconstitutional and an overstep of his presidential duties.

In Omicron Outbreak, U.S. Governors Lose Appetite for Mandates

Associated Press reported:

Governors took sweeping actions during earlier surges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many closed schools and ordered businesses shut down. They issued mask mandates, vaccine requirements and even quarantines in some places for people who had traveled to out-of-state hot spots.

Not this time, even as the exponential spread of the super-contagious Omicron variant shatters COVID-19 infection records. While governors are sending help to hospitals, they are displaying little appetite for widespread public orders or shutdowns.

Even Democratic governors who passed strict mandates early on are now relying more on persuasion than dictates. They largely are leaving it up to local officials to make the tough calls on decisions such as whether to limit capacity in restaurants and theaters or keep schools open.

White House Says Decision to Enact Vaccine Mandates for Schools up to Local School Districts

Reuters reported:

The White House said on Thursday the decision to enact vaccine mandates for schools is up to local school districts.

The White House also said it would continue to make the case for schools to be kept open, including in Chicago, where officials canceled classes in the nation’s third-largest school district on Wednesday amid a dispute with the teachers’ union.

USPS Asks for Extension on COVID Vaccination Mandate

WHEC News 10 reported:

The U.S. Postal Service is fighting to delay the Biden administration’s request of vaccine requirements for federal workers.

Officials with the USPS argue the deadline set won’t be attainable for them to meet. The new requirement requests workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 or show a negative test. They also say it would have major delays on the delivery of mail.

As a counter, the USPS wants a 120-day waiver. As the case is reviewed, the postal service says it will stand by its current COVID policies.

Citigroup to Fire Unvaccinated Office Employees at the End of January, Report Says

Forbes reported:

Citigroup said it will fire employees who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine at the end of the month, according to a memo sent to staff Friday and obtained by Bloomberg, after it became one of the first large financial institutions to tell staff that vaccinations would be a condition of employment.

Biden signed an executive order in September requiring federal contractors to ensure their employees are vaccinated against the coronavirus, spurring lawsuits.

All three of Biden’s vaccine mandates have faced legal action, and cases regarding the president’s mandate for healthcare workers and for large employers were argued before the Supreme Court on Friday.

Omicron: 13 Passengers on Italy-India Flight Escape Quarantine

BBC News reported:

At least 13 passengers, who tested positive for COVID-19 upon their arrival in the Indian city of Amritsar, have escaped institutional quarantine.

They were among 125 infected passengers on a chartered flight from Milan which landed on Wednesday afternoon.

While nine of them escaped from the airport, four others ran away from a local hospital, city official Sherjang Singh told BBC Punjabi. Police said they would file complaints against all of them.

Down Under: Unvaxxed Aussies Not Allowed to Exercise or Travel to Work

Technocracy News reported:

Unvaccinated Australians in the Northern Territory have been put under a new lockdown during which they won’t be allowed to go outside to exercise or travel to work.

The onerous new measures were announced by NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner in response to the detection of 256 new cases of COVID-19, including 27 cases of community transmission.

“The fully vaccinated can continue as they were. For people who are not vaccinated, lockdown rules will apply to everyone aged 16 and above,” Mr Gunner said.

The unvaccinated will be banned from traveling further than 30km from their home unless they’re traveling to hospital. Gunner said that unjabbed Aussies in the region will be forbidden from taking an hour of outdoor exercise and won’t be allowed to travel to their job.

Tim Cook Earned Over 1,400 Times the Average Apple Worker in 2021

Reuters reported:

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) boss Tim Cook’s pay in 2021 was 1,447 times that of the average employee at the tech giant, a filing on Thursday showed, fueled by stock awards that helped him earn a total of nearly $100 million.

Cook, whose salary remained at $3 million, received $82.3 million in stock awards, $12 million for hitting Apple’s targets and $1.4 million for air travel, 401(k) plan, insurance premiums and others.

In total, he earned $98.7 million, compared with $14.8 million in 2020.

How Artificial Intelligence Is Set to Evolve in 2022

CNBC reported:

Machines are getting smarter and smarter every year, but artificial intelligence is yet to live up to the hype that’s been generated by some of the world’s largest technology companies.

AI researchers have started to show that there are ways to efficiently adapt AI training methods to changing environments or tasks, resulting in more robust agents, Grefenstette said. He believes there will be more industrial and scientific applications of such methods this year that will produce “noticeable leaps.”

While AI still has a long way to go before anything like human-level intelligence is achieved, it hasn’t stopped the likes of Google, Facebook (Meta) and Amazon investing billions of dollars into hiring talented AI researchers who can potentially improve everything from search engines and voice assistants to aspects of the so-called “metaverse.”