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Mark Zuckerberg Loses $29 Billion Overnight as People Abandon Facebook

The Independent reported:

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg saw $29 billion wiped from his net worth when his company’s share price collapsed following its latest quarterly report.

Shares of Meta dropped more than 25% in after-hours trading after the company announced lower-than-expected revenue figures, as well as a decline in Facebook users for the first time in its 18-year history.

The number of daily active Facebook users fell by 1 million to 1.929 billion, with the company blaming competition from rivals like TikTok and YouTube.

The poor performance saw the company’s stock market value fall by roughly $200 billion, leading to a drop in Zuckerberg’s fortune, which is mostly tied up in Meta stock. Zuckerberg is ranked as the world’s seventh richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index, with his net worth before the collapse estimated at $121 billion.

Replacing Soldiers Discharged for Vaccine Refusal Could Cost Army $200 Million

Newsweek reported:

The U.S. Army has announced that it will soon begin discharging soldiers who have refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine. More than 3,300 service personnel could be affected — and Newsweek has calculated that the cost of replacing them could reach $200 million.

Roughly 97% of active-duty soldiers have received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, according to Army figures released last week. However, 3,350 soldiers had refused to get the vaccine as of Jan. 26. Some 3,073 have been issued official reprimands, suggesting they could be among the first to be discharged.

It’s not clear whether the Army will recruit one soldier to replace each service member discharged for refusing the vaccine, but the effort would be a costly one.

Denmark Has Lifted All COVID Restrictions — Why Isn’t America Ready to Follow?

Newsweek reported:

Denmark became the first country in the European Union to lift all of its COVID restrictions on Tuesday. The country used its high vaccination rate to justify the move despite COVID cases in the country reaching their highest level in the pandemic.

People in Denmark are no longer required to wear face masks in indoor spaces. COVID passes for bars and restaurants and the need to self-isolate after a positive test result have also been removed.

The decision has been made as officials in countries, including the U.S., reconsider their approach to controlling COVID in what is the third calendar year of the pandemic. It also comes in the light of data suggesting the Omicron variant is less severe than its predecessors, and as vaccines and treatments have become more widely available.

Truckers Protesting COVID Rules Has GoFundMe Halted After Millions Raised

Newsweek reported:

GoFundMe on Wednesday suspended a fundraising campaign for the “Freedom Convoy” of truckers who have traveled across Canada to protest COVID-19 restrictions.

The “Freedom Convoy 2022” campaign raised more than 10 million Canadian dollars in crowd-sourced donations before GoFundMe flagged the account for review and suspended access to the money on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s action against the fundraiser marks the second time GoFundMe has suspended access to the money that was raised. CTV reported the company froze the campaign’s funds in mid-January when CAD $4.5 million was raised because it sought details on how the funds would be used.

Navy Chaplain Among Sailors Denied Religious Exemption to COVID Vaccine Mandate: ‘Kick in the Gut’

Fox News reported:

A chaplain in the U.S. Navy Reserve said Wednesday that the military is being used by the Biden administration as a “nice little test group” that “can’t say no” after he said he was denied a religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The chaplain, who spoke with Fox News Digital on the condition of anonymity, said he faces possible dismissal from the Navy after nearly two decades of service due to his refusal to get a vaccine.

He would miss out on crucial retirement pay and benefits if he’s dismissed before hitting the 20-year mark. “It’s a kick in the gut for sure,” the chaplain said. “If I lose retirement benefits that way, that would be a pretty significant burden to me and my family. At the same time, this is a fight worth fighting. I do not think this is a lawful order.”

‘Havana Syndrome’ Symptoms in Small Group Most Likely Caused by Directed Energy, Says U.S. Intel Panel of Experts

NBC News reported:

The mysterious and sudden brain injuries suffered by a small group of American diplomats and spies overseas were most likely caused by pulsed electromagnetic energy delivered by an external device, a panel of scientific experts working for U.S. intelligence agencies has concluded.

The panel’s findings, while full of caveats, are consistent with what has been a longstanding hypothesis by intelligence officials — that a foreign adversary, most likely Russia, is responsible for at least some of the symptoms suffered by those who have fallen victim to what is commonly known as Havana Syndrome.

The CIA assessment, issued last month, also ruled out what it called a sustained global campaign by a hostile foreign power to injure Americans. But it found two dozen cases in which it could not rule out a hostile cause, and those appear to be the cases the expert panel focused on.

Many of those people are part of the original group of diplomats and spies who first exhibited symptoms in 2016 at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Canadian Protesters Say No ‘Hatred’ or Violence Here, They’ll Be Reported to Police: ‘All on Same Page’

Fox News reported:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other liberal Canadian leaders have slammed the trucking “Freedom Convoy” as spreading “hateful rhetoric” and expressing “violence toward fellow citizens.” But protesters on the ground say that’s not the case at all.

“The truckers and supporters here have made an effort to say that we will call out any violence or hatred that we’re seeing, and we’ll report it to the police,” one woman protesting in Ottawa, who has been in the capital since Friday, told Fox News Digital. “So we’re all on the same page here. We don’t want to see any violence. They didn’t drive all this way to promote any violence or hate. They’ve come here to make a very peaceful statement that we would like to stop mandates and we’re supporting free choice.”

Austria’s Upper House Backs COVID Vaccine Mandate

Reuters reported:

Austria’s upper house of parliament on Thursday passed a bill to make coronavirus vaccines compulsory for adults, bringing the European Union’s first such sweeping vaccine mandate a step closer.

The mandate, which is expected to be carried out in phases, is likely to come into force within days but there will be no checks until Mar. 15, when police will start verifying the vaccination status of people they stop in their regular patrols. More thorough checks will begin at a later, unspecified date in a third phase once a vaccination register is up and running.

France’s COVID Vaccine Pass to Stay Until ICUs Are ‘Emptied’, Says Health Minister

Reuters reported:

France’s vaccine pass will remain in place until hospitals are able to function normally without cancelling non-emergency procedures to make room for COVID patients in intensive care, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Wednesday.

The government says the vaccine pass helps curb the spread of the coronavirus and has spurred more people to get the COVID shot, alleviating pressure on hospitals. Critics say it impinges on civil liberties and some have taken to the streets in protest.

EU Proposes to Extend COVID Certificates by 1 Year

Associated Press reported:

The European Commission proposed Thursday to extend by a year the use of COVID certificates aimed at facilitating travel across the 27-nation bloc during the pandemic, until the end of June 2023.

Despite the announcement by the director of the World Health Organization’s Europe office that Europe is now entering a “plausible endgame” to the pandemic, the EU said the virus is still very prevalent on the continent.

To come into effect, the extension proposal must be accepted by EU members and the European Parliament.

DeepMind’s New AI Can Write Code That’s Better Than Yours

TechRadar reported:

Artificial intelligence (AI) company DeepMind has developed a new coding engine capable of outperforming many human developers, called AlphaCode.

As explained in a paper published by the firm, AlphaCode is able to write computer programs at a “competitive level”, ranking among the top 54% of humans in a competition setting.

Acquired by Google in 2014, DeepMind has long been at the forefront of artificial intelligence development. Most famously, the company developed AlphaGo, which became the first ever computer program to defeat a human player at the ancient Chinese game of Go.

Apple Privacy Changes Hammer Social Media Stocks Beyond Meta

Yahoo!Finance reported:

Shares of Facebook parent company Meta (FB) sank to a 52-week low on Thursday, following a disappointing Q4 earnings report and news that the social networking giant is struggling to contain the damage from Apple’s (AAPL) iOS privacy changes called App Tracking Transparency (ATT).

But the damage wasn’t just contained to Meta. The blast radius from revelations that Apple’s ATT will take a $10 billion bite out of Meta’s revenue enveloped the social network’s peers as well — shares of Twitter (TWTR), Snap (SNAP) and Pinterest (PINS) fell in early trading.

Snap in particular took a beating, dropping nearly 20% to $25.44 a share after the open Thursday. Twitter was down more than 7% to $33.86, while Pinterest fell 8% to $25.10.

U.S. Moving — Some Say Too Slowly — to Address TikTok Security Risk

Fox Business reported:

The Biden administration is moving to revise federal rules to address potential security risks from TikTok and other foreign-owned apps, eight months after opting not to pursue a forced shutdown of the Chinese-owned video-sharing platform.

The Commerce Department recently concluded a public-comment period on the proposed rule change, which would expand federal oversight to explicitly include apps that could be used by “foreign adversaries to steal or otherwise obtain data,” according to a filing in the Federal Register.

The U.S. military has already banned its members from using the app on government-issued devices. Some lawmakers including Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) say the White House is moving too slowly to come up with a comprehensive plan.