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New York Moves To Rule Out Religious Exemption For Vaccines

[bctt tweet=”New York will no longer allow parents to cite religious beliefs to opt out their children for measles vaccines” username=”Z6Mag”]

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Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

In the face of the worst measles outbreak in the country within the past 25 years, New York has decided to make necessary immunizations in schoolchildren, citing that religious exemption to vaccinizations can no longer be accepted.

In the past, legislation has allowed parents to reason against vaccines due to religious reasons. They have cited that it is their religious freedom to opt out of the science-based system in exchange for their beliefs.

The decision was made Thursday with a Democrat-led Senate and Assembly. The decision has made all schoolchildren take the first round of immunization shots—for those who have opted out—as a requirement before enrollment.

Furthermore, schoolchildren wishing to enroll in the upcoming school year are given up to 30 days to complete the first dose of each required immunization.

The newly-signed measure was met with mixed reactions from the hundreds of people who flocked the streets of New York. Some expressed that it was about time that the government had taken legislative action towards addressing the measles outbreak given that the problem is spiraling out of control. Moreover, some cited that religious beliefs have been used as a counter-action to opt out from vaccinations, which are due to rampant misinformation regarding the vaccine to cause other side effects.

Meanwhile, anti-vaxxers have complained against the measure citing that their religious freedom is being taken away by the vague impression that public health is in a state of fear due to measles.

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who signed the measure told reporters that he believes public health — and the need to protect those who cannot get vaccinated because for medical reasons — outweighs the concerns about religious freedom.

“I understand freedom of religion,” he said. “I have heard the anti-vaxxers’ theory, but I believe both are overwhelmed by the public health risk.”

Bronx Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, the bill’s Assembly sponsor added, “I’m not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or anything else that suggests you should not get vaccinated.” Moreover, “If you choose to not vaccinate your child, therefore potentially endangering other children … then you’re the one choosing not to send your children to school.”

On the other hand, New York is not completely absolving reasons to opt out of vaccinations. Particularly, the government will still allow children to skip taking the required shots for reasons citing medical concerns (some people are medically compromised and cannot take vaccines or immunizations due to risks from detrimental side effects.) These people can be those with compromised immune systems such as HIV or those who are allergic to said medications, to name a few.

Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported an alarmingly increasing number of measles cases in the United States — gaining the highest incidence for the past 25 years.

Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported about 971 cases of measles in 26 states in the US from January 1 to May 30 of this year — threatening the nation’s elimination status.

The report also indicated that the spike in measles outbreaks was centered in hotspots such as Washington and New York. Also, since the disease is common among children, most of the cases reported are from unvaccinated school-age children.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told BBC that “If these outbreaks continue through summer and fall, the United States may lose its measles elimination status. That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health.”

The issue is also magnified with misinformation that is being widely spread against the measles vaccine—which prompted Facebook to finally take action and try to mitigate false information that is widespread across its platform.

“These Groups and Pages will not be included in recommendations or predictions when you type into Search,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, said in a statement. She added that when ads that include misinformation about vaccinations are found, “we will reject them.”

With New York’s move, similar exemptions are still allowed in 45 states, though lawmakers in several of them have introduced their own legislation to eliminate the waiver.

California removed personal belief vaccine exemptions for children in both public and private schools in 2015. Maine ended its religious exemption earlier this year. Mississippi and West Virginia also do not allow religious exemptions.

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President Trump VS ‘the Squad’: Here’s What Both Sides Are Saying

Both sides have aired their responses on Twitter and press conferences.

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Photo: Michael Vadon | CC BY 2.0

Political figures and celebrities are weighing on President Donald Trump’s tweets over the weekend.

President Trump tweeted a comment about “Democrat Progressive Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.” He goes on, suggesting that these Congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”

The tweet, which was posted last Sunday, drew both positive and negative criticisms.

Though no names were included in President Trump’s post, the public has identified that his statements were directed to Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Ilhan Omar (Minneapolis), Rashida Tlaib (Michigan), and Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts).

The following Congresswomen have responded to the President’s tweets on their Twitter accounts as well.

The Congresswomen were united in calling out the President’s tweet as “racist.” Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Pressley were born in America; while Rep. Omar had gained citizenship when she came to America during her childhood.

Officially, the women responded to the President via a press conference yesterday.

Rep. Pressley asked the public to “not take the bait” to steer the conversation away from the current issues at hand. “This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern, and consequence to the American people that we were sent here with a decisive mandate from our constituents to work on,” Rep. Pressley said.

Rep. Omar stated that the President is dividing the country. “He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender, orientation or immigration status because this is the only way he knows he can prevent the solidarity of us working together,” she continues.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s message was directed for children of the US. She shared an anecdote from her childhood memory when her father reminded her that this is her country. The representative goes on to highlight the agenda of Congress to bringing service to the public, especially the children. She reiterates, “No matter what the president says, this country belongs to you.”

Rep. Tlaib echoed the sentiments shared by the others. “We cannot allow this hateful actions, by the President, to distract us from the critical work to hold this Administration accountable to the inhumane conditions at the border,” she emphasized.

All Congresswomen reminded the public about the issues on immigration needs additional focus, more than ever.

President Trump Clarified his Tweets

President Trump addresses the issue in a Made in America showcase on Monday. Reporters asked the President about his statements during the events’ Q&A portion.

The President pointed out that if the Congresswomen are not happy with the country, the lawmakers can leave. “If you’re not happy in the U.S., if you’re complaining all the time, very simply, you can leave. You can leave right now. Come back if you want, don’t come back, it’s OK too. But if you’re not happy, you can leave,” President Trump clarifies.

From the President’s perspective, the lawmakers do not love their country based on the statements the women released. “I’m sure that they’ll be many people that won’t miss them, but they have to love our country. They’re Congresspeople,” the President further adds.

The President also reiterated that he didn’t use any names in his tweets.

Positive and Negative Reaction to the Tweet

Political figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and some Republicans spoke against the President’s Tweets.

Schwarzenegger, the former California governor, issued a statement urging the President to rise above his personal attacks to do his job as America’s leader. “At some point, you have to dial down Donald and dial-up President Trump,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “I know it isn’t easy, but the job you hold is bigger than you. It is bigger than any man or woman. The American people put great trust in you to serve, and it is time to rise to their trust instead of dragging them down and tearing them apart.”

House Speaker Pelosi shared her opinions via a Dear Colleague letter to House Democrats. The Speaker urged his fellow lawmakers to join in “condemning the President’s xenophobic Tweets.

Republicans also shared their disappointment regarding President Trump’s tweets. Senator Lisa Murkowski shared that the comments were “spiteful.” Senator Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania) commented that “We should defeat their ideas on the merits, not on the basis of their ancestry.”

Celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Chris Evans, Janelle Monáe, and Stephen King also tweeted support for the Congresswomen.

Meanwhile, other politicians also came out to defend President Trump’s tweets. Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, reiterated to reporters that the President is “not racist.” He further cited that the President appointed an Asian woman of color in his cabinet, referring to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Representative Andy Harris (Maryland) emphasized that the President’s message were not racist. “They’re obviously not racist. When anyone disagrees with anyone now the default is to call them a racist and this is no exception,” Harris repeats.

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[Breaking] Democrats Move To Ban Big Techs From Issuing Digital Money

The bill is bluntly named as “Keep Big Tech Out Of Finance Act”

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Photo: Christoph Scholz | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Facebook’s announcement of its biggest financial venture called Libra has prompted multisectoral discussion among tech companies, banking, and financial ecosystem, as well as government and regulatory official regarding the effect of cryptocurrency and digital money on the global economy.

The polarized discussion has seen lawmakers and executives on the opposite side of the poles arguing the harms of allowing tech giants like Facebook to issue currencies that have the potential of disrupting banking systems around the world.

Some say that it is on its way to a full-blown legal and social battle between regulators and the tech stratosphere. Some even suggest that this war has already begun.

A new draft proposal for the bill, bluntly named as “Keep Big Tech Out Of Finance Act,” that circulates among Democrats majority that leads the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, proves that the US government is not joking about its position against Libra and other similar ventures in the future.

According to the proposed bill, no tech company should be allowed to issue any form of financial services. “A large platform utility may not establish, maintain, or operate a digital asset that is intended to be widely used as a medium of exchange, unit of account, store of value, or any other similar function, as defined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” reads a copy of the bill obtained by Z6Mag.

Furthermore, while the bill does not specify any company, it clearly refers to Facebook, and it’s planned blockchain-based currency, Libra. The “large platform utility” is defined as a technology company with “an annual global revenue of $25,000,000,000 or more” and one that is “predominately engaged in the business of offering to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties.” This definition seems to be crafted to include Facebook rather than exclude other companies.

It is also worth noting that the proposed legislation also prohibits “large platform utilities” from affiliation with “persons who are a financial institution.” This further includes Facebook’s proactive workaround against possible future laws that may prohibit them from owning Libra.

Libra is actually not owned by Facebook. Instead, it is governed by a group of companies that are based in Switzerland called the Libra Association with Facebook as one of its founding members.

Nonetheless, the bill is still on its earliest phase yet, and many could happen to move forward. For it to become a law, it still has to withstand the possible opposition by Republicans in both the House and the Senate.

But it seems like the bill has an unlikely ally in the person of Donald Trump as the new proposal came out after Trump criticized cryptocurrencies.

In a series of tweets on Thursday, the POTUS said that he is not a “fan” of cryptocurrencies, asserted that America has only one currency, criticized bitcoin, as well as told Facebook that they need a banking charter if they want to launch their newly announced crypto-based money called Libra.

Trump said cryptocurrencies are not money, and “Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity.”

“If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations,” said the president.

According to the President, the dollar is the only currency in America, and Libra, among other cryptocurrencies, are not “real money.”

“We have only one real currency in the USA, and it is stronger than ever, both dependable and reliable. It is by far the most dominant currency anywhere in the World, and it will always stay that way. It is called the United States Dollar!” Trump said in a tweet.

Trump’s sentiments echoed similar apprehensions from cryptocurrency critics who have been advocating against the growth of the “volatile” blockchain technology and crypto money. Many argue that those attributes count against the wider adoption of digital currencies.

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Ireland To Investigate Google’s Potential Data Breach

They are “looking into it.”

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Photo: Paul Robertson | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Ireland’s data protection regulating body is set to investigate the potential data breach in Google, following the confirmation from the tech superpower that their employees are listening to the recordings taken from their Smart Home speakers.

The Data Protection Commission in Ireland is set to look into the possibility of Google violating the privacy and data protection of users after admitting having linguistics experts listen to “anonymous” recordings taken from their smart speakers.

Google listens to smart home speaker recordings

According to Google, linguistics experts are listening to “snippets” of recordings made by users to improve the device’s artificial intelligence for voice recognition technology used in their smart home systems and smartphones. Nonetheless, they clarified that the tapes were randomly snipped and are unnamed.

After Ireland’s data privacy agency was made aware of the reports on Thursday, a spokesperson said that they would be “looking into it.” It is, however, unclear at this point if any Irish customers were affected by the potential violation of consumer privacy.

“We received a breach notification from Google on Thursday evening in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and we are currently assessing the information we have,” Spokesperson for the Commission, Graham Doyle said.

The smart speaker from Google understands and responds to voice commands given to it, answering queries about the news and weather, as well as being able to control other internet-connected devices around the home.

In a statement released by the search engine and smart device tycoon, Google reveals that its experts transcribed a small number of anonymous recordings, and an investigation has been launched following the controversial Dutch tape recordings that were leaked in the recent months.

“We partner with language experts around the world to improve speech technology by transcribing a small set of queries – this work is critical to developing technology that powers products like the Google Assistant,” Google said.

“Language experts only review around 0.2% of all audio snippets, and these snippets are not associated with user accounts as part of the review process.”

The statement continued: “We just learned that one of these reviewers had violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data.”

“Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action. We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again,” they added.

Data breach plagues smart home manufacturers

Similarly, earlier reports have tagged a similar system released by Amazon, Alexa, to have been listening to the recordings made by their users in their smart home devices. Amazon admits the process and justified it in the same manner as Google, citing its role in the development and improvement of artificial intelligence.

Privacy campaigners claimed it was a “data protection disaster waiting to happen.”

Privacy concerns are not only limited to smart home speakers. Last week, Chinese smart home devices manufacturer Orvibo suffered a data breach that exposed the exact geolocation of their users through their device’s GPS.

Google and other tech companies “cannot be trusted”

The announcement of Google’s potential data breach follows the recent report that the majority of Americans do not trust Facebook and Google. The recent poll conducted by McLaughlin and Associate revealed that 76.7% of conservative America does not trust Facebook and Google to be unbiased and to treat everyone equal. The survey asked respondents several questions to understand their perception and their opinions towards Big Tech companies like Facebook, Google, Youtube, and Twitter.

And the results for the overall trustworthiness perception of tech companies isn’t far from the results from conservative respondents. Of all the respondents, around 63.4 percent of them said that Facebook and Google could not be trusted to treat all its users equally.

The results, which also revealed that conservatives also don’t trust Google, came following a crucial “bias” issue that the tech giant is facing. 62.9 percent of conservative respondents saying they do not believe the company treats users equally, while nearly half of the respondents polled in general — 47.9 percent — agreed that Google is untrustworthy.

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