By Allum Bokhari – 3/11/2020
Szóka is the president of TechFreedom, a non-profit that presents itself as an opponent of “top-down solutions” in tech policy.
The non-profit is deeply tied to Google. Disclosures from the tech giant show that TechFreedom not only receives funding from Google, but it is also part of its Public Policy Fellowship program, which places Google-picked interns at public policy organizations around the world, including TechFreedom.
The TechFreedom president later deleted and apologized for the tweet, saying he would “never wish death upon anyone” and that it “doesn’t represent my organization’s opinion.”
However, the tweet could come back to haunt Szóka, who has attempted in recent years to persuade Republican lawmakers that they shouldn’t use their power to tackle political bias from Big Tech companies.
In 2018, Szóka supplied testimony to a House Judiciary Committee hearing on online censorship arguing that tech companies should not be stripped of their government-backed legal privilege, which renders them immune from lawsuits relating to the removal of certain types of content, as well as lawsuits related to the hosting of content.
Szóka argued that any attempt to tackle Silicon Valley’s well-documented bias against conservatives would be akin to a “fairness doctrine” for the internet.
He has also argued against crackdowns against Big Tech companies for their numerous violations of user privacy, telling the House Energy & Commerce committee in 2012 that “As valuable as ‘privacy’ can be, its value is not absolute.”
Given that Szóka’s job appears to consist of the increasingly difficult task of persuading policymakers not to go after Big Tech, his anti-Trump social media posts may come back to haunt him. As the tweet from Rep. Banks shows, Szóka’s anti-Trump invective is not endearing him to Republican policymakers.
Szóka has not responded to a Breitbart News request for comment.
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Update (1220ET): Three Boeing workers have tested positive for the virus, the company said. Though Boeing offered few details, we suspect the employees are probably based in Washington State, where Boeing builds its planes.
In Washington DC, authorities are recommending the cancellation or postponement of all “non-essential” gatherings over 1,000.
As students leave campuses around the country either heading back home or hunkering down finish their classes on line, Harvard just announced that it would “pro-rate” students’ room and board.
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Update (1220ET): With the committee in charge of the Tokyo Olympic Games reportedly planning to suggest that the games be delayed, more images of the coronavirus fears’ impact on international travel are circulating online. Check out this.
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Update (1200ET): The CDC has released its latest batch of “confirmed” US figures: 29 deaths, 987 cases and cases confirmed in 39 states as of 10 pm last night.
Around the world, the virus has produced many “isn’t it ironic?” moments, and we just got another in the US when FEMA announced that it would close its Atlanta office after an employee was exposed to the virus.
Over in the UK, a total of 456 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Wednesday, up from 373 at the same point on Tuesday, the Department of Health said. The jump of 83 new cases is the largest daily jump yet, following the previous ‘largest daily increase’ by only a few days.
Six have died in the UK and tested positive for the virus. Over in Ireland, authorities reported their first death on Wednesday. A 66-year-old Bulgarian woman also succumbed to the virus in the Balkan state, marking the first death there as well.
After the UK Health Minister Nadine Dorries tested positive for the virus, and started showing symptoms on Thursday, the same day she attended an event with the prime minister. Though the UK has elected to keep parliament open, Dorries and a Labour lawmaker who may have been exposed via a meeting with Dorries have decided to self-quarantine.
UK Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood stressed that “we are still in the containment phase” despite an increased number of Covid-19 cases.
She said: “We have identified the first case of community transmission in Scotland which is unrelated to contact or travel. This was identified through our enhanced surveillance scheme.
Sweden has reported its first death from the coronavirus today, with a hospital in Stockholm saying an elderly patient had died in intensive care. Belgium has reported its first three deaths, with 314 cases of coronavirus. Ivory Coast has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, a 45-year-old Ivorian man who had recently travelled to Italy, the health ministry said in a statement. Denmark confirmed a batch of new cases, raising its total to 442.
While Washington State is apparently planning to ban all events with over 250 people, Washington DC has advised citizens to avoid such gatherings.
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Update (1150ET): Rencap’s Charlie Robertson points out that it took 5 days since the first indication of human-to-human transmission happening at a wide scale in the US, and if our numbers track Germany’s, we should have 3,000 cases confirmed by Friday, and 6,000 by Monday.
Though that rate could double if many new clusters are discovered.
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Update (1100ET): With another day of non-stop breaking news headlines about the outbreak as it spreads across the US, Europe and Latin America, we’ve been having troubled keeping up.
Switzerland reported 148 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, with 645 cases in total, 58 cases in Zürich and 78 cases in Geneva.
Indonesia, an Asian nation that didn’t report its first case until more than a month after the global outbreak began reported its first death linked to the virus on Wednesday as well.
National Guard troops have been deployed to a Health Department command post in New Rochelle. Chicago has followed San Francisco and cancelled its St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In NYC, schools will not close, but parent-teacher conferences will be held via phone.
An employee at a ‘Waffle House’ in Metro Atlanta (Cherokee County) has tested positive for the virus, raising fears about a mass outbreak in Georgia. The store has been closed and 12 employees are quarantining and will continue for a few more days.
The Inter-American Development Bank postponed its annual meeting in Colombia, which had been scheduled for next week, over coronavirus fears as the virus spreads across Latin America. The Washington-based bank, the top development institution dedicated to Latin America and the Caribbean, announced the decision with Colombian President Ivan Duque on Tuesday evening.
With transports and financials leading equities lower on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, who testified to Congress on Wednesday tried to offer some reassuring details about the White House plan, which remains very much in the ‘brainstorm’ phase. Still, Mnuchin insisted that Trump is standing by the payroll tax holiday to put more money in the hands of workers. The Treasury is also hoping to delay tax payments and leave $200 billion of “temporary liquidity” in the hands of Americans.
Mnuchin said the White House hopes to strike a deal on the first part of the virus stimulus plan within the next 48 hours. His testimony follows rumors about the administration offering a potential ‘bailout’ to the American shale energy industry. Other stimulus actions will take “a week or two” he added.
Importantly, the Treasury Secretary also insisted that no market interventions are being planned (so no PPT?).
In remarks on Tuesday, CDC Director Robert Redfield said that America had lost valuable time tracking the virus; some regions now can merely try to cope with its spread rather than stop it. And during testimony on Wednesday, Dr. Fauci said that when it comes to the outbreak in the US, “the worst is yet to come” because the virus is “10x more lethal than the seasonal flu”.
If the US doesn’t handle the virus outbreak correctly, “many, many millions of people” will get the virus, he said.
The global coronavirus outbreak has hit a new milestone: It surpassed 120,000 cases overnight. For anybody who’s still bothering to keep track, that’s 15x the number of cases from the SARS outbreak, which continued for nearly a year before it finally petered out.
In the US, the coronavirus outbreak has reached a grim new milestone. Thanks to the administration’s scramble to bring dozens of private and public labs on-line for testing across the country, the CDC has managed to confirm more than 1,000 cases of the virus. In the Westchester County town of New Rochelle, the epicenter of the outbreak in New York State, and the largest on the east coast, woke up to a 1-mile exclusion zone and national guard soldiers in the streets.
The town now looks like a “ghost town” according to several reports.
As the number of cases topped 1,000, the number of deaths has also climbed: Officially, there are 31 deaths and 1,039 confirmed cases, according to the Washington Post, which is significantly more than the number confirmed by Dr. Anthony Fauci during last night’s press conference.
Across the US, Washington State’s King County remains the epicenter of America’s worst outbreak, with 273 cases . New York is No. 2 with 176 (13 additional cases have just been announced). After hinting about ‘mandatory measures’ last night that set tongues wagging about the possibility of Italy-style travel restrictions, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is reportedly planning to announce a plan to…ban all events with more than 250 people, according to MyNorthwest.
At a press conference scheduled for Wednesday at 10:15 a.m., it is expected that Gov. Jay Inslee along with regional leaders and city mayors could announce a ban on large gatherings and events of 250 people or more in at least three counties. Any ban would affect upcoming sporting events in the area, including a home game for the XFL’s Seattle Dragons on Sunday.
Inslee has been hinting at this for the past week as a possible preemptive move to curb the spread of coronavirus. Over the weekend, he stated that his office was considering enacting “mandatory measures” in the days ahead.
Monday night on MSBNC, the Washington governor spoke to Rachel Maddow, admitting that soon, the state was “going to have to make some hard decisions.”
He further elaborated on that point during a Tuesday press conference, when he cited the need to “look forward ahead of the curve in Washington state.”
“We need to look at what is coming, not just what is here today,” he detailed, estimating that given limits on testing capacity, experts have told him there could be at least 1,000 untested coronavirus cases across the state.
So much for ‘hard decisions’….
This immense build up, only to announce restrictions that are only ‘slightly’ more comprehensive than the milquetoast event bans embraced by Germany, France, Switzerland and others, brings to mind a tweet we noticed earlier highlighting the sometimes unintended consequences that half-measures can create.
On the east coast, the State of New York is asking businesses to voluntarily consider having employees work two shifts as well as allowing telework, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with CNN, the network that employs his brother, where he has been making near-daily appearances in addition to his daily press conferences.
“This is about reducing the density,” Cuomo said. “The spread is not going to stop on its own.”
He also announced 20 new cases of virus, bringing total in state to about 193, with most of the new cases diagnosed in New Rochelle, where the virus has clearly been circulating for weeks.
There have been reports that Democrats are pushing for a national emergency declaration which would trigger tens of billions of dollars in funding from FEMA to help with the containment effort, and possibly to help grappled with the economic fallout from the outbreak.
Despite a few notable screwups lately (including a collapsed ad hoc quarantine that left roughly one dozen dead and many trapped in the rubble for days, Beijing continues to insist that it is winning the war against the virus, and while the true scope of China’s outbreak might never be known for sure (some have estimated 1 million cases throughout China), officials did report a slight rise in cases on Wednesday which they blamed on ‘imports from abroad.’
Officials reported 24 additional cases of coronavirus and 22 additional deaths on March 10, compared with 19 additional cases and 17 additional deaths on March 9, bringing the total number of cases in mainland China to 80,778 and death toll at 3,158. China’s Hubei province said it will mandate a return to work according to different levels of risk in an orderly manner, adding that key areas of the Wuhan economy will be allowed to return.
After 11 days of falling case numbers, South Korea reported 242 additional coronavirus cases early Wednesday, bringing its total to 7,555, and 6 additional deaths, increasing the death toll to 60, reversing a streak of declines that had convinced many that Korea’s outbreak had ended.
The South has made remarkable progress in fighting the outbreak, however, a new mass infection incident has popped up that is jeopardizing the government’s widely praised response. Earlier, South Korean authorities told Reuters that they had tested hundreds of staff at a Seoul call center where the disease broke out this week. 13 of the infected workers at the Seoul call center used public transportation to commute, leading to at least 90 other people who had close contact with them being infected. Of the 90 cases mentioned earlier, 62 were in Seoul, and all were located near a public transportation hub connecting Seoul with Incheon and other major cities, via which the virus spread.
The spread has even made it into the armed forces, raising new fears about an outbreak in tightly packed barracks
Elsewhere, Japan is reportedly planning to declare a state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak after the number of domestic cases rose by the largest daily number yet, with 59 new cases bringing the total to 1,278, while the total death toll has climbed to 19 and there were 427 discharged from hospital on Tuesday.
Italy’s total coronavirus cases rose to 10,149, from 9172, and the death toll increased to 631 yesterday from 463 in its largest daily jump yet.
MARCH 11, 2020
Back in February, Hadi Al-Modarresi, who is based in Iran, said that the coronavirus outbreak was “undoubtedly an act of Allah that is divine punishment against the Chinese for their treatment, mockery, and disrespect towards Muslims and Islam,” reported MEMRI-TV.
“It is obvious that the spread of this virus is an act of Allah. How do we know this? The spread of the coronavirus began in China, an ancient and vast country, the population of which makes up one seventh of humanity,” said Al-Modarresi.
“More than a billion people live in that country. The authorities in that country are tyrannical and they laid siege to more than a million Muslims and placed them under house arrest. The journalists in that country began to mock the niqab of Muslim women and they forced Muslim men to eat pork and drink wine. Allah sent a disease upon them and this disease laid siege to 40 million [Chinese people]. The same niqab that they mocked has been forced upon them, both men and women, by Allah, by means of the state authorities and officials,” he added.
It is now being reported that Al-Modarresi has contracted coronavirus, meaning that Allah must obviously be punishing him for wrongdoing.
The scholar tweeted to his almost 1 million followers with a prayer to Muhammad and the revelation that “The health of His Eminence is in a marked improvement.”
Twitter users reacted with little in the way of sympathy.
“Allah 0 – coronavirus 1,” remarked one.
“He shows a great capacity for convoluted reasoning. Of course it is all based on 7th century logic,” added another.
By John Byrne – 3/11/2020
The mayor made her decision after days of speculation as other cities from Boston to Dublin dropped their festivities for the holiday. Lightfoot called off Saturday’s downtown parade and Sunday’s South Side Irish parade just days before they were set to step off. She also canceled a smaller Northwest Side parade.
“This was not an easy decision and we don’t take it lightly,” Lightfoot said at a morning news conference with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other officials announcing the decision.
The mayor’s last minute move to shut down the parades reflects the difficulty of the call. The St. Patrick’s Day revelry — which features the famous dyeing of the Chicago River green on the morning of the downtown parade — is a huge boon to Chicago hotels, restaurants and bars as people stream into the city from throughout the Midwest.
Lightfoot said officials would work to reschedule the parades at a later date.
The local tourism industry is already reeling from the recent cancellations of several big trade shows at McCormick Place, and the St. Patrick’s Day events draw tens of thousands of spectators.
But in the end, Lightfoot had to know she would be judged more harshly if Chicago got hit especially hard by the COVID-19 virus and the outbreak was traced back to the decision to go ahead with the parades. Health officials have been warning for weeks that the best way to avoid contracting the respiratory ailment is to avoid close contact with people who are infected.
“Like cities across the nation, we concluded that having a parade at this time posed an unnecessary risk to the public’s health,” she said.
Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, noted how hard it was to scrap the events.
“It was a very difficult call for the Mayor,” Reilly said Wednesday. “Nobody is more sensitive to the concerns of the downtown business community than I am, so this is very disappointing. But, as the son of a public health doctor who ran County Hospital, I can say this is 100% the right call.”
Pritzker said he supported the decision as officials were trying to minimize the rampant spread of COVID-19.
“This is not a decision that she took lightly, and we all know what the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations mean to the city of Chicago,” Pritzker said. “Because of what we’ve seen nationally, and across the world, of the increased risk of large gatherings, this was the right call.”
With the mayor out of town on vacation, Pritzker on Tuesday questioned whether Chicago’s parades should happen this weekend, even as event organizers and city officials said the celebrations would go on as planned.
There’s a precedent for a public spectacle causing serious public fallout during an outbreak.
In 1918, Philadelphia went ahead with a parade meant to drum up support for the sale of bonds to fund the U.S. effort in World War I, despite concerns about the burgeoning Spanish flu. Philadelphia then saw particularly high flu rates, and the decision to hold the parade has been blamed by historians.