The Defender’s Big Brother NewsWatch brings you the latest headlines related to governments’ abuse of power, including attacks on democracy, civil liberties and use of mass surveillance.
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Authoritarianism Advances as World Battles the Pandemic
Here’s some of what happened while the world was distracted by the coronavirus: Hungary banned the public depiction of homosexuality. China shut Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy newspaper. Brazil’s government extolled dictatorship. And Belarus hijacked a passenger plane to arrest a journalist.
COVID-19 has absorbed the world’s energies and isolated countries from one another, which may have accelerated the creep of authoritarianism and extremism across the globe, some researchers and activists believe.
“COVID is a dictator’s dream opportunity,” said Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American human rights lawyer who has been indicted on charges including treason in the ostensibly democratic southeast Asian nation, where Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power for more than three decades.
Parents Sue D.C. Over ‘Reckless,’ ‘Unconstitutional’ Law to Vaccinate Kids Without Parental Consent
A recent District of Columbia law, the D.C. Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2020, allows kids aged 11 and up to get any vaccine recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), including COVID shots, without parental consent or knowledge. Now, parents are fighting back.
The bill passed the D.C. Council on a 10-3 vote last November, and was signed into law by Mayor Muriel Bowser in December. It went into effect on March 19, 2021. On Monday, the Children’s Health Defense (CHD) and the Parental Rights Foundation filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for D.C., seeking a court order to rule the law unconstitutional.
North Carolina County Launches ‘Doses to Doors’ Vaccine Campaign
Health department workers and community outreach groups have kicked off a “doses to doors” COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where just 49% of residents have received at least one jab. The program, which officials say offer a convenient way for residents to get the shot without having to worry about travel, was met with mixed reaction on Twitter.
“They don’t move that fast to help people when they know a hurricane is coming,” one Twitter user wrote.
The program, which has a health professional on standby to administer a vaccine to eligible residents who want one, follows a community canvassing effort launched in May. Volunteers had been providing information about vaccines in previous weeks, focusing primarily on neighborhoods with low vaccine rates.
TikTok Just Hit a Critical Milestone Only Facebook Has Been Able to Achieve
TikTok has been downloaded more than three billion times around the world.
That’s a milestone that only Facebook and its cohort of apps have reached, showing the social media giant isn’t the only app people can’t live without.
According to new Sensor Tower data, TikTok is the fifth non-game app to ever surpass the three billion install mark. The only other apps to have gathered more than three billion downloads since January 2014 are Facebook and its WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram.
Opinion: How the GOP Crusade Against Vaccines Could Get Even More Dangerous
Until recently, whenever someone wanted to assert that susceptibility to anti-science conspiracy theories was not solely the province of the right, an example they could cite was the sort-of left-leaning embrace of the anti-vaccine crusade.
With Robert F. Kennedy Jr. the most prominent opponent of vaccination, the picture many people had of a vaccine opponent was a liberal parent from Santa Monica fighting with their school district over whether to get their kids immunized.
That was a distortion — liberals were no more likely to be anti-vaxxers than conservatives — and it certainly didn’t rise up the political ladder to the point where Democratic politicians were waging fights against immunizations.
Tennessee Governor Says ‘Parents, Not Kids’ Focus of Vaccine Outreach After Firing of Top Health Official
Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is pushing back against claims about his youth vaccination program days after the state’s top vaccination official was fired for allegedly sharing factual information with doctors about the legalities of vaccinating un-emancipated minors without parental consent.
The Tennessee Democratic Party has called for Dr. Michelle Fiscus to be reinstated, and for the governor “to recommit the Tennessee Department of Health to carrying out its mission to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee,” WMC reported.
Despite what Lee’s office described as “misleading reporting,” the state’s Department of Health “has not halted the Vaccines for Children Program that provides information and vaccine access to Tennessee parents,” a spokesperson for the governor said in a statement to WMC.
Alabama Military Base Is First in U.S. to Require Vaccination Proof Amid Rising COVID rates
An Alabama military base is taking increased actions to combat the ongoing prevalence of coronavirus infections, authorizing leaders to ask for proof of vaccination of service members not wearing a mask while on duty. It is the first military base in the continental United States to allow leaders to check the vaccination status of those in uniform.
The new guidance at Fort Rucker comes as the new delta variant of the virus continues to drive infection rates and now accounts for a majority of cases in the United States. The base is among facilities, including Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Fort Jackson in South Carolina, where less than half of the surrounding populations have been vaccinated.
The order issued Tuesday by Maj. Gen. David Francis, commanding general of Fort Rucker, states that unmasked uniformed personnel “must be prepared to show proof of vaccination” when on the base.
St. Jude Will Require Employees to Receive COVID Vaccine
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is changing up its COVID requirements for employees.
Starting September 9, all St. Jude and Memphis-area ALSAC employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
In a statement to FOX13, St. Jude said: “As our mission states and as our St. Jude core values echo, we must ensure that advancing treatment for children with catastrophic diseases is at the center of everything we do. This means providing our patients and their families with the safest treatment environment possible.
What Is the ‘Freedom Phone’? Candace Owens Backs Apple and Google Alternative
Erik Finman, the self-proclaimed “Bitcoin millionaire,” has launched a new smartphone designed to fight back against Big Tech companies by promoting free speech and security.
The Freedom Phone comes with its own app store, which will feature apps that are blocked or banned by Apple and Google, although the details haven’t yet been given. It has already been endorsed by conservative commentator Candace Owens.
“I just did a live on Instagram taking everyone through the new FREEDOM PHONE which is now trending,” she tweeted on Wednesday night.
Spain’s Top Court Rules Pandemic Lockdown ‘Unconstitutional’
Last year’s stay-at-home lockdown order by the government under a state of emergency was unconstitutional, Spain’s constitutional court has ruled on Wednesday.
The court ruling was in response to a suit filed by the far-right Vox party.
It was a split decision according to a brief statement issued by the court. State broadcaster TVE said six magistrates voted in favour and five against.
According to the Spanish broadcaster, the ruling said that the limitations on movement violated citizens’ basic rights and therefore the state of emergency was insufficient to give them constitutional backing.