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tiktok

America’s Still Moving To Ban TikTok 

Last week, a key house committee introduced and approved a bill that is targeting the social media platform TikTok. The full House is set to vote this week potentially, and the White House has stated that President Joe Biden is also prepared to sign it, according to reports from CNN.

The bill itself, if fully approved, would give TikTok about five months to separate from its Chinese parent company ByteDance. If they refuse, app stores in the US will be prohibited from hosting the app on their platforms. 

Besides TikTok, the bill will also restrict other apps that are allegedly controlled by foreign adversaries like China, Iran, Russia, or North Korea. The bill would also set up a process for Biden, and future presidents to identify apps that should be banned under the specific legislation. 

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Any app store that violates said legislation could be fined based on the number of users of the banned apps; specifically a fine of $5,000 per user of the banned app. For example, if the bill passes and Apple or Google decide to keep TikTok on its app stores, they could face fines up to $850 billion. 

One of the bill’s lead cosponsors, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, says “the bill does not ban TikTok; it simply offers TikTok the choice to be divested.”

TikTok has responded to this recent bill’s momentum, stating that it’s an attack on the First Amendment rights of its users, according to CNN. It’s even launched a call-to-action campaign within the app itself, urging users to call their states representatives in Washington to oppose the bill. Multiple congressional offices have already stated that they’ve been “flooded” with calls. 

In a statement, TikTok said: 

“The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression. This will damage millions of businesses, deny artists an audience, and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country.”

Lawmakers have long been alleging that TikTok poses a national security threat because the government in China can use its intelligence laws against ByteDance to force them to hand over the data of US TikTok users. If done, that information can then be potentially used to identify intelligence targets or enable disinformation or propaganda campaigns. 

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The US government has not yet presented any evidence that China has accessed user data from TikTok, and according to reports, cybersecurity experts have stated that it still remains a hypothetical scenario. 

During the Trump administration, there was a major effort to ban TikTok, however, others debated whether or not the president had the power to ban a foreign-owned social media app. With this new congressional legislation, the president would have clear, new authorities to do that. 

With the speed in which House leaders are promising a floor vote, it can be assumed that they’re confident in the bill’s clearance. There is still not a lot of information regarding if the bill will have a chance in the Senate. 

Gallagher stated that the bill will likely fall to the Senate Commerce Committee. Senator Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Commerce Committee, told CNN that she will be talking to her “Senate and House colleagues to try to find a path forward that is constitutional and protects civil liberties.”

Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said that “passing a nationwide privacy law regulating how all companies, not just TikTok, handle Americans’ data would lead to the same result without raising First Amendment concerns.” 

“By that precedent, it would be unconstitutional for the government to ban TikTok even if it were blatantly a direct mouthpiece for the Chinese government,” Jaffer said.

“If you give the government the power to restrict Americans’ access to propaganda, then you’ve given the government the power to restrict Americans’ access to anything the government deems to be propaganda.”

ticketmaster

‘Fans First’ Live-Event Ticketing Reform Bill Introduced By US Senators 

Six US Senators have introduced a new “Fans First Act” to address the multiple discrepancies in ticketing sales across the country. The live event ticketing system in the US is saturated with fake or overpriced tickets from resellers, making it nearly impossible for fans to be able to afford to go see their favorite live events. 

The bipartisan bill was brought to Congress by three Republicans and three Democrats; John Cornyn of Texas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Peter Welch of Vermont, and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico. 

This is the newest move from Congress to battle “high and exploitative” ticket pricing for things like concerts and other live events, according to reports

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The issues with online ticketing sales have always been present, but issues reached a head in 2022 with tickets for Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen’s tour’s crashed Ticketmaster and subsequently crashed the website and made prices increase exponentially. 

At the time, several Taylor Swift fans sued Ticketmaster for “fraud, price-fixing, and antitrust violations” and alleged that “intentional deception” from the site allowing scalpers and resellers to buy a majority of the tickets to upsell them exponentially. 

For example, within the first few hours of Swift’s tour tickets going on sale secondary sellers were able to purchase a majority of them and price them at up to $22,000.

The suit alleged that “because no other venue can hold half as many people as the stadiums and venues working through Ticketmaster, Taylor Swift and other popular musicians have no choice but to work through Ticketmaster.” 

The US justice department started an antitrust investigation into Live Nation, the parent company of Ticketmaster, after this incident to look into whether or not they abused their power in its multibillion-dollar entertainment industry. 

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The Fans First Act is seeking to improve transparency with ticket pricing by requiring all live event ticket sellers to advertise the total price of a given ticket, including all fees and additional charges, so that when a fan goes to purchase a ticket, they understand the total price immediately and aren’t caught off guard by large fees and additional charges when they checkout. 

Fans will also have a clear understanding as to whether the ticket they’re purchasing is from a reseller or the original retailer. 

The Fans First Act will also work to strengthen the requirements of the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act which was signed into law in 2016. The BOTS Act worked to prohibit the use of bots to purchase large quantities of tickets for resellers to later upcharge. It also imposes civil penalties on resellers practicing illegal sales.

“The current ticketing system is riddled with problems and doesn’t serve the needs of fans, teams, artists or venues. This legislation would rebuild trust in the ticketing system by cracking down on bots and others who take advantage of consumers through price gouging and other predatory practices and increase price transparency for ticket purchasers,” said Congressman Cornyn.

Live Nation, the owner of Ticketmaster, also released a statement supporting the new bill: “We support the Fans First Act and welcome legislation that brings positive reform to live event ticketing. We believe it’s critical Congress acts to protect fans and artists from predatory resale practices, and have long supported a federal all-in pricing mandate, banning speculative ticketing and deceptive websites, as well as other measures. We look forward to our continued work with policymakers to advocate for even stronger reforms and enforcement.”

government

President Joe Biden Signs $1.7 Trillion Bill Leading Into 2023

President Joe Biden signed a $1.7 trillion spending bill this week that will keep the federal government in full operation, and allocate necessary funding to various sectors.

New Proposed Bill Would Require All California Schoolchildren To Be Vaccinated Against Covid-19 

California State Senator Richard Pan will be proposing a bill this week that would overturn a loophole in the state’s requirement over children receiving their Covid-19 vaccinations. 

The bill will add Covid-19 vaccines to California’s list of required vaccinations for children attending K-12 programs. This bill would also override Governor Gavin Newsom’s scaled back mandates from last year. 

We need to make sure schools are safe so that all parents are comfortable sending their children to school, and we want to keep schools open.”

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This legislation marks the second major vaccine bill announced this year from a work group of Democratic lawmakers who are focused on increasing vaccination rates, while combating the spread of misinformation. 

Last Thursday Senator Scott Wiener introduced a bill that would permit children 12 and over to choose to be vaccinated without a parent’s consent or knowledge. Both bills are likely to be met with opposition from groups who are against vaccine mandates in general. 

California currently requires all students at public and private universities to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations, however, this mandate won’t be enforced until the US Food and Drug Administration fully approves the shot for children ages 12 and older. 

Currently the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is fully FDA approved for individuals aged 16 and older. Once the vaccine is fully approved, however, parents could still opt their children out of being vaccinated due to personal beliefs. 

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“We should be having conversations about what’s best for our children and what’s best for the safety of schools,” Pan said.

Pan’s bill will require all students from kindergarten to 12th grade to be vaccinated against Covid-19. By adding the Covid-19 inoculations to the state’s list of required vaccines for students, parents would need a full medical exemption to skip those doses. 

The bill would also allow the California Department of Public Health to mandate vaccines without requiring the state to offer personal belief exemptions for individuals who still haven’t been vaccinated. 

“The evidence clearly shows that vaccines help reduce the spread of infection, which will reduce transmission in schools and protect those who are medically vulnerable. The vaccine will also help reduce COVID-related absences, and reduce the likelihood that schools will need to be closed for outbreaks,” wrote the superintendents at LA Unified, the state’s largest school district, in a letter to legislative leaders.

France Now Legally Requires Vaccine Pass From Citizens 

The French government passed a bill this weekend that legally requires citizens to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want access to cultural events, theme parks, restaurants, bars, and other public places where social gathering is normalized. 

The bill was passed on Sunday, and will likely begin to be enforced on Friday January 21st. Initially, European countries were using the EU Digital Covid Certificate to allow EU citizens to travel freely within EU countries; similar to the vaccine passes we have on our phones in America depending on where you live. 

Previously any citizen who is fully vaccinated, who has had Covid-19, or who can show proof of a negative Covid test was able to travel across EU borders freely. Each state within the EU, however, is responsible for their own system when it comes to vaccination requirements. 

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The French government has now made it a legal requirement to have a Vaccine Pass in order to go to public spaces or travel in or out of the country; a negative Covid-19 test will no longer be enough. 

The French senate voted in favor of the vaccine passes this past Sunday, which was the final government body that had to approve the bill before it can be made into law, which is expected to happen this Friday. 

90% of French people over the age of 12 are already vaccinated, so this new law will not impact them. Anyone who is not vaccinated, however, will be prohibited from eating out, going to theaters, or traveling long distances. 

There are a couple of exceptions to the new bill as well. Children between the ages of 12-16 will only be required to use a Health Pass; which is what most vaccinated EU citizens are currently using. This means kids within that age bracket can continue to use a negative test to stay up-to-date on their requirements. 

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Unvaccinated individuals will still have access to long-distance buses and trains if there is an “imperative reason of a family or health nature,” according to the bill. A negative test result will be allowed in the case of a dying relative or similar health emergency in which travel is required. 

The vaccination pass will not be required in hotels and holiday cottages unless the owners decide to enforce it. Owners have the right to refuse business to anyone and can make it a requirement as well for any traveler trying to stay at their establishment. Any communal spaces within these hotels, such as bars or restaurants, will be required to check for Vaccine Passes regardless. 

France defines an individual as “fully vaccinated” once their at least one week away from their second dose of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine, or one month away from their single Janssen dose. 

If the most recent vaccine dose was over 7 months ago, the individual must get a booster in order to maintain their Vaccine Pass and keep it active. 

For individuals living outside of France, a vaccine is required to enter the country. Travelers arriving from a non-EU country are also required to provide a negative Covid-19 test in addition to being vaccinated. 

Democrats Expected To Pass Biden’s $1.75 Trillion Climate And Social Spending Package This Week 

House Democrats are quickly trying to pass President Biden’s $1.75 trillion social and climate spending package this week. The package would give democrats a head start at making infrastructural changes before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The package has been extensively debated all summer and fall, mainly over the contents of the package and wear specific money will be allocated to. 

Democrats currently feel like they’re on the verge of a huge milestone in the House, where the passage of this package would be seen as a huge victory for the party. House moderate holdouts have promised to support the bill when it’s brought to the floor this week. 

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This Monday, Biden will be signing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill as well, so the administration in general is gearing up for pushback, and to get moving on the actual plans within the bills. 

Despite the possibility of new drama in the Senate, we’re confident Congress can send the package to Biden’s desk by the end of the year. I think we’ll get it passed before Christmas,” one senior Democrat, G.K. Butterfield (N.C.), former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Biden and the democratic party in general have been under fire for a recent slew of economic changes, such as general inflation, labor shortages, and a supply chain “clog” that’s preventing our retail markets from thriving. These issues in combination with the Covid-19 pandemic have led to a lot of disagreements among our leaders. 

“Democrats need to reassess their strategy. We need to have legislation that actually, forcefully delivers for working people,”  said progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). 

Moderate Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) is supportive of several key elements of the Biden package, such as “tackling climate change, extending the child tax credit and lowering prescription drug prices, but Democrats have failed to explain how the legislation will help struggling American families.”   

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“People are busy, they have jobs, they have lives, they have worries, they have kids, they have joys. If someone turns on the news and [hears] ‘We really need to make these major investments in human infrastructure,’ and they say, ‘There they go again. What the heck are those Democrats doing?’” 

“Now, if we’re saying, ‘I want to invest in the next generation of America’s children, and I want to do it by ensuring every kid goes to pre-K’ — like, that’s a different discussion, right?”  Spanberger stated. 

“I think this bill will make it over the finish line, but ultimately, this bill may not be identical to what we pass in the House when it does make it over the finish line.” 

Government officials also emphasized that the cost of not passing this bill will be much greater for lower to middle class Americans, who will be forced to deal with inflated costs for their everyday needs. 

“If we don’t act on Build Back Better … we won’t be able to cut child care costs. … We won’t be able to make preschool free for many families starting in 2022, saving many families $8,600. We won’t be able to get ahead of skyrocketing housing costs … and we won’t be able to save Americans thousands of dollars by negotiating prescription drug prices,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. 

“So our view is this makes a strong case for moving forward with this agenda. Because what we’re really talking about is the cost to American families.”

Technology

Satya Nadella: Reshaping Microsoft and the Future of Technology

Though his executive decisions have inspired criticism, time has shown that under Nadella’s leadership Microsoft is poised to once again dominate the industry with a suite of innovative, useful products and services.