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posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 22 2023, @12:21PM   Printer-friendly

It's unclear if the two lawmakers know what messenger RNA is exactly:

Two Republican lawmakers in Idaho have introduced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone in the state to administer mRNA-based vaccines—namely the lifesaving and remarkably safe COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. If passed as written, it would also preemptively ban the use of countless other mRNA vaccines that are now in development, such as shots for RSV, a variety of cancers, HIV, flu, Nipah virus, and cystic fibrosis, among others.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Tammy Nichols of Middleton and Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale, both staunch conservatives who say they stand for freedom and the right to life. But their bill, HB 154, proposes that "a person may not provide or administer a vaccine developed using messenger ribonucleic acid [mRNA] technology for use in an individual or any other mammal in this state." If passed into law, anyone administering lifesaving mRNA-based vaccines would be guilty of a misdemeanor, which could result in jail time and/or a fine.

While presenting the bill to the House Health & Welfare Committee last week, Nichols said their anti-mRNA stance stems from the fact that the COVID-19 vaccines were initially allowed under emergency use authorizations (EUAs) from the Food and Drug Administration, not the agency's full regulatory approval. "We have issues that this was fast-tracked," she told fellow lawmakers, according to reporting from local news outlet KXLY.com.

The EUAs for the two mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines were issued in December 2020, and the FDA has subsequently granted full approval to both (Pfizer-BioNTech's in August 2021 and Moderna's in January 2022). This was pointed out to Nichols in the hearing last week.

[...] There have been rare reports of adverse events, including blood clots and inflammation of the heart muscle and lining (myocarditis and pericarditis). However, these problems are very rare, and, in the case of myocarditis and pericarditis, they tend to be mild. Independent health experts who advise the FDA and CDC have consistently determined that the risk of developing these conditions does not outweigh the benefits of vaccination.

[...] With the massive success of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines, expectations are high that the platform can be used to target a wide variety of other infectious and non-infectious diseases. Moderna, for instance, has a wide pipeline of mRNA-based vaccines in the works. Already this year, the company reported findings from a late-stage clinical trial indicating their mRNA-based vaccine against RSV (respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus) was highly effective. RSV is a common respiratory virus that can be deadly to older adults and young children.

In Idaho, it's unclear if Nichols and Boyle's bill will make it through the committee and, further, into law. However, its introduction fits into a worrying trend by conservative lawmakers for attacking lifesaving vaccination and evidence-based medicine, generally.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday February 16 2023, @07:03PM   Printer-friendly

Opponents say laws preventing underage porn access are vague, pose privacy risks:

After decades of America fretting over minors potentially being overexposed to pornography online, several states are suddenly moving fast in 2023 to attempt to keep kids off porn sites by passing laws requiring age verification.

Last month, Louisiana became the first state to require an ID from residents to access pornography online. Since then, seven states have rushed to follow in Louisiana's footsteps. According to a tracker from Free Speech Coalition, Florida, Kansas, South Dakota, and West Virginia introduced similar laws, and laws in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Virginia are seemingly closest to passing. If passed, some of these laws could be enforced promptly, while some bills in states like Florida and Mississippi specify that they wouldn't take effect until July.

But not every state agrees that rushing to require age verification is the best solution. Today, a South Dakota committee voted to defer voting on its age verification bill until the last day of the legislative session. The bill's sponsor, Republican Jessica Castleberry, seemingly failed to persuade the committee of the urgency of passing the law, saying at the hearing that "this is not your daddy's Playboy. Extreme, degrading, and violent pornography is only one click away from our children." She told Ars that the bill was not passed because some state lawmakers were too "easily swayed by powerful lobbyists."

"It's a travesty that unfettered access to pornography by minors online will continue in South Dakota because of lobbyists protecting the interests of their clients, versus legislators who should be protecting our children," Castleberry told Ars. "The time to pass this bill was in the mid-1990s."

Lobbyists opposing the bill at the hearing represented telecommunications and newspaper associations. Although the South Dakota bill, like the Louisiana law, exempted news organizations, one lobbyist, Justin Smith, an attorney for the South Dakota Newspaper Association, argued that the law was too vague in how it defined harmful content and how it defined which commercial entities could be subjected to liabilities.

"We just have to be careful before we put things like this into law with all of these open-ended questions that put our South Dakota businesses at risk," Smith said at the hearing. "We would ask you to defeat the bill in its current form."

These laws work by requiring age verification of all users, imposing damages on commercial entities found to be neglecting required age verification and distributing content to minors online that has been deemed to be inappropriate. The laws target online destinations where more than a third of the content is considered harmful to minors. Opponents in South Dakota anticipated that states that pass these laws, as Louisiana has, will struggle to "regulate the entire Internet." In Arkansas, violating content includes "actual, simulated, or animated displays" of body parts like nipples or genitals, touching or fondling of such body parts, as well as sexual acts like "intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, bestiality, oral copulation, flagellation, excretory functions," or other sex acts deemed to have no "literary, artistic, political, or scientific value to minors."

When Louisiana's law took effect last month, Ars verified how major porn sites like Pornhub quickly complied. It seems likely that if new laws are passed in additional states, popular sites will be prepared to implement additional controls to block regional access to minors.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday February 02 2023, @05:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the unintended-consequences dept.

TikTok's CEO agrees to testify before Congress for the first time in March:

As Congress prepares to vote on a nationwide TikTok ban next month, it looks like that ban may already be doomed to fail. The biggest hurdle likely won't be mustering enough votes, but drafting a ban that doesn't conflict with measures passed in the 1980s to protect the flow of ideas from hostile foreign nations during the Cold War.

These decades-old measures, known as the Berman amendments, were previously invoked by TikTok creators suing to block Donald Trump's attempted TikTok ban in 2020. Now, a spokesperson for Representative Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), the incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Ars that these measures are believed to be the biggest obstacle for lawmakers keen on blocking the app from operating in the United States.

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that lawmakers' dilemma in enacting a ban would be finding a way to block TikTok without "shutting down global exchanges of content—or inviting retaliation against US platforms and media." Some lawmakers think that's achievable by creating a narrow carve-out for TikTok in new legislation, but others, like McCaul, think a more permanent solution to protect national security interests long-term would require crafting more durable and thoughtful legislation that would allow for bans of TikTok and all apps beholden to hostile foreign countries.

[...] Back in 1977, Congress passed the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to empower the president to impose sanctions on and oversee trade with hostile nations. The plan was to prevent average American citizens from assisting US enemies, but the law troubled publishers doing business with book authors and movie makers based in hostile nations. Those concerns led Congressman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) to propose an amendment in 1988, which passed, exempting "information and informational materials" from IEEPA and blocking presidents from regulating these materials.

As technology evolved, in 1994, another IEEPA amendment specifically exempted electronic media, leading to today, when everything from a tweet to a TikTok would be free from presidential regulation under the so-called Berman amendments. How this prevents Congress from passing a new law remains unclear, but the WSJ reports that lawmakers are hesitant to draft legislation limiting TikTok if that could threaten those protections.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday December 13 2022, @07:34PM   Printer-friendly

Biden faces a renewed push, domestically and internationally, to drop charges against Assange, who is languishing in a UK jail:

The Biden administration has been saying all the right things lately about respecting a free and vigorous press, after four years of relentless media-bashing and legal assaults under Donald Trump.

The attorney general, Merrick Garland, has even put in place expanded protections for journalists this fall, saying that "a free and independent press is vital to the functioning of our democracy".

But the biggest test of Biden's commitment remains imprisoned in a jail cell in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been held since 2019 while facing prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act, a century-old statute that has never been used before for publishing classified information.

[...] Now Biden is facing a re-energized push, both inside the United States and overseas, to drop Assange's protracted prosecution.

Five major media organizations that relied on his trove of government secrets, including the Guardian and the New York Times, put out an open letter earlier this month saying that his indictment "sets a dangerous precedent" and threatens to undermine the first amendment.


Original Submission