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A GOP rep. pledged to bring his own lunch to work in boycott of DC restaurants that now need proof of vaccination

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 11:58
Rep. Thomas Massie.
  • From Sunday, people in DC have to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and other indoor venues.
  • GOP Rep. Thomas Massie slammed the mandate on Friday, saying his "office will not comply."
  • We will get our food from Virginia or we will bring it to work," he tweeted.

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie pledged to bring his own lunch to work or order food from Virginia in a boycott of Washington, DC's new rule of needing vaccination proof to enter restaurants.

"My office will not comply," the Kentucky congressman tweeted on Friday. "We will not show papers. We will not order takeout from restaurants that require papers for dine-in. We will get our food from Virginia or we will bring it to work." 

"Shame has befallen our nation's capital."

The order, which took effect on Sunday, requires people aged 12 and older show proof of vaccination to enter any restaurant, bar, nightclub, sports venue, or gym in the city.

—Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) January 14, 2022

Washington joined other major US cities — including New York, Boston, and Los Angeles — in implementing similar requirements to counter a dramatic increase in COVID-19 infections.

Massie has been critical of vaccine mandates in the past: Last August, he compared vaccine passports to that tattoos that Jewish prisoners were forced to have at Nazi concentration camps. He later deleted the tweet.

He was also widely slammed last month after posting a Christmas photo of his family posing with military-style rifles, just days after a deadly school shooting in Michigan.

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Cathie Wood says meme stocks like GameStop aren't Ark Invest's thing — but she won't criticize retail traders for going after them

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 11:58
Cathie Wood, founder and CEO of Ark Invest.
  • Meme stocks like GameStop and AMC don't fit with Ark Invest's focus on disruptive innovation, Cathie Wood said.
  • But the star investor won't criticize retail investors for their decision making in buying those stocks, she told Time.
  • "This is what makes a market. We're all taking calculated risks," she said in an interview published Sunday.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

The Reddit army behind last year's meme stock frenzy has been lambasted for trying to bully Wall Street — but don't count star stockpicker Cathie Wood as one of their critics.

The Ark Invest CEO justified the behavior of amateur investors who banded together to go after hedge funds that had bet against their favored stocks.

"Meme stocks are not our kind of stock," Wood told Time Magazine, in an interview published Sunday. "But I was watching the calculated risks that the people buying those stocks were taking."

"What they were doing was asking, 'Hey, which stocks are the most shorted out there? Maybe those people are going to be wrong,'" she said.

In January 2021, retail traders collaborated on Reddit forums like WallStreetBets to lift the price of GameStop, AMC, and other highly-shorted stocks, with the aim of taking a profit as hedge funds covered their short positions. Video-game retailer GameStop, at the center of the saga, soared 2,000% within just a couple of days.

They largely believed that a combination of fee-free trading platforms, easily accessible margin, and enough allies with the same vision could beat the funds that dominate Wall Street. Their coordinated moves had an impact, as their trades drove losses worth billions of dollars across short-seller hedge funds. 

But some industry experts have described that trading strategy as very speculative, and said it creates a new type of casino. They argue that many meme stock investors don't have real depth and experience in the markets.

But Wood suggested everyone takes risks and decides their own investing strategy.

"We tend to base all our investment decisions on our research," she said, likely referring to Ark's trading plan. "Some people base their investment decisions on technicals."

"These individuals were simply taking a look at how incredibly shorted these stocks were, all by the same kind of hedge funds. I'm not going to criticize it."

Some notable hedge funds impacted by the short squeezes, such as Gabe Plotkin's Melvin Capital, sought additional funding. Others signaled abnormal losses to their investors as a result of moves in the heavily-shorted stocks. A year later, Wall Street remains cautious of the power of retail traders.

Ark funds — whose disruptive-innovation investment strategy has faltered recently — invest in five major disruptive tech themes, including artificial intelligence and blockchain. The firm's research, which is publicly available, is targeted at techno-pessimists.

Wood explained this is done to expose retail investors to the opportunities that investing in innovation provides.

"We wanted to bring transparency and democratization into investing in innovation; we consider ourselves the closest you'll find to a venture capital firm in the public equity markets," she said.

Read More: JEFFERIES: Buy these 25 growth stocks that have been hit hard in the recent sell-off and are far from their recent highs, but have the potential for major comebacks

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Elon Musk says Tesla will roll out Full Self-Driving beta in Canada 'cautiously' within the next month. He first predicted in 2020 that it would be out 'very soon.'

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 11:42
Tesla CEO Elon Musk walks in front of a Model Y image in Shanghai.
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Full Self-Driving beta will roll out in Canada in two to four weeks.
  • Musk first forecast in 2020 that Tesla would release FSD beta in Canada "very soon."
  • He said last year the FSD had to be tweaked for the different road system in Canada.

Elon Musk said Sunday that Tesla will roll out its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software in Canada within the next month. 

"We will start rolling out FSD beta in Canada cautiously in next 2 to 4 weeks," Musk tweeted in response to a Twitter user asking for an update.

The Tesla CEO first predicted in a tweet in December 2020 that the FSD beta would be extended to Canada "very soon."

Musk tweeted in November 2021 that FSD beta would maybe go live in Canada the following month but there were "no guarantees."

He added that the FSD software required a lot of testing and code tweaks for a different road system in Canada compared to the US.

FSD allows Tesla's electric vehicles to automatically change lanes, enter and exit highways, recognize stop signs and traffic lights, and park. Despite these abilities, the software doesn't make the car fully autonomous.

The timeline update on FSD release in Canada follows Musk's announcement in early January about Tesla raising the price of FSD software from $10,000 to $12,000.

FSD beta is currently available in the US — Tesla released a new FSD version, called the 10.3 update, to drivers in October. Less than 24 hours later, Musk tweeted the company would roll back to version 10.2. because it was "seeing some issues." 

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Meta's VR division is reportedly under investigation by the FTC

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 11:26
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Meta's VR division is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, Bloomberg reports.
  • Sources told Bloomberg the FTC has been speaking to third-party Oculus developers.
  • Meta is already subject to intense antitrust scrutiny by the FTC.

Meta's VR division is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and multiple US states, Bloomberg reported Friday.

The FTC and an undisclosed number of US states led by New York have been questioning third-party Oculus app developers over the last few months, sources with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg.

Sources told Bloomberg that investigators are looking into whether Oculus uses its market position to squash competition.

Meta did not immediately respond when contacted by Insider for comment on Bloomberg's report. The FTC did not immediately respond when contacted out of hours.

Oculus is a crucial part in Meta's ambitions to build out the metaverse. The word metaverse is a term borrowed from science fiction and refers to a future vision of the internet which people primarily access through immersive technologies like VR and AR.

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, rebranded itself in October to align more closely with CEO Mark Zuckerberg's plans to push more into metaverse technology. Zuckerberg said Meta would consist of two main businesses: its traditional social media business, and Reality Labs, its VR and AR hardware division.

The head of Reality Labs, Andrew Bosworth, announced in October the Oculus brand would be dissolved, saying the company would in "early 2022" start renaming the Oculus Quest headset the Meta Quest, and would replace the Oculus App with the Meta App.

Meta is already the subject of antitrust scrutiny by the FTC. A judge ruled last week that an FTC antitrust lawsuit against Meta can proceed. The lawsuit aims to force Meta to sell off its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp.

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China says it posted 8.1% GDP growth last year, and 3 other key takeaways from the country's most recent data dump

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 11:11
The Chinese government is trying to stimulate the slowing economy.
  • China announced its GDP grew 8.1% on-year in 2021, beating expectations.
  • But fourth-quarter GDP slowed to 4.0% from 4.9% in the third quarter of 2021.
  • The Chinese central bank has cut interest rates to stimulate growth in a politically sensitive year.

China announced that its economy grew 8.1% last year, beating expectations even as the COVID-19 pandemic stretched into its second year.

The growth rate was well above Beijing's target of "above 6%" and 2020's revised growth of 2.2%. Meanwhile, analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a 8.0% growth rate.

However, all is not well with the world's second-largest economy. The Chinese government is warning of a "triple pressure of demand contraction, supply shock and weakening expectations" amid the spread of the Omicron variant, which has reached capital city Beijing.

Here are four key takeaways from the most recent report from China's National Bureau of Statistics, released today. Importantly, the accuracy of some of the data in the report, including GDP figures, is called into question: Bo Zhuang, a China economist at Boston-based investment management firm Loomis Sayles, told Insider the headline GDP figure is "systematically inflated" due to how it's calculated.

1. China reported 8.1% GDP growth in 2021 — but it's likely lower

Even though China reported 8.1% on-year GDP growth rate in 2021, the real two-year compound annual growth rate is likely lower, around 5.5% to 6%, said Zhuang.

However, it's unlikely the central government was manipulating numbers, Zhuang said. 

One issue with China's economic data traces back to the quality of information submitted to the central government, as local governments sometimes inflate local GDP data to get more central government subsidies. Some investments are also reported twice if they involve two different provincial governments. Such issues result in a "constant error" for Chinese GDP data, said Zhuang.

The country's methodology for measuring economic data has also not been updated in decades. For instance, many of the companies surveyed for economic data are large, state-owned enterprises and factories, and this sampling doesn't capture the fast-growing services sector and the smaller enterprises, said Zhuang.

"Obviously, they need to revamp many of their survey samples," he said. "They're not representative of the Chinese economy anymore."

2. Growth in the fourth quarter of 2021 likely fell below Beijing's tolerance level, prompting a rate cut

China's GDP grew 4.0% on-year in the fourth quarter of 2021, marking a slowdown from 4.9% in the third quarter and 7.9% in the second quarter, according to official data.

Ahead of the economic data release this morning, the Chinese central bank unexpectedly announced an interest rate cut on policy loans — a growth-boosting move not seen since April 2020.

The rate cut is a sign that the Chinese government views its fourth-quarter GDP growth to be "below the tolerance level" of the authorities, said Zhuang.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a 3.6% growth for the fourth quarter, which means the official growth rate outperformed market consensus. But Beijing's growth expectations for the final quarter of 2021 were likely around 5%, said Zhuang.

"That's why they feel a need to stimulate in order to catch up to this 5% growth," Zhuang told Insider.

3. Employees are working more hours, but China's employment numbers don't tell the whole story

Company employees work 47.8 a week — about 9.5 hours a day — data in the new report shows. However, that data is skewed because authorities only started including casual workers into its data collection in 2021, said Zhuang.

The number of hours worked per week has increased from the end of 2020, official data compiled by the CEIC shows.

While the National Bureau of Statistics data shows that employment was generally stable in 2021 and the unemployment rate in urban areas declined, the report doesn't go into details, Zhuang said.

Economists recently told Bloomberg that China's official unemployment figures don't capture data on people who have been out of the job market for more than three months, or include information on changes in the number of migrant workers.

Despite the steady unemployment rate, incomes have fallen since 2019, Zhuang said, citing official data. 

4. Xi is under pressure to keep the economy strong as he prepares to seek a third term

China's economy was turbocharged in early 2021 as the country started to recover from the pandemic, but the economy started to slow down in late September on the back of the Evergrande debt crisis and a power crisis. December retail sales growth also slowed to their slowest pace since August 2020.

Now, there are signs of new threats amid the Omicron variant, which have prompted Chinese authorities to act more aggressively by cutting the interest rate on policy loans, said Zhuang. About 70% of analysts polled by Reuters last week weren't expected any change to the rate.

President Xi Jinping is under pressure to have the economy perform this year, as he is expected to seek a third term at the Chinese Communist Party's 20th National Party Congress in the fall of 2022.

"He cannot afford to see GDP growth collapse. Reasonably high growth — i.e. 5% — is still politically correct for him, so that's why the government is acting more aggressively," said Zhuang.

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Boris Johnson wishes he could 'turn back the clock' on lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street, minister says

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 10:26
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
  • Boris Johnson is facing the toughest week in his premiership as he attempts to head off a no confidence a vote.
  • Conservative MPs are returning from their constituencies today, after assessing how the allegations have gone down among supporters.
  • Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi played down reports of 'Operation Big Dog' plan to save Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson wishes he could "turn back the clock" on lockdown-busting parties held in Downing Street, a minister said on Monday, following reports that the Prime Minister attended another potentially rule-breaking drinks gathering.

Johnson is facing a critical week in his premiership, with Conservative MPs having used the weekend to take the temperature from their local associations and wider constituency

Former minister Tim Loughton called for the prime minister to go, taking the total number of Conservative MPs to have gone public to six, although many more have done so privately. 

—Tim Loughton MP (@timloughton) January 15, 2022

All eyes are now on Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee, who is responsible for collating any letters of no confidence from Tory MPs. If the threshold of 54 letters is reached, it will trigger a vote of confidence in the prime minister.

The Mirror, which has led much of the coverage of lockdown-busting parties, revealed on Sunday that Johnson had attended another leaving drinks in December 2020. Sources told the newspaper that Johnson attended the event "for a few minutes." 

Sue Gray, the senior official who is leading the investigation into multiple allegations of rule-breaking gatherings, is expected to conclude her report as early as this week.

Speaking to Sky News on Monday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: "The prime minister understands the level of hurt in the country," 

"People miss loved ones who they can't turn the clock back on. [Johnson] said at the despatch box that "I wish I could turn the clock back and go back to May 20 in the garden."

The prime minister was forced to apologise last week after admitting he attended a drinks gathering in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, when coronavirus lockdown rules banned social gatherings.

Zahawi said he had lost his uncle to COVID-19 and called it a "personal" issue to him.

Zahawi also told BBC Breakfast on Monday that he did not "recognize" a report in The Independent that Johnson planned a clearout of Downing Street staff to save his premiership called "Operation Big Dog."

The reported overhaul would see Johnson replace key members of his top team including his Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds, who invited over 100 people to the May 20 party.

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The world's 10 richest men have made so much money during the pandemic that a one-time 99% tax on their gains could pay for all COVID-19 vaccine production and more: Oxfam

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 10:25
The wealth of the 10 richest men has more than doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The 10 richest men have more than doubled their wealth in the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxfam calculated.
  • Oxfam issued a new report on inequality in which it advocated more taxation for the rich.
  • "Billionaires have had a terrific pandemic," Oxfam's executive director, Gabriela Bucher, said.

The wealth of the 10 richest men in the world has grown so much during the coronavirus pandemic that even a one-time 99% tax on their gains would be able to pay for the production of all the COVID-19 vaccines the world needs and more, according to the charity Oxfam.

"Billionaires have had a terrific pandemic. Central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom," Oxfam International's executive director, Gabriela Bucher, said in a press release announcing a new report from the organization, "Inequality Kills."

Highlighting the vast wealth disparity that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxfam noted that the wealth of the world's 10 richest men more than doubled to $1.5 trillion from $700 billion from March 2020 to November 2021. That's a rate of $15,000 a second or $1.3 billion a day, the charity said.

Oxfam used the Forbes Billionaires List, topped by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault, to calculate the figures.

"Vaccines were meant to end this pandemic, yet rich governments allowed pharma billionaires and monopolies to cut off the supply to billions of people. The result is that every kind of inequality imaginable risks rising," Bucher said.

According to Oxfam's calculations, a one-time 99% windfall tax on the gains in fortunes of the 10 richest men would able be to pay for the manufacture of the world's COVID-19 vaccines. There'd also be enough to fund other public-works projects, including universal healthcare and social protection.

"All this, while still leaving these men $8 billion better off than they were before the pandemic," Oxfam noted in its report.

The charity urges governments to "claw back" gains made by billionaires.

"It has never been so important to start righting the violent wrongs of this obscene inequality by clawing back elites' power and extreme wealth including through taxation — getting that money back into the real economy and to save lives," Bucher said.

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Biden says Texas synagogue hostage taker bought his gun 'on the street'

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 07:43
US President Joe Biden speaks about the hostage incident at a synagogue in Texas as he arrives with US First Lady Jill Biden (R) to pack food boxes while volunteering in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service, at Philabundance, a hunger relief organization, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January 16, 2022.
  • Biden said the man who took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue bought his gun off the street. 
  • The FBI identified the suspect as 44-year-old British national, Malik Faisal Akram.
  • Biden said Akram had been in the US for a few weeks and spent his first night in a homeless shelter.

President Joe Biden said the man who took four people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on Saturday purchased his gun on the street. 

The FBI identified the suspect in the Congregation Beth Israel hostage situation as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram.

In a press statement, Biden said Akram had been in the US for only a few weeks and had spent his first night in a homeless shelter. 

Biden said he doesn't have all the details yet but speculated that Akram might have "purchased it from an individual in a homeless shelter or a homeless community," because that's where he said he was. 

"It's hard to tell. I just don't know," Biden said. 

While Akram alleged he had bombs, the president said there were none "that we know of."

Biden added that while background checks are "critical" they don't work when someone buys a gun off the street. 

"But you can't stop something like this if someone is on the street buying something from somebody else on the street.  Except that there's too — there's so many guns that have been sold of late; it's just ridiculous," Biden said. "And it's because of the failure of us to focus as hard as we should and as consistent as we should on gun purchases, gun sales, ghost guns, and a whole range of things that I'm trying to do."

The hostage situation lasted for 11 hours. The synagogue was live-streaming a morning service via Facebook and Zoom, authorities said, when Akram entered and took the four hostages.

All four were released unharmed and Akram was killed at the scene. No details about his death have been released. 

Biden said he did not know the specific motive behind the attack or why the specific synagogue was targetted. FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said that Akram was focused on an issue not linked to the Jewish community, AP reported.

However, on Sunday, the FBI released a follow-up statement saying it considered the standoff a "terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force."

"Well, no, I don't. We don't have — I don't think there is sufficient information to know about why he targeted that synagogue or why he insisted on the release of someone who's been in prison for over 10 years, why he was engaged — why he was using antisemitic and anti-Israeli comments. I — we just don't have enough facts," Biden said.

Akram reportedly made demands that convicted terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, dubbed "Lady Al-Qaeda," be released from the Carswell Air Force Base in Texas, during the hostage situation.

Siddiqui is serving an 86 year sentence after being convicted for attempting to kill a US soldier in 2010. 

 

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MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell says he's 'disgusted' with 2 banks he claims are cutting ties with him over 'cancel culture' after his phone records were subpoenaed by the January 6 committee

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 07:34
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.
  • Mike Lindell claims two of his financial backers want him to "leave their bank."
  • The MyPillow CEO shared recordings of a phone call with a bank representative to Insider.
  • He also told Insider that they would have to "throw him out," and he won't close out voluntarily.

Mike Lindell, the founder and CEO of MyPillow, told Insider on Friday that he's been told by two financial institutions to "leave their bank."

Lindell said Minnesota Bank & Trust and Heartland Financial USA told him they no longer wanted to do business with him. 

Lindell is one of the most vocal supporters of former President Donald Trump; he recently told Insider he's already spent $25 million pushing Trump's baseless voter fraud claims.

Earlier this month, the January 6 House Select Committee subpoenaed the pillow CEO's phone records over his ties to the former president.

According to Lindell, this raised concerns at Minnesota Bank & Trust. 

"But what if somebody came in and said, 'you know what, we're gonna subpoena all of his account records, and this and that,' and we make the news?" a man Lindell identified as Tom Cardle, a senior vice president at Minnesota Bank & Trust, said in recordings obtained by Insider.

Cardle also referred to the bank's continued relationship with Lindell as a "reputation risk." 

Cardle didn't respond to Insider's multiple requests for comment on whether he was in the recordings. However, Insider independently verified that the phone number was linked to an office line associated with Cardle. 

"What happens with accounts is between bankers and their clients. Decisions about bank accounts will be left to the account holders," a Minnesota Bank & Trust representative told Insider when reached for comment on Friday. 

"These guys have an agenda, there's something wrong, or they would have done something before," Lindell told Insider on Friday, responding to the call. "They would have done something last year or a year ago. Like on January 9, when I was at the White House, running around with papers from a lawyer that said 'martial law,' they would have done this."

Lindell was actually photographed at the White House carrying notes about martial law on January 15

"Why did they wait till now?" he continued. "There's something behind this, and we can't let everyone get de-banked in our country."

Lindell added that he thought the banks wanting to terminate their relationship with him was about the "First Amendment," floating a theory that "somebody got to them."

"[The banks] never had a problem with the cyber symposium. They didn't have a problem last year when all the box stores canceled me," Lindell said, referring to his 72-hour cyber symposium in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Costco and other retailers pulling MyPillow products from their shelves. "Isn't this weird? You know, give me a break. These guys are disgusting."

The pillow executive said he does not intend to comply with the bank's entreaties for him to close the accounts.

"I'm not closing my accounts. They're going to have to throw me out," Lindell told Insider, adding that he thought the banks were taking these actions because of "cancel culture." 

Representatives for Heartland Financial USA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider. 

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Apple is requiring workers to get COVID-19 vaccine boosters as employers start mandating the shots amid the surge in Omicron cases

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 06:20
Apple is requiring employees to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.
  • Eligible Apple employees must get boosted or test to enter stores and offices starting February 15.
  • A memo seen by The Verge also said unvaccinated workers must test often starting January 24.
  • US employers are grappling with a surge in Omicron cases and postponing office reopenings.

Apple is requiring all of its corporate and retail employees to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots or submit to frequent coronavirus tests, The Verge reported.

"Due to waning efficacy of the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines and the emergence of highly transmissible variants such as Omicron, a booster shot is now part of staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination to protect against severe disease," said an internal memo seen by The Verge.

Any Apple employees who don't get booster shots within four weeks of becoming eligible will be required to take rapid antigen tests before entering workplaces starting February 15, the media outlet added.

Workers who are unvaccinated or haven't provided proof of vaccination must provide negative test results starting January 24, the memo seen by The Verge said, though the outlet added that it was unclear whether this testing requirement applied to both corporate and retail employees.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

US employers are grappling with a surge in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant just as many were preparing to return to the office after nearly two years of working from home.

Apple has pushed back its return-to-office plans indefinitely, in line with other major tech firms.

Last week, Facebook's parent company, Meta, told its employees that it would mandate booster shots for all workers when its US campuses reopened.

Amazon has offered US warehouse workers $40 if they get a booster, The Information reported Thursday.

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Trump has been talking trash about Ron DeSantis in private, saying the Florida gov. has a 'dull personality' and is ungrateful: report

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 04:19
President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in Sunrise, Fla., on November 26, 2019.
  • Trump has been trash-talking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in private, per an Axios report.
  • Behind closed doors, Trump has been saying that DeSantis has a "dull personality." 
  • According to Axios, Trump is also sore about DeSantis' not publicly ruling out running for president in 2024.

Former President Donald Trump trash-talked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis behind closed doors, slamming him for his perceived ungratefulness and saying the governor has a "dull personality." 

According to sources who spoke to Axios' Jonathan Swan, Trump has criticized DeSantis multiple times in private.

"In the context of the 2024 election, he usually gives DeSantis a pop in the nose in the middle of that type of conversation," said one source, who spoke to Swan under the condition of anonymity. "He says DeSantis has no personal charisma and has a dull personality."

The source also told Axios that Trump goes out of his way during these conversations to say that he isn't fussed about having to potentially take DeSantis on to clinch the GOP nomination in 2024

A second anonymous source who spoke to Swan said that Trump was irritated with DeSantis because the latter had not yet publicly ruled out a 2024 presidential run

Axios reported that the former president also said in private that he doesn't understand what the "big deal" is for DeSantis to make a declaration that he won't be running in 2024, saying: "Why won't he just say he's not going to run against me?"

The second source also told Swan that the former president was particularly annoyed over perceived ungratefulness from DeSantis, telling people in private that "there's no way" that DeSantis would have been elected governor without his endorsement.

According to Axios, Trump has been keeping tabs on who has ruled out running in 2024. Several prominent Republicans have not publicly ruled out running in 2024, including former Vice President Mike Pence, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who said in December that he would run for president again "in a heartbeat," and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who in recent months has become an outspoken critic of Trump's fixation on election fraud

DeSantis is viewed as a prominent frontrunner to challenge Trump for the Republican presidential ticket. Insider's Kimberly Leonard reported that DeSantis' name kept coming up among Trump supporters gathered outside Mar-a-Lago on January 6, 2021, the first anniversary of the Capitol attack, with people picking the Florida governor as their second favorite for the ticket. 

DeSantis said in October that he is not considering a presidential run because he's "busy trying to make sure people are not supporting critical race theory."

DeSantis also dismissed rumors that there is any tension between him and Trump. However, on a conservative podcast this week, he admitted he wished he'd been "much louder" in his opposition to Trump when the former president issued COVID-19 stay-at-home-orders.

Despite criticizing DeSantis, Trump has signaled that he would be open to having the Florida governor as a vice-presidential running mate.

Trump has not yet announced a presidential run and said in November that he will "probably" wait until after the midterm elections to confirm if he will make a presidential bid in 2024. 

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Sen. Tim Kaine says most recent version of spending bill is 'dead' but 'the core of the bill' will likely pass

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 04:14
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia campaigns for gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at a rally in Richmond, VA on October 23, 2021. (Photo by
  • Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said there's hope the social and climate spending bill will pass. 
  • Kaine said while the current version of the bill is dead, core elements of it may still go through. 
  • Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has opposed the passing of the bill. 

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine pushed back on the idea that President Joe Biden's social and climate spending bill is completely "dead."

In a CBS "Face the Nation" interview with host Margaret Brennan, Kaine said while the most recent version of the measure is "dead," core elements of the bill could still pass. 

"Even the White House economist is using the past tense when referring to Build Back Better. It's dead. You don't have the votes in the Senate," Brennan told Kaine. 

 

"I don't agree with you, Margaret. You're right that it's dead. The most recent version of it is not going to happen but if you look at the core of the bill, I think the core is education and workforce and things like reduce childcare and education expenses, workforce training, and then support for the workforce in areas like health care," Kaine replied. 

The social spending bill faced numerous blows to getting passed as Sen. Joe Manchin has blocked support of it. Manchin said he opposed the sprawling $2 trillion legislation, mostly based on opposition to the expanded child tax credit, which provides up to $300 a month per child to most families. Manchin has also opposed the total price tag

Earlier this month, Manchin said he's no longer supporting his proposal of a $1.8 trillion plan after a breakdown in the negotiation process with Biden's administration.

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Sen. Mitt Romney says Biden was elected 'to stop the crazy' and argues that voters weren't asking him 'to transform America'

Sun, 01/16/2022 - 22:51
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney on Sunday said President Joe Biden was not elected to "transform America."
  • Romney said people who backed Biden "were looking to get back to normal" and "stop the crazy."
  • The senator said Biden's latest voting-rights speech was not helpful in forging bipartisanship.

Sen. Mitt Romney on Sunday dinged President Joe Biden's governing approach, arguing that the longtime Democratic lawmaker was elected to restore a sense of normality to government and was not put into office to "transform" the country.

During an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," the Utah Republican — who was also the party's presidential nominee in 2012 — told the host Chuck Todd that Biden needed to adhere to his commitment to bridge partisan divisions in the country in the wake of the president's fiery voting-rights speech in Atlanta last week.

"President Biden said he was going to try to unite the country," the senator said. "His comments in Georgia did not suggest he's trying to pull us back together again."

He continued: "He's got to recognize that when he was elected, people were not looking for him to transform America. They were looking to get back to normal. To stop the crazy. And it seems like we're continuing to see the kinds of policy and promotions that are not accepted by the American people."

Romney's comments mirrored the sentiment of Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, who said in November that voters elected Biden not to become the next Franklin D. Roosevelt in pushing for major changes in government but to move away from the tumult of the Trump administration.

For months, Democrats have sought to enact key voting-rights legislation — namely the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — in the face of Republican resistance to the bills in the Senate, while also dealing with opposition from within their own party.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona oppose carving out a filibuster exception for voting rights and have consistently rejected eliminating the filibuster altogether, much to the consternation of progressives.

In the evenly divided Senate, Biden's most ambitious policy items — including the roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better social-spending bill that invests in healthcare, early education, and climate initiatives — have faced a tough road to passage. Negotiations between Manchin and the White House over a slimmed-down social-spending bill fell apart last month, and talks have seemingly been shelved, according to a recent Washington Post report.

Romney, who worked with Biden to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law in November, said the president should push for a "reset" regarding his presidency, arguing that the Democrat had "a bad year."

The senator pointed to concerns surrounding inflation, the rise in illegal crossings at the US-Mexico border last year, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and logistical issues with Americans accessing COVID-19 testing kits in his critique of the administration.

"Things are not going well," Romney said. "And the president needs to stop and reset and say what is it he's trying to accomplish."

He continued: "And if it's to try and transform America, he is not going to unite us. Bringing us together means finding a way to work on a bipartisan basis. He had one success, the infrastructure bill, and that was done by Republicans and Democrats in the Senate working together. Build on that kind of success."

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Long COVID may be causing 1.6 million Americans to miss work amid the labor shortage

Sun, 01/16/2022 - 21:29
A COVID-19 patient recovers at home in Brooklyn, New York on November 21, 2020.
  • One in seven working-age Americans may experience lingering COVID-19 symptoms. 
  • That means 1.6 million COVID "long-haulers" could be missing from the US workforce. 
  • A new report from the Brookings Institute explores the economic impact of the condition. 

An estimated 1.6 million Americans could be missing from the workforce due to long COVID, according to a new report from the Brookings Institute. 

COVID-19 long haulers can experience debilitating symptoms for weeks, months, or even years after infection with the coronavirus. Early research indicates that 10 to 30 percent of coronavirus patients develop long COVID, but the economic impact is still uncertain. 

One in seven working-age Americans may have experienced, or be experiencing, lingering COVID-19 symptoms, according to CDC data. Two studies measuring the effects of long COVID on workers found that 23% and 28% of patients surveyed had stopped working due to the condition. 

That means over one million Americans could have been out of work at once due to long COVID. The additional five million missing jobs calculated in the Brookings Institute report account for workers who may reduce their hours but not stop working completely. 

Those calculations rely on a number of assumptions due to the lack of data surrounding long COVID, the author points out. 

"Until we have data from a representative sample that accurately capture the extent of the impacts to the labor force, economists and policymakers are likely not going to consider long Covid an economic issue or recognize it for the mass disabling event it is," Lisa McCorkell, co-founder of the long-Covid-focused Patient-Led Research Collaborative, told the think-tank. 

Those self reporting symptoms of long COVID say they are working longer hours than before and in general have higher levels of anxiety, Insider previously reported. 

Their mental health is also generally worse (40% compared to 30%). The majority, 65%, said that they felt more stressed and anxious as a result of their long term condition — compared to 59% for those without chronic symptoms. 

Some feel like they don't have anyone to talk to about their symptoms, according to the latest Opinions and Lifestyle Survey from the Office of National Statistics (ONS)

Has long COVID impacted your ability to work? Email this reporter at htowey@insider.com

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A Florida Republican who was defeated by 59 percentage points in a congressional special election won't concede

Sun, 01/16/2022 - 21:28
Campaign signs outside the Sunset Lakes Community Center in Miramar, Florida, on January 11.
  • The Republican Jason Mariner hasn't conceded in Florida's 20th District special election House race.
  • Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a progressive Democrat, beat Mariner in a 79%-20% landslide.
  • Mariner filed a lawsuit before the election was called, telling CBS Miami "stuff" was "discovered."

A Florida Republican who last Tuesday lost a congressional special election by a landslide in a heavily Democratic district has declined to concede the race, according to CBS Miami.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick — a Democrat who pledged to fight for $1,000 monthly checks for Americans and who backs progressive policies such as the Green New Deal and "Medicare for All" — easily defeated the Republican Jason Mariner in the race to succeed the Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died in April.

With all precincts reporting, Cherfilus-McCormick defeated Mariner 78.7% to 19.6% in Florida's 20th District — a 59.1-percentage-point victory. She received 43,663 votes to her opponent's 10,883 votes.

But in a move reminiscent of former President Donald Trump, who continues to dispute his election loss to President Joe Biden, Mariner has made claims of irregularities in the South Florida district.

"Now they called the race — I did not win, so they say, but that does not mean that they lost either, it does not mean that we lost," the Republican told CBS after the race was called.

Before the polls closed for the special election, Mariner filed a lawsuit alleging ballot issues in Broward and Palm Beach counties, the two populous Democratic-leaning jurisdictions that anchor the district.

"We'll also have some stuff coming out that we've recently discovered," Mariner told the TV station without elaborating.

Cherfilus-McCormick — who eked by Dale Holness by five votes in a multicandidate Democratic primary in November — brushed off Mariner's actions.

"Well, this wouldn't be my first time running against an opponent who is refusing to concede, so it's not our first time, and at the end of the day nothing can stop the motion," she told CBS.

Holness, a former Broward County commissioner, filed a lawsuit in November seeking to invalidate the Democratic primary results, alleging that Cherfilus-McCormick's advocacy for universal basic income was tantamount to bribing voters.

Election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties told CBS the election results would be certified in 14 days — with challenges permitted for 10 days after that point.

While candidates who are unsuccessful in their races aren't legally bound to formally concede, Trump's continued refusal to acknowledge his 2020 loss despite a clear 306-232 Electoral College victory for Biden has morphed into a major point of contention for partisans, from the grassroots level to the halls of Congress.

In the wake of Trump's defeat in 2020, Republicans across the US have raced to implement voting restrictions, fueled by Trump's widely debunked claims of mass voter fraud.

Congressional Democrats have sought to nullify many of the provisions of Republican-authored election laws with the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act but have been stymied nearly unanimous GOP opposition to the bills as well as by resistance from Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to changing the filibuster.

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A former top Obama economist throws cold water on the Biden administration's favorite inflation argument: 'Corporate greed is a bad theory'

Sun, 01/16/2022 - 21:23
President Joe Biden.
  • Jason Furman is among the economists who aren't buying the Biden administration's inflation argument.
  • Biden has asserted that big companies have been making inflation worse by excessively raising prices.
  • Republicans are hitting Biden for rising inflation, posing a fresh political problem for Biden.

President Joe Biden has grappled for months with soaring inflation under his watch. And as 2022 kicks off, it hasn't fallen as quickly as the administration hoped. 

White House officials long contended that the spike in consumer prices would be short-lived as the economy rebounded last year, but it hasn't played out like that. A federal report issued Wednesday showed prices rose a still-elevated 7% in December compared to a year ago, the fastest pace in nearly four decades.

Supply chains are still broken with consumer demand surging for all types of goods like used cars and groceries. The Biden administration is pinning the blame for rising prices on corporations like meat processors for profiting off the pandemic. But many economists, including one that served in the Obama administration, aren't buying it.

"Corporate greed is a bad theory of inflation," Jason Furman, a former top economist for President Barack Obama, said in an interview, adding, "I think almost everything other than the Federal Reserve is a sideshow when it comes to the dynamics of inflation."

Furman noted that demand outstripping supply is a far more important driver of inflation. "The main reason prices go up is companies are trying to make as much as they can, they just can't make enough to satisfy everything that people want," Furman, now a Harvard University professor, said. "When that happens, prices go up. If they didn't go up, we'd have worse shortages right now."

Republicans are hammering Biden for rising prices, which poses a fresh political obstacle as Democrats try to safeguard their narrow Congressional majorities in this year's midterms. A Quinnipiac Poll University poll released Wednesday found that 54% of Americans believe the economy is getting worse.

"This crushing report shows Democrats' spending has pushed Bidenflation to achieve the highest prices in 40 years, killing family budgets and wiping out three years of wage gains," Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the tax-writing House Ways and Means panel, said in a Wednesday statement after the latest inflation data. 

The GOP has blamed the $1.9 trillion stimulus law for stoking inflation. Research from the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco published in October suggested its effects would be modest and brief. Other indicators like a falling unemployment rate and rising wages reflect an economy that's rebounding.

The White House and many Democrats on Capitol Hill have touted the $2 trillion Build Back Better plan as a key measure to hold down everyday costs for Americans, including establishing new prescription drug price controls and new childcare subsidies.

But Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia put a dagger into the package last month. Without him, Democrats can't muscle the plan through over unanimous GOP opposition in the 50-50 Senate.

Manchin has signaled he won't revisit his position in the near future and has often cited inflation as a reason to pump the brakes on the social and climate spending bill. "Inflation is a concern for every American, especially in West Virginia," Manchin told Insider on Wednesday. "It's hitting us very hard."

Furman pushed back against Manchin's argument. "I think inflation is a bad reason to not want to pass Build back Better," Furman said. "It's mostly paid for. It's a medium and long-term agenda and would have a negligible impact on inflation."

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See inside this California oceanfront mansion that's on the market for $160 million and has 10 beds and 21 bathrooms

Sun, 01/16/2022 - 21:04
  • A 22-acre oceanfront mansion on the California coast is on the market for $160 million.
  • The Sanctuary at Loon Point, is a 14,189-square-foot property has 10 beds and 21 bathrooms.
  • The mansion is one of the most expensive home listings in California history. Here's a look inside.
A 14,189-square-foot megamansion on the California coast is on the market for $160 million.Known as The Sanctuary at Loon Point, the property covers 22 oceanfront acres and 2,129 feet of coastal bluff.It's located in the central California beachside community of Carpinteria, just a few miles south of Santa Barbara.The property has five parcels, including two custom estates.One of the estates is called Ocean View, as seen here.Here's Ocean View's great room, which has an exposed wood beam ceiling......just like the kitchen.Ocean View also has a gallery hallway.Guests will have a beautiful view outside the orange-accented guest bedroom.They can take a dip in the estate's pool, which has more ocean views......or take in the scenery from the upper terrace.The other custom estate at the Sanctuary is called Bellevue, pictured here.Here's the Bellevue from another angle.It has plenty of greenery in the courtyard.Inside, Bellevue's great room has a more modern feel than the one in Ocean View.Bellevue also has its own library......which also opens out onto stunning views.Here's one of the bedrooms inside Bellevue.Outside, Bellevue has its own pool......which is surrounded by plenty of trees.There's also a rose garden outside......as well as an outdoor terrace......and seating for outdoor dining overlooking the ocean.The Sanctuary's five parcels are all connected by a private, gated road.Meanwhile, residents have private access to the beach below via the so-called Barranca Path.The Sanctuary also has a small pond on the property.Here's a closer look at it.The Sanctuary's current owner spent 14 years developing and building the property.

The owner is retired hedge fund manager Bruce Kovner, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In total, the property boasts 10 bedrooms and 21 bathrooms.Besides the Bellevue's pool, other amenities include a spa and five fireplaces.Besides Ocean View and Bellevue, the Sanctuary's three remaining parcels could be used to build more homes on the property.If the Sanctuary sells for $160 million, it would mark one of the priciest home sales ever completed in California.

A close competitor is a Los Angeles mansion dubbed The One, which listed earlier this month at a whopping $295 million.

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A massive asteroid the size of the Empire State Building is about to pass Earth. Here's how to track it.

Sun, 01/16/2022 - 20:27
A screenshot of NASA's Eyes website which lets you track asteroids as they pass by Earth.
  • An asteroid the size of the Empire State Building is expected to fly past Earth next week. 
  • NASA has classified the huge space rock as "potentially hazardous." 
  • The asteroid will stay 1.2 million miles away from Earth and can be tracked online.

A massive asteroid is heading towards Earth.

But don't worry, the asteroid won't hit the planet like in the Netflix movie "Don't Look Up." In fact, it will travel approximately 1.2 million miles away from Earth-- that's over five times the distance between the Earth and the moon-- and is expected to pass by on Tuesday.

Asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1), is a little over a half-mile wide, around the size of the Empire State Building, and has been tracked by NASA scientists since it was discovered by astronomer RH McNaught in 1994. The asteroid is one of several large asteroids to pass by Earth in recent weeks

"Near-Earth asteroid 1994 PC1 is very well known and has been studied for decades by our planetary defense experts," NASA posted to Twitter on Wednesday. "Rest assured, 1994 PC1 will safely fly past our planet."

—NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) January 12, 2022

1994 PC1 is considered "potentially hazardous" by NASA because it crosses Earth's orbit, according to USA TODAY.

The asteroid would cause a "complete catastrophe" if it were to hit the Earth because it has more energy than a nuclear blast, Franck Marchis, the Chief Scientific Officer at Unistellar and Senior Planetary Astronomer at the SETI Institute, explained to USA TODAY. Although 1994 PC1 sounds dangerous, there is no need to be concerned.

To watch 1994 PC1 pass by Earth, anyone with a backyard telescope of about 6 inches or wider in diameter and an app to help watch the sky should be able to see the asteroid pass at about 43,754 miles per hour, according to CNET.

For those without a telescope, NASA's Eyes website will also offer a visual and a count down to help track the passing of the asteroid. The Virtual Telescope Project will also offer a live stream of the asteroid passing by.

1994 PC1 orbits the sun every 1.5 years, according to NASA. The asteroid won't come this close to Earth again until 2105.

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Walmart is the next big company with plans for the metaverse

Sun, 01/16/2022 - 20:11
  • Walmart has filed several new trademarks hoping to produce and sell virtual goods.
  • Separate filings show the retailer also plans to create its own cryptocurrency and NFTs.
  • The retailer joins a slew of businesses rushing to capitalize on Web3 and the metaverse.

Walmart will join Facebook, Nike, Ralph Lauren, Bumble, Disney, and a string of other companies with plans to claim their own corner of the metaverse.

The retailer, the largest private employer in the US, quietly filed several trademark applications in late December, which described extensive plans to sell virtual merchandise. CNBC was first to report on the applications.

Walmart is directing its attention to the virtual world, like many others, including Facebook, which rebranded itself last year to Meta and publicly announced its goals to invest and expand into the metaverse, a virtual space where people can interact digitally using avatars.

In the filing, Walmart lists a variety of virtual goods it plans to sell, including electronics, appliances, apparel, home goods, toys, and personal care products. A separate filing shows the company's interest in creating its own cryptocurrency payment method and collection of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, Walmart filed seven separate applications on December 30.

"Walmart is continuously exploring how emerging technologies may shape future shopping experiences," the company said in an email to Insider. "We don't have anything further to share today, but it's worth noting we routinely file trademark applications as part of the innovation process."

Despite many companies' plans for the metaverse, business leaders remain unsure of how to create a fully-fledged metaverse. Analysts at Morgan Stanley have said that the metaverse could be an $8 trillion opportunity, but the challenge would be getting consumers to buy into it. However, Walmart saw its online sales thrive in 2021, with sales at $11.1 billion in its third quarter according to a Digital Commerce 360 report, which could prove useful for Walmart's metaverse ambitions.

"There's a lot of language in [the filings], which shows that there's a lot of planning going on behind the scenes about how they're going to address cryptocurrency, how they're going to address the metaverse and the virtual world that appears to be coming or that's already here," trademark attorney Josh Gerben told Insider.

A number of apparel-based retailers have already begun making their own metaverse experiences. Gap launched its first-ever NFT art collection last week, with digital art pieces starting at around $9 a piece. Nike has spent over three years on patents outlining digital avatars to "cryptokicks," with the company establishing its Metaverse Studio and acquiring digital sneaker company RTFKT in December

Other apparel retailers like Urban Outfitters, Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch have also filed trademarks in recent weeks with intent to open their own version of a virtual store, Gerben said on Sunday.

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A top US doctor says Biden's agencies haven't been on the 'same page' on messaging about COVID-19, causing a 'real problem'

Sun, 01/16/2022 - 19:45
Dr. Ashish Jha on "Fox News Sunday."
  • A top US doctor said the Biden administration needed to get its messaging together on COVID-19.
  • Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said different agencies haven't always been on the "same page." 
  • "I think that part has been a real problem," Jha said in a Fox News interview.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health said on Sunday the Biden administration has inconsistent messaging on its COVID-19 response, creating a "real problem." 

"We have different agencies that have not been on the same page, John," Jha said during an appearance on Fox News' "Fox News Sunday." "And I think that part has been a real problem."

While Jha said that the administration of former President Donald Trump put out inaccurate information related COVID-19, he said that Trump's administration had stronger consistency between agencies than the Biden administration.

Jha's remarks drew backlash online, prompting Jha to clarify that he believed both messaging and accurate mattered to different degrees. The "Trump administration cared little about accuracy and often spread misinformation," he said, adding the "Biden team needs to work on consistency. They are not equivalent." 

—Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@ashishkjha) January 16, 2022

 

 

Jha said during the Fox News interview on Sunday the White House, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health have sometimes had different messaging during the Biden administration. 

"I think the White House needs to get its messaging discipline together, needs to make sure that people are speaking from the same page," Jha said. "My sense is that that has not been happening consistently. And it would be enormously helpful to the American people if that messaging was more consistent."

Federal agencies have recently been criticized for shifting and inconsistent guidance and communication on topics including the rollout of vaccine booster shots, face masks, and isolation guidance for when someone is exposed to or tests positive for COVID-19.

Jha last week said Americans who need to return to society after testing positive for COVID-19 should get a negative antigen test or wear a "high-quality mask" after the CDC said people only needed to isolate for just five days upon a positive test, rather than the previous 10 day recommendation. 

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