Tropical Storm Henri to Strengthen to Hurricane Category 1

Tropical Storm Henri is currently making its way up the east coast and plans to be upgraded to Hurricane Category 1 by Friday night. Those on the northeastern U.S. and Atlantic Canada is watching the storm intently, as by the time Henri arrives, it’ll be a hurricane.

There are risks of storm surge, wind, and rain that will have some impact on portions of southern New England and eastern Long Island. Although Henri is currently far from the U.S. Coast, the storm will likely reach New England on Sunday at the latest, although it is expected in Massachusetts on Thursday.

As it is, New England and New York are recovering from dealing with Tropical Storm Fred, which brought flood and tornado warnings. Fred did cause several flooding, especially in western North Carolina.

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T-Mobile’s Massive Data Breach: The Extent and Scope

Library of t mobile clip art royalty free download logo ...On Wednesday, T-Mobile announced that it had been exposed to a massive data breach, which while less than the 100 million records, remains staggeringly large in number nonetheless.

Investigation is still ongoing, but the company confirmed that records of over 40 million former or prospective customers that had applied for credit and 7.8 million postpaid customers (who currently have a contract with T-Mobile) stolen. The problem is the type of data that has been stolen.

Data stolen included first and last names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and driver’s license/ID numbers, which are information that can be used for identity theft and to set up an account in another person’s name or to hijack an existing one. The information not stolen included “phone numbers, account numbers, PINs, or passwords,” but that hardly matters when personal data including social security numbers have been breached and stolen at this point.

T-Mobile found out about the breach on a forum post by the hacker on dark web.

The real victims of this breach includes the 850,000 prepaid T-Mobile customers whose information does include names, phone numbers, and account PINs. Affected customers have already received an updated PIN reset and will also receive a notification right away. The inactive prepaid customers’ data, have not been breached, T-Mobile has confirmed.

T-Mobile continues to promise that it takes its customers’ protection seriously, but T-Mobile has experienced some sort of data breach in 2018, 2019, 2020, and now, in 2021, including one earlier in January.

T-Mobile will offer two years of free identity protection services from McAfee and has recommended even the postpaid customers to change their PIN.

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US leaving Afghanistan, China staying

As the Taliban closed in on Kabul, China has contacted the Taliban to seek the guarantee of safety for its citizens still in Afghanistan; for example, the Chinese embassy in Kabul has reported that it intends to remain in Kabul and had contacted the Taliban, stating that it was trusting Taliban’s declaration that it would transition the country under an “open, inclusive Islamic nation,” and ensure the safety of Afghan citizens and foreign missions be carried out.

This is in stark contrast to the behaviors of the western powers’ sudden and immediate departure from the country as the Taliban closed in on Kabul. However, one cannot help but wonder how China’s relationship with the Taliban might actually play out, given China’s own behavior towards its Islamic minority in Xinjiang region. According to a 2002 paper by Wang Yaning, lecturer at the Chinese Armed Police Force Academy, more than 400 “separatists” were known to be trained in light and heavy weapons and explosive devices in Taliban training camps.

While the opportunity exists for China to play a bigger role in Afghanistan, a land filled with precious metals that are becoming ever more important. Of course, some argue that continued U.S. presence would have been much easier on Beijing to deal with than the Taliban; nonetheless, China is attempting to build a relationship with Afghanistan while they shuffle in their minority Muslim population into “work camps” reminiscent of concentration camps in various regions in Xinjiang.

China also might have to deal with the influx of Afghani refugees, as some choose to leave their homes to avoid persecution from Taliban rule. There is also the issue of detention camps in Xinjiang and radicalization of Uyghur population with growing anti-Chinese sentiment. However, even that number’s validity is unclear as some argue that Chinese government inflated the numbers to justify its actions.

Depending on what position the Taliban takes as it takes over Afghanistan, China might actually deal have much to deal with on its plate, very far from the only positive outcome, which would be access to rare earth metals while maintaining its control over Xinjiang. It might be that China could be stuck between a rock and hard place, as it loses the safety on the borders over Central Asia, loses out on possible access to precious metals, with extremist radical population seeking independence as it deals with the dissonance’s breaking point in its political system and the economic policies. At the moment, only time will tell.

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Taliban’s Fast Take Over of Afghanistan leads to Conflicts and Confusions

After 9/11 in 2001, under the presidency of G. W. Bush, the United States began the “War on Terror” with the goal of defeating Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The US troops entered Afghanistan to retaliate against terrorists who used several US aircrafts to kill thousands of U.S. citizens and take down the Twin Towers in Manhattan, New York.

By 2011, during the Obama Presidency, the U.S. forces located Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts as somewhere in Pakistan. Soon after, he was killed during the ambush and buried at sea. Many had hoped that this would end the war in Afghanistan and Iraq; however, the war continued.

The Trump administration promised that it would pull US troops out of the middle east but failed to do so. Now, with Pres. Biden in the White House, US troops are planned to be completely removed by September 2021. However, after two decades of staying in Afghanistan, fighting against the Taliban, and implementing certain US-based policies such as allowing girls to attend school, women to walk about freely, and receiving help from the local Afghanistani citizens, the US is now facing criticism on all front as the Taliban recently overtook Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

On Monday, during the White House press conference, Pres. Biden accepted the responsibility of the withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan, adding that he didn’t expect the Taliban to oust the Afghan government so quickly.

In remarks, he stated that “The truth is this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated,” and added, “I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision.” The Taliban is also using US military equipment in overtaking the Afghanistan territories.

The women have risen up in Afghanistan. Fearful of the return of Taliban’s extremist policies, their tendency to rape and kill women for the tiniest of “errors,” and to protect the safety of the children, women are rising up to fight against the Taliban. While the Taliban has promised that it would not punish any of the US sympathizers, it is not clear whether they would keep their promises and what they would now do, that the country is slowly falling back into their hands.

Although news stations are busily murking up the waters on winning and losing, many Americans, global citizens, and most importantly, the Veterans and US troops, are angry at this result, as it is clear to all but those in power that this was a significant loss in the US “policing power.”

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Britney Spears Gains Freedom From Her Father’s Grip

Jamie Spears, Britney Spears’ father filed documents in Los Angeles Supreme Court agreeing to step down from his position as the conservator of his daughter, reported Britney Spears’ estate on Thursday.

The entire country has called for him to step down from his position as conservator of Britney Spears (39), as the superstar had yet to have her own financial freedom from her father for a long time. The public backlash was on him for few months, until he finally agreed to leave his conservatorship of Britney Spears. This move came after Britney filed a petition asking her father to be removed from his position. In court hearings over the last two months, Britney has accused her father of engaging in abusive “control” of her for a long time.

Jamie Spears’s lawyer, Vivian Thoreen stated on the file, “no actual grounds for suspending or removing” him from the conservatorship,” and that “It is highly debatable whether a change in conservator at this time would be in Ms. Spears’ best interests.” according to NPR, Thoreen continued, “Nevertheless”, and “even as Mr. Spears is the unremitting target of unjustified attacks, he does not believe that a public battle with his daughter over his continuing service as her conservator would be in her best interests.” Thoreen added, “Mr. Spears is willing to step down when the time is right, but the transition needs to be orderly and includes a resolution of matters pending before the court.”

Since 2008, Jamie Spears has abused his daughter’s estate and controlled her. According to Britney’s lawyer, Mathew Rosengart says that the elder Spears appears to have “profited handsomely” from being his daughter’s conservator. He added that “serious questions abound concerning Mr. Spears’s potential misconduct, including conflicts of interest, conservatorship abuse and the evident dissipation of Ms. Spear’s fortune.

The ACLU, 25 civil and disability rights activists filed an amicus brief with the Las Angeles court to support the singer’s quest to choose her own attorney and it was granted. The elder Spears spent more money than his daughter who has earned the money.

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Federal Student Loan Payments Extended to January 2022

Currently, there is a deferment on all federally-financed student loans until September 30, 2021. This was one of the first actions taken by the Biden administration when Pres. Biden entered office; the original deferment put into place by the ex-president Trump was set to expire in March 31, 2021. The Biden administration had extended the deferment to September 30, 2021.

As the September 30, 2021 deadline approaches, the Biden Administration was in talks with both financial servicing companies and student loan borrowers on their ability to begin pay back. What they found was surprising; while difficulty paying back might have been voiced out by the borrowers, even the financial servicing companies reported difficulty preparing for millions of accounts to switch back over to repayment status; the staffing is not at full capacity, and neither is the technological capability.

Thus, the Department of Education reported today that it would extend the moratorium until January 31, 2022 to give both the financial servicing companies and borrowers the time to transition back into repayment.

This moratorium is planned to benefit more than 41 million Americans.

However, this moratorium is the “final” moratorium, meaning Americans should not be expecting any more extensions on their student loan payment deferment. This news has provided mixed reactions from Congress; for example, Republicans believe that this extension isn’t needed by Americans as the economy was (at least prior to the Delta variant breakout) on its route towards recovery. Democrats applauded the effort but also called for complete forgiveness of the student loans, which is $1.5 trillion.

Regardless of the politics of the matter, American student loan borrowers can sleep soundly until January 31, 2022, as they will not be penalized for not paying their student loans until then.

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Pres. Biden’s Senses Come Back: Covid-19 Vaccination

Just days ago, Pres. Biden considered offering up to $100 per person, to any unvaccinated individuals choosing to take the Covid-19 vaccine. However, as the nation continues to face higher and higher Delta variant infections, the President seems to have shifted his course, to a more sensible one.

The Biden administration is now considering using federal regulatory powers and withholding federal funds from institutions, long-term-care facilities, cruise ships, and even universities to push more Americans to get vaccinated.

As this area can deal with restrictions on the use of Medicare dollars or other federal funding to require employees to vaccinate, the folks currently advising Biden administration is cautioning careful approach. However, if Biden administration were to implement the plan, this would lead to tremendous efforts in taking a big chunk of the 90 million still unvaccinated people to get vaccinated.

Of course, as the unvaccinated are generally skeptical of the federal government, this could bring in some strong opposition from the Republicans, a group that is already significantly wary of Biden administration’s recent decision to get federal workers and contractors vaccinated or wear masks.

As the Covid-19 vaccine is comprised of two vaccines taken 2 weeks apart, even if all unvaccinated Americans got vaccinated tomorrow, it would take at least another 3-4 weeks before they would be fully protected, meaning the delta variant driven infection rate will continue to rise. For example, the U.S. recently reported more than 100,000 NEW coronavirus cases on Wednesday. By Thursday, the rolling seven-day daily average of new infections was at 95,000 cases; these are pre-vaccine numbers.

Many are happy to see the Biden administration take this approach, including Lawrence Gostin, Director of Georgetown University’s O’Neil Institute for National and Global Health Law, of focusing at first, the highest-risk sectors where there lies ethical and legal obligation to keep workers and clients safe.

In recent studies, it is suggested that to achieve herd immunity, the population might require up to 80 percent vaccinated or recovered to protect from further infections due to the highly transmissible delta variant. At the moment, up to a 1/3 of American residents remain unvaccinated. From a 1/3, 1/4 of them are reporting that they planned to get vaccinated, which is still, just 1/12th of the remaining unvaccinated population.

The federal government can’t mandate vaccines, but it can mandate certain actions be taken to receive federal money.

Biden Administration promised war-like response to the coronavirus pandemic. So far, it had been lacking. Now however, it seems like Biden Administration is finally ready to step up.

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Everyone but Managers want Remote Work

When Covid-19 pandemic hit the American soil last spring, 2020, workplaces across the country rapidly mobilized to push everyone to full remote work. Until the Delta variant became such a threatening force (and even partially now), workplaces were gearing people up to return to work, while many polls showed that Americans were willing to forfeit both time off and some percentage of income to remain remote. However, managers who usually do not even have offices or commute to work full time, are demonizing remote work, such as CEO and co-founder of Netflix, Reed Hastings. He argued that not being able to get together in person was bad.

What is important to note in the battle of remote work, is that those who would be forced to return are not the ones who would actually be returning to the office regularly. For example, Google’s parent company, Alphabet rolled out a return-to-office plan for more than 130,000 employees, majority having to return to the office three days a week, while others are allowed to fully work from home, such as a senior executive at the company who is allowed to work remotely from New Zealand.

The true problem of remote work is that it shows the problems of corporate America. Remote work positively favors those who produces and negatively impacts those who have succeeded at playing office politics and finding someone to blame for failures. Remote work takes away the “seemingly productive” aspect of office culture that many managers utilize and show just how much the employees actually contribute to the well being of the company compared to that of the managers and the bosses.

Of course, certain jobs do require coming into the workplace, such as kitchen staff, or hospitality workers. Blue-collar workers will likely have to return to the workplace; however, for the other huge swath of white-collar workers that spend 8-10 days a day in front of the computer in an office, there is no difference between working at a desk at home versus working at a desk in the office; except that working in the office necessarily forces you to deal with office politics, irate bosses and managers, and of course, the exhausting commute.

Managers and bosses are having to defend returning to the office by arguing that the office culture and collaboration would suffer, the data simply isn’t supporting it. Furthermore, due to the politicization of Covid-19 vaccine; if a co-worker refuses to get vaccinated, would that be safe for others to return to the office?

94% of employees surveyed reported that remote work did not impact productivity of any nature. In fact, most remote workers are happier working in a home without distractions, annoyances, or drama from co-workers and managers. Workers don’t have do commute and can be graded based on their work product rather than other non-controllable factors of working from the office.

This is more of a problem for management than for workers. In today’s society, management is a position of power and not one that provides skills; in fact, management can sometimes “stamp” their credit onto the work product without having put any effort into it other than by “managing” employees, which is easier to do in an environment with single shared space where certain unspoken code of conduct and displays of authority can be enforced.

But in remote environments, verbal abuses that are done in the moment is easier to record. Any overly harmful statements or abuses can be captured, saved, and sent to HR or to a journalist. If manager’s job is presentation of final work product, when remote work is counted, it is clear who has done what, and the manager might not even be needed, which can prevent managers from stealing the works of their subordinates to climb up the corporate ladder.

Ultimately, most of the arguments provided by management in wanting to see their employees back in the work space is no different than in the movie “Office Space,” where the manager bothers an employee for a TPS report multiple times each day, subtly pressuring an employee to do meaningless work, while presenting himself as a productive, powerful member befitting the role in the company.

Remote work makes everything more transparent, and that’s the last thing most managers and bosses want in the corporate world. That’s why they want their employees back.

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Delta Wreaks Havoc in the South

Delta variant is shown to be as infectious as chicken pox, pushing U.S. back to consider masks indoor, as well as vaccine mandates. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the state of California has recently mandated vaccines (the other option being weekly COVID-19 tests) for its employees.

In other parts of the country, the impacts of the Delta variant is seeing a full impact; for example, Louisiana and Florida are seeing highest levels of infections; governor of Louisiana has implemented statewide indoor mask mandate. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 surge, hospitals in Louisiana and Florida are forced to delay elective surgeries again, having to divert staff resource to treating Covid-19 patients and having to limit visitors. Florida is currently the site of about 1/5 of all Covid-19 positive infections, with at least 10 hospitals in the Jacksonville and Orlando areas hitting all-time peaks in Covid-19 patient admissions. Places like Disney World, New Orleans, and Las Vegas are mandating masks again in light of the Delta variant surge, despite their desire to return to normalcy.

As significant amount of people continue to hold out on the Covid-19 vaccine, the medical field is seeing a new stage of the pandemic unseen before. Specifically, the infections are so fast and so widespread, despite large segments of the population being vaccinated or through natural antibodies from previous infections. Hospitals are not only full, they are struggling with the new influx of variety of patients, from the young to middle-aged unvaccinated adults.

Many experts are now saying that virus elimination is no longer possible; rather, it is now about reducing the impact of the virus.

Currently, average daily U.S. cases have surged past 85,000 just last month, surpassing 2020 records and highest since February 18, 2020. Deaths have risen to about 370 a day, but is below 1,000 daily average of early August last year.

As shown in India this April and now in the U.S., the Delta variant does show more severe symptoms and is FULLY transmissible, even by a vaccinated person, and that there is a high likelihood of the Covid-19 infections going strong until August.

Available research continues to show strong evidence of the vaccine’s effectiveness against serious illnesses and maiming caused by the Covid-19 vaccine. In fact, at this point, some are saying that to reach herd immunity might require 80 percent vaccination in light of all of the variants.

In the meantime, the U.S. has donated more than 110 million doses of vaccines to more than 60 countries; donating the most than all other countries combined.

As most Americans refused to be vaccinated, Washington, D.C. remains focused on Covid-19; CDC was recently found to be engaging in unconstitutional behavior by enforcing the moratorium on rent for tenants; while the White House and Congress attempts to deal with the rent problem associated with Covid-19, the country itself is still dealing with the very real Covid-19 problems, including heightened infection levels.

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Pres. Biden offers $100 to newly vaccinated Americans

President Biden announced on Thursday that he wanted the state and local governments to spend the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan funds to give away $100 per individual to encourage vaccinations.

President Biden stated, “I know that paying people to get vaccinated might sound unfair to folks that have gotten vaccinated already but here’s the deal: if incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them,” and “We all benefit if we can get more people vaccinated.” in the announcement Today.

This payment will be offered to the newly vaccinated Americans encouraging get vaccinations to “protect communities and lives.” The Treasury Department has reported that it would be willing to assist the local and state governments to manage this process.

Biden administration has put effort to eradicate this pandemic as soon as possible but has found the Delta variant a huge hindrance to that goal. Biden signed this $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law which includes $350 billion in funding to assist states and local governments battling the coronavirus.

It is not sure whether this will encourage the 30% or so of the unvaccinated Americans from being vaccinated; however, those that have been vaccinated already are voicing their general dissatisfaction at Biden’s new proposal.

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