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Republican Senators in U.S. To Ban TikTok Usage Among Federal Employees Amidst National Security Concerns

A TikTok spokesman told Reuters last week Hawley's concerns were unfounded and that the company is increasing its dialogue with lawmakers to explain its policies

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TikTok
The app has been rapidly growing in popularity among U.S. teenagers and allows users to create short videos. About 60% of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24, the company said last year. Wikimedia Commons

Two Republican senators on Thursday introduced a bill aimed at banning federal employees from using Chinese social media app TikTok on their government-issued phones, amid growing national security concerns around the collection and sharing of data on U.S. users with China’s government.

The bill by Senators Josh Hawley and Rick Scott comes as several U.S. agencies that deal with national security and intelligence issues including the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have banned employees from using the app.

It is also the latest attempt to rein in technology companies by Hawley, who has repeatedly clashed with big tech companies and has a notably nuanced and aggressive approach when questioning tech executives in congressional hearings.

“TikTok is owned by a Chinese company that includes Chinese Communist Party members on its board, and it is required by law to share user data with Beijing,” Hawley said. ”

The app has been rapidly growing in popularity among U.S. teenagers and allows users to create short videos. About 60% of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24, the company said last year.

In November, the U.S. government launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co’s $1 billion acquisition of U.S. social media app Musical.

TikTok has been on the defensive as lawmakers and law enforcement agencies  take a closer look at its data security practices amid concerns it engages in censorship at the behest of the Chinese government.  The company previously said U.S. user data is stored in the United States and that China does not have jurisdiction over content that is not in China.

USA
Two Republican senators on Thursday introduced a bill aimed at banning federal employees from using Chinese social media app TikTok on their government-issued phones, amid growing national security concerns around the collection and sharing of data on U.S. users with China’s government. VOA

A TikTok spokesman told Reuters last week Hawley’s concerns were unfounded and that the company is increasing its dialogue with lawmakers to explain its policies. The spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

In November, Hawley unveiled a bill that would bar companies from China, Russia or other countries that present national security concerns from transferring Americans’ data back within their borders — where it could be used to spy on the United States.

ALSO READ: Social Media Giant Facebook Plans To Reveal New VR Games At Online Game Developers Conference

The bill also prevented the companies from collecting data that isn’t necessary to the operation of their business, such as phone contacts or location in the case of TikTok. (VOA)

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Every Hospital in US May Treat COVID-19 Patients: Health Human Service Agency

“Health care workers feel like they’re at war right now,” a New York hospital administrator told the investigators.

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COVID-19
The most common COVID-19 symptoms in children are shortness of breath, fever and cough. Pixabay

Every hospital in the United States may soon be treating coronavirus cases, the government’s Health and Human Services agency says in a new report.

Right now, three out of four hospitals are treating confirmed or suspected cases and are dealing with such problems as shortages of equipment, not enough protective gear for doctors and nurses, and hospital workers who are burned out and worried about their own safety.

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“Health care workers feel like they’re at war right now,” a New York hospital administrator told the investigators. “They are seeing people in their 30s, 40s, 50s dying…this takes a large emotional toll.”  

In another new government report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first study Monday on coronavirus in kids — the largest such U.S. study so far during the outbreak.

COVID-19
Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day speaks at a meeting with President Donald Trump, members of the COVID-19 Task Force, and pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. VOA

It says children make up only 1.7% of U.S. coronavirus cases and while the illness is generally mild in kids, some do require hospitalization. Three children are known to have died from coronavirus.

The most common COVID-19 symptoms in children are shortness of breath, fever and cough. The number of cases has been slightly higher in boys than in girls.  

The results in the U.S. study are similar to the same kind of study in China and says social distancing by all ages is highly recommended.

Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health, another federal agency, says it is expending its study into a drug called remdesivir, which successfully treated other coronaviruses, SARS and MERS, in animal tests.

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Remdesivir was given intravenously and when given early enough, it prevented infection and lessened the severity of the diseases.

The NIH is currently testing the drug on more than 400 human patients while its manufacturer, California-based Gilead Sciences, has given it to 1700 patients.

Dr. Libby Hohmann of Massachusetts General Hospital says she would enroll members of her family in the studies “in a heartbeat,” saying the lack of approved medications for COVID-19 is “terrifying”.

COVID-19
Medical personnel assigned to the hospital ship USNS Mercy docked at the Port of Los Angeles treat a non-COVID-19 patient from a Los Angeles-area medical facility. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump said at Monday’s coronavirus briefing that he told New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that the Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, can now be used for treating COVID patients from New York and New Jersey,

The Comfort is docked in New York Harbor.

Trump deployed the ship last month to take some of the pressure off New York hospitals treating non-coronavirus patients.

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But with so few needing treatment for other illnesses at this time, the ship also will now be used for COVID-19 patients.

Cuomo calls it a “welcome relief.” 

Israel will be on complete lockdown during the Passover holiday which begins Wednesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday.

“Every family will sit down for Seder night on its own. Celebrate only with the immediate family that’s at home with you now,” Netanyahu said in a nationally televised message. He had earlier announced a lockdown for Easter and Ramadan later this month. 

A group of 24 current and former diplomats, including a U.S. secretary of state and two former defense chiefs, say they want President Trump to suspend some sanctions against Iran, which has the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East – more than 60,000 cases.

They say they are not asking Trump to lift the sanctions, just ease them so Iran can get the tools, training, and aid it needs to fight the virus. 

Easing the sanctions “could potentially save the lives of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iranians and, by helping to curb the virus’s rapid spread across borders, the lives of its neighbors, Europeans, Americans and others,” the diplomats say. “Reaching across borders to save lives is imperative for our own security and must override political differences among governments,” it adds.

Also Read- Facebook, Instagram Goes Down For PC and Desktop Users in UK

Signatories include the former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, former US defense secretaries William Cohen and Chuck Hagel, and former NATO Secretary General George Robertson.

The Trump administration has resisted earlier calls to ease sanctions on Iran. (VOA)