April 10, 2020

Apple and Google are teaming up in a "rare partnership" that could help inform people if they've come into contact with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19, Time reports.

The companies are calling their nifty new program Contact Tracing, and both have stressed that the service is voluntary and will require users to explicitly opt-in. Using Bluetooth on the phones of consenting users, Contact Tracing would automatically track mobile devices and take note of who you come into close proximity with while you're out and about. It would then allow users who test positive for coronavirus to alert the phones of anyone who'd come near enough to them during a 14-day period to potentially have contracted the disease.

If everyone who used an Apple or Google device were to opt in to the program, some 3 billion users, or one third of the world's population, would be able to know if they'd been near another Contact Tracing user who was contagious. Health experts say a large-scale global contact tracing project of this sort will be especially important as governments begin to ease coronavirus restrictions, because such technology can potentially prevent further outbreaks and lockdowns. Such measures, in fact, are already being taken in certain countries, including South Korea.

Others, though, are critical of such a massive project that involves tracking users' locations and sharing, albeit anonymously, their health information. "The sheer amount of information made available by tracing apps will be tantalizing for power-hungry governments and data-hungry corporations to monopolize," cautioned The Atlantic recently. "A tracing app made necessary by the pandemic cannot become an indefinite surveillance system run by some occult government agency." Jeva Lange

5:09 p.m.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is continuing to double down on his decision to leave up posts from President Trump after employees staged a walkout in protest.

Zuckerberg has been coming under fire in recent days for his inaction on several Trump posts after Twitter fact-checked one of the same posts and slapped another with a warning saying it violated its rules against glorifying violence. Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout on Monday over Zuckerberg's policy towards Trump's posts, and some have resigned. Facebook "is on the wrong side of history," one staffer wrote in a resignation post.

In an internal meeting on Tuesday, Zuckerberg defended his "tough decision" to not take action against the Trump posts, arguing that it's the "right action where we are right now is to leave this up" and saying he had to "separate out my personal opinion," The New York Times reports.

Zuckerberg reportedly faced some tough questions from staffers during the call, with one asking, per the Times' Mike Isaac, "Why are the smartest people in the world focused on contorting and twisting our policies to avoid antagonizing Trump?" Isaac wrote that based on everything he's been hearing from the meeting, "this is not going over super well."

In fact, CNN cited one employee who "found Zuckerberg's answers to staff questions at the town hall lacking, and said the CEO risked alienating more of his staff rather than addressing their concerns," while BuzzFeed's Ryan Mac quoted an employee as saying, "This is a disaster."

This comes after Zuckerberg was blasted by civil rights leaders, who spoke with him and subsequently said they're "disappointed and stunned by Mark's incomprehensible explanations for allowing the Trump posts to remain up." Brendan Morrow

4:41 p.m.

A plaza by any other name would certainly smell as sweet.

Trump Plaza, a property housing twin-tower condominium buildings in West Palm Beach, Florida, has removed its ground floor signage bearing the president's name, The Palm Beach Post reports. Management took down the signs Monday morning for the "safety" of the plaza's residents, General Manager Michael Kampy reportedly wrote in a memo to building tenants.

The plaza has carried President Trump's name since he bought the complex in 1986, although the president sold the property in 1991 and has since had nothing to do with its business or operations.

The switching of the signage comes amid nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis. Trump's various responses to the protests, which include threatening violence and staging a photo-op after federal police used tear gas on protesters, have only fanned the flames of unrest, critics say.

Florida protesters have capitalized on Trump Plaza in the past, with 1,000 protesters reportedly gathering there in 2017. Amid the ongoing protests, management is reportedly urging "residents to abstain from standing in front of the building, even when taking their dogs out." Read more at The Palm Beach Post. Marianne Dodson

4:25 p.m.

The order to disperse peaceful protesters Monday from Lafayette Square came personally from Attorney General William Barr, an anonymous Justice Department official told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

Federal police forced the demonstrators out of the area with, among other things, smoke canisters and riot shields shortly before President Trump walked through on his way to the nearby historic St. John's Church, where he posed for photos while holding a Bible. In the afternoon before Trump left the White House, Barr — who the president reportedly directed to lead the response to the capital's unrest — went to check out the scene, spoke with law enforcement officials on the ground, and got his message across.

"He conferred with them to check on the status and basically said: 'This needs to be done. Get it done,'" the department official said.

The official said Barr was told there were reports of the crowd passing rocks to each other and that one person had thrown a bottle, though Post reporters at the scene did not witness anyone holding rocks. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

3:59 p.m.

Dick Wolf has fired a writer and producer from a new Law & Order show for his Facebook posts amid the George Floyd protests, and Ice-T sounds pretty happy with the decision.

Wolf announced on Tuesday he terminated Craig Gore after Gore threatened on Facebook to "light motherf---ers up who are trying to f--- with my property," Variety reports. Amid the ongoing protests and unrest over Floyd's death in police custody, Gore also posted an image of himself holding a gun and wrote, "Curfew..." According to Deadline, Gore was to serve as co-executive producer on the Chris Meloni-starring Law & Order spin-off.

Not long after the posts garnered criticism online, Wolf released a statement announcing Gore's firing.

"I will not tolerate this conduct, especially during our hour of national grief," Wolf said. "I am terminating Craig Gore immediately."

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's Ice-T tweeted his approval in response to the news, writing, "Oh sh-t .. The Big Boss is cleaning house ... RESPECT."

A tweet on Tuesday raising attention to Gore's post had suggested he was the showrunner for the new Meloni Law & Order show, though a very confused Meloni quickly shot that down, writing, "I have no idea who this person is or what they do." Brendan Morrow

3:09 p.m.

Over the course of the last three months, the Treasury Department has disbursed $146 billion in unemployment benefits to Americans who have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Bloomberg reports.

That's more than in all of 2009, when unemployment peaked following the financial crisis, but it's still reportedly only two-thirds of what's actually owed. The total bill, Bloomberg reports, should have reached $214 billion by now, which means millions of Americans have yet to receive their benefits.

Things aren't going to get easier, either — millions still haven't had their jobless claims processed, and Bloomberg reports that its calculations about what's currently owed are probably understated. A spokesperson for the Labor Department told Bloomberg that "it is also challenging to use these numbers because states are struggling to keep up with demand and some have backlogs they are working through," even as some, like Texas, have expanded call centers and brought in other government workers to help with the claims. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

3:09 p.m.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) was already in hot water after not returning to his Bronx district amid the COVID-19 crisis. This probably won't help.

On Tuesday, Eliot, who represents parts of Bronx and Westchester counties, joined Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. for press conference following violent protests in the area the night before. A livestream of the conference began before Diaz actually began speaking, and at one point, Engel can be heard asking for a speaking slot, repeatedly saying "if I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care."

Diaz initially outlined exactly who would be speaking after protests turned into vandalism in the borough, noting that if every elected official was allowed to talk, "you would never get out of here." Engel then chimed in to say "if I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care," and Diaz quickly shut him down. "Don't do that to me. Everybody has a primary," Diaz said.

Engel is trying to avoid a repeat of 2018, in which longstanding Democratic congressmember Joe Crowley of Queens and the Bronx was ousted in a primary by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). A field of several progressives challenging Engel narrowed down to one on Monday as Justice Democrats-backed Andom Ghebreghiorgis dropped out and endorsed Working Families party pick Jamaal Bowman. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:42 p.m.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley were walking with President Trump when he posed for a photo-op in front of the historic St. John's Church in Washington, D.C., on Monday, shortly after police dispersed peaceful protesters in the surrounding area with tear gas and flash grenades. Now, a senior defense official claims Esper and Milley weren't aware police had cleared the area prior to Trump's arrival, PBS Newshour reports.

Moreover, the official said Esper and Milley didn't know Trump was going to get his picture taken in front of the church; they thought they were headed outside the White House "to review efforts to quell the protests" against police brutality.

Despite Trump threatening to call in the military to supplement city police across the country, the defense official said the Pentagon isn't keen on deploying any troops, and that Esper referring to demonstration sites as a "battlespace" was merely jargon used to discuss the situation.

Nevertheless, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) wants both Milley and Esper to testify about the possible role the military played in clearing the protesters, even though he was told it was not involved. Tim O'Donnell

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