Internet Provider Covid-19 Responses

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As homebound Americans are online for work and to keep in touch with friends and family, some internet providers have lifted data caps without significant interruptions to service from the increased bandwidth. The crisis has renewed calls for the FCC to regulate the internet as a utility and for a reversal of a repeal of net neutrality protections.  Many are also adhering to the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge (PDF), which asks the signees not to terminate a customer’s service for non-payment. Below are the providers and what they have pledged.

AT&T – All AT&T home Internet Wireline customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet customers, can use unlimited data. AT&T will continue to offer $10/mo Access from AT&T service for qualifying customers. They will also not terminate the service of any customer who can’t pay their bill, and will waive the fees associated with late payments within the next 60 days.  All their public Wi-Fi hotspots will be open to everyone. 

CenturyLink- CenturyLink said it has committed to waive late fees and to not terminate a residential or small business customer’s service due to financial circumstances associated with COVID-19 for the next 60 days. They are also suspending data usage limits for customers during this time period and hav committed to the FCC’s Keeping Americans Connected Pledge.

Comcast- Comcast has paused enforcement of its data caps for 60 days, giving all of its customers unlimited data for that period. (Comcast normally gives its Xfinity customers two “grace” months for every 12, allowing them to exceed their data cap without penalty.) New subscribers to Comcast’s $9.95/month Internet Essentials plan will receive two months free, and speeds were increased to 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up.  Comcast is also making its Xfinity WiFi service free for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a Comcast subscriber or not. 

Cox- Cox is eliminating data usage overages for the next 60 days. Customers with a 500GB or existing Unlimited plan will receive credits. They also will not terminate service for any residential or small business customers, and would open its Cox WiFi hotspot network to keep the public connected. 

Cox is offering free support calls and the first month free to its low-cost Internet service, Connect2Compete. Customers on its Essential plan will see their speeds increased from 30Mbps to 50Mbps.

Charter (Spectrum)-Charter Communications’ Spectrum services does not have data caps. They will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi for 60 days if that household has K-12 students or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription. Charter said it will open its Wi-Fi hotspots for public use.

Mediacom Communications- Mediacom has paused monthly data allowances through May 15 across all broadband service tiers.  New customers who sign up for Mediacom’s Access Internet 60 broadband service can do so for $19.99/mo for 12 months, rather than $29.99/mo. It has also made its Wi-Fi hotspot network publicly accessible, for free, for 60 days. They also will not disconnect service or assess late fees for the next 60 days to any customer who calls and informs the company that they cannot pay their bill.

Sprint- Sprint has extended its network to include T-Mobile’s network as well for the next 60 days. Sprint has also signed the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and will waive fees and not terminate services if customers are unable to pay because of the coronavirus for the next 60 days. Customers with metered data plans will now receive unlimited data for 60 days. They will also receive an additional 20GB of hotspot data for the same period. 

Starry- Wireless broadband ISP Starry has made Starry Connect, a broadband program for public and affordable housing owners, free through May. Normally, the program, which provides 30Mbps symmetrical speeds, is $15/mo. Starry has also agreed to suspend cancellation of service due to nonpayment due to the coronavirus. It already does not charge additional fees or late fees. Starry’s service does not include data caps, either.

Verizon- Verizon will waive late fees and keep residential and small business customers connected if negatively impacted by the global crisis.  It is also upgrading the data plan on its Verizon Innovative Learning program for Title 1 middle schools from 10GB/month to 30GB/month for the next two months and removed data caps on Verizon home Internet subscribers.  They will also waive overage charges in addition to pledging to not terminate service and waive late fees. 

 

 

 

 

 

Coronavirus Continues to Spread

 

 

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As concerns about the coronavirus rippled across the globe, the US president declared the Covid-19 outbreak a national emergency as public life in America continues to grind to a halt.   Schools have closed to millions of students, creating anxiety for working parents across the country. Travel bans have been widened and some cities across America have issued curfews or “shelter in place” orders to slow the spread of the virus.  More “shelter in place” orders are expected as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise and has now been found in all 50 states.  

Shelter in place orders will come from local government rather than federal.  A growing number of countries have also imposed lockdowns that effectively shut down public life, but the details of such lockdowns vary dramatically.  Italy banned all public gatherings and set a 6 p.m. curfew but allowed travel for work or health reasons, while in China, millions of residents are restricted from even going to shop for groceries.  

The “shelter-in-place” order that San Francisco adopted has fairly large exemptions for health, work, food and even exercise.  City officials ordered residents to remain in place at their homes except for essential activities, essential business, and essential government functions, including tasks essential to maintain health and safety, such as obtaining medicine or seeing a doctor or getting necessary services or supplies for themselves or their family or household members, such as getting food and supplies, pet food and supplies necessary for staying at home.

 

The order also includes:

  • Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking or running provided that they maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing.
  • Caring for a family member in another household.
  • Caring for elderly, minors, dependents, people with disabilities or other vulnerable persons.

 

 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin outlined a variety of potential proposals to Senate Republicans as part of a legislative package to help Americans and industries that are reeling from the coronavirus.  The administration proposed an initial $250 billion could be sent to Americans as early as the end of April if it can muster congressional approval.  

Sen. John Thune noted that getting cash assistance to Americans is something that has historically taken some time, but “I think there are ways now electronically that you can process things more quickly.” The proposal has fairly widespread support from Senate Republicans, who say it will offer immediate assistance to Americans impacted by the virus. Some lawmakers have varying ideas about how the proposal should work, including who should receive the payments and how much each American should get. 

Coronavirus Cases In The US

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The World Health Organization is warning the number of cases of COVID-19 caused by coronavirus is approaching 100,000 worldwide, with more than 3,100 deaths due to the illness. Most of the deaths and infections have occurred in China, where health officials reported 139 new cases and 31 new deaths recently.  

South Korea confirmed 438 new cases, making their total number of confirmed cases over 5,700.  Italy has over 3,000 confirmed cases and more than 100 deaths have been reported. Officials have closed down schools in Italy, South Korea, Japan, France, Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere, with nearly 300 million children kept home from school worldwide. 

In the United States, there are now more than 300 confirmed cases and the death toll has reached 11 — with 10 of the deaths occurring in Washington state. California recorded its first coronavirus death: an elderly man who traveled on a Princess cruise ship that departed from San Francisco and traveled to Mexico in February. Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered the ship quarantined off the coast of California and is airlifting tests for passengers and crew. Governor Newsom made the announcement as he formally declared a state of emergency across California.

The CDC issued new guidance for clinicians on screening patients for novel coronavirus and assessing their risk for infection. The agency also started shipping its coronavirus assay to labs across the U.S. and in other countries.  According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 states in the US have reported confirmed or presumptive positive cases of COVID-19. Washington State has the highest number of cases with 70 confirmed illnesses and 10 associated deaths. California has 60 positive cases and 1 death. 

Of the confirmed cases in California, 42 of them are linked to repatriation or international travel. Cases are rising rapidly in New York, where there are 22 confirmed cases across the state with an additional 24 testing results pending, and 122 individuals under investigation.  In response to the rise in cases, the US Senate passed an $8.3 billion bill to fight the outbreak. This came just a day after the bill was approved by the House of Representatives. More than $3 billion is expected to be put into research and development of treatments, vaccines, and testing.

 

Coronavirus Continues to Spread-What You Should Know

 

 

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The death toll from Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases has surpassed 3,000 with the number of cases reaching over 90,000.  While 51,000 people who have contracted the illness have since recovered, the head of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) said that the global mortality rate for Covid-19 was 3.4 percent, a figure that primarily reflects the outbreak in China, where the vast majority of cases have been detected.

 

The organization’s director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a news conference that Covid-19 is deadlier than the seasonal flu but did not transmit as easily.  Dr. Tedros said. “By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected.” He added “While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, Covid-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity,” meaning more people can be infected and some will suffer severe illnesses, Dr. Tedros said. The coronavirus does not transmit as efficiently as the flu but “causes more severe disease.” 

 

While the prospect of being infected with a new virus can be frightening, the CDC warns that the symptoms to look out for are fever, coughing and shortness of breath. These symptoms usually appear between two days and two weeks of exposure to the virus.  According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, as many as 98% of COVID-19 patients have a fever, between 76% and 82% have a dry cough, and 11% to 44% report exhaustion and fatigue. 

 

The disease appears to become more severe with age, with the 30 to 79 year-old age range predominating the detected cases in Wuhan.   The severity of COVID-19 symptoms can range from very mild to severe. People who are older or have existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, may be at higher risk of serious illness. This is similar to what is seen with other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza.

 

It’s unclear exactly how contagious the new coronavirus is but it appears to be spreading from person to person among those in close contact. It may be spread by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes.  Although there is no vaccine available to prevent infection with the new coronavirus, you can take steps to reduce your risk of infection. Although there is no vaccine available to prevent infection with the new coronavirus, you can take steps to reduce your risk of infection. WHO and CDC recommend following the standard precautions for avoiding respiratory viruses:  

 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you’re sick.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you often touch.
  • Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick.

 

Calls For Resignation of Manhattan District Attorney Mount Over Robert Haddon Leniency

 

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Calls are mounting for the resignation of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance as 40 more women have accused former Columbia University OB-GYN Robert Hadden of sexual assault. The accusations follow recent revelations by Evelyn Yang, wife of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, that Hadden assaulted her when she was pregnant. Cy Vance let Hadden off with a plea deal in 2016 that enabled him to avoid jail time. Evelyn Yang was assaulted while pregnant with her first child, just six weeks after Hadden had been arrested in another case but was allowed to return to his practice.  Joining the call for Cy Vance to resign are all 12 members of the New York City Council Women’s Caucus.

Hadden stood accused in a sex-abuse case involving six patients back in 2016 but reached a plea deal, meaning he served no time.  He was struck off the medical register but did not serve any time behind bars.  He also received no probation or community service.  The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been slammed for failing to hand down heavier on the sex offender.

When Yang was seven months pregnant, she believed her appointment was done and she was getting ready to leave when the doctor told her abruptly that he thought she might need a cesarean section. She said Hadden pulled her to him and undressed her, then used his fingers to examine her internally.  ‘I knew it was wrong. I knew I was being assaulted,’ she said.  Yang said she ‘just kind of froze’ and didn’t react. ‘I remember trying to fix my eyes on a spot on the wall and just trying to avoid seeing his face as he was assaulting me, just waiting for it to be over,’ she said.

After the doctor left the room, she left the practice and didn’t return.  Yang said she was initially too afraid to tell anyone what had happened.  She said she blamed herself, thinking she must have done something to ‘invite this kind of behavior.’  Months later, after the couple’s son was born, Yang got a letter in the mail saying Hadden had left the practice.  Curious, she looked him up online and saw that another woman had made a police report accusing him of assaulting her.  She said she realized then that she wasn’t to blame for his actions.  ‘This was a serial predator, and he just picked me as his prey,’ she said.  That is when she revealed the alleged abuse to her husband.

The total number of Hadden’s accusers is now over 70, including two teenagers.  The allegations include vaginal examinations without gloves, forceful touching and forced oral sex.  Hadden, 61, has denied the assault allegations in court documents, aside from the two counts in his plea deal.  One of his new accusers alleges that Hadden put his ungloved hands inside her vagina while telling her how arousal happens.  Another of his accusers, Emilia Heckman, a fashion model in her late 20s at the time, said Hadden had shown her pictures of his family and made her feel ‘comfortable’ with him when she was his patient.  He soon began making inappropriate questions or comments, such as asking her about her sex life and saying her boyfriend ‘is so lucky to have you’, said Heckman, now 36.  Hadden then sexually assaulted her during an appointment in 2012.  Heckman said Hadden told the nurse to go home, leaving her alone with her alleged abuser.  Heckman fled the office and never returned.

Another accuser, Jessica Chambers, now a substitute elementary-school teacher in Wyoming, said she was a 23-year-old student at the City College of New York and had never had a gynecological exam before when she was assaulted by Hadden in 2004.  She said he had started off ‘friendly’ but made her feel uncomfortable as the exam went on for a long time, during which a chaperone was present.  ‘He had his fingers inside of me — I couldn’t see if he was wearing gloves,’ she said.

‘And he had an extended conversation with me while he had his fingers inside of me. … I remember wanting to get out of that position.’  Chambers said they talked about how she’d just broken up with her boyfriend and Hadden had asked her asking her if she was able to climax and how.  ‘I’m thinking it’s very weird. But ‘he’s a doctor, we’re in Columbia — clearly what’s going on here must be normal and natural.”  When the chaperone left the room, Hadden grabbed her leg and then began touching her vagina with ungloved hands while telling her how arousal happens.  ‘He had me somewhat stuck,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know whether it was just me being naive and I didn’t want to do anything that would be weird.’

 

Boy Scouts Files Bankruptcy Amid Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

 

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The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy protection as it faces hundreds of lawsuits for sexual abuse. The youth organization, which celebrated its 110th anniversary February 8, listed liabilities of between $100 million and $500 million and estimated assets of $1 billion to $10 billion.  Last April, exposed court testimony showed the organization believed more than 7,800 of its former leaders were involved in sexually abusing more than 12,000 children over the course of 72 years.

Several states have changed their laws to temporarily remove statutes of limitations on sexual abuse, which previously protected organizations like the Boy Scouts. At least 12,000 cases of abuse at the hands of Boy Scout masters and volunteers have been identified.  In August, the organization referred about 120 allegations of abuse by Scout leaders to law enforcement for further investigation, saying it believes victims and that the youth organization is working to identify “additional alleged perpetrators.”

The organization says it will use the Chapter 11 process to create a trust to provide compensation to victims. Scouting programs will continue throughout.  The Boy Scouts had been exploring the possibility of bankruptcy since at least December 2018, when the group hired a law firm for a possible Chapter 11 filing. Chapter 11 usually involves the debtor making a reorganization plan to keep its business alive and pay its creditors over time.

The Boy Scouts also published a carefully worded open letter to victims of abuse. The letter, signed by BSA National Chair Jim Turley, encourages people who were abused to come forward and file claims so they can receive compensation from the trust that will be created.  For many years, the Boy Scouts had insurance that would cover sexual abuse claims. But in recent years these carriers have been withdrawing coverage, arguing that the Boy Scouts knew about the abuse and didn’t tell the insurance companies. That has left the organization with the prospect of having to fund any litigation and settlements itself.

The Boy Scouts of America faced hundreds of lawsuits from alleged sexual abuse victims across the country — all of which are now suspended because of the bankruptcy filing.  Several of the lawsuits allege repeated fondling, exposure to pornography, and forced anal or oral sex. In response, the Boy Scouts of America said at the time that they “care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting.” They added that they were “outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our program to abuse innocent children.”

 

9 Killed in Shisha Shootings in Germany

 

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Nine people were killed and several more wounded when a suspected far-right extremist opened fire at two shisha bars in the city of Hanau, in western Germany.  Chancellor Angela Merkel said there were many signs the attacker in Hanau had acted out of racism.  Federal prosecutors are treating the case as terrorism. Turkey says at least five of the dead were Turkish citizens.  Police say the 43-year-old suspect and his mother were found dead in his home after an apparent murder-suicide.  The shooter was identified as Tobias R, a German citizen.

The shootings took place on Wednesday around 10pm, and the first target was the Midnight shisha bar in the city center of Hanau. Witnesses reported hearing about a dozen gunshots.  The suspect then drove to the Kesselstadt neighbourhood, about 1.5 miles away, and opened fire at the Arena Bar & Cafe.  Shisha bars are places where people gather to smoke a pipe known as shisha or hookah. All of the victims, who ranged in ages from 21 to 44, were from immigrant backgrounds and some were German citizens.

The shootings sparked an hours-long manhunt through the night while officers, supported by helicopters, searched for what they thought could have been more than one attacker.  Police identified the gunman through information from witnesses and surveillance cameras. Early on Thursday, they stormed the suspect’s home, near the scene of the second shooting, and found him dead near his 72-year-old mother.

Authorities are examining a video that appears to be from the suspect, posted online days before the attacks, in which he expresses right-wing conspiracy theories. German media say he also left a letter of confession.  Federal prosecutor Peter Frank told reporters that the website of the alleged killer contained a “kind of manifesto” that included “confused thoughts”, “conspiracy theories”, and displayed a “deeply racist attitude”.   Authorities say he published a manifesto and videos on his personal website, showing his political beliefs and theories surrounding US President Donald Trump stealing his slogans, eugenics, and expressing frustration that he could never experience an intimate relationship with a woman due to psychological issues during his lifetime.

He also stated that he had been guided by voices inside his head since birth and that he was being followed by secret agents. He expressed a hatred for foreigners and called for a mass killing of people from the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and North Africa.  He also expressed hate for German citizens who allowed immigrants into their country, and considered them as “impure”.  The website has been taken down.