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  • Writer's pictureDima Krieger

📬 News of the Day for April 7, 2023

In today’s edition:

  • Chinese scientists have published their long-awaited genetic analysis on the origins of COVID, but other scientists expressed reservations about the data;

  • Large-scale layoffs at tech companies have raised alarms about how the companies protect and serve their customers;

  • A new study finds that without other pandemic precautions, hospital mask rules did not stop the spread of COVID;

  • The Biden administration has proposed changes to Title IX to prohibit broad bans against transgender students participating on sports teams;

  • and more.

Layoffs are up nearly fivefold so far this year with tech companies leading the way

  • U.S. companies in recent months have announced tens of thousands of layoffs, with technology companies leading the way.

  • Tech has announced 102,391 cuts so far in 2023, a staggering increase of 38,487% from a year ago.

  • Tech is on pace to eclipse 2001, the worst year ever amid the dotcom bust.

  • In related news, mass layoffs among tech companies in Europe have stalled because of labor protections

  • European labor laws make it virtually impossible to dismiss people in some countries without prior consultations with employee interest groups.

  • More than 170,000 full-time tech workers are employed in Europe by Amazon, Alphabet, and Meta.

  • In response, the companies have been trying to entice employees to leave voluntarily, through generous separation packages.

Tech layoffs raise new alarms about how platforms protect users, serve customers

  • As large-scale technology companies slash jobs over the past few months, teams intended to offer consumer protections and customer support are seeing staff reductions.

  • Twitch laid off some employees focused on responsible AI and other trust and safety work.

  • Microsoft also raised some alarms earlier this month when it reportedly cut a key team focused on ethical AI product development.

  • The wave of cuts has raised questions about Silicon Valley’s commitment to providing extensive guardrails and user protections.

  • In related news, Meta's mass layoffs have affected over 20,000 employees, including its customer support teams.

  • Influencers on Facebook and Instagram say they are struggling to get problems resolved.

ChatGPT invents sexual harassment allegations against a prominent lawyer

  • OpenAI's ChatGPT made up sexual harassment accusations against Jonathan Turley, a prominent legal scholar and writer.

  • Turley called the claims, cited with a fabricated source, false and "incredibly harmful."

  • The accusations highlight how the language models behind popular AI chatbots are prone to error.

  • Observers note that AI models are prone to "hallucinations."

Walmart plans to expand EV charging network to thousands of stores

  • Walmart has announced plans to expand its existing network of 1,300 fast-charging electric vehicle stations at 280 locations nationwide.

  • Walmart says the move will make it easier for U.S. motorists to pivot away from cars powered by fossil fuels.

  • Walmart did not say how many charging stations it would build, but the company has about 4,700 U.S. stores.

Chinese scientists publish long-awaited data on the origins of COVID

  • Chinese scientists have published their long-awaited genetic analysis on the origins of COVID.

  • It is the first peer-reviewed study of biological evidence gathered from the Huanan seafood market.

  • The researchers discovered that swabs that tested positive for the virus also contained genetic material from wild animals.

  • The study acknowledges for the first time that wildlife susceptible to COVID infection were present in the market.

  • Some scientists say this is further evidence that the disease was initially transmitted from an infected animal to a human.

  • Other scientists noted the analysis is flawed, indicating the presence of animals that were almost certainly not at the market, including giant pandas, chimpanzees, and Atlantic grey seals.

  • Observers urged caution in interpreting the findings and questioned why it took three years for the genetic content of the samples to be published.

Study: Without other pandemic precautions, hospital mask rules did not stop COVID spread

  • Without other pandemic precautions, hospital mask rules did not stop coronavirus spread, a new study has found.

  • The findings suggest that hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics could adopt “mask optional” policies without putting patients at increased risk.

  • The study comes as California health officials this week lifted the general masking order for health care settings throughout the state.

The Biden administration moves to make broad, transgender sports bans illegal

  • The Biden administration has proposed changes to Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs, that would make it illegal for schools to broadly ban transgender students from sports teams.

  • Title IX already had included protections against discrimination based on gender identity.

  • Under the changes, no school or college that receives federal funding would be allowed to impose a "one-size-fits-all" policy that categorically bans transgender students from playing on sports teams consistent with gender identity.

  • The department says the move comes after two years of outreach to stakeholders across the country.

  • The American Civil Liberties Union notes that at least 19 states in the last three years have passed laws banning transgender students from participating in sports.

  • In related news, the Supreme Court has refused to take up a case to determine the legality of a West Virginia law that bans transgender girls from participating in girls sports teams at school.

IRS unveils plan to spend $80B

  • The Internal Revenue Service has unveiled its plans on how it will spend the $80 billion it receives under the Inflation Reduction Act passed last year.

  • The IRS said its top priority is restoring depleted staffing levels, which are down 20% since 2010.

  • The IRS said it expects to hire more than 7,000 service reps and 1,500 auditors this year.

  • The agency hopes to digitize all paper returns and allow users to file documents and respond to notices online as well as download their account information.

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