Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
A watchdog seeking records from President Joe Biden’s administration on the rationing of a key COVID-19 treatment is suing the government for not providing the records in a timely manner.
The Functional Government Initiative (FGI) is seeking records that will shed light on why the administration cut shipments of monoclonal antibodies to Florida and other states in 2021 into 2022.
But the Department of Health and Human Services and two subagencies—the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID—have not complied with legal requirements outlined in the Freedom of Information Act, the watchdog says, prompting a lawsuit in federal court.
“The only way we’re going to be able to obtain these documents is through a lawsuit and that’s why we are suing HHS, NIH, and NIAID,” Peter McGinnis, a spokesman for FGI, told The Epoch Times.
Monoclonal antibodies were one of the most successful treatments of COVID-19 that have been authorized or approved by U.S. regulators, particularly against strains of SARS-CoV-2 that were circulating in 2021.
Florida was one of the first states to promote the drug, which prevents mild or moderate cases of COVID-19 from becoming more severe, thus leading to fewer hospitalizations.
The federal government monopolized the supply. It handed out doses for free to states, but the arrangement largely left states unable to order any doses themselves when the Biden administration started rationing in the fall of 2021, hitting states like Florida and Texas.
At the same time, other states saw no change or an increase in allocation.
The rationing decision was “potentially motivated by politics,” McGinnis said, noting that top Biden administration officials and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, traded barbs over the move in public.
That makes it important to see emails and other records concerning the decision, according to the watchdog.
“Hopefully it’s not. I would hate to live in a world that no, we have a pandemic on our hands and the White House is restricting essential medical supplies over, ‘we don’t like this governor in the way that he attacks us, we’re not going to let him have this,'” McGinnis said.
DeSantis’s office declined to comment on the suit. HHS, NIH, and NIAID did not respond to requests for comment.
According to the filing, FGI filed the requests for information in February. The HHS acknowledged the request but has not given any other updates. That violates the law, which says that agencies must, within 20 days, notify the person making a request whether they’ll comply and the right of seeking assistance from the FOIA public liaison for the agency.
The NIH, in addition to an automatic acknowledgement, had an employee reach out for clarification but did so after the 20-day limit outlined in the law. In addition, after FGI responded to the questions, the NIH did not give any other updates.
NIAID told FGI on May 10 that its requests were under review and said the estimated time was 6 months. It wasn’t clear whether a search was underway or whether a review merely referred to deciding whether to process the requests.
Absent the lawsuit, FGI told the court that it will not receive the information it seeks due to the agencies flouting the law.
The watchdog asked the court to order the agencies to produce all records within 10 days, or such other time as deemed appropriate.
Is someone using your pictures to catfish? Your rights when it comes to fake profiles and social media stalking
Depending on what the fake account is doing, the law may not be on your side.
If you’ve ever used a dating app, you’ve probably experienced the disappointment of meeting someone who doesn’t look quite like their photos. You may have even been a victim of catfishing, where someone creates a fake identity to deceive or scam others online. But what if someone uses your photos to catfish someone else?
Setting up a social media account or dating profile is as easy as entering a name and email address. Platforms do very little to verify users’ identities, making it easy for someone to scam you, harass you – or pretend to be you.
There is very little known about how many online accounts are fake. What we do know is that many of these fake profiles use images from real people – often an unsuspecting third party’s public social media account. This, of course, can cause problems for the person whose photo is used. Their face is now attached to online behaviour that may be illegal, dishonest or just plain embarrassing.
This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.
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Fake profiles can also include the personal contact details of an innocent third party, a form of doxing (revealing identifying or personal information about someone online) that can lead to unwanted calls, texts, emails, or even in-person visits and violent attacks.
Can the law help?
Unfortunately, if a fake account is using your image or contact details, there are not always reliable legal protections to help you stop it.
There are some relevant criminal offences in the UK, but they can be difficult to investigate and prosecute. For example, if the profile is being used to carry out a financial scam, it might be fraud. Doxing that results in the target being bombarded with unwanted messages could be stalking or harassment.
There is also a communications offence that criminalises knowingly sending false messages or persistently using the internet to cause someone annoyance, irritation or needless anxiety. New online safety laws could make it harder to establish criminality for this, by requiring proof that the perpetrator intended to cause the target physical or “non-trivial” psychological harm.
Other legal options include suing whoever set up the fake account. There are potential civil claims in harassment, defamation or copyright law. However, this is expensive, time-consuming and reliant on being able to identify the account holder, which is not straightforward. Perpetrators may be located in a different country, so outside of court jurisdiction – if they can be tracked down at all.
If you think that a crime has been committed, contact the police for their advice, particularly if you think that you know who is behind the account. Evidence is vital, so make sure you take screenshots before you do anything else.
What platforms can do
Asking the platforms to remove fake profiles may be your best option. If the account is using photographs that you took yourself, one of your most effective legal protections will be copyright law. Platforms are not generally liable for the content posted by users, but if you use their tools to report copyright infringement, they will take it seriously.
You can also report fake accounts using websites’ own tools. This can sometimes turn into a game of fake profile “whack-a-mole”, as new accounts spring up as soon as one is shut down. Additionally, platform responses to such reports have not always been adequate.
A new law might help. Under the online safety bill, which is awaiting royal assent, platforms must take steps to prevent users from encountering “priority illegal content” that amounts to certain criminal offences, including stalking and harassment. This legal obligation should make platforms more proactive about addressing these types of harms.
The new law will also require the largest and riskiest platforms (such as the main social media sites) to offer users a way to verify their identity. Verified users will also be able to block non-verified users from seeing their content, reducing the risk of unknown users accessing their photographs and personal information.
How to protect yourself
1. Make a report
Use platform reporting tools to request that profiles are taken down. Speak to the police if you think a crime such as fraud, stalking or harassment has taken place, and take screenshots of messages or false accounts as evidence.
2. Tell your networks
Let your friends and family know that you have come across a fake profile using your information. If they know it is out there, they are less likely to think it’s you. Consider agreeing code words so that friends and family can check it is really you, and not a scammer, before sharing personal or financial information via messaging apps.
3. Protect your images
This is certainly not foolproof, but adding a watermark to photos, such as your social media handle, can reduce their appeal to fraudsters.
4. Review your privacy settings
It is not always feasible or desirable to have a private account, but make sure you have made conscious choices about your online privacy, rather than relying on default settings.
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.default uk
Why heating your home this winter may be even harder than last year
Time is running out to ensure that people in fuel poverty can afford to keep warm this winter.
Domestic energy prices more than doubled during 2022 compared with the year before. This meant that the number of UK households in fuel poverty who could not afford to heat their homes to a safe level rose from 4.5 million to 7.3 million.
The UK government attempted to alleviate the impact of rocketing bills with a package of support measures. This included capping the unit cost of electricity and gas, a £400 rebate to all households using mains gas for heating and £200 for those using alternative fuels, and a further £650 “cost of living payment” to claimants of means-tested benefits.
Many of these schemes ended in spring 2023. And with wholesale gas costs and the government’s energy price cap having come down somewhat, you could be forgiven for thinking that the worst of the energy crisis has passed.
But that’s not the case for many billpayers – in fact, this winter is likely to be worse than the last for many households.
The energy price cap, introduced in 2019 by market regulator Ofgem, limits how much people pay for each unit of gas and electricity. The latest price cap, set on October 1 2023, means that a typical household will pay £1,834 a year for energy – less than £2,000 for the first time in 18 months.
This might sound like good news, but it’s still a substantial increase on the pre-crisis cap. In August 2021, the most a typical household could expect to pay in a year for energy was £1,277.
Although the unit prices of electricity and gas have fallen, there has been a steep increase in standing charges. These are a levy on all energy bills which cover the costs associated with supplying energy to homes.
Standing charges have gone up from around £186 a year pre-crisis to just over £300 now – effectively adding £110 to bills.
Standing charges are regressive because they are the same for everyone, regardless of how much energy you consume. Poorer households often use much less energy than wealthier ones, so standing charges make up a larger proportion of their energy costs.
In fact, some low-income households use such small amounts of energy that they are paying little more than their standing charges.
Energy bill rebates ended
The £400 energy bill rebate paid to all households last winter has now ended. Meanwhile, cost of living payments to claimants of means-tested benefits have increased from £650 to £900 a year. This will be helpful to those who qualify, but one third of households eligible for means-tested welfare payments do not claim them due to stigma, lack of awareness or bad experiences with the assessment process, and so will receive no assistance.
Many households who do receive these cost of living payments will spend it on other expenses, such as food, rather than heating their home. This reflects the fact that energy is often seen by struggling households as something that can be rationed.
If you’re in a household that does not qualify for the cost of living payment then the savings of around £150 that resulted from the lowering of the cap will soon be more than cancelled out by the lack of a rebate.
Cold homes can kill
Despite the financial support offered last winter, average levels of energy debt for people contacting Citizens Advice in England and Wales have risen sharply over the last year, from around £1,400 per household on average in March 2022 to £1,711 in July 2023. One-third of UK energy customers are now in arrears.
So although energy bills have fallen slightly, many households are less resilient to financial shocks than they were in early 2022. Volatile energy prices are predicted to last until the end of the decade.
Research last winter found that households in fuel poverty were underheating their homes, causing damp and mould that can create serious health problems and exacerbating anguish and stress. The health risks of a cold home increase with repeated exposure.
As temperatures begin to fall again, a range of measures are urgently needed to prevent a crisis worse than that of last winter.
What can be done to help?
Since energy prices are expected to remain high for years, long-term solutions are vital. There must be increased investment in efforts to insulate the UK’s leaky housing stock. But with winter just weeks away, what can the government do right now?
To start, it could offer greater energy bill rebates. Given the scale of the fuel poverty problem, eligibility for these rebates must be wide enough for anyone on a below average income to receive help.
Alternatively, the government could make the rebates universal again, and potentially recoup the costs by increasing taxes on the most wealthy or energy company profits. At the very least, unclaimed energy bill support from last winter should be used to support those likely to struggle in the coming winter, rather than being returned to the treasury.
Cut funding for government-backed advice services could also be restored. And there are reforms to the retail energy market that could be implemented fairly quickly, such as bringing standing charges in line with levels of usage.
More fundamentally, there are a number of proposals that would be fairer than the current system and could be implemented together for maximum impact. These include a “green power pool”, which would ensure that the cheap power generated by renewables such as wind and solar benefits those most in need first and foremost, social tariffs (discounted energy bills for low-income households), or a national energy guarantee that would secure access to enough free energy to meet everyone’s basic needs.
The government’s forthcoming autumn statement must not sidestep these issues if people in fuel poverty are to stay safe and warm this winter.
Aimee Ambrose receives funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Energy Innovation Centre.
Lucie Middlemiss receives funding from Horizon 2020, the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions and the British Academy. She has previously received funding from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKRI) and the Nuffield Foundation.
Neil Simcock receives funding from the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions. He has previously received funding for fuel poverty research from the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) and the EU under the Horizon 2020 programme.tariffs uk eu
Around the World With Our Analysts
As part of our commitment to staying informed, research trips are an integral component of our active, fundamental investment process. Our investment teams…
As part of our commitment to staying informed, research trips are an integral component of our active, fundamental investment process.
Our investment teams are dedicated to traveling around the globe to conduct comprehensive research and gain a deeper understanding of potential investments. Where others talk only to CEOs, we also talk to the supply chain. Where others ask whether a market, industry, or company is attractive, we also dive deep into relative valuation. And the more we ask, the more you can trust the answers.
Below, we highlight some of the research trips our teams have taken. For more insights, visit our Research Map.
Digitalization Creates Opportunity in India
The adoption of digital tools and infrastructure among consumers and businesses is creating unique investment-related opportunities in India. After traveling to Mumbai, Jay Kannan, CFA, a research analyst on our global equity team, explains why.
“We are particularly excited about the digitalization of India’s economy, and this comes with the formalization of the economy where both consumers as well as small and medium businesses and merchants are adopting digital tools and infrastructure to conduct their business,” he says.
“A lot of this digitalization is enabled by what is called ‘The India Tech Stack.’ Think of this as a set of public goods and tools, all digital, which are aimed at unlocking the economic primitives of identity, data, and payments, but at a population scale,” says Kannan. “It’s a unified software platform, with many layers, one that is the basic building blocks for digital infrastructure and digitization.”
Metals and Mining Sector Could See Better Economics
Greg Czarnecki, portfolio specialist, and other members of our U.S. value equity team attended the BMO Metals and Mining Conference in Hollywood, Florida, to assess opportunities in the sector.
The metals and mining sector is expected to experience structural supply and demand tightness that could support better economics. The team also found that the transition to electric vehicles will require huge amounts of minerals relative to current production levels, which should be supportive for the mining sector in terms of increased demand.
In addition, a renewed focus on energy and supply chain security will likely drive investment in infrastructure and industrial production, which is set to be enhanced by large fiscal stimulus spending.
Egypt’s Plans for Privatization Could Make Debt More Attractive
Egypt has already identified many companies to which it can sell state-owned enterprises. Yvette Babb, a portfolio manager on our emerging markets debt team, examines if these plans could impact Egypt’s ability to meet external financing needs.
“I just returned from Egypt, where we spent several days in Cairo discussing the government’s privatization plans as well as the border reform package that is currently in place. These reforms are currently being implemented with the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” she says.
“But our discussions in Cairo focused predominantly on the privatization plans of its government. They’re looking to sell as state-owned enterprises to strategic partners, and they’ve identified 32 companies in which they are seeking to sell, or at least stakes thereof,” continues Babb. “This discussion was particularly relevant to the way in which we view the ability of Egypt to meet its external financing needs over the short to medium term.”
On the Ground at the Jeffries Consumer Conference
Brad Ernst, CFA, and Cat Duncan, CFA, both research analysts on our U.S. growth and core equity team, attended the Jeffries Consumer Conference in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
After hearing from almost 50 different companies, they found that consumers are still spending, but budget priorities are beginning to shift. Entertainment and travel are still a priority for many consumers who value experiences, while spending on essentials—food, beverage, pet care, and beauty—remains consistent, and will likely be an area of defensive growth in 2023 and 2024.
However, discretionary goods spending continues to be deemphasized after a pull-forward of demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For our investment teams, visiting companies, attending conferences, and traveling to new markets provides invaluable insights.
- India’s economy is becoming more digital.
- There are value opportunities in the metals and mining sector.
- Egypt’s plans for privatization could impact its external financing needs.
- Consumers are still spending, but budget priorities are beginning to shift.
Not only are research trips an important part of our teams’ investment processes, they also help us seek out potential opportunities for our clients.
Want more insights on the economy and investment landscape? Subscribe to our blog.stimulus emerging markets stimulus india
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