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With a new guideline for bloggers, China steps up online controls

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With a new guideline for bloggers, China steps up online controls

On one of China’s leading microblogging sites, where he has 2 million followers, Ma Xiaolin has frequently written about current affairs. But recently, the Weibo platform called and asked him not to publish original content on topics ranging from politics to economic and military problems, he said in an article.

“As an international affairs researcher and a columnist, it seems that now I can only follow the path of entertainment, food and drink,” the professor of international relations wrote on January 31.

Ma, who has often reported on developments in the Mideast, is one of many prominent influencers working within the constraints of China’s heavily censored network, who finds that with the latest policy changes and a clean-up drive run by the powerful censors of the world, their room to talk is shrinking even further. He rejected an invitation for an interview.

Before they can publish on a wide range of topics, the Cyberspace Administration of China would require bloggers and influencers to have a government-approved credential beginning next week. Some fear that permission will only be obtained by state media and official propaganda accounts. Although permits have been required to write about subjects such as political and military affairs since at least 2017, compliance has not been widespread. The provision is applied to health, finance, education and judicial matters by the new regulations.

“The regulators want to control the whole information production process,” said Titus Chen, a Chinese social media policy specialist at Taiwan’s National Sun Yat-Sen University.

The latest change is in line with increasingly restrictive regulations under President Xi Jinping that limit debate to an already narrow space. The Chinese leader has made his law of “digital sovereignty” a core principle in which the authorities have set limits and expanded the digital realm’s power.

The new credential requirement could prohibit people from posting original material, including individuals like Ma who do not explicitly criticise the Communist Party’s ruling Xi line. Responding to Ma on the website, Weibo CEO Wang Gaofei said comments on news published by official media were allowed, but commentators could not “release news” themselves.

According to a statement released by the Cyberspace Administration, the policy revision is intended “to standardise and steer public accounts and information service platforms to be more self-aware in maintaining the correct direction of public opinion.”

“The administration held a nationwide conference on the importance of “strengthening order in online publishing” a week after the new rules were unveiled in late January. The head of the agency, Zhuang Rongwen, said the agency must “let our supervision and management grow teeth.

On Feb. 4, a month-long clean-up campaign targeting search engines, social media sites and browsers was publicly announced by the department. Such initiatives, in which businesses take action to meet government demands, are not fresh, but in the past, compliance was looser: in 2017, Weibo backed off from a pornography ban following allegations that it lumped gay content in.

In competition with a crackdown to enforce current rules, it seems to be happening.

“It’s a big deal, it’s a massive campaign,” said Xiao Qiang, an expert at the University of California at Berkeley on digital censorship. And there are people who have not written a sharp message. They are not purposely edgy about things.

In January, a notice on Sohu, which also hosts microblogs, said that public accounts without credentials do not issue or republish news about current affairs. Banned subjects include “articles and commentaries on politics, economics, military affairs, diplomatic and public affairs; Taking the content of the history of the Party and country out of context and distorting it; breaking news and commentary.” A similar warning was released by Internet giant Baidu, which also has a publishing website.

The degree to which bloggers will be disciplined if they post comments without qualifications is unknown.

“Last week, on “suspicion of offering an internet news information service,” a current affairs account on Tencent’s WeChat messaging app was shut down. It was controlled by Yu Shenghong, a former journalist at state broadcaster CCTV, nicknamed “August Old Yu.” He did not respond to a request for comment.

Baidu, Sohu, Weibo and Tencent representatives did not respond to requests for comment. There was no response to a faxed request by the Cyberspace Administration.

It seems that the coronavirus pandemic spurred the tightened regulations in part. Most of the news coverage was powered by online accounts and digital-only media outlets that spread both news and rumours in the early days of China’s outbreak.

The Cyberspace Administration said in a notice outlining the new policies during the pandemic, “” self-media ” maliciously created rumours and casually disregarded the privacy of others, severely affecting the stability and harmony of society and damaging the legal rights and interests of others.”

Ultimately, the new rules represent the fears of the censors, even though what they are so nervous about isn’t entirely obvious, said Xiao of Berkeley.

“Control has been so tight for the past year that hardly anyone can talk about anything,” Xiao said.

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Inflation adjustments will mean higher deductions for 2021 tax year: What to know

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Inflation adjustments will mean higher deductions for 2021 tax year: What to know

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Changes in tax deductions due to inflation adjustments are coming to 2021 taxpayers, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

“They are not major changes, but taxpayers will notice them,” said Linda Troyer, Tax Pro from Jackson Hewitt. “Mostly it’s just updated limitations.”

The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly for the tax year 2021 rises to $25,100, up $300 from the prior year. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction rises to $12,550 for 2021, up $150. For heads of households, the standard deduction will be $18,800 for the tax year 2021, up $150.

Other changes include an increase in limitations and in the contribution you can make to your retirement accounts.

Even though the filing season for your 2021 taxes is still months away, Troyer said it is smart to start tracking down your documents now. She recommends you start collecting your documents throughout the year, and begin placing items like check stubs and receipts in a folder.

“Don’t wait until next year when you go to file and you’re asked where is this,” Troyer said. “That’s why some people had to have extensions filed because they waited for the very end of the tax season and then realized they didn’t have the documents.”

While people should be preparing for the upcoming 2021 tax season, there are still some people who have yet to file their taxes for 2020.

The IRS is reminding taxpayers that the deadline for 2020 tax returns is less than a month away on Oct. 15. This particular deadline is for those who asked for an extension to file, and it is not an extension to pay your 2020 taxes.

While the IRS has not yet released the number of taxpayers who took advantage of the extension, Troyer said she and other tax professionals have seen an increase.

If you still have not received your refund for 2020 or 2019, you are not alone. Troyer said she had a client who filed their 2020 taxes in March and has yet to receive a refund because of processing delays caused by the pandemic. For example, when an IRS office has an outbreak of COVID, employees can’t work from home due to the sensitivity of the documents.

If you have any questions about your 2019 or 2020 tax return, go to the IRS website.

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The Festival Latino of the Berkshires will celebrate its 25 anniversary

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The Festival Latino of the Berkshires will celebrate its 25 anniversary

GREAT BARRINGTON, MA (NEWS10) – The Festival Latino of the Berkshires will celebrate its 25th Anniversary on Saturday, September 25, from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m., rain or shine, at the Town Hall Green Park and Saint James Place on Main Street.

The Berkshires Hispanic community continues to grow and thrive in the area, making invaluable contributions. The event takes place during Hispanic Heritage Month, which is one of Berkshire’s most eagerly anticipated cultural events of the year.

The festival provides a sense of pride, inspiration, and education to immigrants and their children, which engages the joy of the Latin arts to students and adults alike.

Kicking off at 12:00 p.m. will be a variety of Latin American cuisine vendors with local Mexican singer Laura Cabrera, and D.J. Bernardino will provide the best Latin music hits for exploring the foods, social services, artists, artisans, and activities present at the festival.

The Latino Festival is free of charge, open to the public, and alcohol-free, committed to maintaining public health by following all Covid-19 safety guidelines as recommended by the CDC.

For further information, visit the festival Latino website or Facebook page.

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Aides of former Gov. Cuomo on hook for new legal bills

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Aides of former Gov. Cuomo on hook for new legal bills

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state has stopped paying legal bills for state employees who worked for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he faced ongoing investigations on the state and federal level. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s spokesperson Haley Viccaro said Wednesday that the state stopped paying for those aides’ legal bills after September 2.

Cuomo and his former aides face an ongoing probe by the state attorney general into Cuomo’s use of state employees to help with a book he wrote about his leadership during the pandemic and scrutiny from federal prosecutors who are investigating his administration’s handling of nursing home death data. Cuomo himself is also facing a state ethics commission inquiry.

The Hochul administration is now deciding whether there is a legal basis for the state to pay bills for legal services on or before September 2. Viccaro did not specify how many staffers had legal bills paid for by the state. She also didn’t say whether the state is considering requiring Cuomo aides to reimburse the state for past legal fees.

The state has agreed to pay a maximum of $9.5 million in bills for lawyers representing Cuomo and his administration over sexual harassment allegations and other matters as well as for lawyers investigating the former governor and his administration, according to the Associated Press review of available contracts.

That figure includes up to $5 million for lawyers who have represented Cuomo’s office. It doesn’t include the legal fees of Cuomo’s private attorney, Rita Glavin, whose bills are being paid by his campaign committee. It’s also unknown how much money has been paid to Paul Fishman, whose Washington, D.C.-based firm Arnold & Porter said it was representing Cuomo aides.

Cuomo resigned from office following an investigation overseen by Attorney General Letitia James that concluded he sexually harassed 11 women. Cuomo—who denies touching anyone inappropriately or intending to make suggestive comments—accused the women of exaggerating or misinterpreting his behavior.

A former aide of Cuomo alleged he groped her, according to a criminal complaint that the Albany County district attorney and sheriff are investigating. At least one woman, Lindsey Boylan, has said she intends to sue the ex-governor “and his co-conspirators” over their conduct. The investigation found Cuomo aides retaliated against Boylan.

Meanwhile, Cuomo and aides face the results of an impeachment investigation by the Assembly’s judiciary committee, though Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has argued the body doesn’t have clear legal authority for impeaching Cuomo to prevent him from running for office again.

Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Lavine has said the committee will release findings from their months-long investigation, but it’s unclear when it will do so or how comprehensive they will be. The committee has looked at whether Cuomo’s book deal violated ethics laws, sexual misconduct allegations, his administration’s handling of COVID-19 data, and whether members of Cuomo’s family were unlawfully prioritized for COVID-19 testing when tests were scarce.

Lavine, a Democrat, didn’t respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

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DOH: State’s school COVID tracker will be back up before October

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DOH: State’s school COVID tracker will be back up before October

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Since the beginning of the school year, the state’s COVID tracking website for school districts has been unavailable while undergoing maintenance. At the latest, it will be back online by September 27, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

Beginning September 13 New York schools were required to report COVID cases to the DOH on a daily basis, as they were during the 2020-2021 school year.

“All the information will be available when the website update is complete and updated daily during the week.  Local school districts outside of New York City should also have this information readily available on their website,” said DOH Spokesperson, Abigail Barker.

Between a shortage of bus drivers and an increase in COVID cases, the Galway School District had been back from summer vacation a little less than a week when they went to virtual learning. After a week of remote, the school welcomed students back.

“We are looking forward to our student’s in-person learning every day for the rest of the year,” said Superintendent Brita Donovan.

The Albany City School District posts COVID updates on its website and also sends them to NEWS10. On Wednesday the school reported eight new cases of COVID. There have been 54 cases since September 1, according to the district’s website.

Barker said opening schools has not impacted the community transmission rate, based on preliminary data. However, the Albany City School District isn’t taking any chances. They’ve cancelled all homecoming events because of COVID.

“We are disappointed to have to take this step. However, COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise in our school district and our region, and we believe cancelling this event is the best decision in our efforts to protect the health and safety of our students, their families, our employees, and the entire community,” the district said Wednesday.

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Gabby Petito investigation: Arrest warrant issued for missing Brian Laundrie

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Gabby Petito investigation: Arrest warrant issued for missing Brian Laundrie

Law enforcement officials issued an arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie, days after he went missing and the body of Gabby Petitio was found, FBI officials said Thursday.

The FBI urged people with information to come forward. Laundrie, without authorization, allegedly used a debit card and PIN to buy more than $1,000 worth of items between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1, according to the indictment.

“While this arrest warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito’s homicide,” the FBI said.

The attorney for Laundrie’s family quickly noted the arrest warrant is not for Petito’s death.

“It is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise,” the attorney said. “The FBI is focusing on locating Brian and when that occurs the specifics of the charges covered under the indictment will be addressed in the proper forum.”

Search teams found nothing of note Wednesday at a Florida wilderness park where they have spent days looking for Laundrie.

The search resumed Wednesday morning at the 24,000-acre (9,700-hectare) Carlton Reserve park and ended just before dark, North Port police spokesperson Joshua Taylor said. Investigators say Laundrie’s parents told them he had gone there after returning home without Petito on Sept. 1.

Petito, 22, was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days while the couple visited parks in the West. Her body was discovered Sunday at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Teton County Coroner Brent Blue classified Petito’s death as a homicide — meaning her death was caused by another person — but did not disclose how she was killed pending further autopsy results. Laundrie, 23, is not charged with any crime but is considered a person of interest in the case.

With online sleuths and theories multiplying by the day, the FBI and police have been deluged with tips about possible Laundrie sightings. Taylor, the North Port spokesperson, said none have so far panned out. He also batted down rumors that Laundrie had been captured Tuesday.

“These reports are unfortunately false. Please rest assured that when Brian is found, we will be more than happy to let everyone know,” Taylor said in an email.

Petito and Laundrie grew up together in Long Island, New York, but moved in recent years to North Port, where his parents live. Their home, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Sarasota, was searched by investigators earlier this week and a Ford Mustang driven by Laundrie’s mother was towed from the driveway. Authorities believe Laundrie drove that car to the Carlton Reserve before disappearing.

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Goldschmidt homers twice, Cards beat Brewers for 12th in a row

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Goldschmidt homers twice, Cards beat Brewers for 12th in a row

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Paul Goldschmidt homered twice, and the St. Louis Cardinals overcame a five-run deficit to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-5 and extend their longest winning streak in 39 years to 12 games.

On a day Adam Wainwright faltered early, St. Louis trailed 5-0 before rallying with one run in the fifth, four in the seventh, two in the eighth, and one in the ninth.

The Cardinals moved five games ahead of Cincinnati and Philadelphia, who both played later Thursday, for the second NL wild card.

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Should I get a flu shot if I’m getting a COVID vaccine booster?

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Should I get a flu shot if I’m getting a COVID vaccine booster?

ST. LOUIS – COVID-19 booster shots could become more widely available right as doctors recommend that people get their flu shots. But is it okay to get both vaccines at the same time?

The flu season is upon us at a time when the country already is battling a resurgence of the coronavirus. Doctors are urging Americans to avail themselves of any and all vaccines they are eligible for.

An FDA advisory panel is endorsing the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines for people 65 and older and those with certain health conditions that compromise their immune systems. The CDC says, yes, you can get the COVID vaccine and the flu shot at the same time and one won’t interfere with the other.

“Flu vaccine influenza vaccine has been co-administered with other vaccines for decades people needed their tetanus or some other vaccine at the same time we always did that we do them in separate arms because if you have redness or a reaction you want to know which one it was,” said Dr. Peter Montgomery, a physician with SSM Health Family Medicine.

Montgomery says the flu shots are available now.

“We want to get people vaccinated hopefully by Thanksgiving and it will take a while to get everybody in to get that done, ideally for the whole population around Halloween, so I would say if you can get it now, get it now,” he said.

The flu season can run from now until spring. SSM Health is reporting zero flu cases throughout its system so far this flu season. Last year, there were few flu cases reported. That is attributed to widespread mask use and social distancing.

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Two suspects arrested for shooting death of Denver man in Adams County

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Two suspects arrested for shooting death of Denver man in Adams County

Two suspects have been arrested in the shooting death of a Denver man in an Adams County apartment complex parking lot.

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Oldest human footprints in North America found in New Mexico

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Oldest human footprints in North America found in New Mexico

WASHINGTON — Fossilized footprints discovered in New Mexico indicate that early humans were walking across North America around 23,000 years ago, researchers reported Thursday.

The first footprints were found in a dry lake bed in White Sands National Park in 2009. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey recently analyzed seeds stuck in the footprints to determine their approximate age, ranging from around 22,800 and 21,130 years ago.

The findings may shed light on a mystery that has long intrigued scientists: When did people first arrive in the Americas, after dispersing from Africa and Asia?

Most scientists believe ancient migration came by way of a now-submerged land bridge that connected Asia to Alaska. Based on various evidence — including stone tools, fossil bones and genetic analysis — other researchers have offered a range of possible dates for human arrival in the Americas, from 13,000 to 26,000 years ago or more.

The current study provides a more solid baseline for when humans definitely were in North America, although they could have arrived even earlier, the authors say. Fossil footprints are more indisputable and direct evidence than “cultural artifacts, modified bones, or other more conventional fossils,” they wrote in the journal Science, which published the study Thursday.

“What we present here is evidence of a firm time and location,” they said.

Based on the size of the footprints, researchers believe that at least some were made by children and teenagers who lived during the last ice age.

David Bustos, the park’s resource program manager, spotted the first footprints in ancient wetlands in 2009. He and others found more in the park over the years.

“We knew they were old, but we had no way to date the prints before we discovered some with (seeds) on top,” he said Thursday.

Made of fine silt and clay, the footprints are fragile, so the researchers had to work quickly to gather samples, Bustos said.

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Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey out at Texans with hamstring injury

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Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey out at Texans with hamstring injury

HOUSTON — Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey left Thursday night’s game against the Houston Texans with a hamstring injury and will not return.

McCaffrey had a 2-yard run early in the second quarter and went to the medical tent on the sideline soon after that. The team announced he was out for the rest of the game later in the second quarter.

McCaffrey had seven carries for 31 yards and two receptions for nine yards before he was injured.

McCaffrey has been great in the first two games for the Panthers. He entered the game with 45 carries for 170 yards and 14 receptions for 154 yards.

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