Europe is moving to tighten oversight of AI – The U.S. is moving more slowly!

Dear Commons Community,

The European Union is applying new legal restraints around artificial intelligence this year.

The European Parliament in December reached a provisional agreement on the world’s first comprehensive legislation to regulate AI, focusing on uses instead of the technology.

The new rules range in severity depending on how risky the application is, with facial recognition and certain medical innovations requiring approval before being made available to customers.

Federal laws specific to AI don’t exist yet in the US, and it’s unknown whether that will happen. The EU’s actions, however, could still have a chilling effect on companies based in this country.  As reported by Yahoo News.

“Any software- and data-technology-rich issue crosses borders so quickly,” intellectual property expert Gareth Kristensen, a partner with the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, said.

The EU is throwing its weight around in other parts of the tech world, too. Just this week, EU opposition to a union of two American tech companies — Amazon (AMZN) and robot vacuum maker iRobot (IRBT) — was enough for the firms to call off their $1.4 billion merger.

Not everyone in the US agrees new laws are needed to oversee AI. To date, Washington’s attempts to regulate the industry have proceeded slowly and on parallel tracks at the White House and Capitol Hill.

An executive order issued by President Biden last October directed AI developers and users to apply AI “responsibly.” Just this week, the administration announced new details there, including a new requirement for developers to disclose their safety test results to the government.

On Capitol Hill meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has overseen a series of roundtables — with figures like Elon Musk and others in attendance — to begin the process of drafting new laws around the topic.

He will be tasked with merging together a group of bipartisan bills under consideration. That includes one from Democratic Senator Gary Peters, Republican Senators Mike Braun and James Lankford to make it mandatory for US government agencies to disclose when they use AI for human interactions and to set in place an appeals process to allow individuals to object to AI-generated decisions.

In another bill introduced in June, Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Warner joined Republican Senator Todd Young in proposing an office of global competition analysis that would be tasked with helping the US maintain global leadership in AI.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal and Republican Senator Josh Hawley also announced their own framework on AI legislation. They proposed that the US establish an independent licensing and oversight organization, along with AI transparency requirements and legal liability for harms caused by the technology.

There’s no guarantee that any of this new US legislation will come to pass.

“The US is very free market, and difficult to get bipartisan consensus on a federal level,” Kristensen said.

‘Proactive rather than reactive’

The US, deliberately, hasn’t gone the way of the EU, said Ryan Abbott, a technology-focused intellectual property attorney and medical doctor. America’s comparatively more market-driven, “less regulation is more” philosophy, he said, could lead lawmakers to police AI using existing IP, copyright, and trademark laws.

“There’s a whole other view of this, which is that you really don’t need something comprehensive because, really, existing rules cover AI regulation,” Abbot added.

Intellectual property law governs patents, copyrights and trademarks. And tort law protects individuals from harmful products placed into the market.

Abbot, however, recommended in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last June that lawmakers should at least consider amending intellectual property laws so that AI-generated inventions are clearly patentable. Under current US law, only human inventors are eligible to obtain a patent.

Musk — one of the original backers of OpenAI, creator of chatbot ChatGPT — has said that perhaps a new federal department is needed to stay on top of the risks. That’s what he told reporters after meetings on Capitol Hill in September.

“The reason that I’ve been saying that before, about the whole AI safety in advance of sort of anything terrible happening, is that consequences of AI going wrong are severe. So we have to be proactive rather than reactive,” Musk said last September.

White House national economic advisor Lael Brainard and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su said in a op-ed piece published in Yahoo Finance Tuesday that the Labor Department is creating a set of principles for “the responsible, worker-centric use of AI” while the administration prepares “detailed policy recommendations to protect and support workers against potential AI-related job displacement.”

A similar approach is unfolding in the United Kingdom. That nation’s government is now advocating for companies to voluntarily comply with key principles that its lawmakers set out in a white paper published last year. The UK is expected, for now, to empower its regulators to apply existing law to AI, and base potential legislation depending on future levels of compliance.

China has adopted more politically focused AI laws. Those requirements target AI-generated news distribution, deep fakes, chat bots, and datasets. To date, they are much less comprehensive than the EU’s AI Act.

Kristensen estimated that the EU’s new AI Act is likely to take effect over the next six to 24 months, as members of the 27-nation bloc sign off on the final text.

Some members, including the French government, have been rumored to be exploring whether to revise and push back on certain parts of the act.

Whatever final regulations each government adopts, Abbott said, will play a big role in how AI is developed and used from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Regulation here is difficult given the influence of mega international tech companies that are investing heavily in AI development.


E. Jean Carroll – Trump is a “nothing”

Dear Commons Community,

Writer E. Jean Carroll, fresh off her stunning legal victory against Donald Trump, came up with a colorful new description of the former president during an MSNBC interview on Monday night.

“He is like a walrus snorting and like a rhino flopping his hands,” Carroll told Rachel Maddow as she recounted seeing him in court. “He is not there. That was the surprising thing to me.”

Carroll admitted to being “terrified” at the idea of facing Trump in person, and had a “breakdown” days ahead of the trial.

But that changed when she took the stand.

“Amazingly, I looked out, and he was nothing,” she said. “He was nothing. He was a phantom. It was the people around him who were giving him power. He himself was nothing.”

A federal jury last week ordered Trump to pay $83.3 million to Carroll in her defamation suit. Last year, a jury ordered the former president to pay $5 million after finding him liable for defamation and sexual abuse.

She said there’s a lesson in her sweeping victories.

“We don’t need to be afraid of him,” she said. “He can be knocked out.”

Hear that Republicans!


Companies announcing mass layoffs recently in part due to AI

Dear Commons Community,

Major corporations in the technology and retail sectors are conducting mass layoffs to trim costs as they invest in AI, and after bulking up work forces during the pandemic. High interest rates are also contributing to layoffs at tech companies, in particular.

A number of companies across sectors kicked off 2024 by announcing they are slashing jobs on the heels of worker layoffs at the end of 2023. Experts say investments in AI could be a contributor, but aren’t exclusively to blame. Below are a list of companies that are reducing head counts provided by CBS News.





In mid-January, Alphabet-owned Google laid off hundreds of workers on its hardware, voice assistance and engineering teams to cut costs, citing a focus on “responsibly investing in our company’s biggest priorities and the significant opportunities ahead,” the company said in a statement at the time.

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has warned employees to brace for even more layoffs amid the company’s push to move ahead in the artificial intelligence arms race. The cuts are designed to free up funds for “investing in… [the company’s] big priorities” according to a memo sent to employees.

One year earlier, Google announced it would cut 12,000 jobs, or about 6% of its workforce, to trim costs after going on a hiring spree during the pandemic.

“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth,” Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post at the time. “To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today.”


In an internal memo last week, Microsoft announced 1,900 job cuts in its gaming division, the Associated Press reported. The cuts represent about 8% of its total gaming workforce.

Riot Games

Popular video game “League of Legends” developer Riot Games cut 530 jobs, or 11% of its staff in January to allow the company to move “toward a sustainable future,” according to a memo sent to staff.

“This decision is critical for the future of Riot. This isn’t to appease shareholders or to hit a quarterly earnings number — it’s a necessity,” the company said in a statement on January 22 .


Social media app TikTok, owned by tech giant ByteDance, laid off 60 advertising and sales workers this month, as part of a routine reorganization, according to the company.

Amazon-owned companies

The Amazon-owned audiobook and podcast service Audible slashed 100 employees, or 5% of its workforce, amid cuts in other Amazon divisions, including Prime Video. The e-commerce giant’s streaming and studios unit also cut hundreds of jobs amid a shifting video consumption landscape and after Amazon acquired MGM studios.


Salesforce in January shed 7,350 workers, or 10% of its workforce, amid industrywide cost-cutting measures. The San Francisco-based cloud computing company also said it would close some of its offices to save on real estate costs.

“The environment remains challenging and our customers are taking a more measured approach to their purchasing decisions,” said CEO Marc Benioff in a letter to employees. “With this in mind, we’ve made the very difficult decision to reduce our workforce by about 10%, mostly over the coming weeks.”



The online e-commerce firm announced it will cut 1,000 jobs, or roughly 9% of its full-time workforce, in an effort to better match the company’s pace of growth in a slowing economy.


The outdoor apparel and equipment retailer is laying off 357 workers, with most of the job cuts affecting workers at its headquarters and at its distribution center, on the heels of four quarters of declines.


Denim clothing maker Levi Strauss & Co. last week said it’s planning to cut 10% to 15% of its 19,100-person workforce in the first quarter of the year to cut costs and streamline operations. This and other cost-cutting measures are expected to generate net cost savings of $100 million in the current fiscal year, the company said.


Chronically underperforming department store Macy’s has struggled to keep up with consumers’ shifting preference for shopping online, leading to financial struggles that made worker layoffs necessary.

Last week, the iconic retailer signaled it would lay off 3.5%, or roughly 2,350 of its employees, and close five of its stores to slash costs as part of “a new strategy to meet the needs of an ever changing consumer and marketplace,” the company told the AP last week.


In the first month of the year, online furniture retailer Wayfair announced a 13% workforce reduction after hiring too ambitiously. In a letter to employees, CEO Niraj Shah said the company would eliminate 1,650 jobs in order to remain profitable after going “overboard with corporate hiring during COVID.”


Elon Musk’s Neuralink implants brain chip in first human!

Neuralink Brain Implant Chip Technology.  WIRED.

Dear Commons Community,

The first human patient received an implant from brain-chip startup Neuralink on Sunday and is recovering well, the company’s billionaire founder Elon Musk said.  As reported  by Reuters.

“Initial results show promising neuron spike detection,” Musk said in a post on the social media platform X on Monday.

Spikes are activity by neurons, which the National Institute of Health describes as cells that use electrical and chemical signals to send information around the brain and to the body.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had given the company clearance last year to conduct its first trial to test its implant on humans, a critical milestone in the startup’s ambitions to help patients overcome paralysis and a host of neurological conditions.

In September, Neuralink said it received approval for recruitment for the human trial.

The study uses a robot to surgically place a brain-computer interface (BCI) implant in a region of the brain that controls the intention to move, Neuralink said previously, adding that its initial goal is to enable people to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone.  Its use would help people with traumatic injuries operate phones and PCs using only their thoughts.

The implants’ “ultra-fine” threads help transmit signals in participants’ brains, Neuralink has said.

The first product from Neuralink would be called Telepathy, Musk said in a separate post on X.

The startup’s PRIME Study is a trial for its wireless brain-computer interface to evaluate the safety of the implant and surgical robot.

Neuralink did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for further details.

The company has faced calls for scrutiny regarding its safety protocols. Reuters reported earlier this month that the company was fined for violating U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rules regarding the movement of hazardous materials.

The company was valued at about $5 billion last June, but four lawmakers in late November asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Musk had misled investors about the safety of its technology after veterinary records showed problems with the implants on monkeys included paralysis, seizures and brain swelling.

Musk wrote in a social media post on Sept. 10 that “no monkey has died as a result of a Neuralink implant.” He added that the company chose “terminal” monkeys to minimize risk to healthy ones.

Interesting technology with lots of potential assuming it can be deployed safely!


Ron DeSantis and Florida remove sociology as core college class!


Dear Commons Community,

The state of Florida has removed sociology as a core class from campuses in the latest round of Ron DeSantis’s war on “woke ideology”.

The Republican governor’s hand-picked board of education voted on Wednesday to replace the established course on the principles of sociology at its 12 public universities with its own US history curriculum, incorporating an “historically accurate account of America’s founding [and] the horrors of slavery”.  As reported by The Guardian.

The removal as a required core course of sociology classes, which Florida education commissioner and staunch DeSantis acolyte Manny Díaz insisted without evidence had “been hijacked by leftwing activists”, follows several other recent “anti-woke” moves in education in Florida.

They include the banning an advanced placement class in African American studies, and last week’s board ruling crystalizing a plan by DeSantis, who dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination over the weekend, to abolish diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs in Florida’s universities and colleges.

The American Sociological Association said there was no evidentiary basis for replacing the sociology course.

“This decision seems to be coming not from an informed perspective, but rather from a gross misunderstanding of sociology as an illegitimate discipline driven by ‘radical’ and ‘woke’ ideology,” the American Sociological Association said in a statement to the Guardian.

“Sociology is the scientific study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior, which are at the core of civic literacy and are essential to a broad range of careers.

“Failure to prioritize the scientific study of the causes and consequences of human behavior is a failure of Florida’s commitment to providing high-quality civics education and workforce readiness.”

The association called for the board to reverse its “outrageous” decision.

Anne Barrett, a professor of sociology at Florida State University, said the ruling was the latest attack by DeSantis and his allies in the “culture wars they are waging” on campuses.

“These regulations are devastating for sociology in Florida. Enrollments will plummet. The opportunity to recruit majors will almost disappear. Weakened sociology departments are ripe for elimination and, ultimately, faculty layoffs,” she said in an essay for the National Education Association.

“The costs to society are higher still. Sociology students learn how to use empirical research and logic to assess the accuracy of claims made about the social world. They also gain skills to critique how power is distributed.

“In short, they are positioned to be engaged citizens, armed with the power to destabilize right-wing policy makers’ agendas, and this is the threat these regulations seek to neutralize.”

Ray Rodrigues, chancellor of the state university system of Florida’s board of governors, praised the ruling for the “positive impact the addition of this [US history] course will have on our students and their future success”.

Díaz, however, has taken a more political approach to the board’s recent rulings, echoing DeSantis’s stance that college campuses are a hotbed of radical left activism in need of reform. Last year the governor engineered a rightwing takeover of a popular liberal arts college.

“Higher education must return to its essential foundations of academic integrity and the pursuit of knowledge instead of being corrupted by destructive ideologies,” Díaz said following last week’s DEI ruling.

“These actions today ensure that we will not spend taxpayers’ money supporting DEI and radical indoctrination that promotes division in our society.”

How sad!


ASU Partners with OpenAI to Enhance Instruction and Research

Dear Commons Community,

Arizona State University has become the first university to partner with OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, by adopting the enterprise version of the company’s generative AI platform and working with its engineers on new tools, a recent announcement said.  As reported by Government Technology.

According to ASU Chief Information Officer Lev Gonick, the partnership will provide students and faculty with access to OpenAI’s ChatGPT Enterprise, which has higher computation speeds than the public ChatGPT, more security and more data analytics capabilities for the purposes of aiding student learning, research and internal operations. He said the partnership has already yielded a bespoke set of tools for the university and will allow it to develop other AI-driven projects aimed at “revolutionizing educational techniques.”

“In the last 13 months, generative AI has become the latest opportunity to leverage technology to advance student success,” he said. “We spent months working together with OpenAI on a product set that would work for Arizona State University as an enterprise, using [OpenAI’s] Enterprise ChatGPT, and that provides us with necessary privacy and security [capabilities], as well as the opportunity to really push the frontiers and the limits of the use of ChatGPT for teaching, learning and research.”

Gonick noted that while students and faculty have already been experimenting with generative AI tools like ChatGPT for education and research uses, the new platform has additional enhanced security features for data privacy, a major concern with GenAI tools.

Gonick said the university will ask students and faculty to submit ideas for how to best utilize the new platform next month. In addition to harnessing the technology for content generation, student advisement and tutoring, he said there’s been growing interest at ASU in using AI to accelerate research efforts across departments.

“I think we already have cataloged over 50 research programs and labs using or interested in using generative AI,” he said.

The university is also looking to use AI tools for personalized academic support in order to boost student performance metrics like graduation rates.

“Hopefully, together with our great university systems that we have here in the United States, we can partner with AI companies to help create new pathways for student success, and I think that’s the mutual overall goal that we have with OpenAI,” he said.

According to a news release, ASU’s partnership with OpenAI follows on the heels of ASU’s AI Acceleration initiative, which assembled technologists and researchers to develop next-generation AI tools.

The partnership also comes as ASU makes use of $340 million in recent funding devoted largely to projects and labs researching new AI models. Gonick suggested that the partnership with OpenAI may open future doors to joint research and development efforts.

“We’re keen to learn from ASU and to work towards expanding ChatGPT’s impact in higher education,” OpenAI Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap said in a public statement about future collaborative efforts.

ASU President Michael Crow said in a public statement that the partnership and adoption of ChatGPT Enterprise will enable the university to participate in the “responsible evolution” of AI ed-tech tools.

“ASU recognizes that augmented and artificial intelligence systems are here to stay, and we are optimistic about their ability to become incredible tools that help students to learn, learn more quickly and understand subjects more thoroughly,” he said.

Good luck to ASU with this partnership!


Maureen Dowd compares Trump to Grendel in Beowulf as a “captain of evil”

Dear Commons Community,

Maureen Dowd reviewed Trump and his victory in New Hampshire as a scene out of Beowulf wherein Grendel terrorizes the countryside. Entitled, “The Ogre Gorging on America”, her column takes aim at Trump as “the ogre stomping around that lovely little snow-covered state, devouring his foes.”

Her most significant comments were reserved for his treatment of Nikki Haley.

“Unfortunately, Nikki Haley was no Beowulf. She was not mighty and canny enough to rescue us from the brute. Not a single mead bench was broken in the battle. Her blade made slight cuts, but she was tentative, hoping not to drive away Trump supporters. She was on defense, not offense. She needed more of that adamantine quality that Nancy Pelosi showed against Trump.

Haley did not say what needed to be said: Donald Trump should not be president because he tried to overthrow the government. We can’t have someone guiding our democracy who is undemocratic, claiming that every contest he loses is rigged. We can’t have a president who encourages violence, vomits misinformation, campaigns by humiliation and smears and, lately, portrays himself as divine.

Engorged by his victories over Haley … the Mar-a-Lago Monster grew stronger.

Haley was able to get under his skin by taking a page out of his book on election night. She took her second-place finish and boasted that it really counted as a win of sorts. And that sent Trump into a scary “Caine Mutiny” monologue.

All he had to do Tuesday night in Nashua was be gracious in victory and say he was going to focus on the general election.

But he is so frightened of being cast as a loser that he was totally thrown for a loop by Haley bragging about taking the silver medal. He thinks he’s the only one who’s allowed to spin election results.

“I said, ‘Wow, she’s doing, like, a speech, like she won,’” Trump said. “She didn’t win. She lost.” How removed is he from his own reality that he can say that with a straight face? That he doesn’t know he’s talking about himself?

He was befuddled by the effrontery of Haley continuing her challenge to him. He couldn’t stop his Captain Queeg rant.

Ah, but the strawberries.

“We’ve won almost every single poll in the last three months against Crooked Joe Biden, almost every poll. And she doesn’t win those polls. And she doesn’t win those. This is not your typical victory speech, but let’s not have somebody take a victory when she had a very bad night. She had a very bad night.” (Needless to say, Haley does win some polls.)

Ah, but the strawberries.

“I said I can go up and I can say to everybody, ‘Oh, thank you for the victory. It’s wonderful.’ Or I can go up and say, ‘Who the hell was the impostor that went up on the stage before and, like, claimed a victory?’ She did very poorly, actually.” He added: “I don’t get too angry. I get even.”

Ah, but the strawberries.

“But I felt I should do this because I find in life you can’t let people get away with bullshit. You can’t. You just can’t do that. And when I watched her in the fancy dress that probably wasn’t so fancy, come up, I said, ‘What’s she doing? We won.’”

What does that bitchy line about Haley’s pretty blue flowered dress even mean? It’s as if he can’t even summon a sexist insult that makes sense. No wonder Haley called him “totally unhinged” on Friday.

He kept going with his demented rant on Truth Social two days later: “I heard BIRDBRAIN totally ‘bombed’ last night in South Carolina. Why the surprise, she just bombed in Iowa and New Hampshire in a very big way, and lost both States.”

He has really lost the thread of how a democracy works. This was evident again in his outrageous endorsement of a plan to short-circuit the primaries and have himself crowned the presumptive nominee by the Republican National Committee. After a backlash, he backed off and disavowed his own desire.

Trump was still acting erratically in a federal courtroom in Manhattan on Friday, stalking in and out. After the jury returned a verdict ordering him to pay $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll for defaming her, he blasted out a screwy screed on Truth Social, ending with, “THIS IS NOT AMERICA!”

If you don’t recognize the “Ah, but the strawberries” line in The Caine Mutiny, check it out here.


American Museum of Natural History Closes Native American Displays Amid New Federal Regulations

The American Museum of Natural History has closed certain Native American exhibits such as the one above. Credit – New York Daily News.

Dear Commons Community

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is the latest institution across the country to close access to Native American exhibits as authorities return or seek permission from tribes to display artifacts in accordance with a new Biden Administration rule. As reported by Time and The New York Daily News.

The museum’s president Sean Decatur informed staff in a letter Friday of the closure of two of its halls filled with Native American objects, as well as the covering of cases in or just outside three other halls, starting Saturday. The museum will also suspend school field trips to one hall, but said it remains committed to supporting education about Indigenous peoples. Another exhibit developed with Indigenous communities remains open.

“While the actions we are taking this week may seem sudden, they reflect a growing urgency among all museums to change their relationships to, and representation of, Indigenous cultures,” Decatur wrote. “The Halls we are closing are vestiges of an era when museums such as ours did not respect the values, perspectives, and indeed shared humanity of Indigenous peoples. Actions that may feel sudden to some may seem long overdue to others.”

The Administration’s new rule, an update to the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act that regulates the return of Native American human remains and sacred, cultural or funeral objects to descendants of those communities, came into effect on Jan. 12. The Natural History Museum already pulled all human remains, many of Native American or Black enslaved people, from display in October.

Other museums across the country, including Chicago’s Field Museum, Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and the Cleveland Museum of Art have covered exhibits, or are working on the repatriation of remains, to comply with the updated law.

The changes follow a reckoning in recent years over the history of publicly displayed items, as Native Americans sought justice and respect for the remains of their ancestors and artifacts obtained without consent. Universities across the U.S. have also come under scrutiny. Last year, University of California, Berkeley disclosed that it possessed thousands of Native American remains, some dug up from local graves, and began the process of identifying and returning them to tribes.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to oversee the agency implementing the new rule, said in a statement in December that the updated law was “an essential tool for the safe return of sacred objects to the communities from which they were stolen.”

“Among the updates we are implementing are critical steps to strengthen the authority and role of Indigenous communities in the repatriation process,” she said. “Finalizing these changes is an important part of laying the groundwork for the healing of our people.”

The debate extends beyond the U.S., as museums in former colonial power Britain previously repatriated Native American remains to an Oregon tribe and this week agreed to return looted gold and silver items to Ghana on a long-term loan agreement, one among a number of contested items subject to requests for return from other governments.


Mitt Romney: ‘Appalling’ Trump wants to kill border bill so he can ‘blame Biden’

Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP/Shutterstock

Dear Commons Community,

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday took aim at former President Trump for pushing Republican lawmakers to oppose a border deal so that he could use the issue to campaign against President Biden in the 2024 presidential election.

Romney told CNN’s Manu Raju he thought it was “really appalling” that Trump would try to prevent progress on addressing the surge in migration at the southern border.  As reported by The Hill and CNN.

“I think the border is a very important issue for Donald Trump,” Romney said. “And the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and congresspeople that he doesn’t want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is really appalling.”

“But the reality is that we have a crisis at the border, the American people are suffering as a result of what’s happening at the border, and someone running for president ought to try to get the problem solved as opposed to saying, ‘Hey, save that problem. Don’t solve it. Let me take credit for solving it later,’” Romney continued.

Romney’s remarks come after weeks of negotiations on a potential legislative package that addresses border security and provides funding for Ukraine and other allies. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies have warned that Republicans are unlikely to get a similar deal at any other moment, even if Trump wins reelection.

But Trump’s influence looms large over the party, especially among House conservatives, and the prospects for getting the deal through Congress with sufficient GOP support looks increasingly unlikely.

Last week, Trump made his position clear on social media when he wrote, “I do not think we should do a Border Deal, at all, unless we get EVERYTHING needed to shut down the INVASION of Millions & Millions of people.”   

McConnell on Wednesday floated the possibility of splitting the national security package, noting border security reforms now increasingly look unlikely to pass.

A source told The Hill on Wednesday that Senate Republicans who support the bill think the concessions extracted from Democrats would be “huge wins,” but that it’s becoming clear Trump opposes the package, which could prevent its passage in the GOP-controlled House.

“The Trump people want to kill it and run on the issue,” the Senate source familiar with internal GOP talks told The Hill Wednesday.

Trump is for Trump and couldn’t care less about the country.  It’s a shame that more Senate Republicans do not have the guts to speak up against the selfishly absorbed Donald!


10 Places You’re Most Likely To Catch  COVID!

Dear Commons Community,

Having just recovered from a COVID scare, I thought this advice from Doctor Laura Purdy is timely and pertinent. Here are ten places where you are at greater risk to catch COVID compiled by Laura Purdy, MD, MBA, a board-certified family physician in Fort Benning, Georgia.

“The places you’re most likely to catch COVID are high-traffic areas with lots of people in an area daily. COVID is spread when someone carrying the virus breathes, sneezes, or coughs droplets and particles that contain the virus out of their nose and mouth. This can be spread from person to person or from landing on a surface that someone then touches. It’s important to ensure you wash your hands properly and practice good hygiene because you cannot count on these public surfaces being cleaned after every person.”

  1. Theme Parks

“Theme parks have high foot traffic and lots of visitors who have been traveling, making them breeding grounds for COVID,” explains Purdy.

Despite the joy they bring, theme parks can be potential hotspots for COVID-19 transmission. Large crowds, shared facilities, and close interactions increase your risk of contracting COVID.

  1. Zoos and Aquariums

“Zoos and aquariums often have lots of kids and people in tight viewing areas, increasing your risk of exposure to COVID,” Purdy tells us.

While enjoying the wonders of wildlife, be cautious at zoos and aquariums. Crowded areas and high-touch surfaces can pose risks, so be sure to practice good hygiene, wash your hands diligently, and maintain social distancing to minimize exposure.

  1. Movie Theaters

Movie theaters are enclosed spaces with limited ventilation, which can facilitate the spread of COVID. “Theaters have many people crowded together, touching many of the same surfaces,” Purdy adds.

If you choose to catch a flick, consider going during less busy times and choose theaters that use proper safety measures.

  1. Indoor Play Centers

Indoor play centers have shared toys and close interactions among children, which can significantly increase exposure risk. “Indoor play centers have lots of kids and people in the same enclosed spaces, which increases your risk of COVID,” Purdy explains.

When possible, opt for outdoor play areas and sanitize effectively before and after playing.

  1. Public Transportation

Whether train, bus, or taxi, it’s no secret that public transportation are hot spots for germs and viruses. “Public transportation has close passenger contact and you’re sitting in the same seats without being cleaned between passengers,” says Purdy.

To reduce your COVID risk, maintain good hygiene, wear masks, and consider off-peak hours to minimize your exposure.

  1. Airplanes and Airports

Air travel involves close proximity to others, and airports are filled to the brim with people carrying germs from all over the world. “High turnover of travelers over a given day increases the chances of COVID exposure since you’re seeing so many people from so many places,” says Purdy. “You’re also in confined places like on the plane, in boarding lines or security lines, which put you in close contact with those who may be sick.”

Exercise caution, follow airline guidelines, and be diligent about personal hygiene to mitigate the health risks of flying.

  1. Grocery Stores

Essential as they are, grocery stores can be crowded and high-touch environments. “Grocery stores see lots of people daily,” says Purdy. “Most people tend to shop even when sick because they need food and often run out to get meds and other relief items.”

Sanitize grocery carts before using them and consider shopping during less busy times for a safer, healthier shopping experience.

  1. Hospitals

While hospitals prioritize safety, they remain high-risk environments due to the potential concentration of infected individuals. “Because of the amount of sick people around you, you’re much more likely to be exposed to COVID at hospitals,” states Purdy.

To reduce your COVID risk, wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and practice social distancing when visiting hospitals.

  1. Schools and Daycares

Any place frequented by young children poses challenges for maintaining social distancing and proper hygiene practices. “Kids all have shared toys, lots of group activities, and naturally, many germs are going around in this age group,” says Purdy.

  1. Fitness Centers

Shared workout spaces can elevate your COVID risk as well. “In gyms and fitness centers, you often touch many shared surfaces in a crowded place,” says Purdy. “Also, you’re often inside and germs can spread with little airflow.”

Opt for less crowded times, maintain social distance, and practice excellent hygiene when attending fitness centers. Or, even better, work out outdoors whenever possible. You’ll get a vitamin D and immune system boost from the sunshine and reduce your risk of catching the virus.

Great advice! 

Thank you, Dr. Purdy!