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Inslee signs facial recognition curbs into law; critics want ban

SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed the first U.S. state law that sharply curbs law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology, while civil rights activists said the measure did not go far enough to protect marginalized groups.

Facial recognition software can identify individuals in photos and videos based on a database of known subjects. The technology has won over businesses and police in the last few years despite objections that it invades people’s privacy and exacerbates racial and gender biases.

Washington’s law requires government agencies to obtain a warrant to run facial recognition scans, except in case of emergency. The software used must have a way to be independently tested for “accuracy and unfair performance differences” across skin tone, gender, age and other characteristics, according to the legislation, which applies to all public agencies in the state.

The law also requires training and public reporting around usage of facial recognition.

Previously, several cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, have banned government use of facial recognition, and California is among states that have barred facial recognition from being used in tandem with police body cameras.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington said it was disappointed and called for more discussion on whether facial recognition “should be used at all.” It has called for a temporary moratorium on facial recognition usage.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, sells facial recognition software and backed the new law. State Senator Joe Nguyen, who is a senior program manager at Microsoft, had sponsored the legislation.

Microsoft has said bans go too far and that real-world usage is needed to determine how best to regulate facial recognition. Brad Smith, the company’s president, said the new law established civil liberty safeguards while preserving the public safety benefits, as when governments use the technology to find missing people.

“This balanced approach ensures that facial recognition can be used as a tool to protect the public, but only in ways that respect fundamental rights and serve the public interest,” Smith said in a draft blog post shared with Reuters.

Other tech companies have taken a different stance. Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google parent Alphabet Inc, said he was open to a “waiting period” before facial recognition is deployed.

Inslee vetoed part of the legislation that called for a task force to study the technology further and provide additional recommendations. He said there was no funding for the task force and suggested lawmakers instead solicit advice from local universities.


Dr. Fauci says 'we'll get through this' in uplifting coronavirus bedside message

NEW YORK CITY — America’s doctor offered an inspiring bedside message of hope as the nation faces the deadliest days and weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci calmly told Americans on Tuesday that we can “get over this” if we continue to observe strict shutdowns and social distancing.

“We really have to hang in there,” Fauci told CNN. “So let’s all hang in there together. We will get over this and this will end.”

Even as he suggested that the Centers for Disease Control may order all Americans to wear masks outside, Fauci said the strategy so far is working as well as could be expected.

“We do believe it’s working. It’s hard. It’s not an easy thing to do,” he said. “There’s suffering and there’s death and there’s massive inconvenience economically and otherwise. But we’re really a strong nation. We’ve been through some amazing things in our history.”

Fauci made news by saying that the national coronavirus task force will discuss a possible recommendation about requiring face covering. He said such an edict would only be made if and when medical personnel have enough protective masks, since they are at highest risk.

He also reiterated his pushback against promoting possible treatments for the pandemic, including the anti-malarial drug that President Donald Trump and his supporters are promoting.

The doctor said firmly that there is still no evidence that chloroquine actually works to battle the deadly virus.

“There’s no definitive evidence that this works,” Fauci said pointedly.


Coronavirus
U.S. records 700 coronavirus deaths in a single day for first time

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. government raced to build hundreds of makeshift hospitals to ease the strain on overwhelmed healthcare systems as the United States marked 700 deaths in a single day from COVID-19 for the first time on Tuesday.

That is the equivalent of a person dying every two minutes.

Nearly half those deaths were in New York state, still the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded for reinforcements from the Trump administration, saying the worst may still be weeks away.

“This is the point at which we must be prepared for next week when we expect a huge increase in the number of cases. What I asked very clearly, last week, was for military medical personnel to be deployed here,” de Blasio said at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, where a field hospital was being built.

De Blasio, a Democrat, said he had asked the White House for an additional 1,000 nurses, 300 respiratory therapists and 150 doctors by April 5 but had yet to receive an answer from the Trump administration.

All told, more than 3,700 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States during the outbreak, more than the number who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The total confirmed U.S. cases rose to 184,000, up 21,000 from the day before.

White House medical experts have said between 100,000 to 200,000 people could ultimately die from the respiratory disease in the United States this year, despite orders in most major cities confining Americans to their homes except for the most necessary outings.

More than 30 states have ordered people to stay at home to contain the virus, a move that has strangled the economy and left millions without a paycheck, at least temporarily.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was searching for hotels, dormitories, convention centers and large open spaces to build as many as 341 temporary hospitals, Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, the head of the corps, told the ABC News “Good Morning America” program.

The corps, the engineering arm of the U.S. Army, has already joined with New York state officials to convert New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center into a 1,000-bed hospital in the space of a week.

Doctors exhausted

In Los Angeles, the city’s massive convention center was being converted to a federal medical station by the National Guard, Mayor Gil Garcetti said on Twitter.

In California, the most populous U.S. state, the number of patients with the illness has surged over the past few days, with more than 7,400 cases confirmed as of Tuesday and more than 150 deaths.

The pandemic has taken a toll on doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, who are overworked and lack the medical devices and protective gear needed.

“The duration itself is debilitating and exhausting and depressing,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told a news conference where he revealed that his brother, CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo, had tested positive for the virus.

“I’m speaking to healthcare professionals who say, ‘Look, more than physically tired, I’m just emotionally tired.’”

U.S. coronavirus-related deaths still trail those of Italy and Spain with more than 11,000 and 8,000 reported fatalities, respectively. China has reported 3,305. Worldwide, there are now more than 800,000 cases of the highly contagious illness caused by the virus and more than 40,000 deaths reported.

Congress debated whether to consider another economic relief bill after passing a landmark $2.2 trillion package last week that will send checks to taxpayers, inject cash into businesses and fund hospitals.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress should focus next on state and local recovery efforts, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged a “wait-and-see” approach.

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday revised down its already pessimistic outlook for the U.S. economy, forecasting it would shrink 34% in the second quarter and projecting unemployment would rise to 15%.