Grieving Texas Families Ask Why Virus Rules Aren’t Enforced (Reader Steve)
The author writes, “As virus cases and deaths have soared across the nation this fall, pressure has intensified on governors who haven’t issued mandates that require people to wear masks indoors and in public places. Health experts consider masks the most effective way of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Most states have statewide orders, and of the roughly dozen that don’t, the majority are in the South. But the debate over mandates and lockdowns — usually fueled by howls of violating individual freedoms — often drowns out the reality of whether the restrictions that are enacted are actually enforced to make them effective.”
Facial Recognition’s Fate Could Be Decided in 2021 (Dana)
The author writes, “The dumpster fire that was 2020 has also set the stage for what could be the biggest development in facial recognition and how it gets regulated. In the past year, lawmakers, privacy advocates, lawsuits and local legislative measures have all rallied against the technology as a tool for surveillance and law enforcement. Several crucial decisions in the next year will steer its future. At stake is the role facial recognition will play as society weighs the importance of security over civil liberties. Though millions of consumers use the technology every day through the Face ID feature on their iPhones, opponents worry that the public use of facial recognition is an invasion of your personal privacy. Others warn that the algorithms are flawed, often showing bias against women and minorities.”
North Korea Is Emphasizing Potato Production. That Might Be a Bad Sign (Sue)
From the National Interest: “The North Korean economy’s primary food product is rice. However, the country’s state media of late has been featuring less rice, and more potatoes. According to a new report by NK News, that’s not a very positive sign for how things are going in that country. ‘Food has always carried a political meaning in the DPRK, and images of North Koreans happily munching away on white rice — a traditional symbol of prosperity — are now being replaced with the more humble spud,’ the report by NK News said.
Why Trump’s ‘Beautiful’ Federal Building Order May Be Here to Stay (Dan)
The author writes, “President Donald Trump took some time out before the holidays for aesthetic policy-making. On Dec. 21, the president signed an executive order setting a new standard for federal architecture. Civic buildings, the order reads, should be ‘beautiful.’ The order itself doesn’t define this term in any concrete way, but it does provide several examples of buildings — all modernist — that missed the mark. Specially gift-wrapped for fans of neoclassical buildings, who have hoped for executive action since details of the order first bubbled up in February, the directive promotes traditional design as the gold standard for U.S. architecture.”
Huge Underground Reservoir of Freshwater Discovered off the Coast of Hawai’i (Dana)
From ScienceAlert: “For a long time, Hawai’i Island has been home to a mystery. Somehow, the amount of freshwater in underground aquifers has seemed much smaller than it should be, given the amount of rainfall. Scientists have just found out why. Deep underground, running below the island’s coast, vast quantities of freshwater are transported from the flanks of the volcano Hualālai down into newly discovered reservoirs that run deep below the ocean floor.”
How Giant Spider Venom Might Help Sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Mili)
From Technology Networks: “Molecules from the venom of one of the world’s largest spiders could help a team of Institute for Molecular Bioscience-led researchers tailor pain blockers for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Researchers screened 28 spiders, with the venom of the Venezuelan Pinkfoot Goliath tarantula — which has a leg-span of up to 30 centimetres — showing the most promise.”
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