US food banks, high demand, COVID, joblessness
The author writes, “Hunger is a harsh reality in the richest country in the world. Even during times of prosperity, schools hand out millions of hot meals a day to children, and desperate elderly Americans are sometimes forced to choose between medicine and food. Now, in the pandemic of 2020, with illness, job loss and business closures, millions more Americans are worried about empty refrigerators and barren cupboards. ... Those fighting hunger say they've never seen anything like this in America.” Photo credit: The National Guard / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

How to Save Democracy From Technology ; CA Bets Civilian Oversight Can Help Reform the Police ; and More Picks 12/8

How to Save Democracy From Technology (Dana)

From Foreign Affairs: “Among the many transformations taking place in the U.S. economy, none is more salient than the growth of gigantic Internet platforms. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter, already powerful before the COVID-19 pandemic, have become even more so during it, as so much of everyday life moves online. As convenient as their technology is, the emergence of such dominant corporations should ring alarm bells — not just because they hold so much economic power but also because they wield so much control over political communication. These behemoths now dominate the dissemination of information and the coordination of political mobilization. That poses unique threats to a well-functioning democracy.”

California Bets That Civilian Oversight Can Help Reform the Police. But Will Watchdogs Have the Power They Need? (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “Civilian watchdog agencies marked an early effort at police reform, with decidedly mixed results. While such oversight efforts have provided an outside check on policing, they have faced criticism for not having enough power to force real changes in a state where the laws offer an array of protections for officers. … This fall voters across the state, from Sonoma County to San Diego, overwhelmingly granted more authority to these overseers, often called civilian oversight commissions, giving some the power to investigate police shootings or to subpoena key documents and testimony.”

Microbiome Study Could Change the Way Doctors Diagnose Depression (Dan)

From Inverse: “In our body, deep within the gut, live trillions of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses. Collectively, this diverse community is known as microbiota. The human microbiome is the aggregate of this internal ecosystem. The microbiome influences everything from immune function to the digestive system. New research adds further proof that it may also profoundly affect the brain. … Scientists discovered evidence linking gut microbiome disturbances to major depressive disorder. The findings highlight fascinating links between gut health and mental health — and charts a path toward a potential tool capable of diagnosing and treating depression.”

Jupiter and Saturn Will Come Close Enough to Form First ‘Double Planet’ in Nearly 800 Years (Peg)

The author writes, “In the complex dance of the cosmos, two celestial bodies are about to partner up. Jupiter and Saturn often look far apart — two separate specks puncturing different parts of the night sky. But later this month, the two largest planets in the solar system will come so close to each other that they may appear to be overlapping, according to NASA, creating a kind of ‘double planet’ that has not been visible since the Middle Ages.”

Shoppers at Dublin Grocery Store Glimpse Viking History Beneath Their Feet (Dana)

The author writes, “A newly opened grocery store in Dublin, Ireland, is stocked with all the essentials, from milk and eggs to butter and bread. But shoppers who round the corner of certain aisles will find an additional offering beneath their feet: clear panes of plexiglass that reveal an active archaeological site, complete with the sunken remains of an 11th-century home.”

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