Is Big Tech merging with Big Brother? Evidence is emerging that social media, in cooperation with Big Tech corporations, is censoring free speech. Expect political fireworks if more evidence is exposed. Such censorship is a very bad thing, regardless of your political persuasion, since free speech is one of our foundational elements and guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

At the same time, bias in reporting (in both directions) is not likely to go away anytime soon. Americans are increasingly polarized, in part by the effect of biased commentary, and corporations are advised to stay out of the fray. They are also advised to “cut the cable,” eliminating employee access to social media (or the media in general) during working hours.

How bad could oversight by social media possibly get? Wired describes a Chinese intern in LA who declined a ride to work because she “needed the steps” on her Fitbit to sign in to her social media accounts. Falling short would affect her health and fitness rating, which is part of her social rating. Her social rating is monitored by the Chinese government, and a low rating could prevent her from working or traveling abroad. Read more HEREHERE and HERE.

FOOD SAFETY

The dark side of the herb and spice world: Herbs and spices are things to be enjoyed. They add color, flavor and aroma to so many of the dishes we like to eat. But there is a dark, murky side to the world of herbs and spices. This is the world of cheats and criminals who set out to deceive us into thinking what we are buying is authentic and safe. READ MORE

Whole Foods recall: Whole Foods Market announced an eight-state recall of various prepared foods that contain baby spinach because of potential contamination with Salmonella. Whole Foods acted in response to an earlier recall of baby spinach and mesclun by Satur Farms of Cutchogue, NY. READ MORE

And another infant formula recall: Lactalis has recalled a brand of infant formula made at the same Spanish factory linked to a Salmonella outbreak in France. The withdrawal and recall measure concerns 16,300 boxes of Picot AR milk sold exclusively in pharmacies since Nov. 29, 2018. READ MORE

FOOD SECURITY

GAO outlines plight of food-insecure college students: As the costs of college have climbed, some students have gone hungry. When they’ve voiced frustration, they’ve often been ridiculed: “Ramen is cheap,” or Just eat cereal.” But the blight of food insecurity among college students is real, and a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan congressional watchdog, highlights the breadth of those affected. READ MORE 

WATER

Groundwater systems threatened: The world’s groundwater systems take decades to respond to climate change, and groundwater supplies are already under pressure because of global population increases and irrigation. Extreme weather events such as drought and record rainfall could have another long-lasting impact on how quickly reserves replenish, says a study published in Nature Climate Change. READ MORE

CYBER SECURITY

Hackers target Cisco routers: Hackers have been scanning the Internet for Cisco Small Business routers affected by information disclosure and command injection vulnerabilities that were patched only days ago by the networking giant. READ MORE

THE FUTURE

They fear lost jobs: Members of the longshoremen and warehouse workers union are protesting the approval of a permit that will allow a major terminal operator, APM Terminal, to increase automation at the Port of Los Angeles, the Daily Breeze reports. READ MORE