PICKS are stories from many sources, selected by our editors or recommended by our readers because they are important, surprising, troubling, enlightening, inspiring, or amusing. They appear on our site and in our daily newsletter. Please send suggested articles, videos, podcasts, etc. to picks@whowhatwhy.org.

As Flood Alerts Lit Up Phones, Did Warning Fatigue Set In? (Maria)

The author writes, “Cellphones across New York and New Jersey pulsed with urgent warnings of catastrophic flooding as the fury of Hurricane Ida’s remnants, carrying torrential rains, approached New York City last week. A barrage of other alerts from a litany of apps lit up phone screens throughout the night — prompting some to wonder if people were just too inundated with information to take the threat seriously. Experts call it warning fatigue, and it is not known what role it may have played in the tragedy that killed scores of people.”

Conservatives Used to Hate Frivolous Lawsuits. Now, Texas Abortion Law Invites Them (Russ)

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Conservatives are generally wary of novelty, understanding humanity’s demonstrated inability to anticipate unintended consequences. As the name implies, the idea is to ‘conserve’ the tested ways that work and the standards we’ve developed. Drill down to the specifics of governing, and one of the essential building blocks has been that the judiciary should not do what the legislature, the direct representative of the people, is meant to do. That’s one reason Texas’ new abortion law became the subject of much national angst when it took effect Wednesday and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block it. Its enforcement mechanism — civil suits against abortion doctors, clinics or anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — is explicitly designed as an end-run around Roe vs. Wade. State officials such as the governor and attorney general are not involved in enforcing the ban. Individuals (or, more likely, organized anti-abortion groups) are empowered.”

The Legal Minds Who Tried to Overturn the Election for Trump Are Being Welcomed Back Into Polite Society (Reader Steve)

From Slate: “Though it hasn’t received the attention it deserves, courage from Republican election officials and leaders helped save this country from a total election meltdown in 2020 based on lies about voter fraud from the incumbent president, Donald Trump. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger refused to ‘find’ more than 11,000 presidential votes in Georgia, as Trump personally requested, declining to give Georgia’s legislature an excuse to falsely declare Trump won the state. Former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen rejected entreaties to have the Department of Justice claim fraud in states Biden won. He did so despite pressure from Trump and Jeffrey Clark, a DOJ official who vied for Rosen’s job and was ready to do Trump’s bidding, potentially in violation of federal law. And Federalist Society judges such as Stephanos Bibas excoriated bogus Trump attempts to overturn the election in court without evidence or solid legal theories. But memories fade fast. On the right, within the Federalist Society, and even among others who apparently value civility over preserving democracy, some are quietly welcoming back into the fold those who would have stolen the election for Trump or who fomented the violent Jan. 6 insurrection.” 

Scientists Discovered a New Arctic Warning Signal for Catastrophic Winter Weather (Mili)

The author writes, “Over the past several decades, scientists have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that global temperatures are rising due to human consumption of fossil fuels, a trend that is intensifying disasters associated with hot weather, such as heatwaves, hurricanes, and wildfires. Now, a team has provided some of the most comprehensive and unusual evidence to date that climate change is also amplifying winter weather disasters, including the cold wave that devastated Texas and other southern states in February, killing hundreds and costing as much as $200 billion in damages.” 

The Brain Doesn’t Think the Way You Think It Does (Sean)

From Quanta Magazine: “Neuroscientists are the cartographers of the brain’s diverse domains and territories — the features and activities that define them, the roads and highways that connect them, and the boundaries that delineate them. Toward the front of the brain, just behind the forehead, is the prefrontal cortex, celebrated as the seat of judgment. Behind it lies the motor cortex, responsible for planning and coordinating movement. To the sides: the temporal lobes, crucial for memory and the processing of emotion. Above them, the somatosensory cortex; behind them, the visual cortex. Not only do researchers often depict the brain and its functions much as mapmakers might draw nations on continents, but they do so ‘the way old-fashioned mapmakers’ did, according to Lisa Feldman Barrett, a psychologist at Northeastern University. ‘They parse the brain in terms of what they’re interested in psychologically or mentally or behaviorally,’ and then they assign the functions to different networks of neurons ‘as if they’re Lego blocks, as if there are firm boundaries there.’”

Fruit Baskets From Fourth Century BC Found in Ruins of Thonis-Heracleion (Dan)

The author writes, “Wicker baskets filled with fruit that have survived from the 4th century BC and hundreds of ancient ceramic artefacts and bronze treasures have been discovered in the submerged ruins of the near-legendary city of Thonis-Heracleion off the coast of Egypt. They have lain untouched since the city disappeared beneath the waves in the second century BC, then sank further in the eight century AD, following cataclysmic natural disasters, including an earthquake and tidal waves. Thonis-Heracleion — the city’s Egyptian and Greek names — was for centuries Egypt’s largest port on the Mediterranean before Alexander the Great founded Alexandria in 331BC.”

30 Headless, Sacrificed Goats Found Floating in Georgia River (Dana)

The author writes, “Locals living by the Chattahoochee River, which runs through Georgia, made a gruesome discovery on August 27. On top of the usual varieties of aquatic life, a new kind of animal appeared in the river — headless goats. And we’re not talking about just one or two goats. People noticed a herd of around 30 decapitated goat corpses floating down the stream. … Although there are no official police investigations ongoing (at least yet), most people are pointing their fingers at a local community practicing Santeria. It’s a syncretic religion that arose in Cuba in the late 19th century, mixing elements from Roman Catholicism, spiritism, and the West African Yoruba religion.”

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