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.

Beach Towns Without Beaches: Colombia Previews Our Future (Maria)

The author writes, “A brief hike east or west from this Caribbean coastal town reveals long expanses of light gray sand, pounded by waves, backed by lofty coconut palms, hoary mangroves and wild forests that stretch into the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. But in the town itself, once the site of beach volleyball tournaments, little sand remains.”

How Western Sanctions May Demolish Putin’s ‘Fortress Russia’ (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “For years, Vladimir Putin worked assiduously to strengthen what was known as ‘Fortress Russia,’ reducing its government debt and building up its reserves of gold and foreign currency as a bulwark against political and economic challenges. Over the last few days, Fortress Russia has begun to crumble. What looked impregnable up to the moment that Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 now appears to resemble a Potemkin Village, a reference to the fake settlements purportedly erected to deceive Catherine the Great about the vibrancy of her domain in the 1780s.”

An Afghan in Ukraine (Sean)

From Foreign Policy: “On the evening of Aug. 14, 2021, the day before the Afghan government fell to the Taliban, Masouma Tajik stepped out onto the cool white tiles of the balcony of her friend’s three-story house and looked out over Kabul. A heavy silence had settled over the Afghan capital, usually so brimming with life and noise. Her phone was pinging with messages from friends urging her to leave the country. Tajik was just 2 years old when the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan ousted the Taliban from power, bringing an end to five years of barbaric, theocratic rule and ushering in a complicated new era of conflict, insurgency, and state-building. After 20 years of war and billions of dollars of investment, it took just a few summer weeks for the militant group to cut a swath through Afghanistan as U.S. forces packed their bags and the Afghan army evaporated. The speed of the Taliban advance caught nearly everyone off guard.” 

Judge Orders New Trial for US Woman Sentenced to Six Years for Trying to Register to Vote (DonkeyHotey)

From The Guardian: “A Memphis judge has ordered a new trial for Pamela Moses, a woman who was sentenced to six years in prison for trying to register to vote. The case attracted national attention following a Guardian report, because of the severity of the sentence. Moses said she had no idea she was ineligible. Moses has been in prison since December, when her bond was revoked. On Thursday, The Guardian revealed new evidence in the case that was not produced at trial. Moses was released from custody on Friday, according to Claiborne Ferguson, her attorney.”

75% of People Want Single-Use Plastics Banned, Global Survey Finds (Laura)

The author writes, “Three in four people worldwide want single-use plastics to be banned as soon as possible, according to a poll released on Tuesday, as United Nations members prepare to begin talks on a global treaty to rein in soaring plastic pollution. The percentage of people calling for bans is up from 71% since 2019, while those who said they favored products with less plastic packaging rose to 82% from 75%, according to the IPSOS poll of more than 20,000 people across 28 countries.”

Can Art Make Us Better Problem Solvers? (Mili)

From Quartz: “In the search for novel ways to hone our problem-solving skills, spending time with a work of art may be the simplest and most effective training, according to the art historian Amy Herman. Herman has been teaching professionals — homicide detectives, medical students, lawyers, and engineers — to read paintings as a way to improve their analytical faculties. ‘Art provides a safe space outside of ourselves to analyze our observations and convert those observable details into actionable knowledge,’ Herman writes in the introduction to her new book, Fixed. How to Perfect the Fine Art of Problem-Solving.”

Dogs Can Recognize Their Owner by Voice Alone (Dana)

The author writes, “A new study from the researchers of the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Hungary reveals that dogs can recognize their owner by voice alone, and they make use of some of the same voice properties as humans do. The study is published in Animal Cognition. Sure, our dogs recognize us. But are they also capable of it, when neither vision nor smell is there to guide them, so by using voice alone? If so, what is it about voice that helps them?”