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.

‘Big Step Forward:’ Energy Expert Analyzes the US Infrastructure Bill (Maria)

The author writes, “The US Senate … passed legislation that calls for spending $1 trillion — including $550 billion in new funds — on improving the nation’s infrastructure. Most of the funding will go to upgrading transportation, water, and power infrastructure, as well as expanding broadband internet access. But the bill also includes funds for research and development — primarily for advancing clean energy technologies, including electric vehicles and efforts to trap carbon dioxide produced by power plants before it enters the atmosphere.”

Dominion Says OAN’s ‘Expert Mathematician’ Who Claimed to Prove Election Fraud Had a Job ‘Setting Up Swing Sets’ (Russ)

The author writes, “The right-wing media organization One America News Network presented a Long Island swing-set installer as an ‘expert mathematician’ who claimed to uncover evidence that the 2020 election was rigged, a new lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems says. OAN’s Christina Bobb interviewed the man, Ed Solomon, on January 27 in a segment about the 2020 election, which President Joe Biden had won nearly three months earlier. In the interview, Solomon said he conducted a mathematical analysis showing that the results in Fulton County, Georgia, ‘can only have been done by an algorithm.’ He added that the probability of Biden’s victory in the county was ‘1 over 10 to an exponent so large there’s not enough stars in the universe, there aren’t enough atoms in the universe, to explain the number.’”

Walker’s Wife Voted in Georgia as Couple Lives in Texas, Records Show (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “Potential U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker and his wife live in Texas, but she voted in Georgia’s election for president last fall. The absentee ballot cast by Julie Blanchard raises questions about whether she was allowed to vote in Georgia while living in Texas. It’s illegal for nonresidents to vote in Georgia in most circumstances. Meanwhile, her husband was calling for prosecutions of voter fraud. Walker, a football legend backed by Republican Donald Trump, is considering a run for U.S. Senate next year against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.”

US ‘Archbishop’ Touts Bleach as COVID ‘Miracle Cure’ From Colombia Jail Cell (Dan)

From The Guardian: “The head of a phoney church who is in jail in Colombia awaiting extradition to the US to face trial for selling bleach fluids as a ‘miracle cure’ for Covid-19 is continuing to tout the potentially fatal products from his prison cell through social media and text messages. The Guardian has learned that Mark Grenon, who calls himself the ‘archbishop’ of the Genesis II ‘church,’ is distributing bleach to at least 75 other prisoners in La Picota penitentiary in Bogotá, where he is being held captive. He has revealed that he is obtaining the product through secret channels and that the chemicals are in plentiful supply in the jail.”

The Lost Tablet and the Secret Documents (Doug)

From the BBC: “Wagner is a Russian mercenary group whose operations have spanned the globe, from front-line fighting in Syria to guarding diamond mines in the Central African Republic. But it is notoriously secretive and, as such, difficult to scrutinise. Now, the BBC has gained exclusive access to an electronic tablet left behind on a battlefield in Libya by a Wagner fighter, giving an unprecedented insight into how these operatives work. And another clue given to us in Tripoli — a ‘shopping list’ for state-of-the-art military equipment — suggests Wagner has probably been supported at the highest level despite the Russian government’s consistent denials that the organisation has any links to the state.”

AI Wrote Better Phishing Emails Than Humans in a Recent Test (Sean)

From Wired: “Natural language processing continues to find its way into unexpected corners. This time, it’s phishing emails. In a small study, researchers found that they could use the deep learning language model GPT-3, along with other AI-as-a-service platforms, to significantly lower the barrier to entry for crafting spearphishing campaigns at a massive scale. Researchers have long debated whether it would be worth the effort for scammers to train machine learning algorithms that could then generate compelling phishing messages. Mass phishing messages are simple and formulaic, after all, and are already highly effective. Highly targeted and tailored ‘spearphishing’ messages are more labor intensive to compose, though. That’s where NLP may come in surprisingly handy.”

The Lawyer Who Beat Chevron Has Been Found Guilty of Criminal Contempt (DonkeyHotey)

The author writes, “Steven Donziger, the lawyer who won a multibillion-dollar case against Chevron over pollution in the Ecuadorian Amazon and then faced unrelenting legal attacks from the oil company, has been found guilty of criminal contempt. The attorney, who has been on house arrest for two years, now faces up to six months in jail. It’s the latest in a long David-and-Goliath-style saga that has included some of the grossest conflicts of interest ever seen in U.S. courtrooms. Donziger led a case against the energy giant Chevron on behalf of 30,000 Indigenous residents and peasant farmers in the Amazon.”

Excess Coffee: A Bitter Brew for Brain Health (Mili)

The author writes, “It’s a favourite first-order for the day, but while a quick coffee may perk us up, new research from the University of South Australia shows that too much could be dragging us down, especially when it comes to brain health. In the largest study of its kind, researchers have found that high coffee consumption is associated with smaller total brain volumes and an increased risk of dementia.”

Typhoon Sweeps Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin Sculpture Into the Sea (Dana)

The author writes, “Last Sunday, Typhoon Lupit made landfall on Naoshima, a Japanese island known for its rich array of art, bringing heavy rain and winds of up to 78 miles per hour. Most of the island’s famed artworks escaped the storm unscathed. But Pumpkin, a large, black-and-yellow sculpture by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, was swept from its perch at the edge of a pier and sent tumbling into the Seto Inland Sea.”

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