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.

Can Science Link Extreme Weather to Climate Change? (Maria)

The author writes, “To the casual observer, the flurry of extreme weather events over the past two months can feel like the obvious consequence of rising average temperatures — and something that many scientists have been warning about for years. Yet establishing a direct causal link between an individual case of flood, fire or storm and the broader climate is an evolving science — and something that is still desperately hard to do in practice.”

Biden Advisers Ride on Pegasus Spyware (Dan)

From The American Prospect: “[An] investigation by The Washington Post and a consortium of 16 international news outlets reveals that software from an Israeli company named NSO Group has spied on hundreds of journalists, activists, executives, and government officials. Its infamous product Pegasus can crack into encrypted phones without a trace and is used by autocrats. … But NSO Group has been deflecting from its relationship with authoritarian governments for years. After its surveillance tech was caught being used to target dissidents, the notorious Israeli company sought the assistance of WestExec Advisors, the consultancy founded by now–Secretary of State Tony Blinken and staffed by prominent national-security experts from the Obama administration.”

Fraud on the Farm: How a Baby-faced CEO Turned a Farmville Clone Into a Massive Ponzi Scheme (Sean)

From Rest of World: “On November 21, 2019, 25-year-old Recep Ataş stepped onto a shooting range in the Istanbul suburb of Başakşehir. He fired several rounds at the target, before suddenly aiming the weapon directly against his heart and pulling the trigger. The single shot killed him. The next day, Ataş’ father told local media that his son was depressed — a large bank loan loomed over him. The money Ataş had borrowed evaporated after he’d invested it in Farm Bank, a smartphone app similar to the once-popular Facebook game Farmville. But unlike Farmville, Farm Bank had a real-world twist.”

Princeton Researchers: Human Activity Responsible for Climate Change (Mili)

The author writes, “Sunlight in, reflected and emitted energy out. That’s the fundamental energy balance sheet for our planet — and for decades, it has been out of balance. The extra energy manifests as higher temperatures, rising sea levels, floods, droughts, more powerful blizzards and hurricanes, and deadlier extreme events. Not only is the imbalance growing, but there’s a 99% chance that the growth is due to human activity, calculated a team of researchers.”

After Her Botched Surgery, She Pitched a Medical Disclosure Bill. Doctors Are Fighting It (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “Wendy Knecht figures she’s been failed twice by doctors — once by the plastic surgeon she accused of botching her breast reconstruction, and again by the California physicians lobby fighting a proposed law that would force doctors to alert patients to potential conflicts of interests. Knecht, a Studio City writer and healthcare advocate, was diagnosed in December 2014 with the BRCA2 gene mutation, which has been linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers. The former Pan Am flight attendant, whose mother died of breast cancer, decided to reduce her risk by having a preventive double mastectomy. The surgery left Knecht, now 65, with nerve damage and in chronic pain. It also led to a malpractice lawsuit, two complaints to the Medical Board of California and a push for legislation requiring doctors to tell patients if they have accepted payments from the makers of drugs and medical devices.”

Diagnosis as Detective Work: Lisa Sanders and the Art of Not Knowing (Doug)

From Portside: “‘Do you have any idea what this is?’ That’s a question Lisa Sanders thinks doctors should be asking their patients more often. Patients usually have a sense of what’s ailing them; they may have an idea of what their illness is or have some insight into its cause. Diagnosis is a process, one that Sanders advocates should include the patient.” 

‘Everyone Is Crazy for the Ball’: How an Oversized Inflatable Beach Ball Captured the Attention and Affection of Stoughton (Dana)

From WISC-TV: “A misplaced inflatable beach ball has taken Stoughton by storm since blowing loose from a neighbor’s yard. On July 23, a post in the Stoughton, WI Neighborhood group first caught the community’s attention. ‘Hey! Is this huge ball yours? It’s at the end of Hyland now’ the post read, attached with a photo of the 4-foot tall, multi-color inflatable beach ball. ‘From there, people started signing it, sending it around, sending it to different streets,’ said Stoughton resident John Thompson. ‘It’s just spontaneous, people just love it.’”

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