Juan Martin Garcia is scheduled for execution today in Texas. He will be the 23rd person executed in the United States in 2015. You can view a list of upcoming executions at the Death Penalty Information Center. Pope Francis recently urged Congress to abolish the death penalty. Photo Credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Execution chamber (Florida Department of Corrections / Wikimedia), Juan Martin Garcia (Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

We’re pleased to introduce PICKS — stories selected by our editors because they are important, surprising, troubling, enlightening, inspiring, or amusing. They will appear on our site and in our daily newsletter. And we invite you to recommend articles, videos, podcasts, etc. Please send them to picks@whowhatwhy.org.

Trans-Pacific Partnership Benefits Corporate Elites, Not Public (Russ)

Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Adam Hersh say that despite claims this historic agreement is good for everyone, it really just is designed to help corporations and other elites in the signatory countries. Just another example, this time international, of us-vs.-them.

Did US Commit a War Crime in Bombing Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan? US Media Shrug (Gerry)

If a story lands in the corporate media with the facts skewed to protect the guilty, did it really happen?

Legendary NASA Scientist Ponders Climate Change and Public Ignorance (Russ)

William Borucki, who headed up a team that discovered more than 1,000 planets, says climate change is real and alarming, has donated a lot of money to climate cause, and says forget about our just moving to another planet.

Silicon Valley’s Newest App Is Likely To Aid Bigots, Destroy Privacy (Trevin)

It was only a matter of time before someone came up with an app to rate people. Appropriately-named, Peeple, which goes further than other people-rating sites like Lulu and Don’t Date Him Girl by integrating Facebook accounts, promises to prohibit “bullying, harassment, sexual references, profanity, medical or health information, and a slew of other private information.”

Elizabeth Warren Comments on Trump and Jeb Getting Tough on Hedge Funds (Russ)

When CNN host asks activist senator about the two Republicans supporting closing loopholes that hedge funds love, she replies, “It means that even when your ears are stuffed with money you get a little sound that comes through and that’s what’s happening here. It’s like hello?! Uh yeah! Billionaires should not be paying taxes at a lower rate than teachers and firefighters, and that has even seeped through to a few of the rich guys on the other side. Stunner.”

Price of Average Manhattan Apartment Hits $1 Million (Russ)

And that’s not for the penthouse. Far from it. Some cities are just forcing out the middle and working class.

More Evidence That Diet Soda Contributes To Weight Gain, Not Weight Loss (Russ)

“A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that people who drank diet soda gained almost triple the abdominal fat over nine years as those who didn’t drink diet soda. The study analyzed data from 749 people ages 65 and older who were asked, every couple of years, how many cans of soda they drank a day, and how many of those sodas were diet or regular.

“Those answers ended up being extremely predictive of abdominal-fat gain, even after the researchers adjusted for factors like diabetes, smoking and levels of physical activity. People who didn’t drink diet soda gained about 0.8 in. around their waists over the study period, but people who drank diet soda daily gained 3.2 in.”

Taco Bell Launches Certified Vegetarian Menu (Trevin)

 As of October 1, the “quasi-Mexican chain known for its addictive but sometimes outlandish creations” — offers a “certified vegetarian menu.”

“According to a press release, the chain’s menu now features items certified by the American Vegetarian Association (AVA), which is ‘the industry recognized standard in vegetarian labeling.’ Taco Bell says it is the first quick service restaurant to do this. “The release notes that customers can also ‘hack the menu’ and create vegetarian- and vegan-friendly dishes with any of its 35 AVA-certified ingredients, 26 of which are also vegan. The chain also allows customers to swap out meat in favor of beans to ‘create one of millions of different possible veggie-friendly dishes.’ ”

Musical Takeoff on “Mr Sandman” Celebrates Bernie Sanders (Russ)

Wonder if this ode to Bernie will go as viral as a certain video with Obama Girl?

1

Mysterious “Blurred Lines” between Fact and Fiction Online (Trevin)

Tears are flowing on social media over a Boston Craigslist Missed Connection that may or may not be fictional. As captivating as the post is, if it is a hoax it’s not a very original idea.

Two years, ago the creator of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, penned what the Village Voice then called “the most beautiful Missed Connection ever written.” It took two days to solve the mystery, and although he was the number one suspect, Waksberg has denied authorship of the Boston posting.

Another brilliant online hoax, from 2002, was the semi-fictional Mixerman Diaries phenomenon that captured the attention of thousands of music fans worldwide as they were treated with inside access to the recording of a major label album by the most sought-after “bidding war band” in the history of the music industry. The circus-like turmoil of the sessions was transported to readers in the form of daily online diaries — unbeknownst to the band, the producer, and the label. Readers were dying to know who the band was. To this day, some musicians wonder if the diaries were about them. When the label finally caught on to what was being posted each day, the resulting feedback loop became very interesting.

Mixerman’s identity has since been revealed as that of record producer and author Eric Sarafin. He’s back to his old tricks with a new online “semi-diary” called Mixerman and the Billionheir Apparent that is currently nine chapters in, and full of delightful social commentary ranging in subject matter from water shortages in India to the fact that Universal Music spent $7 million to promote the song “Blurred Lines.”

The story begins here, upon Mixerman’s “receipt of a rather strange and somewhat forward email.”