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.

FTC’s Renewed Antitrust Fight: Facebook ‘Bought and Buried’ Rivals (Maria)

The authors write, “The US Federal Trade Commission refreshed its antitrust case against Facebook on Thursday, adding more detail to the accusation the social media company crushed or bought rivals, and once again asking a judge to force the social media giant to sell Instagram and WhatsApp. The new complaint is significantly longer than the original and includes additional data intended to support the FTC’s contention that Facebook is a monopolist. The complaint argues that Facebook dominates the US personal social networking market, with more than 65% of monthly active users since 2012.”

The Taliban Spin Machine (Russ)

The author writes, “[Tuesday], the Taliban held a press conference in Kabul. While many of the journalists who cover Afghanistan were familiar with the official who led the briefing — Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s top spokesperson — they had never before seen him in the flesh. Sharif Hassan, a New York Times reporter in Kabul, noted that, for over a decade, Mujahid has been ‘more responsive and active’ than the entire press team of Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president, who just fled the country. ‘I have spoken with him and texted him a lot,’ Hassan said, of Mujahid. ‘But this is the first time I am seeing his face.’ Not that we should necessarily talk in the singular here. Reporters have long speculated that ‘Zabihullah Mujahid’ is a pseudonym used by a group of Taliban representatives; some felt that the man on stage in Kabul looked suspiciously young for a longstanding fixture of the Taliban leadership. ‘We are all accepting this is THE Zabihullah Mujahid,’ Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, said. ‘Maybe he isn’t?’”

Assassination, Earthquake, and Storms: Haiti’s Plague Season (Dan)

From The Nation: “Oh, mesi, Bon Dye, one can imagine Ariel Henry, the interim prime minister of Haiti, saying on Saturday morning. Thank you, Lord… not because Henry likes earthquakes or doesn’t care about the people of his country but because a 7.2 earthquake just off shore — with hundreds of buildings down, and more than 1,300 counted dead so far and doubtless several thousand more to come, and roads impassable, and a possible tsunami rising, and a tropical storm on the way to create mudslides and more destruction and death — is still easier to deal with than the investigation of the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.”

On Voting Rights, Chief Justice Roberts Is Far From a Moderating Voice (Reader Steve)

From The Boston Globe: “Rare among the nation’s chief justices, John Roberts has found himself operating often as a swing vote in the middle, turning apparent conservative majorities into gossamer liberal victories on major issues like Obamacare and access to abortion. To the consternation of the right, the chief justice appointed by President George W. Bush in 2005, a judge with an unblemished conservative resume, has gained an unlikely reputation as a moderating force on a court with a firmly conservative identity, steering it away from decisions with a party-line flavor that would overturn longstanding precedent.”

They Fought for Clean Air. They Didn’t Know They Were Part of a Gas Industry Campaign (Inez)

The author writes, “Diesel truck pollution from the busiest port complex in the United States has fouled the air in nearby neighborhoods in Southern California for decades. So when port officials asked for feedback on cleaning up that pollution, hundreds of people weighed in. Los Angeles and Long Beach officials hoped residents would help them decide whether to require zero-pollution electric trucks or instead promote vehicles powered by natural gas, a fossil fuel. What officials didn’t know was that some of the locals who urged support for natural gas trucks were being paid by a firm hired by the natural gas industry.”

The Fungus and Bacteria Tackling Plastic Waste (Sean)

The author writes, “Samantha Jenkins was studying a number of types of fungus in a research project for her company, when one of the fungi made a bid for freedom. “Imagine a jar full of grain with a kind of lump of mushroom coming out of the top,’ says the lead biotech engineer for bio-manufacturing firm Biohm. … The fungus had eaten its way through the plastic sponge intended to seal it in, breaking it down and assimilating it like any other food.”

Novel Virus Detected in Hawaiian Dolphin Could Trigger Global Outbreaks Among Marine Mammals, Scientists Say (Mili)

From Gizmodo: “Biologists in Hawaii have detected a previously unknown strain of cetacean morbillivirus, a pathogen that can cause deadly infections in marine mammals across the globe. The virus was detected in a lone Fraser’s dolphin — a highly social species — leading to concerns that the disease could spread and wreak havoc outside of the central Pacific ocean.”

Scientists Have Conducted Tests That Reveal Stonehenge Is Made From a Nearly Indestructible Ancient Material (Dana)

The author writes, “A long lost piece of England’s Stonehenge monument is helping experts understand the mysterious prehistoric structure. Analysis of a core sample taken from one of the site’s massive slabs suggests that the stone’s geochemical composition may have made it uniquely well-equipped to stand the test of time. Made from 99.7 percent quartz crystals, the stones are practically indestructible, according to a new study published in the journal Plos One.”

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