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.

General Promises US ‘Surge’ to Fight Foreign Cyberattacks (Maria)

The author writes, “The general who leads US efforts to thwart foreign-based cyberattacks and punish those responsible says he’s mounting a ‘surge’ to fight incursions that have debilitated government agencies and companies responsible for critical infrastructure. In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Gen. Paul Nakasone broadly described ‘an intense focus’ by government specialists to find and share information about cyberattacks and ‘impose costs when necessary.’ Those costs include publicly linking adversarial countries to high-profile attacks and exposing how the attacks were carried out, he said.”

Can a Nonprofit Disrupt the Pricey Prison Phone Industry? (Reader Jim)

The author writes, “The burden of an expensive phone call for people in prison may never have been more apparent than during the pandemic. With in-person visits halted at many U.S. facilities for months, people who weren’t released from jail were using more phone minutes than pre-pandemic. But they might have spent even more time talking to loved ones, if not for the expense. In-state phone calls can cost $1 or more a minute in many localities, not including additional fees tied to the calls. And in some places, a 30-minute video visit can exceed $12. It’s an issue that some lawmakers are starting to reform with regulation. In the meantime, a new nonprofit is seeking to disrupt the mostly privatized $1.4 billion prison telecommunications industry.” 

The Real Reason Why Your Doctor Asks You Your Race (Sean)

The author writes, “The drama began as a simple Tweet. The British National Health Service (NHS) posted that they needed blood donations. But it was how they worded the request that got them pilloried by the Twistosphere. We need ‘black blood,’ read the Tweet. Over the following days, the racism accusations got bloodier than a full blood bank. Many people complained that race is a social construct that could not classify blood types. The NHS was about to get ejected with one press of the cancel button… But the NHS had a rational defense.”

Coronavirus-Sniffing Dogs Unleashed at Miami Airport to Detect Virus in Employees (Dana)

The authors write, “Employees at Miami International Airport who go through the standard security check for weapons and other prohibited items now have another layer of screening before they start work: a sniff test from Cobra and One Betta. Cobra, a female Belgian Malinois, and One Betta, a Dutch shepherd, are 7-year-old dogs trained to detect the presence of the coronavirus. The keen-nosed canines are part of a pilot program at Miami International, one of the nation’s busiest airports — and the first to employ dogs in the battle against the coronavirus.”

How Sirhan Sirhan Was Mentored Through Parole by Suge Knight, Mafia Leaders (Dan)

From The Intercept: “When Sirhan Sirhan appeared at his parole board hearing in late August, he brought with him the memory of multiple failed attempts — 15 in 53 years — that had left the convicted murderer of Robert F. Kennedy no closer to release. His problem, he had become convinced, lay in his prior inability to accept responsibility for that which he knew that he had done. Sirhan has long claimed that he has no memory of the moment Kennedy was killed. He has also long acknowledged that he brought a loaded gun to the presidential candidate’s California primary victory party in 1968 and that he drank heavily that night. But it took a yard full of fellow convicts to walk him toward a place where he could accept responsibility for the decision to bring the gun to the party, without which, he told the parole board, the crime couldn’t have been committed.”

Oregon Man Assumes Dead Child’s Identity for More Than 3 Decades, Then Pockets Fraudulent Retirement Benefits (Reader Steve)

From The Oregonian: “A 70-year-old Oregon man who assumed the identity of a dead child more than three decades ago, worked under the child’s name and later applied for Social Security retirement benefits under both his true and assumed names was sentenced Monday to two years of federal probation. Robert Lizaragga, of Gresham, obtained a Social Security number in the child’s name and used that identity as his own from 1991 on, according to a federal prosecutor.”

I Went to a McDonald’s Meat-Processing Factory to See How Their Hamburgers Are Really Made (Russ)

The authors write, “Nowadays, it seems we’re getting more and more critical when it comes to ingredients. From organic ingredients and excess sugar to ‘E numbers’ (or food additives) and salt, the list of contents to worry about seems to be growing exponentially. McDonald’’s attracts plenty of customers — it said in its operations manual years ago that it sold 75 hamburgers a second — but the fast-food giant is by no means off the hook when it comes to this sort of scrutiny.”

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