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.

Google Is Buying a Company for $500M to Boost Cloud Security (Maria)

The author writes, “Google’s $500 million acquisition of Israel-based startup Siemplify is supposed to help the company bolster its own cloud security initiative, Chronicle, according to a report from Reuters. In a blog post announcing the deal, Google describes Siemplify as a security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) organization and plans to integrate its capabilities into Chronicle. … Google’s acquisition of Siemplify doesn’t come long after the tech giant promised to spend over $10 billion over the next five years to help improve US cybersecurity.”

The Villages Sees a Voter-Fraud Outbreak — With a MAGA Twist (Reader Steve/Dan)

From The Washington Post: “On Tuesday, a resident of the Villages, Charles Barnes, was arrested for allegedly having voted more than once in the 2020 election. It was the fourth such arrest in the past month; in December, three others were arrested for having allegedly committed the same crime. In each case, the person is accused of having cast ballots from Florida but also other states where they had residences, including Michigan, New York and Connecticut. Three of the four were registered Republicans at the time of the election. This, of course, is what voter fraud usually looks like: isolated examples of individuals casting more than one ballot.”

Why the Republican Party Isn’t Concerned With Popularity (DonkeyHotey)

From FiveThirtyEight: “After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee published what became known as the ‘GOP autopsy report,’ an effort to identify and address the party’s ongoing political weaknesses. But eight years later, after losing another close race, the GOP appears wholly uninterested in reviewing or reforming its agenda. In fact, despite capturing the presidency, the Democratic Party has been far more interested in developing an attractive issue agenda. … But despite the fact that the GOP is quite unpopular and that much of its current agenda — such as overturning the Affordable Care Act or advancing restrictive immigration policies — does not appeal to a majority of voters, the party is in an enviable position heading into the 2022 midterm elections and beyond. What is to make of this glaring disconnect?”

The American Polity Is Cracked, and Might Collapse. Canada Must Prepare (Gerry)

From The Globe and Mail: “By 2025, American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence. By 2030, if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship. We mustn’t dismiss these possibilities just because they seem ludicrous or too horrible to imagine. In 2014, the suggestion that Donald Trump would become president would also have struck nearly everyone as absurd. But today we live in a world where the absurd regularly becomes real and the horrible commonplace. Leading American academics are now actively addressing the prospect of a fatal weakening of U.S. democracy.”

COVID-19 Will Become Endemic. The World Must Decide What That Means (Sean)

The author writes, “A month ago, it felt like we could see the future. Boosters were rolling out. School-age kids were getting their second shots in time to see grandparents over winter break. Life in the United States was sliding toward something that looked like it might be normal — not pre-pandemic normal, of course, but maybe a post-pandemic glimpse. And then came the Omicron variant, squashing hopes for the holidays as completely as Delta chilled hot vax summer in July. Weeks later, we’re still not sure exactly what it portends. It’s vastly more transmissible. It may or may not be more virulent. It is tearing through countries and spreading through friend groups and sending universities back online for the spring semester. This is not the year-end we wanted, but it’s the year-end we’ve got. Inside it, like a gift basket accidentally left under the tree too long, lurks a rancid truth: The vaccines, which looked like the salvation of 2021, worked but weren’t enough to rescue us. If we’re going to save 2022, we’ll also have to embrace masking, testing, and maybe staying home sometimes, what epidemiologists broadly call nonpharmaceutical interventions, or NPIs.”

Africa’s ‘Great Green Wall’ Could Have Far-Reaching Climate Effects (Mili)

The author writes, “Africa’s ‘Great Green Wall’ initiative is a proposed 8,000-kilometer line of trees meant to hold back the Sahara from expanding southward. New climate simulations looking to both the region’s past and future suggest this greening could have a profound effect on the climate of northern Africa, and even beyond. By 2030, the project aims to plant 100 million hectares of trees along the Sahel, the semiarid zone lining the desert’s southern edge. That completed tree line could as much as double rainfall within the Sahel and would also decrease average summer temperatures throughout much of northern Africa and into the Mediterranean, according to the simulations.”

Scientists Train Goldfish to Drive a Fish-Operated Vehicle on Land (Dana)

The author writes, “My favorite story I wrote in 2019 was about a research study that taught rats to drive, an activity that the rats appeared to enjoy. Today, we have another tale of lab animals getting behind the wheel, but this time, the motorists in question weren’t mammals — they were goldfish that learned how to drive a fish-operated vehicle, or ‘FOV,’ in a terrestrial environment. …. The idea was to see if the fishes’ navigation skills are universal and work in extremely unfamiliar environments, a concept known as domain transfer methodology. And you have to admit that driving a tank inside an enclosure in a research lab is a pretty unfamiliar environment for a goldfish.”