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.

Invasive Crazy Ants Could Meet Their Match in Mysterious, Funguslike Pathogen (Maria)

The author writes, “Tawny crazy ants can seem unbeatable. These invasive insects march through warm climates, killing wildlife, invading buildings, and even shorting out motors and electrical devices with their huge swarms. Pesticides barely slow them down. Yet they sometimes vanish mysteriously. Now, researchers know why: A fungus-like pathogen called Myrmecomorba nylanderiae can wipe out entire populations. ‘This work has huge potential beneficial implications,’ says Corrie Moreau, an entomologist and evolutionary biologist at Cornell University who was not involved in the work. … ‘What makes this work so brilliant is the authors have harnessed the power of nature to solve this problem.’”

‘Winging It’: Russia Is Getting Its Generals Killed on the Front Lines (Sean)

From Foreign Policy: “Russia has lost at least five generals fighting in Ukraine in less than a month, Western officials said Monday, as communications failures and a lack of discipline among hundreds of thousands of conscripted Russian troops have made it more difficult to communicate orders to the front lines. The tally of Russian generals killed in the nearly monthlong conflict — most of them one- and two-star commanders, including at least one lieutenant general — is likely the highest death rate among general officers in the Russian military since World War II.”

Government Emails Are Public Records. Deleting Them Too Quickly Is Not OK (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “The law is clear that state agencies must, with some exceptions, release records in their possession. But what’s not clear is how long they must hang onto those documents. And this is critical, because the government can effectively hide records it doesn’t want the public to see by destroying or deleting them before anyone asks for them. Nothing to see here! Literally. Legislation moving through the Capitol addresses the issue by requiring that all state agencies retain digital and paper records for at least two years. State law already requires that local governments do this, but state agencies have been allowed to decide for themselves how long to hang onto different kinds of records, and the range is huge.”

‘Biggest Fraud in a Generation’: The Looting of the Covid Relief Plan Known as PPP (DonkeyHotey)

The author writes, “Many who participated in what prosecutors are calling the largest fraud in U.S. history — the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money intended to help those harmed by the coronavirus pandemic — couldn’t resist purchasing luxury automobiles. Also mansions, private jet flights and swanky vacations. They came into their riches by participating in what experts say is the theft of as much as $80 billion — or about 10 percent — of the $800 billion handed out in a Covid relief plan known as the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. That’s on top of the $90 billion to $400 billion believed to have been stolen from the $900 billion Covid unemployment relief program — at least half taken by international fraudsters — as NBC News reported last year. And another $80 billion potentially pilfered from a separate Covid disaster relief program.”

We Have New Evidence of Saudi Involvement in 9/11, and Barely Anyone Cares (Reader Doug)

From RSN News: “Last week, the FBI quietly declassified a 510-page report it produced in 2017 about the 9/11 terrorist attack twenty years ago. The disclosure is in accordance with President Joe Biden’s September 2021 executive order declassifying long-hidden government files about the attack, which many hoped would reveal what exactly US investigators knew about the Saudi Arabian government’s possible involvement. They weren’t let down. These most recent revelations revolve around Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi national working in San Diego for a Saudi government–owned aviation company he never actually turned up to. Al-Bayoumi had long been the subject of suspicion, both because of his ties to extremist clerics and due to the strange coincidences that surrounded him, from the job he never worked to the fact that he just happened to meet two of the future hijackers in a restaurant by chance — before finding them an apartment in San Diego, cosigning their lease, acting as their guarantor, paying their first month’s rent, and plugging them into the local Saudi community.”

That Smiling Linkedin Profile Face Might Be a Computer-Generated Fake (Russ)

The author writes, “At first glance, Renée DiResta thought the LinkedIn message seemed normal enough. The sender, Keenan Ramsey, mentioned that they both belonged to a LinkedIn group for entrepreneurs. She punctuated her greeting with a grinning emoji before pivoting to a pitch for software. ‘Quick question — have you ever considered or looked into a unified approach to message, video, and phone on any device, anywhere?’ DiResta wasn’t interested and would have ignored the message entirely, but then she looked closer at Ramsey’s profile picture. Little things seemed off in what should have been a typical corporate headshot. Ramsey was wearing only one earring. Bits of her hair disappeared and then reappeared. Her eyes were aligned right in the middle of the image. ‘The face jumped out at me as being fake,’ said DiResta, a veteran researcher who has studied Russian disinformation campaigns and anti-vaccine conspiracies. To her trained eye, these anomalies were red flags that Ramsey’s photo had likely been created by artificial intelligence.”

Leading Russian Independent Newspaper Shuts Down After Warnings (Carina)

From Euronews: “One of the last independent news outlets in Russia has announced it’s closing down while the war in Ukraine is ongoing. Novaya Gazeta said in a statement that they had received two warnings from Russian press watchdog Roskomnadzor, which put their operating license at risk, so they had decided to suspend activities. The move comes at a time when Russian authorities are stepping up their pressure against critical and independent voices. The paper says the warnings from Roskomnadzor are about being in breach of Russia’s controversial ‘foreign agents’ law. Specifically, Novaya Gazeta was cited for not having specified an NGO mentioned in one of its articles was classed as a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian authorities, as required by law.”