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.

Leaked Documents Reveal the Special Rules Facebook Uses for 5.8M VIPs (Maria)

The author writes, “Facebook had a problem: People were posting things that got caught in the company’s automated moderation system or were taken down by moderators. The solution? XCheck, or crosscheck. ‘For a select few members of our community, we are not enforcing our policies and standards,’ reads an internal Facebook report published as part of a Wall Street Journal investigation. ‘Unlike the rest of our community, these people can violate our standards without any consequences.’ At least 5.8 million people were enrolled in the program last year, meaning influential people are allowed to post largely unchecked on Facebook and Instagram.”

As Texans Fill Up Abortion Clinics in Other States, Low-Income People Get Left Behind (Dan)

From The Texas Tribune: “Two days after Texas’ new abortion restrictions went into effect, women’s health clinics in surrounding states were already juggling clogged phone lines and an increasing load of appointment requests from Texans. At a clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, an abortion provider said that on Tuesday, the day before the law’s enactment, every patient who had made an appointment online was from its neighbor state to the east. By Thursday, all of New Mexico’s abortion clinics were reportedly booked up for weeks, and a Dallas center had dispatched dozens of employees to help the much less populated state’s overtaxed system. But for every Texan who is able to leave town to elude the new law, there are more who can’t.”

Why We Can’t Turn the Corner on COVID (Sean)

The author writes, “The summer of 2021 began with such promise. On Memorial Day, the traditional start of summer, many Americans thought that the worst of Covid might be over, that masks were out and hugs (or more) might be in. But that optimism has yielded to a more somber and uncertain Labor Day as hot vax summer turned into hot spot autumn. In the three months in between, the vaccination drive hit a wall of resistance, and the more infectious Delta variant arrived. All that talk about ‘emerging’ from the pandemic morphed into nervous questions: When will we reach a turning point in combating Covid 19? When and how will we finally get back to something close to ‘normal’ for more than a season?”

Trump Insiders Are Quietly Paying Teen Memers for Posts (Reader Jim)

From HuffPost: “In the fever swamps of Instagram, a network of right-wing meme accounts run by teenage boys and young men has erupted into an advertising powerhouse reaching millions. These memers — who regularly post far-right conspiracy theories, anti-vaccine propaganda and other incendiary clickbait — first caught the attention of obscure brands selling cheap MAGA merch, who started paying them to display ads to their rapidly growing conservative audiences. The money wasn’t great, as a few memers told HuffPost last summer, but it still felt like a big deal to watch their Instagram pages blossom into mini businesses. Little did they know, members of Donald Trump’s inner circle would soon come knocking.”

Al Sharpton Calls on Biden to Fight the Filibuster: ‘If We Can’t Depend on You Here, When Can We?’ (Inez)

The author writes, “The filibuster, a centuries-old parliamentary tool requiring 60 votes to advance most legislation in the Senate, now stands as the indomitable barrier to Democrats’ voting rights legislation. Biden has so far resisted calls from Sharpton and other prominent civil rights leaders to abolish the filibuster, even as he agrees with the characterization that it is a ‘relic of Jim Crow era.’ But Sharpton said that position was increasingly at odds with Biden’s avowed support for voting rights legislation, which advocates say is the last best hope of beating back a wave of restrictive voting laws in Republican-controlled states, inspired in part by Donald Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud and that experts say disproportionately target communities of color.”

Ukraine Spies Tried to Ensnare Alleged Russian War Criminals With a Fake Website, Promises of Riches and an International Sting (Russ)

The authors write, “Security forces shattered the early morning calm of the lakeside Soviet-era resort outside the Belarusian capital of Minsk, bursting in to arrest 32 Russian mercenaries. It was less than two weeks before Belarus’ presidential election last year, and authorities suspected that the outsiders had been sent from Russia to interfere. The men were indeed part of a mission. But the target was not Belarus, and they were not under orders from any Russian entity. They were being set up. The 32, along with one other man detained in southern Belarus, were the target of an elaborate intelligence sting by Ukraine, with the knowledge and alleged support of the United States.”

First They Came for the Divers. Now They’re Coming for the Whole Beach (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “For as long as anyone can remember, Back Beach, in the heart of this picturesque coastal village, has been known for its Fourth of July bonfire, Sunday night concerts at the bandstand beside the American Legion Post, and the crowds of scuba divers who flock to the public shore for its rocky terrain and, more importantly, metered parking spots. Now all of that is in jeopardy from a sweeping legal challenge that has derisively been described as ‘very Rockport,’ but has elements of situations happening all over the coast of Massachusetts. In a state that is nearly alone in allowing private ownership of land to the low tide line, public access to the coastline is a story of continual lawsuits and continual loss, and even public beaches are often restricted to those with resident parking stickers. What’s happening at Back Beach, though, is extraordinary even by Massachusetts standards. That’s because a small group of residents who live along this public beach in the heart of the touristy downtown are now claiming that they own it. All of it — the public beach, the public street, and the land that holds the Legion hall and the bandstand.”

Bonobos and Chimps Appear to Have ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ Greetings (Dana)

The author writes, “Humans rely on a simple wave, smile, or phrase to politely acknowledge the beginning and end of an interaction. New research reveals that chimpanzees and bonobos employ similar social manners: the great apes start and end grooming and play sessions with actions akin to a human ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’ The study published [last month] in the journal iScience is the first to show this behavior in a non-human species and sheds new light on the evolution of cooperation and social commitment in great apes.”

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