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.

Over 160,000 Miles of Rivers Are at Risk of Losing Free-Flowing Status Due to Dams (Maria)

The author writes, “A new study published in the journal Global Sustainability finds for the first time that more than 160,000 miles of rivers are at risk of losing their free-flowing status due to the proposed construction of new hydropower dams. … The study finds that all the proposed dams on free-flowing rivers would collectively generate less than 2% of the renewable energy needed by 2050 to keep global temperature increase below 1.5° C — a small contribution with potentially devastating consequences. ‘The future is renewable, so it’s important that we lay out realistic solutions that account for the vast benefits of free-flowing rivers, but also people’s need for clean energy in a warming climate,’ says Michele Thieme, lead freshwater scientist at World Wildlife Fund and lead author of the study.”

COVID-19 Lab-Leak Theory: Gain-of-Function Is a Hot Topic, but a Bad Explanation (Doug)

From the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: “For the second time in recent months, Sen. Rand Paul, a conservative Republican from Kentucky, sparred with Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, during a heated Congressional hearing on the coronavirus pandemic in July. … Pushing what has become a key assertion in the conservative case against Fauci, Paul accused the senior US infectious disease expert — along with government science funders — of financing so-called gain-of-function pathogen research in China, a type of experimentation in which researchers enhance the transmissibility, virulence, or host range of microbial agents. During the confrontation, the senator wove together the reputation of the research method with a controversial idea: that the pandemic could have been caused by a lab incident in Wuhan, China.”

Anti-Abortion Activists Finally Let the Mask Slip in Plea to Supreme Court (DonkeyHotey)

The author writes, “There has been a lot — and I do mean a lot — of speculation as to whether the formal brief the State of Mississippi filed with the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, its upcoming case involving the state’s notorious abortion ban, reflects any confidence that the Court is now ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and any idea of a federal constitutional right to choose. To make a long story short, the conservative state’s original petition was quite circumspect about how it expected the Supreme Court to proceed in trying to uphold Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy (long before the fetal-viability standard in both Roe and Casey). The brief, though, is loud and proud about overturning precedents.”

Texas Senate Passes Bill to Restrict Charitable Bail Organizations (Dana)

From Reason: “Texas lawmakers are trying to thwart charitable organizations that bail people out of jail. In July, the state Senate passed a bill that would prohibit such organizations from paying bail for certain defendants. Bail allows defendants to remain free while they await trial. If the defendant abides by certain conditions of their release and shows up to court, then the bail money is returned to the payee. Defendants who can’t pay bail have to stay in jail until their case concludes. Charitable bail organizations … help those awaiting trial pay their cash bail, so they can get out of confinement without risking financial ruin. But if this Texas bill — S.B. 6 — becomes law, these organizations would not be able to pay bail for defendants deemed to have committed ‘an offense involving violence’ at any time in the past 10 years.”

How the Bobos Broke America (Sean)

The author writes, “The dispossessed set out early in the mornings. They were the outsiders, the scorned, the voiceless. But weekend after weekend — unbowed and undeterred — they rallied together. They didn’t have much going for them in their great battle against the privileged elite, but they did have one thing — their yachts. During the summer and fall of 2020, a series of boat parades — Trumptillas — cruised American waters in support of Donald Trump. The participants gathered rowdily in great clusters. They festooned their boats with flags — American flags, but also message flags: don’t tread on me, no more bullshit, images of Trump as Rambo.”

Scientists Make Shocking Discovery of ‘Dead Zones’ Where Nothing Can Live on Two US Coasts (Russ)

From The Hill: “Scientists surveying the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico discovered a ‘dead-zone’ — where low oxygen levels make the area inhospitable to fish — ‘equivalent to more than four million acres of habitat.’ The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the survey’s findings [last] week, which were uncovered by scientists aboard a research cruise. Typically, dead zones cover around 5,400 square miles. But the hypoxic zone near the Gulf this year measured around 6,334 square miles.” 

We Got Ben & Jerry’s to Stop Selling in Israeli Settlements. Here’s How We Did It (Dan)

The author writes, “On 19 July, Ben & Jerry’s, the celebrated ice cream company based in Vermont, where I live, set off a firestorm after it announced it would no longer allow its ice cream to be sold in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and would not renew its licensing agreement with its franchise in Israel beyond next year. The company said that continuing to sell ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territory would be ‘inconsistent’ with its values. I spent the last decade organizing with fellow activists in Vermont to convince Ben & Jerry’s to end its business in Israel’s settlements. The company’s statement, therefore, was a welcome step towards a more just world.”

$500 Shopping Money for Tourists Could Begin in September (Reader Steve)

From The Guam Daily Post: “Tourists could start receiving in September $500 each in debit cards that they can only use on Guam to buy goods and services as the island tries to entice visitors to return and fully reopen its pandemic-hit tourism industry. Guam Visitors Bureau Vice President Gerry Perez … told the board that GVB management is now in discussion with a bank that could potentially be the vendor for the tourist debit card incentive program, the budget for which is about $2.5 million.”

A Carnivorous Plant Has Been Hiding in Plain Sight in North America (Mili)

From Gizmodo: “In the boglands of the northwestern United States and Canada, an unassuming plant has been trapping and eating insects, totally unbeknownst to science. Today, researchers report that Triantha occidentalis is now the 12th known independent evolution of carnivory — the consumption of animal flesh — in the plant kingdom. Different families of plants developed a taste for meat separately, and T. occidentalis, in the order Alismatales, now adds its name to the 630-odd plant species that eat animals, usually because their local soils are nutrient-poor, particularly lacking nitrogen and phosphorous, important nutrients for carrying out photosynthesis.”

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