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.

Ransomware Gang’s Websites Disappear From Internet (Maria)

The author writes, “Websites for a Russian-linked ransomware gang blamed for attacks on hundreds of businesses worldwide have gone offline. Monitors say a payment website and a blog run by the REvil group became suddenly unreachable on Tuesday. The reason behind the disappearance is unknown, but has sparked speculation that the group may have been targeted deliberately by authorities. It comes amid growing pressure between the US and Russia over cybercrime.”

‘Here We Go Again’: Power Companies Seek to Shift Storm Prep Costs Onto Consumers (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “Thanks to skyrocketing energy costs during the February freeze that paralyzed the state and killed hundreds of people, Texans will be paying billions of dollars in higher gas and electric bills for decades. Now, energy companies are asking to pass on to ratepayers millions, even billions in additional storm-related costs. Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law new rules intended to strengthen an energy grid that failed Texans during a week of subfreezing temperatures. … A major component of Senate Bill 3 was a requirement that electric companies weatherize their facilities to withstand future freezes … Yet the new law didn’t include any direction on who should pay for the upgrades. In recent filings with the Public Utility Commission of Texas, several large electric generation companies have said that citizens — not the investor-owned companies themselves — should cover the cost of weather-proofing their equipment.”

The Country With the World’s Highest Vaccination Rate Won’t Let the Unvaccinated Enter (Mili)

From Fortune: “There’s no country in the world that has fully vaccinated more of its citizens, by proportion, than Malta has. Over 80% of the adult population is fully vaccinated now — and still it’s not enough to keep COVID at bay. With case numbers having increased by more than 600% in the past week, the Mediterranean archipelago has become the first country in the European Union to announce a ban on visitors who are not themselves fully vaccinated, or who are not under-12s brandishing a negative PCR test while accompanying vaccinated parents.”

Ohio Doctors Can Now Deny Service on Moral, Religious Grounds (Dana)

From the Dayton Daily News: “A provision in Ohio’s new two year budget will allow health care workers, hospitals and health insurance providers to deny services that violate their moral or religious beliefs. Local advocates warn this rule legalizes discrimination against LGBTQ patients as well as members of other marginalized groups like drug addicts or people living with HIV or sexually transmitted diseases. Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio said the budget amendment gives medical practitioners the right to deny patients treatments like birth control.”

A Battle Between a Great City and a Great Lake (Dan)

The author writes, “Chicago has a weakness at its very foundations. The towering skyscrapers and temples of commerce were built upon a swamp. For generations, bold engineering projects have fought to maintain a perilous balance, keeping water in its place — not too high, not too low. But it is a city built for a different time. The time before climate change.”

Waking Just One Hour Earlier Cuts Depression Risk by Double Digits, Study Finds (Mili)

The author writes, “Waking up just one hour earlier could reduce a person’s risk of major depression by 23%, suggests a sweeping new genetic study. … The study of 840,000 people, by researchers at University of Colorado Boulder and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, represents some of the strongest evidence yet that chronotype — a person’s propensity to sleep at a certain time — influences depression risk. It’s also among the first studies to quantify just how much, or little, change is required to influence mental health.”

Aliens Might Already Be Watching Us (Sean)

From Scientific American: “On June 25 the Pentagon and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released their much hyped report on unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP. Space alien enthusiasts and skeptics alike awaited it with bated breath. And while the report did not rule out an extraterrestrial origin for much of the documented UAP, it was short on details or bombshells. But we already know our world is easily detectable by extrasolar observers. A paper published on June 23 in Nature shows that in the past 5,000 years, 1,715 stars have been in the right celestial position to view a populated Earth transiting the sun — with 319 more entering this sweet spot in the next 5,000 years. And seven of these far-off stars are known to have their own orbiting exoplanets that might support life.”

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