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.

Stephen Wilhite, Inventor of the Meme-Favorite GIF, Dies at 74 (Maria)

The author writes, “Stephen Wilhite, the inventor of the internet-popular short-video format the GIF, has died. He was 74. His wife, Kathaleen, said Thursday in a phone interview that he died of COVID on March 14. Wilhite, who lived in Milford, Ohio, won a Webby lifetime achievement award in 2013 for inventing the GIF, which decades after its creation became omnipresent in memes and on social media.”

Sanctions Against Wealthy Russians Are Largely Symbolic and Won’t End the War (Reader Jim)

From Truthout: “These sanctions are supposed to be cramping the style of Putin’s oligarchs to such a degree that they gather the will to drag him back from the abyss… but this tactic will only succeed if the oligarchs — and Putin, himself a billionaire many times over — are the ones who are truly impacted. This is not happening; ordinary people are suffering in their place, and that suffering only promises to grow. The solution … is to deploy sanctions that are far more specifically targeted than those currently in use. It would be the difference between using a scalpel and using a broadsword.”

Russian Losses in Ukraine Exceed Soviet Losses in Afghanistan (Mili)

From The Jerusalem Post: “Russia has suffered more losses in the 26 days since the start of their full-scale invasion of Ukraine than the Soviet army did over the course of a decade (1979-1989) in Afghanistan, data shared by the Ukrainian defense ministry has shown. The infographic released by the defense ministry shows that the official Soviet army losses in Afghanistan amounted to 15,051 personnel, whereas the losses currently suffered by the Russian army in Ukraine amount to around 15,300 personnel, according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”

As the World Watches Ukraine, Afghanistan Goes Full Taliban (Sean)

From Foreign Policy: “While the world’s attention is focused on Ukraine, Afghanistan has plunged into darkness. The Taliban are tightening their control amid growing reports of detentions, rapes, and summary executions of minorities, rights advocates, women, and people associated with the old government or the new resistance. In the weeks since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, the Taliban have extended bans on many parts of what was once normal life before they took over the country last summer. Clampdowns on media, entertainment, and traditional holidays have been extended as the Taliban revive old practices, such as kidnapping foreigners for political leverage.”

Pandemic Relief Money Spent on Hotel, Ballpark, Ski Slopes (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “Thanks to a sudden $140 million cash infusion, officials in Broward County, Florida, recently broke ground on a high-end hotel that will have views of the Atlantic Ocean and an 11,000-square-foot spa. In New York, Dutchess County pledged $12 million for renovations of a minor league baseball stadium to meet requirements the New York Yankees set for their farm teams. And in Massachusetts, lawmakers delivered $5 million to pay off debts of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate in Boston, a nonprofit established to honor the late senator that has struggled financially. The three distinctly different outlays have one thing in common: Each is among the scores of projects that state and local governments across the United States are funding with federal coronavirus relief money despite having little to do with combating the pandemic.”

Apps and Oranges: Behind Apple’s ‘Bullying’ on Trademarks (Russ)

The author writes, “Between 2019 and last year, Apple, the world’s most valuable public company, worth $2.6 trillion, filed 215 trademark oppositions to defend its logo, name or product titles, according to the Tech Transparency Project, a nonprofit watchdog. That’s more than the estimated 136 trademark oppositions that Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google collectively filed in the same period, the group said. Apple is a more common word than corporate names like Microsoft or Google, and the high rate stems partly from that. Many copycats, particularly in China, have also tried drafting off Apple’s name or logo in the tech and entertainment industries to make a buck. But Apple has frequently targeted entities that have nothing to do with tech or that are infinitesimal in size. It has even set its sights on logos that involve other fruits, like oranges and pears.”

Yemeni City Looks to Ancient Past to Survive Climate Change (Laura)

The author writes, “For thousands of years, a network of aqueducts and basins helped Yemen’s port city of Aden cope with both floods and drought. Today, plastic bags, drinks cans and makeshift shacks clog the ancient channels. But as global warming fuels extreme weather in the climate-vulnerable nation, city officials say restoring the Tawila Cisterns to their former glory could help guarantee water supplies during dry spells and avert floods in the rainy season. ‘I know my city’s history, and I want to bring that history to the present,’ said Gelal Haykal, a 28-year-old member of the local council in the city’s flood-prone Crater districts, named for their location within a dormant volcano.”

It’s a Trap: Murder Hornets’ Own Sex Pheromones Could Be Their Downfall (Dana)

The author writes, “Flying Asian giant hornets have invaded parts of Canada and the US, sparking worries they could damage already fragile honeybee populations. The pest’s large size and habit of decapitating its victims have earned it the dramatic nickname ‘murder hornet,’ but a new study offers hope for creating effective traps using the hornets’ own sex pheromone as bait. Sex pheromones are odors used to attract mates. … Experiments showed male hornets are sensitive to the pheromone and were attracted to traps baited with the odor.”