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.

US Election Workers Vulnerable Without New Voting Rights Law: Democratic Lawmakers (Maria)

The authors write, “US election workers could face escalating threats, potentially imperiling American democracy, if major voting-rights legislation backed by President Joe Biden fails to pass the Senate, Democratic lawmakers and rights advocates warned. Democrats have teed up a pair of bills that would make it a crime to threaten or intimidate election workers, among other provisions that would expand voting access, toughen campaign finance rules and prevent partisan gerrymandering. The bills address a surge in threats documented by a September Reuters investigation.”

Class Action Suit Filed Against Top Private Colleges (Dan)

From Inside Higher Ed: “A class action suit was filed Sunday against 16 private colleges and universities, charging them with running a ‘cartel’ and violating antitrust laws in the way they calculate aid awards, thus forcing thousands of students to pay more than they should have to in order to enroll. The suit was filed by five recent graduates but seeks to be certified as a class action on behalf of thousands of additional students. The targets of the suit are Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Georgetown, Northwestern, Rice, Vanderbilt and Yale Universities; the California Institute of Technology; Dartmouth College; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the Universities of Chicago, Notre Dame and Pennsylvania.”

Russia’s Political Action Man Sets Up Shop in Kabul, Hoping to Win Deals for Moscow (Russ)

The author writes, “When the Taliban took over Kabul in August and many Afghans were clamoring to flee, Russian political influencer and self-styled action man Maksim Shugalei swept in. He was on a mission to promote the Kremlin’s interests. Oh, and also to undercut the United States wherever possible. Shugalei, president of the Foundation for National Values Protection, which is under U.S. sanctions, flew to the Afghan capital hoping to forge close relations with the Taliban, which he describes as ‘civil people, very careful not to violate the rights of ordinary citizens.’”

Global Warming Will Make Undocumented Migration Into US ‘Increasingly Dangerous’ (Laura)

From Carbon Brief: “The already perilous desert crossing from Mexico to the US will become more dangerous as the climate warms, new research says. The research, published in Science, finds that dehydration is already a leading driver of mortality in people crossing on foot from Nogales in Mexico to Three Points in Arizona. It explains how extreme heat and water scarcity have claimed the lives of thousands attempting to enter the US from Mexico and quotes undocumented migrants, who confirm that dehydration, disorientation and organ failure are ‘common elements’ of the journey.”

The Most Important Computer You’ve Never Heard Of (Sean)

The author writes, “It’s not unusual to hear that a particular military technology has found its way into other applications, which then revolutionized our lives. From the imaging sensors that were refined to fly on spy satellites to advanced aerodynamics used on every modern jetliner, many of these ideas initially sounded like bad science fiction. So did this one.”

Painting by Faith Ringgold to Depart Rikers Island Jail Complex for New Home at Brooklyn Museum (Dan)

The author writes, “In one of her final moves before her husband Bill de Blasio ceded his role as New York City mayor to the newly elected Eric Adams, Chirlane McCray joined the city’s Department of Correction … in announcing that a painting by Faith Ringgold will move from its decades-long home on Rikers Island to the Brooklyn Museum, pending a review by the NYC Public Design Commission.”

The Oldest Aquarium Fish in the World Lives in San Francisco. She Likes Belly Rubs (Reader Steve)

From the San Francisco Chronicle: “When Methuselah the lungfish arrived at the Steinhart Aquarium in 1938, Al Capone was locked up in Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge had been open less than a year, and Willie Mays was 6 years old. Methuselah’s exact age isn’t known, but it’s believed to be at least 90 years old; the oldest living fish in a zoological setting. California Academy of Sciences Senior Biologist Allan Jan said he doesn’t think much about all that. As the fish’s keeper, he’s more worried about whether Methuselah will eat her figs today — she’ll only eat when they’re in season, and not if they’re frozen and thawed.”