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.

World’s Vast Networks of Underground Fungi to Be Mapped for First Time (Maria)

The author writes, “Vast networks of underground fungi — the ‘circulatory system of the planet’ — are to be mapped for the first time, in an attempt to protect them from damage and improve their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide. Fungi use carbon to build networks in the soil, which connect to plant roots and act as nutrient ‘highways,’ exchanging carbon from plant roots for nutrients. For instance, some fungi are known to supply 80% of phosphorus to their host plants. Underground fungal networks can extend for many miles but are rarely noticed, though trillions of miles of them are thought to exist around the world. … Many hotspots of mycorrhizal fungi are thought to be under threat, from the expansion of agriculture, urbanisation, pollution, water scarcity and changes to the climate.”

Trump Allies Work to Place Supporters in Key Election Posts Across the Country, Spurring Fears About Future Vote Challenges (Russ)

From The Washington Post: “In Michigan, local GOP leaders have sought to reshape election canvassing boards by appointing members who expressed sympathy for former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 vote was rigged. In two Pennsylvania communities, candidates who embraced election fraud allegations won races this month to become local voting judges and inspectors. And in Colorado, 2020 doubters are urging their followers on conservative social media platforms to apply for jobs in election offices. A year after local and state election officials came under immense pressure from Trump to subvert the results of the 2020 White House race, he and his supporters are pushing an ambitious plan to place Trump loyalists in key positions across the administration of U.S. elections.”

About Those NYPD Cops Who DeSantis Praised for Coming to Florida: There Are Issues (DonkeyHotey)

From the Miami Herald: “New details are emerging about the newest dozen police officers lauded by Gov. Ron DeSantis for moving to Central Florida from New York City to escape what the governor described as low morale and a lack of support from Democratic politicians there. The new hires include one previously fired as a Walmart security guard, one with only three years of experience who demanded more than double his salary and others with mysterious gaps in their résumés.”

Why Gerrymandering Needs to Land in State Courts (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “The latest redistricting cycle, where states redraw all Congressional and state legislative maps in light of new Census data, is well underway. It hasn’t been pretty — at least if you care about fair representation where voters, not the way the maps are drawn, determine who wins. It’s already become clear that increasingly partisan state legislatures can’t be trusted to draw fair maps, and the U.S. Supreme Court — given a chance to intervene — made things worse by washing its hands of the issue. Congress, too, doesn’t look likely to step in to set uniform rules that prevent the worse abuses in redistricting. So where is the solution going to lie? In the short run, at least, it will be up to state courts to protect the fairness of our democracy.”

China’s Burned-Out Tech Workers Are Fighting Back Against Long Hours (Sean)

From MIT Technology Review: “The draining 996 work schedule — named for the expectation that employees work 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week — has persisted in Chinese companies for years despite ongoing public outcry. … In early October this year, it seemed the tide might have been turning. After hopeful signs of increased government scrutiny in August, four aspiring tech workers initiated a social media project designed to expose the problem with the nation’s working culture. A publicly editable database of company practices, it soon went viral, revealing working conditions at many companies in the tech sector and helping bring 996 to the center of the public’s attention. It managed to garner 1 million views within its first week.  But the project — first dubbed Worker Lives Matter and then Working Time — was gone almost as quickly as it appeared. The database and the GitHub repository page have been deleted, and online discussions about the work have been censored by Chinese social networking platforms. ”

Surprising Findings on How Salt Affects Blood Flow in the Brain (Mili)

The author writes, “A first-of-its-kind study led by researchers at Georgia State reveals surprising new information about the relationship between neuron activity and blood flow deep in the brain, as well as how the brain is affected by salt consumption. When neurons are activated, it typically produces a rapid increase of blood flow to the area. This relationship is known as neurovascular coupling, or functional hyperemia, and it occurs via dilation of blood vessels in the brain called arterioles. Functional magnetic resource imaging (fMRI) is based on the concept of neurovascular coupling: experts look for areas of weak blood flow to diagnose brain disorders.”

This Wealthy Dog Is ‘Selling’ a Miami Mansion That Madonna Once Owned (Dana)

The author writes, “Gunther the German shepherd spent a recent morning playing with his tennis ball, rolling in the grass, slobbering a little and napping a lot. Later, he had a ‘meeting’ with the real estate agents selling his Miami mansion that his handlers bought from Madonna. And of course Gunther was wearing his very best faux diamond dog collar for the meeting — his real gold collar is back at his main home in Tuscany. As crazy as it sounds even by Florida’s standards, Gunther VI inherited his vast fortune, including the eight-bedroom waterfront home once owned by the ‘Material Girl’ singer, from his grandfather Gunther IV. At least that’s what the handlers who manage the estate say.”