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.

60 Years After ‘Silent Spring’ Warned Us, Birds — and Humanity — Are Still in Trouble (Maria)

The author writes, “Rachel Carson’s classic bestseller about ecological threats, ‘Silent Spring,’ started a wave of American environmentalism. It played a direct role in the 1972 decision by the newly formed US Environmental Protection Agency to ban use of the pesticide DDT. Ernest Gruening, one of the first two US senators from Alaska, said Carson’s writings had ‘altered the course of history.’ It will be 60 years ago this June that the public was introduced to Carson’s arguments. … The coming anniversary makes this a good time to consider whether the book achieved one of her major goals: protecting wildlife and, in particular, birds. Carson took a complex technical subject — the damaging effects of persistent pesticides — and expressed it in one simple, poetic image: a spring in which no birds sang.”

Leadership at War (Sean)

From Foreign Affairs: “If anyone doubts the importance of individual leaders in the shape of world events, surely the war in Ukraine has dispelled them. It is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war and no one else’s, just as World War II in Europe was Adolf Hitler’s. Both men wanted war; both embraced it as a test of virility against a decadent enemy. Nor would the invasion of Ukraine have followed the course that it has if Volodymyr Zelensky were not the president of Ukraine. Though Zelensky was an unlikely leader before the war began, the former comedian has overwhelmingly defined the country’s remarkable resistance against the far superior Russian military, telling U.S. intelligence officials who offered to evacuate him that he needed ammunition, ‘not a ride.’ And it is Zelensky who has, in his continual direct appeals to Western leaders, the U.S. Congress, the British Parliament, and the Bundestag, made the Ukrainian cause one that the West cannot ignore. At the same time, it matters enormously that Joe Biden, and not Donald Trump, is in the White House and able to lead a unified and tough, but mostly cool-headed transatlantic response.”

He Was Fired by Amazon 2 Years Ago. Now He’s the Force Behind the Company’s 1st Union (DonkeyHotey)

From NPR: “‘He’s not smart, or articulate.’ Those were the words used by a top Amazon lawyer to describe former warehouse worker Chris Smalls. Smalls had led a walkout at the start of the pandemic in 2020 to protest working conditions at the Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse where he worked. He was fired the same day. The memo that contained those biting words was leaked just a few days later. But the words would stay with Smalls. They became the fuel that would drive him to lead one of the most dramatic and successful grassroots union drives in recent history.”

My Friend the Nurse Who Gives Her All Needed Help. The Healthcare System Let Her Down (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “My friend is the healthcare worker you would want at your bedside in a medical crisis. A registered nurse at a community health center, she has spent the last two years connecting underserved patients with therapeutics for COVID, driving unhoused COVID-positive patients to the infusion center for monoclonal antibody treatments to prevent worsening infection. … She has paid out of her own pocket for medications for low-income patients and has purchased groceries, supplies and Lyft rides for them. These goodness-of-her-heart costs have run into the thousands. What follows is a healthcare horror story in the age of COVID.”

Corporate Landlords Are Gobbling Up US Suburbs. These Homeowners Are Fighting Back. (Russ)

The authors write, “Her 3-bedroom 2-bath house with vinyl siding had never attracted so many admirers. Every week, the mail brought more postcard offers: Sell now! Will buy as is! Everyone in the neighborhood was getting them. To Valerie Hamilton, then president of the Potters Glen Homeowners Association, it didn’t sit right. Already, more than 20 homeowners in her Charlotte neighborhood had sold out to investors and their houses had been quickly converted to rentals. ‘We were being bombarded,’ Hamilton said. Like hundreds of communities across the United States, Hamilton’s neighborhood had become the target of large companies amassing empires of suburban homes for rent. Since the Great Recession, when millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure, these companies have been expanding their portfolios of tens of thousands of single-family houses, a disproportionate number of them located in majority-Black neighborhoods like Potters Glen.”

Biden Celebrates April as Arab American Heritage Month (Aline)

The author writes, “President Joe Biden on Friday celebrated April as Arab American Heritage Month and thanked the Arab American community ‘for representing the best of who we are.’ ‘The history and story of the Arab American community is deeply woven into the diverse tapestry of America,’ he said in a tweet. ‘This National Arab American Heritage Month, I thank the community for all that you have done to help move us forward and for representing the best of who we are.’”

Scientists Just Unveiled the Most Complete Human Genome of All Time, and It’s Glorious (Mili)

The author writes, “Scientists have filled in millions of missing pieces of human DNA, yielding the most complete, gapless sequence of the human genome ever produced, bar one tiny chromosome. The feat, made possible by ever-improving genome sequencing technologies and a consortium of more than 100 scientists, sets a new benchmark for understanding human genetic diversity in all its glory.”

Man in Germany Gets 90 COVID-19 Shots to Sell Forged Passes (Dana)

The author writes, “A 60-year-old man allegedly had himself vaccinated against COVID-19 dozens of times in Germany in order to sell forged vaccination cards with real vaccine batch numbers to people not wanting to get vaccinated themselves. The man from the eastern Germany city of Magdeburg, whose name was not released in line with German privacy rules, is said to have received up to 90 shots against COVID-19 at vaccination centers in the eastern state of Saxony for months until criminal police caught him earlier this month, the German news agency dpa reported Sunday.”