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.

A Move to Rein In Cancer-Causing ‘Forever Chemicals’ (Maria)

The author writes, “The Biden administration on Monday said it would require chemical manufacturers to test and publicly report the amount of a family of chemicals known as PFAS that is contained in household items like tape, nonstick pans and stain-resistant furniture, the first step toward reducing their presence in drinking water. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, or PFAS, refers to more than 4,000 man-made chemicals that are often called ‘forever chemicals’ because they don’t break down in the environment. Exposure to the chemicals has been linked to certain cancers, weakened immunity, thyroid disease, and other health effects.”

Federal Judges or Their Brokers Traded Stocks of Litigants During Cases (DonkeyHotey)

From The Wall Street Journal: “Mary Geiger Lewis acquired Walmart Inc. stock. Charles Norgle Sr. reported nearly a dozen buys and sells of Pfizer Inc. shares. Charles Siragusa had two accounts that bought Medtronic PLC stock. None of that would be a problem, except for this: All are federal judges, and at the time of the trades, all were hearing cases involving those companies. The Wall Street Journal discovered this trading in a broad investigation that identified 131 federal judges who heard hundreds of cases between 2010 and 2018 involving companies in which they or a family member owned stock—in violation of federal law and judicial-ethics rules.”

Bitter Sugar (Dan)

From The Washington Post: “For decades, the U.S. government has condemned prominent offshore tax havens, where liberal rules and guarantees of discretion have drawn oligarchs, business tycoons and politicians. But a cache of more than 11.9 million secret documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with The Washington Post and other media outlets around the globe found that some of the most sought-after tax havens are now in the United States — and that the expanding U.S. trust industry is becoming a repository for some fortunes linked to individuals or companies that have been accused of worker exploitation and other human rights abuses. In South Dakota, shares of a Dominican sugar company are being sheltered, part of a $14 million portfolio connected to family members of its onetime president.”

Texas House Finalizes Gnarled US House Map That Lets GOP Harvest Bounty From Hispanic Growth (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “The Texas House approved a congressional election plan late Saturday that would lock in an overwhelming Republican edge for a decade — despite a slipping share of the population and the fact that Texas’ two new seats stem from growth in the Hispanic population. The gerrymandered map allocates 24 of 38 U.S. House seats to the GOP, a generous ratio given that Republicans collected just 53% of votes in congressional races last November. ‘They would like to erase African Americans and Hispanics from the state by not allowing them to have access to vote for a person of their choice,’ said Rep. Yvonne Davis, a Dallas Democrat, accusing Republicans of ‘racism’ and ‘racist gerrymandering.’”

China Tests New Space Capability With Hypersonic Missile (Sean)

From the Financial Times: “China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August that circled the globe before speeding towards its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught US intelligence by surprise. Five people familiar with the test said the Chinese military launched a rocket that carried a hypersonic glide vehicle which flew through low-orbit space before cruising down towards its target. The missile missed its target by about two-dozen miles, according to three people briefed on the intelligence. But two said the test showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than US officials realised.”

The Ancient Stepwells Helping to Curb India’s Water Crisis (Mili)

The author writes, “An exquisitely carved maze of 3,500 steps, arranged in perfect symmetry, descends with geometrical precision to reach a well. Criss-crossed steps encircle the water on three sides, while the fourth side is adorned by a pavilion with embellished galleries and balconies. Built by Rajput ruler Raja Chanda during the 8th-9th Century, Chand Bawri in Abhaneri, Rajasthan, is India’s largest and deepest stepwell. Extending down 13 floors, or 100ft (30m), into the ground, it is a captivating example of inverted architecture. Plunging into the earth, stepwells like Chand Bawri were built in drought-prone regions of India to provide water all year round, ensuring communities had access to vital water storage and irrigation systems.”

Long-Term Data Storage — in Glowing Dyes (Dana)

The author writes, “Hard-disk drives, flash drives and other devices currently used to store digital information all suffer from a major shortcoming: a very limited operational lifetime, commonly only twenty years or less. That has left researchers searching for alternative materials and strategies that remain stable for much longer periods. One potential approach is molecule-based data storage, which can, in principle, remain stable for thousands of years without consuming energy. Now, a team of scientists at Harvard University and Northwestern University, USA, has developed a new method that uses mixtures of fluorescent dye molecules deposited on an epoxy surface with an inkjet printer.”