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.

Amazon Fights to Overturn Union’s Historic Win at New York Warehouse (Maria)

The author writes, “Amazon is seeking to overturn a historic union victory at a New York City warehouse, arguing in a legal filing union organizers and the National Labor Relations Board acted in a way that tainted the results. The e-commerce giant wants to redo the election. Amazon listed 25 objections in the filing on Friday, accusing the Amazon Labor Union of intimidating workers to vote for the union, a claim an attorney representing the group called ‘patently absurd.’ ‘The employees have spoken,’ Eric Milner, the attorney, said in a statement after Amazon’s initial planned objections were made public. … ‘Amazon is choosing to ignore that, and instead engage in stalling tactics to avoid the inevitable – coming to the bargaining table and negotiating for a contract’ on behalf of the workers, he said.”

‘We Are Tired of Killing’: How Long Can Ukraine Trade Land for Blood? (Bethany)

The author writes, “‘The Russians are just over there.’ The Ukrainian marine driving the truck peers intently into the swirling snow, pointing to the line of trees about a half-mile ahead of us. The Russians, he tells me, ‘they leave their bodies where they fall,’ and shakes his head. His name is Oleksiy, and he has been full of bonhomie, quips, and curiosity — until we get close enough to the front lines that a forward observer could decide to direct an artillery round at our unarmored pickup. ‘Listen, if something happens, if something bad happens …’ he says, and turns to look me in the eye. ‘You do whatever you need to do to get out of here.’”

Execution of Village Mayor Becomes Symbol of Russian Brutality in Ukraine (Sean)

From The Wall Street Journal: “Mayor Olha Sukhenko took care of her village like a family for more than a decade, locals say, sprucing up public buildings, organizing concerts and settling disputes. When the Russian army withdrew … after a monthlong occupation, her neighbors found Ms. Sukhenko’s lifeless body in a shallow grave, her hands bound. Her husband and son lay next to her, dead. Olha, Ihor and Oleksandr Sukhenko are but three of the faces of the brutal aftermath of Russia’s occupation that Ukrainian officials and villagers say left civilians dead on the street and buried under thin layers of dirt before fierce resistance drove them out.”

The Veteran Who Launched a Multimillion-Dollar Effort to Build a Border Wall Has Agreed to Plead Guilty to Fraud Charges (DonkeyHotey)

The author writes, “Brian Kolfage, an Iraq War veteran who launched a multimillion-dollar crowdfunding effort to build a private border wall, has agreed to plead guilty to fraud charges after prosecutors say he surreptitiously took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fundraiser. Before launching We Build the Wall, Kolfage had made a living by peddling right-wing misinformation on social media, eventually leading to him being banned on Facebook. In a letter filed in the federal Southern District of New York, federal prosecutors said that in addition to the attempt and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges, Kolfage also agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of lying on his 2019 taxes.”

Rape Exceptions to Abortion Bans Were Once Widely Accepted. No More (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “As conservative states enacted stringent abortion bans in recent decades, there was one threshold they were loath to cross: Abortion was nearly always allowed in cases of rape or incest. It was a veneer of acceptance embraced by every GOP president from Reagan to Trump, and even the strongest abortion foes, that a woman should not be required to carry a rapist’s child. Not anymore. Just as states may be on the verge of regaining expansive authority to outlaw abortion, eliminating rape and incest exceptions has moved from the fringe to the center of the anti-abortion movement.”

The Unsung Force Digging Through Misinformation (Sean)

The author writes, “Tell someone that talk show host Ellen Degeneres is under house arrest for child trafficking, an actual false rumor that spread across social media in March 2020, and most people would chalk it up to nonsense and move on. Not Sara Aniano. The 31-year-old graphic designer, who works at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey, heard this debunked conspiracy theory from a friend and thought it was so crazy that she simply had to learn more. … That such a wild story was able to gain traction piqued the interest of Aniano, who in addition to working as a graphic designer for the university, was also in grad school studying communications between schools and local communities. It moved her enough that she eventually changed her focus to studying conspiracy theories.” 

Microplastics Have Now Been Found in the Deepest Part of Human Lungs (Mili)

The author writes, “The term ‘microplastic’ was coined just 18 years ago, but already they seem to be just about everywhere. Each year, the average human consumes an estimated 74,000 particles of plastic with unknown health effects. In March of this year, scientists announced they’d found microplastics flowing through our very veins. Turns out, they’re also circulating at low levels deep in our lungs. The most robust study of its kind has discovered 39 microplastic particles (each at least three micrometers in size) in 11 out of 13 lung tissue samples from living humans.”

The Remarkable Brain of a Carpet Cleaner Who Speaks 24 Languages (Russ)

From The Washington Post: “‘So, how many languages do you speak?’ ‘Oh goodness,’ Vaughn says. ‘Eight, fluently.’ … He is still underselling his abilities. By his count, it is actually 37 more languages, with at least 24 he speaks well enough to carry on lengthy conversations. He can read and write in eight alphabets and scripts. He can tell stories in Italian and Finnish and American Sign Language. He’s teaching himself Indigenous languages, from Mexico’s Nahuatl. to Montana’s Salish. The quality of his accents in Dutch and Catalan dazzle people from the Netherlands and Spain.”