Listen To This Story
Voiced by Amazon Polly

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 Keeps Growing, and So Does Its Cache of Data on You (Maria)

The author writes, “From what you buy online, to how you remember tasks, to when you monitor your doorstep, Amazon is seemingly everywhere. And it appears the company doesn’t want to halt its reach anytime soon. In recent weeks, Amazon has said it will spend billions of dollars in two gigantic acquisitions that, if approved, will broaden its ever growing presence in the lives of consumers. This time, the company is targeting two areas: health care … and the ‘smart home,’ where it plans to expand its already mighty presence through a $1.7 billion merger with iRobot, the maker of the popular robotic Roomba vacuum. Perhaps unsurprisingly … both mergers have heightened enduring privacy concerns about how Amazon gathers data and what it does with it. The latest line of Roombas, for example, employ sensors that map and remember a home’s floor plan.”

Behind the Lie of ‘87,000 Armed Agents’: How an Obscure Factoid Was Bent Into a Popular GOP Talking Point (DonkeyHotey)

From Grid: “A strange, false claim is all over conservative cable TV, right-wing social media and in the halls of Congress, where it’s been repeated by dozens of Republican lawmakers: President Joe Biden, the warning goes, is going to hire and arm 87,000 Internal Revenue Service agents to target everyday Americans. … It’s a ludicrous claim, repeatedly debunked by nonpartisan experts and outlets.”

UW Professor Outlines How States Went From the Laboratories of Democracy to Working Against It (Reader Steve)

From The Seattle Times: “Back in 1932, the U.S. Supreme Court settled a dispute between two ice salesmen in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma had a law requiring a license to sell ice. The Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional. This little-remembered case would be totally forgotten if not for one line in its dissent. Justice Louis Brandeis wrote he would have let the law stand. If Oklahoma wants to meddle in ice sales, Brandeis wrote, well, go ahead, maybe they’ll figure out something useful for the rest of us. ‘A single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country,’ Brandeis wrote. Ever since, Brandeis’ turn of phrase — states as the ‘laboratories of democracy’ — has served as one of the bedrock defenses of our federalist system of government.”

Polio in US, UK, and Israel Reveals Rare Risk of Oral Vaccine (Sean)

The author writes, “For years, global health officials have used billions of drops of an oral vaccine in a remarkably effective campaign aimed at wiping out polio in its last remaining strongholds — typically, poor, politically unstable corners of the world. Now, in a surprising twist in the decades-long effort to eradicate the virus, authorities in Jerusalem, New York and London have discovered evidence that polio is spreading there. The original source of the virus? The oral vaccine itself.”

Anywhere But Here (Sean)

From Science: “The idea of a pandemic origin outside China is preposterous to many scientists, regardless of their position on whether the virus started with a lab leak or a natural jump from animals. There’s simply no way SARS-CoV-2 could have come from some foreign place to Wuhan and triggered an explosive outbreak there without first racing through humans at the site of its origin. … Yet Chinese researchers have published a flurry of papers supporting their government’s ‘anywhere-but-here’ position. Multiple studies report finding no signs of SARS-CoV-2–related viruses or antibodies in bats and other wild and captive animals in China. Others offer clues that the virus hitched a ride to China on imported food or its packaging. On the flip side, Chinese researchers are not pursuing — or at least not publishing — obvious efforts to trace the sources of the mammals sold at the Huanan market, which could yield clues to the virus’ origins.”

Chicken Supply Chains Across Europe Linked to Indigenous Rights Abuses, Investigation Reveals (Mili)

The author writes, “Some of Europe’s largest supermarket chains, pet food producers, and restaurants have been implicated in human rights abuses and Indigenous land theft in Brazil. The major international companies’ chicken production supply chain has been traced back to Brasilia do Sul, a 23,000-acre soy farm in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, built on Guarani Kaiowá land, a report by non-profit Earthsight and agribusiness watch group De Olho nos Ruralistas has revealed.”

Humans Dressed Up as Sheep in France Contest Is the Weirdest Thing You’ll See on Internet (Dana)

The author writes, “The internet has brought together people from all over the world which makes us familiar with all sorts of bizarre things that go on around. A recent video that is going viral on social media has highlighted a weird contest in which humans dress up as sheep and imitate their behavior on a field. Now, a video is garnering a lot of attention and funny reactions from the netizens.”