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 to Pay $500,000 Fine for Failing to Notify Workers About COVID Cases (Maria)

The author writes, “Amazon has agreed to pay a $500,000 fine and be monitored by California officials after the state’s attorney general said the company failed to ‘adequately notify’ workers and health authorities about new COVID-19 cases. Amazon employs about 150,000 people in California, most of them at 100 … sprawling warehouses where orders are packed and shipped. The agreement, which must be approved by a judge, requires the Seattle-based retailer to notify its workers within a day of new coronavirus cases in their workplaces.”

Workers at Federal Prisons Are Committing Some of the Crimes (Reader Steve)

The authors write, “More than 100 federal prison workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for crimes since the start of 2019, including a warden indicted for sexual abuse, an associate warden charged with murder, guards taking cash to smuggle drugs and weapons, and supervisors stealing property such as tires and tractors. An Associated Press investigation has found that the federal Bureau of Prisons, with an annual budget of nearly $8 billion, is a hotbed of abuse, graft and corruption, and has turned a blind eye to employees accused of misconduct. In some cases, the agency has failed to suspend officers who themselves had been arrested for crimes.”

Whistleblower Featured in USA Today ‘Behind the Blue Wall’ Series Ousted From Police Union (DonkeyHotey)

From USA Today: “An Illinois police union on Wednesday ousted from its membership an officer facing criminal charges for exposing a squad car video that showed his fellow officers slapping and cursing a man dying of a drug overdose. The case of Sgt. Javier Esqueda, a 27-year veteran of the Joliet Police Department, was featured in September as the first installment of the USA TODAY series ‘Behind the Blue Wall,’ an investigation involving more than 300 cases of police officers over the past decade who have spoken out against alleged misconduct in their departments.”

Zillow Sells Thousands of Homes to Controversial Rental Powerhouse (Dana)

From Vice: “One week after deciding to get out of the iBuyer home-buying business, Zillow has agreed to sell 2,000 of its homes to the second-largest single-family landlord in the country, a controversial and growing powerhouse that has faced allegations it evicted tenants during the national eviction moratorium and didn’t properly maintain Black family homes. The sale represents a dramatic turn for the homes themselves, which were originally supposed to be quickly sold to single families, but will now be permanently rented out by Pretium Partners, a New York-based investment firm run by former Goldman Sachs partner Donald Mullen.”

Iceland’s New Carbon Capture Facility Is Key to Reducing Greenhouse Gasses, Scientists Say (Mili)

The author writes, “Scientists are still searching for a cheap and easy way to dispose of the primary greenhouse gas — carbon dioxide. A new Icelandic facility might be the answer. The Orca plant, powered by geothermal energy, sucks air into the collector with a fan. Once it’s inside, it sits on a highly sensitive filter. The filter collects CO2 which is then heated up and buried in the ground where it eventually turns to rock.”

Eagles, Beavers, Sea Turtles: Why NYC Is Humming With Wildlife (Russ)

From The New York Times: “Adrian Benepe has spent much of his life promoting the outdoors in New York City, from serving as a park ranger in the 1970s to becoming the parks commissioner some 30 years later. Still, he is stunned at what he has seen around town lately. ‘I grew up in the parks,’ said Mr. Benepe, now the president of Brooklyn Botanic Garden. ‘There were never red-tailed hawks or Peregrine falcons or bald eagles. You didn’t even see raccoons; there were pigeons and rats and squirrels, that was it. Now there are bald eagles all over the city. This winter they were in places you haven’t seen them in generations, and they were hunting in Prospect Park.’ Raptors are the tip of the iceberg.”

Sitting Bull’s Great-Grandson Identified Through DNA Fragments (Dan)

The author writes, “A living descendant of the famed Lakota leader Sitting Bull has been confirmed using a novel technique for analyzing fragments of the historic figure’s DNA. Scientists were able to trace family lineages from ancient DNA to verify that 73-year-old Ernie LaPointe of South Dakota is Sitting Bull’s great-grandson and closest living descendant. The findings, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, will likely help LaPointe in his long-standing fight to move the Lakota leader’s remains from their current burial site in Mobridge, South Dakota, to a location he said has more cultural relevance to his great-grandfather.”

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