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.

Australia’s Barrier Reef Erupts in Color as Corals Spawn (Maria)

The author writes, “Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is spawning in an explosion of color as the World Heritage-listed natural wonder recovers from life-threatening coral bleaching episodes. Scientists [last week] recorded the corals fertilizing billions of offspring by casting sperm and eggs into the Pacific Ocean off the Queensland state coastal city of Cairns. … The network of 2,500 reefs, covering 348,000 square kilometers (134,000 square miles), suffered significantly from coral bleaching caused by unusually warm ocean temperatures in 2016, 2017 and last year.”

How Will the COVID Pills Change the Pandemic? (Sean)

From The New Yorker: “In March, 2020, researchers at Emory University published a paper about a molecule called NHC/EIDD-2801. At the time, there were no treatments available for the coronavirus. But NHC/EIDD-2801, the researchers wrote, possessed ‘potency against multiple coronaviruses,’ and could become ‘an effective antiviral against SARS-CoV-2.’ A few days later, Emory licensed the molecule to Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, a Miami-based biotechnology company which had previously developed a monoclonal antibody for Ebola. Ridgeback partnered with the pharmaceutical giant Merck to accelerate its development. The Emory researchers named their drug molnupiravir, after Mjölnir — the hammer of Thor. It turns out that this was not hyperbole. Last month, Merck and Ridgeback announced that molnupiravir could reduce by half the chances that a person infected by the coronavirus would need to be hospitalized.”

Rupert Murdoch Tells Trump to STFU About 2020 (Mili)

The author writes, “While Fox News effectively served as state TV during Trump’s time in office, Murdoch and the ex-president had a falling out after the nonagenarian billionaire reportedly gave the network the greenlight to call Arizona for Biden on election night, apparently telling his son, of Trump,’F–k him’ Of course, it‘s a little rich for Murdoch to be criticizing someone else for trafficking in lies and bullshit.” 

Climate Denial Is Waning on the Right. What’s Replacing It Might Be Just as Scary (Russ)

The author writes, “Standing in front of the partial ruins of Rome’s Colosseum, Boris Johnson explained that a motive to tackle the climate crisis could be found in the fall of the Roman empire. Then, as now, he argued, the collapse of civilization hinged on the weakness of its borders. ‘When the Roman empire fell, it was largely as a result of uncontrolled immigration — the empire could no longer control its borders, people came in from the east and all over the place,’ the British prime minister said in an interview on the eve of crucial UN climate talks in Scotland. Civilization can go into reverse as well as forwards, as Johnson told it, with Rome’s fate offering grave warning as to what could happen if global heating is not restrained. This wrapping of ecological disaster with fears of rampant immigration is a narrative that has flourished in far-right fringe movements in Europe and the US and is now spilling into the discourse of mainstream politics.” 

The CIA Is Trying to Recruit Gen Z — and Doesn’t Care If They’re All Over Social Media (Reader Steve)

From Washingtonian: “One would think it’s basically impossible to get millennials and zoomers into covert jobs. The youngest of this bunch of young people have spent their entire lives online, some since their parents blasted out their first ultrasound picture as a pregnancy announcement, before they’d even gained sentience. If the whole point of being a spy is that nobody knows who you really are and no one can ever find out, how exactly are you supposed to achieve this level of anonymity when you’ve flung untold reams of identifiable content across the digital world?” 

‘Heal the Past’: First Native American Confirmed to Oversee National Parks (Dan)

The author writes, “Charles ‘Chuck’ F Sams III made history this [month] in becoming the first-ever Native American confirmed to lead the National Park Service. Sams, an enrolled tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, received unanimous consent by the US Senate … after being nominated byJoe Biden in August. Sam’s confirmation comes nearly 150 years after US leaders began the practice of establishing national parks upon ancestral lands that were often violently seized from Indigenous communities. Now, with the park service managing more than 400 areas across every state, along with the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, some Indigenous leaders see Sams’ appointment as a potential path toward healing from old but deeply rooted wounds.”

Watch Bald Eagles Tussle in the Middle of a Minnesota Street (Dana)

The author writes, “Earlier this month in Minnesota, two bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were found with their talons interlocked, potentially caught in a quarrel, right in the middle of a neighborhood street, reports Nicoletta Lanese for Live Science. A small crowd gathered around the eagles, and eventually, the Plymouth Police Department was called to the scene. Dash cam footage shows the eagles lying in the street, wings outstretched, shrieking and struggling to free themselves.”