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.

Environmentalists Hail China’s Vow to Stop Building Coal-Fired Power Plants Abroad (Maria)

The author writes, “Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday that his country ‘will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad’ was welcome news for the global climate. ‘Given [that] China has been up to this date the single biggest financier [of] new coal power plants across the world,’ the move is ‘globally very significant,’ says Josep Canadell, an earth system scientist at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.”

Troll Farms Reached 140 Million Americans a Month on Facebook Before 2020 Election, Internal Report Shows (Sean)

From MIT Technology Review: “In the run-up to the 2020 election, the most highly contested in US history, Facebook’s most popular pages for Christian and Black American content were being run by Eastern European troll farms. These pages were part of a larger network that collectively reached nearly half of all Americans, according to an internal company report, and achieved that reach not through user choice but primarily as a result of Facebook’s own platform design and engagement-hungry algorithm. The report, written in October 2019 and obtained by MIT Technology Review from a former Facebook employee not involved in researching it, found that after the 2016 election, Facebook failed to prioritize fundamental changes to how its platform promotes and distributes information. The company instead pursued a whack-a-mole strategy that involved monitoring and quashing the activity of bad actors when they engaged in political discourse, and adding some guardrails that prevented ‘the worst of the worst.’”

The Canadian Election’s Lesson for Americans (Dan)

From National Review: “Canada had an election [this week], and the results weren’t very interesting. The Liberals, led by Justin Trudeau, called the election in the hopes of turning their minority government into a majority government. In the last election, they won 157 seats in the House of Commons. They currently have won or lead in… 158 seats. Canadian writer Ben Woodfinden called it ‘the Seinfeld election,’ since it wound up being about nothing. What is noteworthy is the way the vote totals interact with the structure of Canadian government. The House of Commons has single-member districts (called ‘ridings’) where candidates are elected in a first-past-the-post system.”

San Francisco Embraces First Tiny Cabin Village for Homeless People (Reader Steve)

From the San Francisco Chronicle: “After years of resistance, San Francisco is finally jumping onto the trend of sheltering homeless people in tiny homes, with plans to install them on two parking lots about nine blocks away from City Hall. … Each 64-square-foot cabin will have a steel frame, 2-inch-thick walls, heating systems, a desk, a bed and a window. The site will get improved bathrooms, storage spaces and a dining area. The $1.7 million cost of building and installing the cabins, along with the dining and other facilities, will be paid for by the money raised by the nonprofits DignityMoves, and Tipping Point Community. The cabins will remain for 18 months, when the lease the city signed for using the parking lots as outdoor shelter spaces runs out.”

In the Heart of Nashville, Rolling Parties Rage at Every Stoplight (Russ)

The author writes, “The John Deere tractor pulled onto Broadway and rumbled into the madness. On a Friday night in the heart of Nashville, as crowds and music spilled from packed clubs, it lumbered along at 5 miles per hour, tugging a canopied trailer with flashing lights and a group of friends from Denver sipping drinks and dancing to Shania Twain. It wasn’t especially conspicuous. The Big Green Tractor, as it’s called, passed an open-air school bus crammed with partiers, and then another, and another. It also crept beside a vehicle with women leaning over a railing in tank tops printed with the slogan ‘Let’s Get Nashty!’ The tractor hadn’t even made it a mile.”

Ancient Camel Sculptures Are Older Than the Pyramids and Stonehenge, Scientists Discover (Mili)

The author writes, “A team of archaeologists has determined that a set of camels carved into three rock spurs in Northern Saudi Arabia are between 7,000 and 8,000 years old, making them older than the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge. Initially, experts believed that the camel carvings were roughly 2,000 years old. However, the researchers explain …  the team used erosion patterns and tool marks on the sculptures to date them back to the prehistoric era (5200 to 5600 BCE). That predates both the Pyramids at Giza and the domestication of camels.”

Aussie Ducks Learn to Swear, Can Say ‘You Bloody Fool’ Like a Human (Dana)

The author writes, “‘You bloody fool!’ As an Aussie living in Sydney with access to a motor vehicle, I’ve screamed that expression plenty of times in my life. When someone forgets to use the blinker or slams on the brakes? You bloody fool is a common refrain. Others have probably screamed it at me, too. The one place I wouldn’t expect to hear it, though, is at a duck pond. How wrong I was.”

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