climate change, Boulder County, Colorado, urban firestorm, Marshall Fire
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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.

Colorado Disaster Was Something Much Scarier Than a Wildfire (Maria)

The author writes, “In the space of a few hours just a day before the new year, 100-plus mph winds carried the most destructive fire in Colorado history through the suburban sprawl of greater Denver. … By the standards of the megafires and gigafires of the last few years, the Marshall Fire was quite small — 6,000 acres, all told, once it was finally, poetically, brought to an end by snowfall on New Year’s Eve. But following the driest and second-warmest fall in 150 years, the devastation was harrowing out of proportion to its scale, since unlike most wildfire it was not in wildland or forest but was — as the climate scientist Daniel Swain, who lives in Boulder, put it — an ‘urban firestorm.’”

A Year After a Seditious Insurrection, Why Won’t Federal Prosecutors Treat It That Way? (Reader Steve)

From The Boston Globe: “As we approach the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 violent besiegement of the Capitol by a largely white mob of pro-Trump rioters bent on forcefully stopping the certification of the 2020 election results, not a single one of the more than 700 people who have been arrested has been charged with seditious conspiracy or the similar federal crime of insurrection. Yes, insurrection is a crime — one that carries, as a penalty, the inability to hold any future elected office. That’s quite relevant in this case, as well. The lack of charges are despite the fact that the attack wasn’t just on those inside the building, but on democracy itself. It’s despite the fact that the insurrection was deadly, and the rioters were fortified by self-proclaimed militiamen and far-right and white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys and No White Guilt.”

Unearthed Interview Reveals How Ghislaine Maxwell Helped Kill Exposé (Dan)

The author writes, “Ghislaine Maxwell savaged a Vanity Fair reporter nearly 20 years ago to help bury an exposé of her sex crimes — while claiming pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was generous and ‘very, very good’ to his accusers, according to a newly released transcript of her rare interview. Maxwell, now 60, did not testify during her sex-trafficking trial, in which her legal team insisted she was an innocent scapegoat for the ‘bad behavior’ of Epstein, her late ex and longtime companion. But she did speak out in 2002 — in a fiery interview that, like the planned exposé, never ran in Vanity Fair. Instead, the mag published a flattering puff piece titled ‘The Talented Mr. Epstein.’”

Bernie Sanders: Pay Your Workers Better. Warren Buffett: That’s Not My Job (Reader Jim)

The author writes, “Warren Buffett, the ninth-richest person on the planet, says it’s not up to him to settle a strike by 450 steelworkers at a company he owns. Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote a letter to the Berkshire Hathaway CEO, requesting that he intervene in a United Steelworkers union strike at the Special Metals plant in Huntington, West Virginia. They’ve been on strike for three months. Special Metals is a unit of Precision Castparts, which is owned by Buffett’s Berkshire. … But Buffett responded with a letter quoting Berkshire’s annual financial filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which tells investors that the management of its different companies is left up to the executives at each subsidiary — not Berkshire itself (or Buffett).”

Many Surprise Medical Bills Are Now Illegal (DonkeyHotey)

From Axios: “Effective today, federal law bans many types of out-of-network medical bills and puts the onus on doctors and health insurance companies to resolve their payment disputes. Why it matters: Consumers can breathe a sigh of relief because, in many scenarios, they should no longer face unexpected charges from doctors who are not in their insurance networks.”

Road Salt Is Wreaking Havoc on Our Drinking Water and the Environment, Study Says (Sean)

The author writes, “The majority of Americans live in areas impacted by snow and ice. Every year, road crews in these regions dump about 25 metric tons of salt on roadways, reducing vehicular accidents by approximately 80 percent. And while that’s undoubtedly a good thing, all that salt is wreaking havoc on the environment and our drinking water, according to a new study published this month in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.”

‘2021 Is Pulling Out All the Tricks’: Fish Rain From the Sky in Rare Phenomenon in Texas (Dana)

The author writes, “As 2021 comes to a close, a city in Texas had one last unexpected event: raining fish. Residents in Texarkana, almost 200 miles from Dallas, saw fish fall from the sky and land in their yards or sidewalks, KXXV reported. ‘2021 is pulling out all the tricks … including raining fish in Texarkana today. And no, this isn’t a joke,’ the city of Texarkana wrote in a Facebook post.”

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