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.

Condors Are Soaring Again Over Northern California’s Coastal Redwoods (Maria)

The author writes, “The endangered California condor returned to soar the skies over the state’s far northern coast redwood forests on Tuesday for the first time in more than a century. Two captive-bred birds were released from a pen in Redwood National Park, about an hour’s drive south of the Oregon border, under a project aimed at restoring the giant vultures to their historic habitat in the Pacific Northwest. The two male condors were moved into a staging area in late morning and a remotely controlled gate was opened. After a few minutes of warily eyeing the opening, the birds stepped one by one through the opening, spread their giant wings and took off.”

Alito’s Plan to Repeal the 20th Century (Sean)

The author writes, “If you are an American with a young daughter, she will grow up in a world without the right to choose when and where she gives birth, and in which nothing restrains a state from declaring her womb its property, with all the invasive authorities that implies. That is the significance of the draft Supreme Court opinion leaked to Politico, which shows that the right-wing majority on the Court intends to discard Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, landmark precedents guaranteeing the constitutional right to abortion. The justices can change their minds before judgments are issued, but their opinions are drafted after they’ve taken an initial vote on the cases themselves. The draft likely reflects the direction of the final decision, even if the scope of that decision changes.”

Lawmakers See ‘Rapidly Closing Window’ to Reform a 19th-Century Law That Fueled the Insurrection (Reader Steve)

From The Boston Globe: “Can Congress put new safeguards in place to save American democracy from another insurrection attempt — this one perhaps successful? The clock might be running out. A bipartisan handful of lawmakers is working to pass at least one key reform to help prevent a repeat, zeroing in on an antiquated 19th-century law at the center of the events of Jan. 6, 2021. They’re hoping to come to an agreement on changes even before the special House committee investigating the insurrection releases its findings in the fall after high-profile public hearings in June. Even small-scale reforms to head off another attempt at overturning a valid election may become out of reach by November’s midterm elections, when Republicans — who almost all opposed the panel’s creation — are expected to win back at least one chamber of Congress.”

The 3 Pandemic Metrics That Could Tell Us What’s Next (Sean)

From Vox: “As the United States transitions out of a pandemic footing and into a new normal, it is also undergoing a shift in which Covid-19 metrics most accurately tell the story of the pandemic. The old standbys — case numbers, namely — aren’t as reliable anymore. So what’s going to replace them? At least three data sets are now being watched closely by the public health experts who spoke to Vox. Together, they help shed light on what’s happening now, what’s likely to happen, and how well we’re doing at dealing with what’s already happened over the course of the pandemic.”

Cannabis-Exposed Babies Face Poorer Metabolic Health (Mili)

The author writes, “Babies’ metabolic health appeared to suffer after being exposed to cannabis in the womb, researchers reported. In a sample of 103 mother-child pairs from Colorado, about 15% of pregnant women tested positive for detectable levels of any type of cannabinoid at around 27 weeks gestation, Brianna F. Moore, PhD, of the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora, and colleagues wrote in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.”

UN Report Says Humanity Has Altered 70 Percent of the Earth’s Land, Putting the Planet on a ‘Crisis Footing’ (Laura)

The author writes, “Damage to the Earth’s lands, largely caused by the expansion of agriculture, has put the planet on ‘crisis footing,’ say the authors of a sweeping new report that urgently calls for the restoration of billions of acres of terrain to forestall the worst impacts of climate change. The report, published [last week] is the second major report from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), a lesser-known U.N. group that’s pressing the world’s countries, governments and industries to preserve and rehabilitate degraded lands and ecosystems.” 

Robot Can Leap Nine Stories in Single Jump, Will Go Even Higher on Moon (Dana)

The author writes, “In countless superhero movies, characters’ abilities to leap to absurd heights fuel over-the-top fight scenes and strain storylines. Now, researchers have developed a simple robot that can actually scale tall buildings in a single bound. The mechanical jumper, developed by a team led by UC Santa Barbara engineering professor Elliot Hawkes, can reach a height of roughly 100 feet (30 meters). The researchers say this is the highest achieved by any known natural or manufactured jumper.”