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.

What Is Earth Day? Everything to Know About the Holiday, Its History, and This Year’s Theme (Maria)

The author writes, “Friday marks Earth’s very own holiday, and this year’s theme is ‘Invest In Our Planet.’ Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day’s global organizer EarthDay.org, wants this year’s message to give people around the world hope. ‘I think people can’t operate in fear. … So we looked for messaging [that] might inspire people to look to the future in a way that engages them and allows them to think positively about what they could do to change it,’ Rogers told USA Today, adding that ‘Invest In Our Planet’ brings three parties to the table: government, businesses and citizens. ‘We all need to work together.’”

Greg Abbott Tried to Act Presidentially. He Might Have Run Afoul of the Law. (DonkeyHotey)

From Texas Monthly: “Governor Greg Abbott has held several bizarre public announcements this month, but the one he staged with the governor of the Mexican state of Nuevo León last Wednesday was surely the strangest. In a dark room beneath dim fluorescent lights, the two governors sat in front of an enormous seal from Texas’s Department of Public Safety. After quick speeches filled with platitudes about the importance of trade and border security, each of the two governors awkwardly flaunted a so-called ‘memorandum of understanding’ that they had signed in English and Spanish. The agreement outlined that Nuevo León, which shares with Texas a nine-mile strip of border north of Laredo, would ramp up border security measures and Texas would stop ‘enhanced safety inspections’ of incoming traffic that Abbott had ordered earlier in the month.”

The Superpredator Myth Did a Lot of Damage. Courts Are Beginning to See the Light. (Gerry)

The authors write, “Over the past decade, many Americans have come to agree that we lock up too many people, for too long, in miserable conditions. But despite a growing political movement against prisons, imprisonment rates remain stubbornly high, and the United States is still the world leader in incarceration. To meaningfully shrink the prison system will require states to do something few have wanted to do: reduce some of the extremely long sentences imposed in the 1990s. Revisiting lengthy sentences, especially for people who committed acts of violence, has always been considered one of the third rails of criminal justice reform. But two recent developments in Connecticut — one from the State Supreme Court, the other from the Board of Pardons and Paroles — offer important examples of state officials overcoming this reluctance.”

Ukraine’s Past and Present Intertwine as a War Historian Seeks Refuge (Sean)

From Reuters: “In late February, on a cold night in Kharkiv, Viktoria Naumenko caught a bus to a bar where two of her closest friends were waiting to tell her about their engagement. Outside, she lit a cigarette to calm her nerves before stepping into the noisy cafe. She texted a friend in Canada: ‘I feel like this might be the last time I’ll see my friends alive.’ Naumenko, 39, had been warning those around her since the beginning of December that war was imminent. A war historian who spent 20 years interviewing survivors of past European conflicts, she thought she knew what was to come. She stocked up on food, urged friends with children to leave the eastern Ukrainian city, and sent all of her research to her boss in the U.S. for safekeeping in case something happened to her.”

The Planet Inside (Laura)

From Science: “Earth’s magnetic field, nearly as old as the planet itself, protects life from damaging space radiation. But 565 million years ago, the field was sputtering, dropping to 10% of today’s strength, according to a recent discovery. Then, almost miraculously, over the course of just a few tens of millions of years, it regained its strength — just in time for the sudden profusion of complex multicellular life known as the Cambrian explosion. What could have caused the rapid revival? Increasingly, scientists believe it was the birth of Earth’s inner core, a sphere of solid iron that sits within the molten outer core, where churning metal generates the planet’s magnetic field.”

Scientists Surveyed What Makes You a Boring Person, and the Results Are Harsh (Mili)

The author writes, “Although many of us are likely trying our best to be interesting, boring people are seemingly everywhere. Maybe it’s the person who never finishes a story properly, or someone who just can’t stop filling you in on their bird-watching ‘adventures.’ A new paper has investigated what makes people appear boring, and how this impacts our perceptions in relation to boring people. To do this, researchers asked over 500 people in five different studies to rank the most stereotypically boring characteristics, hobbies, and jobs.” 

Cat Known for Huge Eyes, Wonky Feet to Become Mayor of Small Michigan Town (Dana)

From MLive: “A cat known for her oversized eyes and wonky feet is about to become the mayor of a small Michigan town. And not just any town. This little black cat will rule over Hell, located about 20 miles northwest of Ann Arbor. Anyone can become mayor of Hell for a day. It’s part of the town’s schtick. Pets, though, are another thing. Sunday, April 24 will actually be the first time a cat will make sure all Hell doesn’t break loose.”