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.

Google Lowered Its Salaries in North Carolina. Workers Are Protesting. (Maria)

The author writes, “Google has lowered salaries for new workers in some North Carolina offices, one of the areas company executives say is meant to help increase the overall diversity of the tech giant’s workforce. Employees raised concerns that Google cut wages in the ‘Triangle’ area of Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh in 2020 for new employees and those who moved there to lower levels than comparable metro areas, according to a letter posted this week on an internal forum obtained by The Washington Post and confirmed by employees there. That is a problem, they say, because the company is using the area as a place to help recruit more Black engineers. … The employees say they want the salary cut reversed, and a commitment from their bosses to be more transparent about how regional salary differences are determined.”

The Latest Conservative to Join the Resistance? Ted Cruz’s Mentor (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “It’s been a measure of former federal Judge J. Michael Luttig’s stature in the conservative legal movement that Supreme Court justices hired so many of his law clerks — 40 over 15 years. Then two of those proteges became (in)famous: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Trump lawyer John C. Eastman, lead actors in the plot to overturn Joe Biden’s election. Now Luttig is doing penance of a sort: He’s joined the Resistance — against former President Trump, certainly, but also against his erstwhile mentees.”

1 in 3 Big Defense Contractors Profit From US Prisoner Suffering (Reader Pat)

From MintPress News: “America’s largest arms companies are increasingly finding lucrative new ways of profiting from the prison industrial complex; in many cases, weapons of war are directly manufactured using coerced prison labor. A new MintPress News study of the 100 largest private Defense Department contractors found that 37% of them were also profiting from incarcerated Americans, either in prisons and jails, or in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) camps. This proportion rose to 16 of the top 25 largest arms manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.” 

The Mystery Man Being Floated to DC Reporters as Harris’ Next Chief of Staff (Dan)

The authors write, “Since at least Dec. 1, White House reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, CBS News, and Politico have been receiving emails from several different accounts all with the same tip: Jovanni Ortiz, the manager of community outreach and engagement for the Department of Public Safety at Hofstra University, is being eyed for a senior role in Vice President Kamala Harris’ office.”

Why Some North Korean Defectors Return to One of the World’s Most Repressive Regimes (Russ)

The authors write, “He risked his life fleeing from one of the world’s most repressive regimes, traversing a militarized stretch protected by barbed wire fences. Then a year later, he went back — the way he came. More than one month since the man crossed the demilitarized zone from South to North Korea, much of his life in both countries remains a mystery — as do his reasons for returning to the isolated nation ruled by Kim Jong Un. … The man’s case is rare — while more than 10,000 North Korean defectors have arrived in South Korea in the past decade, just 30 have returned home. … But defectors and advocates say even if the man’s rationale for leaving South Korea is unclear, the fact that some North Korean defectors are willing to return to one of the world’s most politically isolated countries only highlights how challenging life can be in the South for North Koreans.”

The Town That QAnon Nearly Swallowed (Jonathan)

From The Nation: “Right-wing demagogues tried to take over a small town in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s how concerned citizens stopped them.”

The Biggest Galaxy Ever Found Has Just Been Discovered, and It Will Break Your Brain (Sean)

The author writes, “Astronomers have just found an absolute monster of a galaxy. Lurking some 3 billion light-years away, Alcyoneus is a giant radio galaxy reaching 5 megaparsecs into space. That’s 16.3 million light-years long, and constitutes the largest known structure of galactic origin. The discovery highlights our poor understanding of these colossi, and what drives their incredible growth. But it could provide a pathway to better understanding, not just of giant radio galaxies, but the intergalactic medium that drifts in the yawning voids of space.”