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.

Human Activity Influencing Global Rainfall, Study Finds (Maria)

The author writes, “Human activity, such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use change, were a key factor in extreme precipitation events such as flooding and landslides around the world, a study has found. … In recent years, there have been numerous instances of flooding and landslides; extreme precipitation — rainfall or snowfall that exceeds what is normal for a given region — can be a cause of such events. … Research, such as the latest modeling study published on Tuesday in Nature Communications, works to better understand whether human actions impacting the climate contribute to the likelihood and severity of extreme events.”

Haiti Has Been Abandoned — by the Media, the US, and the World (Dan)

The author writes, “Among ourselves, Haiti watchers have marveled at the lack of reporting on the situation in the international media. Usually the international media is quick to cover Haiti’s dysfunctions. And Haiti is now at its most dysfunctional. Port-au-Prince’s southwestern quadrant has been nearly inaccessible for at least a month, under siege by pitched territorial battles between heavily armed gangs that rule the city with utter impunity. The police are invisible and the government silent.”

San Jose’s Plan to Become First US City to Make Firearm Owners Pay for Gun Violence (Reader Steve)

From The Mercury News: “San Jose is on its way to becoming the first city in the nation to require gun owners to carry liability insurance and pay the city a fee to spare taxpayers the financial toll of gun violence. This particular gun control measure has never been tried before so it’s stirring up a lot of buzz across the nation. ‘While the Second Amendment certainly protects the right to own a gun, it does not mandate that taxpayers subsidize the possession of those guns,’ Mayor Sam Liccardo said during the City Council’s meeting Tuesday. ‘And we need a mechanism that will both compensate injured victims and take some of the burden off of taxpayers.’”

We Now Know How Exxon Secretly Fights Crackdowns on Plastic Pollution (Mili)

From Gizmodo: “A senior Exxon lobbyist was caught on tape admitting that the company has been running a behind-the-scenes campaign to combat regulation on plastics and PFAS, a video released [last] Thursday shows. The tape is the second installment of an undercover investigation conducted by Unearthed, the investigative arm of Greenpeace UK, and it confirms environmentalists’ worst fears. An Unearthed reporter posed as a recruiter on the search for lobbyists for a major client and managed to land Zoom calls with senior Exxon staffers, including its senior director of federal relations, Keith McCoy. In the May meeting, McCoy admitted that Exxon employed the same tactics it had previously used to derail climate policies in its effort to fend off ‘comprehensive regulations’ on plastic.”

Why Some Biologists and Ecologists Think Social Media Is a Risk To Humanity (Sean)

From Vox: “Social media has drastically restructured the way we communicate in an incredibly short period of time. We can discover, ‘Like,’ click on, and share information faster than ever before, guided by algorithms most of us don’t quite understand. And while some social scientists, journalists, and activists have been raising concerns about how this is affecting our democracy, mental health, and relationships, we haven’t seen biologists and ecologists weighing in as much. That’s changed with a new paper published in the prestigious science journal PNAS earlier this month, titled ‘Stewardship of global collective behavior.’”

Tracking Data Show How the Quiet of Pandemic-Era Lockdowns Allowed Pumas to Venture Closer to Urban Areas (Mili)

The author writes, “New research from the University of California, Santa Cruz shows how regional shelter-in-place orders during the coronavirus pandemic emboldened local pumas to use habitats they would normally avoid out of fear of humans. This study, published in the journal Current Biology, is part of a growing wave of research working to formally document the types of unusual changes to wildlife movements and behaviors that people around the world reported during pandemic lockdowns.”

Man Who Robbed Taco Truck With Water Gun Gets Life Sentence Commuted After 40 Years (Dana)

The author writes, “In 1981, [Rolf] Kaestel — now 70 — robbed Senor Bob’s Taco Hut in Port Smith. During the robbery, he waved a toy water gun at then-17-year-old cashier Dennis Schlutterman. Kaestel made it off with $264. … Now, what would you consider an appropriate punishment for stealing a couple a hundred bucks with a toy gun? Whatever you thought of, you probably didn’t think he should spend the rest of his life in jail, did you? Well, that’s what he got. In 1981, when he was 29 years old, Kaestel was sentenced to life in prison for aggravated robbery, in addition to being fined $15,000.”

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