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.

NASA’s New Space Telescope Sees 1st Starlight, Takes Selfie (Maria)

The author writes, “NASA’s new space telescope has captured its first starlight and even taken a selfie of its giant gold mirror. All 18 segments of the primary mirror on the James Webb Space Telescope seem to be working properly one and a half months into the mission, officials said Friday. The telescope’s first target was a bright star 258 light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. ‘That was just a real wow moment,’ said Marshall Perrin of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.”

Left Splits Over Supreme Court Pick Pushed by Top Biden Ally (DonkeyHotey)

The author writes, “After Sherrod Brown caught wind of the progressive angst over judge Michelle Childs’ possible ascension to the Supreme Court, the labor stalwart talked it through with her biggest Democratic backer — the House majority whip. ‘If she’s chosen, I’ll be enthusiastic,’ Brown said in an interview on Tuesday. ‘I’ve heard things. I am reassured from Clyburn and others that she would be a good nominee.’ And the Ohio Democratic senator walked away satisfied from his conversation with Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who’s stumping hard for his home-state judge to join the high court. … But the South Carolina district court judge likely has more work to do to win over the progressive senators she’ll need to get confirmed. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) declined to talk about Childs at all.”

Polling on Issues People Know Little About Creates Illusion of Public Opinion (Reader Jim)

The author writes, “Last week … I suggested that a new ABC News/Ipsos poll (1/30/22) was a poster child for what is wrong with many media-sponsored polls these days. Instead of a serious effort to measure what the public is thinking about any specific issue, the poll glided superficially across a whole range of subjects, never stopping long enough to provide understanding of any one of them — creating an illusion of public opinion that is either misleading, biased or simply inaccurate. That article focused on the poll’s biased wording on one question about President Joe Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman for the Supreme Court vacancy. In this article, I examine the nine presidential approval questions the poll included.”

Is Long-Fallow Equal Rights Amendment About to Quietly Go Into Effect? The Question Looms (Reader Steve)

From The Oregonian: “The Equal Rights Amendment was big news during the Me Decade. Tens of thousands of supporters marched on the U.S. Capitol in 1978, chanting slogans, whooping, waving banners that declared ‘Free My Sisters’ and ‘ERA All the Way.’ … More than 40 years later, the journey continues for the ERA. Congress passed the women’s-rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1972. It sent the text to the states with a seven-year deadline for three-fourths of them — 38 states — to ratify it. But not enough state legislatures got it done, even with an extension from Congress, and in 1982 the ERA died. Or did it? Proponents have continued to push for the amendment, and in recent years three additional states have ratified it. When Virginia did so in 2020, this brought ratification to the required 38. Or did it? Over the years, a handful of state legislatures, flapping with the shifting partisan winds in their states, rescinded their ratifications.”

Why Many Immigrants Believe the ‘Big Lie’ — And Will Again (Dan)

The author writes, “At the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Confederate flags and other symbols of white nationalism were flown alongside the flag of South Vietnam, my parents’ homeland, which was taken over by communists in 1975. The flags of India, Israel, Cuba, Taiwan and pre-revolution Iran also appeared on the Capitol steps. It has since been reported that Chinese Americans gave the Proud Boys more than 80 percent of the funds to cover medical costs of members stabbed at a demonstration the month before the insurrection. Perhaps this will come as a surprise to many. To me, it didn’t. I have witnessed susceptibility to the ‘big lie’ within my own family.”

Pittsfield Board of Health Issues Conditional Cease and Desist Order to Verizon Over Cell Tower (Sean)

From WAMC Northeast Public Radio: “The Pittsfield, Massachusetts board of health has voted unanimously to issue a cease and desist order to telecommunications giant Verizon over a controversial cell tower. For almost two years, the residents of the Shack Town neighborhood have been a ubiquitous presence at city meetings, decrying the cell tower at 877 South Street. … Residents have ascribed a wide array of health issues to the tower, erected in 2020, ranging from headaches and dizziness to beyond.”

Idaho Potato Commission Hypes New French Fry Perfume. Want to Buy Some? You’re Cooked (Dana)

From the Idaho Statesman: “Hoping to buy the new french fry fragrance all the sexy people are wearing? You’re cooked. Launched [last] Monday on the Idaho Potato Commission’s website, ‘Frites by Idaho’ officially sold out Wednesday — after an earlier blowout. Feeding off Valentine’s Day lust, the quirky, limited-edition fry fragrance apparently was more ‘a-peeling’ than anyone had imagined. (Thanks for the pun, Potato Commission.) ‘Inspired by the irresistible scent of french fries,’ the entirely real perfume was ‘crafted from a blend of essential oils and distilled Idaho Potatoes.’ A 1.7-ounce bottle was $1.89 — ‘about the same price as a large order of fries.’”