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.

Power Companies Band Together to Build Coast-to-Coast EV Fast-Charger Network (Maria)

The author writes, “It took an act of Congress and $7.5 billion in federal funding, but more than 50 of the nation’s power companies are ready to build a coast-to-coast fast-charging network for electric vehicles. The proposal so far is light on details. Members of the National Electric Highway Coalition say they serve nearly 120 million customers across 47 states and the District of Columbia. The coalition hasn’t said how many fast chargers it will be installing, but the companies said they would focus first on gaps in existing fast-charging networks along interstate highways.”

If Roe Falls, Some Fear Ripple Effect on Civil Rights Cases (Reader Steve)

The author writes, “If the Supreme Court decides to overturn or gut the decision that legalized abortion, some fear that it could undermine other precedent-setting cases, including civil rights and LGBTQ protections. Overturning Roe v. Wade would have a bigger effect than most cases because it was reaffirmed by a second decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, three decades later, legal scholars and advocates said. … ‘If a case like Roe, which has this double precedent value, is overturned simply because there’s a change in the composition of the court, there’s really no way that we can have confidence in any of those precedents going forward,’ said Samuel Spital, director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.”

Study Finds Spike in Hospitals Suing Patients Over Unpaid Medical Bills (Reader Steve)

From Yale News: “A study by researchers at Yale and Stanford universities reveals a significant increase in lawsuits over unpaid hospital bills in Wisconsin, providing further evidence of the financial hardship that the U.S. health care system is causing patients. The study, published Dec. 6 in the journal Health Affairs, found that lawsuits over unpaid bills for hospital care increased by 37% in Wisconsin from 2001 to 2018, rising from 1.12 cases per 1,000 state residents to 1.53 per 1,000 residents. During the same period, wage garnishments from the lawsuits increased 27%. By 2018, more than half of hospital lawsuits in Wisconsin resulted in wage garnishments, according to the study. The rise in lawsuits disproportionally affected Black patients and lower-income patients in rural areas, the study showed.”

On Syria’s Ruins, a Drug Empire Flourishes (Russ)

The author writes, “Built on the ashes of 10 years of war in Syria, an illegal drug industry run by powerful associates and relatives of President Bashar al-Assad has grown into a multi-billion-dollar operation, eclipsing Syria’s legal exports and turning the country into the world’s newest narcostate. Its flagship product is captagon, an illegal, addictive amphetamine popular in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. Its operations stretch across Syria, including workshops that manufacture the pills, packing plants where they are concealed for export, and smuggling networks to spirit them to markets abroad.”

Manatees, Facing a Crisis, Will Get a Bit of Help: Extra Feeding (Bethany)

The author writes, “The starving manatees are easy enough to spot. You can see their ribs through their skin. They surface to breathe more than normal. Those most in need appear off balance, listing to one side. As manatee deaths spike and Florida rescue centers fill up with manatees so malnourished that they need medical intervention, federal and state wildlife officials are taking an unprecedented step for the species: They will provide food for hundreds of manatees at a key location on the state’s east coast in an urgent effort to get them through the winter.”

Greg Tate (Dan)

From Artforum: “Cultural critic Greg Tate, whose incandescent and incisive writing, particularly on topics surrounding Black American culture, influenced a generation, died [Tuesday] of undisclosed causes at the age of sixty-four. The news was confirmed by his publisher, Duke University Press. A tremendously talented guitarist, he was additionally the founder of improv group Burnt Sugar and a cofounder of the Black Rock coalition. In prose that, as Hua Hsu wrote in the New Yorker in 2016 ‘throbbed like a party and chattered like a salon,’ Tate astutely assessed Black art and music not within the framework of the white culture that appropriated and consumed it but in relation to the Black culture that spawned it.”

Truck Carrying $20K of Gnocchi Stolen From Restaurant (Dana)

The author writes, “That’s a lot of dough. A refrigerated truck filled with $20,000 worth of freshly made gnocchi was stolen from outside an Australian restaurant Sunday night. The carb-craving crook fled in the Toyota truck as a delivery driver was carrying box loads of pasta into the Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers restaurant in Brisbane at about midnight, the Daily Mail reported. ‘It’s a shame for the gnocchi. I really feel sorry for the poor gnocchi. I know that sounds ridiculous but a lot of work went into making it,’ one of the restaurant’s owners, Ben Cleary-Corradini, said.”