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.

US Pushes for Better Tap Water — But Must Win Over a Wary Public (Maria)

The author writes, “As the Biden administration looks to spend billions of dollars to address inequalities in water quality and access, officials must try to overcome persistent public distrust of tap water. Experts say it will be especially difficult to overcome in Black and Hispanic communities, where suspicion can be entrenched because of past experiences of being misled by public officials and high-profile lead crises in cities with large Black populations. … The issue will hit home in many cities and towns as the Biden administration pushes to replace millions of lead service lines in the US that can leach lead into drinking water.”

Biden vs. Trump: The Makings of a Shattering Constitutional Crisis (Reader Steve)

The authors write, “Donald Trump is already signaling that he will run for president in 2024. A Biden-Trump rematch risks worsening our country’s already deep divisions. But there’s more to be worried about: The next election will provoke a genuine constitutional crisis, unless decisive steps are taken soon to prevent it. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — the Disqualification Clause — expressly bars any person from holding ‘any office, civil or military, under the United States’ if he ‘engaged in insurrection’ against the Constitution after previously swearing to uphold it ‘as an officer of the United States.’ These terms definitely apply to Trump, and some Democrats are exploring the use of Section 3 against him.”

Is Henry Cuellar’s Political Support Strong Enough to Weather an FBI Raid? (Dan)

From Texas Monthly: “Late in the afternoon on January 19, as a cold front began to creep in from the north, rumors began spreading through Laredo. Prominent Democrats in the city — a deep blue stronghold — texted and called one another about a potential FBI raid on the office of nine-term congressman Henry Cuellar. ‘The FBI at Henry’s office. Are u aware?’ came a text on my phone as I was on my way to an interview with one well-known organizer. The official confirmation arrived a few minutes after I did: the organizer looked at her phone, ashen-faced and silent. Within minutes, the news spread. A colorful citizen journalist, Priscilla Villarreal (a.k.a. Lagordiloca), began livestreaming the scene as FBI vehicles congregated in front of Cuellar’s campaign headquarters. Elsewhere in Laredo, as the sun set on a well-heeled community of handsome limestone houses, agents raided the congressman’s home.”

‘Everything Living Is Dying’: Environmental Ruin in Modern Iraq (Mili)

From Undark: “It’s 6 p.m. and the pink-tinged skies turn black above Agolan, a village on the outskirts of Erbil in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. Thick plumes of smoke have begun to billow out of dozens of flaring towers, part of an oil refinery owned by an Iraqi energy company called the KAR Group. The towers are just about 150 feet from where 60-year-old Kamila Rashid stands on the front porch of her house. She looks squarely at the oil plant, which sits on what she says used to be her family’s land. Rashid was born here, like her parents before her and her children after her. She says when KAR moved into the area, residents traded their land for KAR’s promise of jobs and reliable, less expensive electricity for the village. The land was handed over, Rashid says, but she maintains that KAR never provided the promised electricity or long-term jobs.”

Gaza Opens 1,700-Year-Old Byzantine Church to Public (Aline)

The author writes, “The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in the Gaza Strip inaugurated Jan. 24 the Byzantine Church as a public museum. The ancient church, which is located in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the north of the enclave, dates back to the fifth century. The ministry worked with several international partners on reconstructing and renovating the church established about 1,700 years ago, in an attempt to revitalize domestic tourism.”

My Young Mind Was Disturbed by a Book. It Changed My Life. (Bethany)

The author writes, “When I was 12 or 13 years old, I was not prepared for the racism, the brutality or the sexual assault in Larry Heinemann’s 1974 novel, Close Quarters. Mr. Heinemann, a combat veteran of the war in Vietnam, wrote about a nice, average American man who goes to war and becomes a remorseless killer. In the book’s climax, the protagonist and other nice, average American soldiers gang-rape a Vietnamese prostitute they call Claymore Face. As a Vietnamese American teenager, it was horrifying for me to realize that this was how some Americans saw Vietnamese people — and therefore me. I returned the book to the library, hating both it and Mr. Heinemann. Here’s what I didn’t do: I didn’t complain to the library or petition the librarians to take the book off the shelves. Nor did my parents.”

The Rubber Ducks That Changed Our Understanding of the World’s Oceans (DonkeyHotey)

The author writes, “Some 30 years ago, a container toppled off a ship into the North Pacific. Such an accident in itself isn’t that remarkable as they are quite common. But this one would help provide valuable insights into the oceans. The container, with its 29,000 rubber ducks, turtles, beavers and frogs, was originally heading from Hong Kong to the US. Instead, when a storm struck, the contents were released into the seas in January 1992. Strong waves and powerful winds then swirled the toys onwards to coastlines around the world in myriad brightly coloured journeys longer than their manufacturers had ever dreamed.”