Your Weekend Reader for April 8-9

by | Apr 8, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

Mark your calendars now, because The Associated Press has breaking news: We are just one year away from the moment when a total solar eclipse sweeps across North America — but not, sadly, in Oregon. The April 8, 2024 eclipse will be visible in parts of 13 states — Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. After the 2024 event, it’ll be 20 years until the next total solar eclipse that’s visible in North America, and that one will only be seen in Montana and the Dakotas. I can’t speak for you, but I probably wouldn’t have even considered traveling to see a total eclipse — until I experienced the August 2017 event in Oregon. Now I’m thinking, maybe I should plan to visit the daughter in New York next April. (The Big Apple is not in the path of totality, but Buffalo is.)

By now, you’ve probably read about ProPublica’s devastating report detailing the many trips and gifts Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has received over the years from his good pal, billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow. But it’s worth your while to read the original ProPublica dispatch, which offers a masterclass in how to report and write this type of investigative story. Thomas, by the way, issued a brief response to the ProPublica report on Friday.

Speaking of billionaires and their antics, you likely also noticed Elon Musk’s decision to label NPR’s Twitter account “US state-affiliated media,” putting it in the same class as propaganda outlets like RT and Xinhua. Musk’s decision prompted this amusing piece from Joshua Benton of Harvard’s Nieman Lab, who wondered if certain changes in the Twitter accounts for Musk-owned businesses might also be appropriate: For example, why not label Tesla a “US state-subsidized automaker?” To repurpose one of Musk’s own tweets: “Seems accurate.”

Russia’s arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on trumped-up espionage charges is shocking — but, as media historian Bill Kovarik reports, unlawful detention is a time-honored technique to harass journalists reporting on totalitarian regimes. And, Kovarik says, there was a time when reporters occasionally worked with intelligence agencies.

Despite the (sometimes very small) steps newsrooms have taken to increase their diversity, stereotypes endure: The Pew Research Center has found that male journalists are much more likely to cover sports and government beats, while female journalists are more likely to cover education, health and family topics. (Interestingly, freelancers now make up the majority of journalists covering travel and entertainment.) The Nieman Lab has this summary of the Pew findings.

Federal data shows that Oregon is among the nation’s leaders in the growth of its homeless population: Between 2020 and 2022, The Oregonian/OregonLive reports, the number of people experiencing houselessness grew by nearly 23%, increasing to about 18,000. A respected economist says that the cost of housing in Oregon (not personal circumstances) is the No. 1 factor behind the crisis.

Turning to happier (hoppier?) news: Mid-valley breweries took home hardware in the recent 2023 Oregon Beer Awards, sponsored by Willamette Week: Sky High Brewing & Pub’s Bohemian Pilsner won a gold medal in the Pilsner category and Dirt Road Brewing in Philomath won a bronze for its Flanders Red in the Mixed-Culture Beers category. Block 15 Brewing Co. nabbed three awards: a silver for its Charmed Life in the Red Beers category, in addition to being named the regional brewing company of the year for the Willamette region and winning accolades for best labels and branding. Willamette Week has the details in this story.

Speaking of local award-winners: Congratulations to Corvallis writer Sindya Bhanoo, one of the big winners in this year’s Oregon Book Awards. Bhanoo won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction for “Seeking Fortune Elsewhere,” a collection of stories. Bhanoo was the only mid-valley author to reach the finalist stage in this year’s awards, which were handed out earlier this week.

Now, a word for my microbiologist readers: Some scientists believe it’s possible that Yamagata, one of the four main groups of influenza viruses that are targeted by vaccines, has gone extinct. Other scientists say it’s too soon to tell for sure. If true, though, it would have big implications for vaccines — and it could have deeper implications as well. Katherine Wu explains all in this new story from The Atlantic. (Like all Atlantic stories, this one is available to subscribers only.)

I’m probably in the minority here, but do we really need three more new live-action “Star Wars” movies? Disney, which now owns the franchise, announced the three new films earlier this week. How many more Death Stars must be destroyed (and why does the Empire keep building Death Stars with essentially the same exact flaw)? It certainly looks as if Disney is moving to expand the “Star Wars” cinematic universe, the same way that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has delivered blockbuster after blockbuster. Here are two more questions: How long until the “Star Wars” and Marvel universes merge? And would I go see a movie featuring, say, the “Guardians of the Galaxy” characters mixing it up with some “Star Wars” favorites? And I’m a little bit ashamed to say that, the answer is: Yes. Yes, I would.

Finally this week, here’s a story from The New York Times that I read with delight and just a twinge of apprehension: At 81, Ann-Margret has just finished an album, “Born to Be Wild,” in which she tackles a variety of rock ‘n’ roll standards such as the title track, “Bye-Bye Love” and “Son of a Preacher Man.” Rock legends like Pete Townshend and Steve Cropper helped out with the album, but Ann-Margret doesn’t need to prove her rock credentials with me: After all, she starred with Elvis in “Viva Las Vegas,” the greatest movie ever made. (Times stories are available only to subscribers, but I can send you a “gift” link to this story and anything else from the Times; just leave me a message below.)

That’s all for this week. Don’t forget: Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 27. There’s still time to prepare, but the clock is ticking.

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