Your Weekend Reader for Feb. 25-26

by | Feb 25, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

Frequent readers know I’ve been obsessed lately with the continuing negotiations for the Pac-12 Conference’s media rights and the James Webb Space Telescope — and both of those were in the news this week. But let’s not start there today. Instead, let’s go to Eastern Oregon, where a former Forest Service employee is leading an effort to make a Christian case for fighting climate change.

I’ve often thought there’s a logical connection between Christianity and environmentalism, but now Peter Fargo is putting that to the test from his home in Baker City. OPB’s Antonio Sierra reports on Fargo’s efforts with his group Climate Vigil, which is making an explicitly Christian argument for battling climate change. A few years after the birth of his son, Fargo quit the Forest Service to dedicate himself to Climate Vigil, a religious organization dedicated to raising awareness and fighting climate change through public events, media productions, and eventually, political action.

The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, who covers sports media as extensively as anyone in the country, reported this week that Apple TV+ has emerged as a potential landing spot for Pac-12 football broadcasts. As you might recall, the Pac-12’s current contracts with ESPN and Fox Sports expire after next season. The other four major athletic conferences all have signed big new deals with various networks, leaving the Pac-12 the only member of the so-called Power 5 without a media-rights deal. Chris Vannini of The Athletic weighed in this week on the potential of a Pac-12 deal with a streaming service, and his conclusions were much along what I’ve thought: That in the short run, the Pac-12 probably would be fine — but over time, this would be yet another factor that would hasten the breakup of the college football landscape into the “haves” — in this case, the SEC and the Big 10 — and the “have-nots,” which is to say, everybody else. Here’s a case where I hope I’m wrong. (The comments on that Athletic story are worth reading as well. If you want to take a look at The Athletic, I can send you a gift pass good for 30 days of access to the site.)

The Oregon Legislature is pushing ahead with what lawmakers call a $200 million “down payment” to address housing and homelessness issues across Oregon. Lawmakers have added another $70 million or so to Gov. Tina Kotek’s initial $130 million emergency request; among the additions is a $27 million allocation to address homelessness in Oregon’s rural counties, which weren’t included in Kotek’s January emergency order — the omission was, in my view, a mistake on the governor’s part. This particular package will likely be voted on by lawmakers in March, with more spending likely to come as the session continues. Julia Shumway of the Oregon Capital Chronicle has the details.

Before we all get too wrapped up about the looming big brawl between President Biden and congressional Republicans about the U.S. debt limit, you might want to arm yourself with this relatively easy-to-read primer about the national debt, courtesy of the Pew Research Center.

Speaking of Republicans, Politico’s Matt Dixon is reporting that Florida’s Legislature — with the apparent backing of Gov. Ron DeSantis — is pushing to weaken laws that protect journalists against defamation suits and frivolous lawsuits. DeSantis’ long-term goal may to be overturn New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that limits public officials’ ability to sue publishers for defamation. DeSantis, of course, is widely presumed to be planning a presidential run in 2024 and apparently considers his long-running feud with the press to be a plus with voters.

Are you one of those people who stays to watch all the closing credits of a movie — even if you’re relatively sure there’s not a hidden scene tucked away at the end? Good for you, fellow movie fan. Here’s a “Letter of Recommendation” from a similarly minded movie fan, Emma Kantor, in The New York Times Magazine. (Remember, I can “gift” you a link to any story from The New York Times; just leave your email address in the comments section below.)

Nicholas Kristof has a new opinion piece in the Times about Russian dissident Aleksai Navalny, the fellow whom attackers tried to poison on a plane with the nerve agent Novichok, used by Russia’s government for high-priority assassination targets. After a miraculous recovery, Navalny returned to Russia, where — not surprisingly — he was arrested and imprisoned on trumped-up charges. He now faces a 35-year prison term on similarly trumped-up charges. Navalny also is the subject of a new documentary, “Navalny,” which is nominated for an Oscar.

Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the country (and the owner of newspapers in Salem and Eugene), posted a profit of $32.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2022 after reporting four straight quarters of losses. Of course, the company also laid off more than 600 workers, stopped contributing to employees’ 401(k) accounts and froze hiring to get to that number.

Here’s a fun story from The Atlantic’s Jennifer Senior in which she explores the gap between how old we are and how old we think we are: Adults over 40, she reports, perceive themselves to be, on average, 20% younger than they really are. As for me, now settling in at 65, with a new incision on my left side from a hernia operation, I’m the same age in my head as Senior’s mother thinks she is.

Finally, this week, news about the James Webb Space Telescope, which brought back images of six relatively old galaxies (dating back roughly to the first 600 million or so years after the Big Bang, about 13.8 billion years ago). So that’s cool, but what really knocked scientists for a loop was this: They expected to find what the Associated Press’ Marcia Dunn called “little baby galaxies” so close to the dawn of the universe. But these six were huge, upending expectations. One scientist called the findings a “universe-breaker.” I’ll bet Webb finds a lot more of these universe-breakers in the years to come.

So — on a clear night, bundle up and take a look at the stars. Then come back and tell me how old you feel. I’ll see all you young whippersnappers next weekend.

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