I’m not including any stories this week about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, because I figure chances are good you’re following it on your own. But I do want to call attention to the courage of the many journalists who are on the ground in Ukraine and elsewhere, offering round-the-clock coverage of the invasion at considerable risk to themselves. We owe them our gratitude — and let’s keep that level of courage in mind as the fight for democracy continues, both overseas and here at home.
However, if you’re looking for a way to keep abreast of all the storylines flowing out of the invasion, let me recommend the live blog format used by the Times and other newspapers as well. There’s something about this particular format that I find particularly compelling in covering a big breaking story — and you might recall we used it at the Gazette-Times during the 2012 floods.
And, actually, I lied about not including any stories about Ukraine this week: Here’s a moving piece by Franklin Foer of The Atlantic, about the unexpected (and nearly astonishing) courage of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has more than risen to this moment in history — he has very nearly transcended it. Foer ended his story with a little prayer, and I can add one of my own: I hope developments don’t overtake this story.
Not quite two weeks remain in the Oregon Legislature’s 35-day 2022 session. If you’re wondering about the status of key bills, the Oregon Capital Chronicle has you covered with this list. And it would seem that the one bill that could prompt another walkout by Republican legislators is House Bill 4002, which would require overtime pay for farmworkers. The bill could come up for a vote on the full House floor on Monday.
Speaking of the legislative session, there was a noteworthy development last week: Legislative Democrats, led by Speaker of the House Dan Rayfield of Corvallis, essentially offered Republican legislators $100 million to be spent, with no strings attached, however those GOP lawmakers deem fit on important projects in their districts. It helps, of course, that the state is relatively flush with cash these days — but it says something about the fraught relationship between the parties these days (and, by extension, between urban and rural Oregon) that the deal initially was met with suspicion by the GOP. Dirk VanderHart of OPB broke the story.
Something tells me that I’ll be following the takeover battle between Alden Global Capital and Lee Enterprises, the owner of the Gazette-Times and the Democrat-Herald, for years. There was a new development this past week, as reported by Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute: Alden Global, the hedge fund that has a well-earned reputation for buying newspapers and then instituting rapacious cuts in their newsrooms, has filed another lawsuit against Lee, seeking to derail the reelection of several Lee directors at the company’s annual meeting in March. An affiliate of the hedge fund is asking the Delaware Chancery Court to order that the meeting be postponed. Earlier, Alden lost a case trying to get its nominees for two seats on Lee’s board; Lee argued that Alden missed a deadline for those nominations. Alden now is soliciting “no” votes on Lee’s unopposed slate — and it wants the court to mandate that the election be decided by a majority rather than a plurality of votes cast. In a statement, Lee derided the Alden effort as “increasingly desperate.” (If you follow the link, the Lee item is about halfway down, underneath an item about ratings for the Winter Olympics, or, as I started to call them, the Bummer Olympics.)
With everything else going on this past week, including that Russian peacekeeping mission into the Ukraine, you might have missed a fascinating piece from The New York Times Magazine about Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Ginni Thomas, as she’s known, is an increasingly effective conservative activist and a board member of an organization, C.N.P.Action, an offshoot of the conservative Council for National Policy, The Times reports that C.N.P.Action was active in lobbying Republican lawmakers to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election. In the meantime, of course, Clarence Thomas arguably has become the most powerful member of the high court.
Speaking of The New York Times Magazine, it ran interview recently with Yale University cognitive scientist Laurie Santos, better known as “Yale’s Happiness Professor.” Santos has bad news about students today — they’re being consumed by anxiety. Click here to read the interview.
Shockingly, there is good news to report this week about the coronavirus: According to The New York Times, new studies suggest that three doses of a vaccine, or even just two, likely are enough to protect most people from serious illness and death for a long time. While people over 65 or at high risk of illness may benefit from a fourth vaccine dose, it may be unnecessary for most people, an expert said.
Speaking of the coronavirus: I’ve thought for a time that, when the pandemic phase of our relationship with the coronavirus finally is finished, we’ll be left with an annual disease much like the flu — we’ll get vaccinated (right?) and we’ll pay attention when flu season starts, but that’ll be it. But Benjamin Mazur, a physician specializing in laboratory medicine, argues that’s the wrong comparison: In part because the COVID vaccine has been proven be so effective, he writes in The Atlantic, a better comparison is to anti-smoking campaigns.
I hope you noticed a strong story in last Sunday’s Gazette-Times about Andrea Aquino of the Oregon State University women’s basketball team. As Steve Gress reported, Aquino, a native of Paraguay, was considered a top college hoops prospect and committed to the Beavers in 2017. But a previously undiagnosed medical condition (still never publicly disclosed) has meant that Aquino never has been cleared to play in a game. Still, Aquino is determined to make the most out of her experience — and OSU, to its credit, has honored her scholarship.
Jane Coaston, an opinion writer for The New York Times, writes a weekly subscriber-only newsletter for the newspaper. In a recent edition, Coaston reflected on the campaign bus for Kandiss Taylor, a Republican candidate for governor in Georgia, which boils down Taylor’s platform into three words: “Jesus. Guns. Babies.” Coaston’s column reflects on what this suggests about the state of the nation’s politics, not to mention its religion. It doesn’t seem to be good news on either front. I couldn’t help but notice that Taylor’s bus also features the line: “I’m the ONE you’ve been waiting for,” which might also be a misreading of Scripture.
Here’s something for you Wordle fans: You might recall how, earlier this year, The New York Times bought Wordle from its creator for a sum reported to be in the “low seven figures.” (Puzzles are a key part of the Times’ strategy to boost online subscriptions, much like its successful cooking site.) But there’s an irony here: A century or so ago, the Times — and many other newspapers — railed against another newfangled puzzle, the crossword. “Crossword Mania Breaks Up Households,” read one Times headline. Nieman Reports has the story, by Louis Anslow.
I’m still getting ready for my annual Oscar contest, in which I challenge readers to beat my mark in predicting all 23 categories. (Watch my site for the details.) In the meantime, though, here’s a fun Oscar sidelight from The Atlantic’s David Sims: He takes a look at 23 notable recent films that earned what he calls “lone-screenplay nominations” — that is, films that only earned one nomination, and that for the screenplay. The list includes some remarkable movies, including Richard Linklater’s fantastic “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight.” You’ll want to go back and watch some of the movies on his list.
Speaking of movies, my curated calendar of arts-and-entertainment events has the rundown of what’s playing in the mid-valley — not to mention other live events. Click here to check it out. And I’ll see you next week.