Your Weekend Reader for Jan. 22-23

by | Jan 22, 2022 | Journalism, Miscellaneous, Weekend Reader | 0 comments

My two daughters were grown and out of the house by the time the pandemic hit, so I couldn’t imagine the burden that the coronavirus put on families with children. So here’s a new piece in The Atlantic, from Melinda Wenner Moyer, that starts with a vivid image: A group of mothers in Boston who gathered outside a high school in a circle (socially distanced, of course) for one purpose: to scream. That’s all. Just scream. Parents probably understand why that’s important. You will as well after you read this piece — and I couldn’t blame you if you let out a scream yourself.

Meanwhile, The Oregonian/OregonLive continues to track, on a weekly basis, the number of new COVID cases in Oregon per capita by ZIP code. Top of the list in the week ending Jan. 19: 97331 (Oregon State University), with 110 cases; it works out to 384 cases per 10,000 population. Three other Benton County ZIP codes — 97330, 97333 and 97370 (that’s Philomath and areas to its west, north and south) — logged more than 100 new cases each. The good news, such as it is, is that the numbers suggest Oregon might be nearing the peak of the omicron wave. In the meantime, get your booster, wear your mask, keep your distance, etc., etc., etc.

Speaking of higher education and the pandemic: University officials across the nation — understandably weary of dealing with the coronavirus — are moving toward policies that emphasize management of the virus instead of containment. Some health officials say it may be too soon. This story from The New York Times examines the issue.

A couple of notes about Oregon politics: State Rep. Dan Rayfield of Corvallis is in line to be the Speaker of the House when the Legislature convenes in February, moving into the spot vacated by Tina Kotek so she can focus on her gubernatorial run. The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Hillary Borrud reports that Rayfield edged Rep. Janelle Bynum of Happy Valley in a secretive vote conducted Sunday by members of the House’s Democratic caucus. The full House must still confirm Rayfield’s nomination, but Democrats hold a supermajority in the chamber. Had Bynum prevailed, she would have been on a path to become Oregon’s first Black speaker — and it appears that race was at least a consideration as Democratic lawmakers pondered their choices.

The Oregon Capital Chronicle is teaming up with a pair of other organizations to host a virtual listening session about what state residents want to hear — and what they don’t want to hear — from gubernatorial candidates. It’s a chance for voters to talk directly to some of the journalists who will be covering the race. The sessions, to be held on Zoom, will be held in February; the deadline to express interest in participating is Jan. 25. Other organizations participating include Rural Development Initiatives, a nonprofit focused on community vitality in rural Oregon; and the Agora Journalism Center, part of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication in Portland. Click here to find out more about this “Let’s Talk” effort.

And a note about how redistricting affected mid-valley congressional races: You might recall that when U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio announced his retirement, among the reasons he cited was that redistricting had made his Fourth Congressional District safer for Democratic candidates. It was only this week that I realized a big reason why: Linn County has been moved from the Fourth Congressional District into the Fifth, represented by Rep. Kurt Schrader. Schrader, by the way, is running for re-election in the Fifth, but the district has changed dramatically — it now essentially ends on the eastern edge of Interstate 5 instead of continuing well to the west — and so he could be vulnerable. The race has attracted at least one other Democrat, Jamie McLeod-Skinner.

The Oregon Promise program was launched by the state to help high school students (and their families) shoulder the costs of community colleges. But it turns out that 80% of the money is flowing to those students with the least need. Alex Baumhardt of the Oregon Capital Chronicle explains why that’s become the case — and how legislators can fix it.

Maybe this applies to you, especially as we get ready for this weekend’s NFL divisional playoff games: You love to watch the NFL, but you’re increasingly having difficulties reconciling that passion with all the things the league gets wrong — its unconvincing talk about how it’s concerned with players’ safety, for example, or its less-than-stellar record at encouraging teams to hire minority candidates for coaching or other top-level jobs. But yet we keep watching. Kurt Streeter of The New York Times has a column that addresses exactly this conflict. He shares your concerns. But yet, like you, he keeps watching.

The Biden administration announced this week that it’s earmarking $3 billion from the infrastructure bill to revamp the federal approach to fighting wildfires. The effort includes a 10-year plan to deal with the large portions of the West that scientists believe are at the highest risk of destructive fires. The Forest Service plans to use managed fires to clear out the natural fuels that help drive intense wildfires. The agency is calling this a “paradigm shift” (raise your hand if you’re weary of that cliché), but it’s clearly a step in the right direction. The Oregon Capital Chronicle has some of the details.

Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t email the science desk of Your Weekend Reader, asking us to check into the status of the continuing debate about whether Pluto should be considered a planet. Finally, we can point you in the direction of this interactive feature from The New York Times, which will not only fill you on the latest — but test your own attitudes about this particular question. It’s a fun read.

A faithful reader recently sent me a link to a CNBC story about cities in which you need at least $1 million to retire. A close look at the helpful map that accompanies the story shows you that Corvallis is one of those cities. So let me take a look at the state of my IRA and — oh, it looks as if I’m going to have to move now, especially after this past week in the market.

So I could use a dose of good news — and maybe you could too. So here, to wrap up this week’s Weekend Reader, is an interview with Oregon State University associate professor Chad Higgins that I happened to catch on this week’s edition of public radio’s “Science Friday” with host Ira Flatow. Higgins is working on something called “agrivoltaics,” a farming setup which “mixes water, energy and plant growth all in one space,” as Flatow described it in his introduction. “Solar panels collect energy from the sun’s rays; underneath those panels is where the plants grow.” I know what you’re thinking: What kinds of plants do well underneath solar panels where, by definition, they’re shaded from the sun? Relax: Higgins explains it all — or, as much as he can in the nine-minute segment. Click here to listen to the segment or to read a transcript.

That’s it for this weekend. See you next Saturday.

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