Your Weekend Reader for Jan. 27-28

by | Jan 27, 2024 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

It’s the last weekend in January, and we have Oscar nominations, Oregon State University basketball, a multimillion-dollar fraud case and other stories to examine, but let’s start with an update from the legal thriller that has become the Corvallis City Council.

The drama over the effort to expel Corvallis City Councilor Charlyn Ellis over a violation of the City Charter jumped this week, as expected, to court: Ellis filed a lawsuit on grounds that the effort violates her First Amendment rights. The Gazette-Times had the story about the lawsuit, which puts on hold the “due process” hearing the council had planned for early February.

If you’re wondering how much this is costing the city, which has hired outside counsel to pursue the case against Ellis, G-T editor Penny Rosenberg had a story that starts to answer the question: The lawyers who work for the city’s outside counsel, the Portland firm Markowitz Herbold of Portland, charge anywhere from $450 to $1,260 an hour. The city did not say how many hours the firm has charged the city thus far.

Markowitz Herbold was also in the news this week on another matter: One of the company’s attorneys, representing plaintiffs in a sex-discrimination lawsuit against Nike, sent a file of documents in the case to The Oregonian/OregonLive last week — and then asked the newspaper to return them. You can guess how that request went — so the lawyer, Laura Salerno Owens, went to court and persuaded a federal judge to order the paper not to publish anything related to the records and to return or destroy the records. The Oregonian, which was not notified of Owens’ motion before the judge’s ruling, said it would immediately appeal.

The man who fatally beat retired Oregon State University professor Donald Pierce at a Portland bus stop in 2022 was found guilty but for insanity during a brief court session on Friday. The man, Keffer J. White, 31, was committed to the Oregon State Hospital for life. Psychological evaluations determined White suffers from schizophrenia and he had been living on the streets at the time of his arrest. The Oregonian/OregonLive had this story about the case; this is a free link to the story, but it will expire in seven days.

New data from the Oregon Health Authority shows that the epidemic of overdoses in Oregon, driven by the flood of fentanyl, continues to skyrocket. As Lynne Terry reports for the Oregon Capital Chronicle, final numbers have yet to be compiled for 2023, but the state is on track to record 1,250 overdose deaths for the year.

It’s been a good week thus far for Beavers basketball, with both the men’s and women’s teams knocking off top-ranked teams. The women shrugged off whatever hangover they might have felt after Sunday, when they became a footnote to Stanford coach’s Tara VanDerveer’s historic career, by beating No. 3 Colorado at Gill Coliseum on Friday night. The night before, Jordan Pope’s buzzer-beating three-pointer was the difference in the Beavers’ 83-80 win against No. 9 Arizona. If you’re wondering how long it’s been since the Beaver men beat a top-10 team, think Jan. 11, 2015. (Oddly, the last four times the Beavers have knocked off a top-10 team, the victim has been Arizona.) (Update: And the weekend got even better for the Beavers, with the men beating Arizona State on Saturday night and the women blowing out No. 16 Utah, 91-66, a game the Beavers led by 36 points at the end of the third quarter.)

A good week for Beavers basketball, not such a great week for U.S. journalism: Layoffs were announced on Tuesday at the Los Angeles Times, Time magazine and National Geographic. The layoffs at the Times seem particularly grim — more than 20% of its newsroom was canned, reports Angela Fu of The Poynter Institute. That same piece from Poynter also includes a short tribute to Charles Osgood, the outstanding and urbane CBS journalist who hosted “Sunday Morning” for 22 years. Osgood died Tuesday of dementia at age 91.

And it wasn’t a great week for the 79-year-old Oregon-based publishing magnate Win McCormack, publisher of The New Republic magazine and owner of Portland’s Tin House book publishing company: His husband-and-wife chauffeurs, Sergey and Galina Lebedenko, were arrested this week and accused of making unauthorized and inflated charges of up to $34 million to his American Express card, according to a federal prosecutor. The prosecutor called it a “colossal heist,” but I have questions, mainly about how McCormack didn’t notice the millions in inflated charges. Fortunately, Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian/OregonLive has the answer: She reports that McCormack was unaware that the Lebedenkos were charging drastically high fees to his credit card because he didn’t regularly check his account and the money was directly paid by his bank, according to a federal affidavit. To his credit, McCormack issued a statement noting that fraud is a big issue, especially for older people, and that he was grateful that he has the resources to move forward. May I suggest that he perhaps move forward with a different bank and a different credit card?

Nominations for the Academy Awards were announced this week, and most Americans likely greeted the news of the best picture nominees by saying something like this: “I’ve seen this ‘Barbie’ movie and I’ve heard about this ‘Oppenheimer’ movie, because it came out at the same time as ‘Barbie,’ but what are these other movies?”

I can help: Later this weekend, I’ll have my annual blog post in which I seed the best picture nominees. The idea is that if you have a limited amount of time before the Oscar ceremony on March 10, you should watch these movies first to maximize the chances that you’ll see most of the Oscar winners. And even though 2023 turned out to be a good year for movies, the fact of the matter is that these four flicks are likely to dominate the major awards: “Oppenheimer,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Poor Things” and “The Holdovers.” All of those movies are in theaters this week, and all but “Poor Things” are available on one streaming service or another.

The Oscar nominations always feature head-scratching moments among the nominees and those left behind: This year, for me, the most curious business was a classification: Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s screenplay for “Barbie” was lumped into the best adapted screenplay category. You may be thinking — adapted from what? A line of toys? That’s ludicrous, and The New York Times’ Alissa Wilkinson agrees. Worse, the classification takes “Barbie” away from a category it could have won to a category where “Oppenheimer” is the favorite.

That’s it for this weekend. If you head out to the movies this weekend, save me an aisle seat, as Siskel and Ebert used to say.

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