Your Weekend Reader for July 23-24

by | Jul 23, 2022 | Miscellaneous, Weekend Reader | 0 comments

I swear that I begin work on each edition of the Weekend Reader with a thought along these lines: “Man,” I say to myself, “last week’s edition was such a bummer. Let’s make an extra effort to find stories for this week that are more fun.”

And that thought almost never survives my daily sweep of the news for stories that I deem worthy of inclusion in the Weekend Reader.

Nevertheless, I do have some fun stuff lined up for this edition, such as a story in praise of opossums and another piece that finally has the courage to speak the truth about squirrels.

But, first, here are a couple of pieces from the Weekend’s Reader’s Collapse of Democracy desk, which always seems to be a hubbub of activity these days.

First: What would a second Donald Trump administration look like if Trump wins the 2024 election? It’s just exactly what you might think, according to this astonishing story from Jonathan Swan at Axios — packed to the gill with presidential sycophants, and with plans to fire up to 50,000 federal workers deemed insufficiently loyal. But the real shocker is how thorough the planning for 2025 has been thus far. This appears to be a multipart series from Axios. The second part, “Trump’s Revenge,” was posted early Saturday.

Earlier today, my spouse was noticing an obituary in the Gazette-Times for someone who was about our age. Of course, as we get older, this is becoming a more frequent occurrence. But leave it to The Atlantic’s Ed Yong — certainly among the best science writers in the nation — to put it all in perspective: In a new piece, he makes the case that even before COVID, the United States was in the midst of an early-death crisis — more people here were dying at an earlier age than in comparably wealthy nations. Here’s how Yong puts it: “COVID simply did more of what life in America has excelled at for decades: killing Americans in unusually large numbers, and at unusually young ages.” One expert put the number of excess deaths — “missing Americans,” as the expert put it — at 1.1 million in 2021. Half of those excess deaths were in people under 65.

The World Athletics Championships in Eugene are creating plenty of memorable moments at Hayward Field. Meanwhile, people who are unsheltered in Eugene told The Oregonian/OregonLive that city officials have pushed them out of sight through formal sweeps of camps and informal contacts with police telling them to move on. Eugene officials say the moves are part of a continuing effort to crack down on outdoor camping and didn’t increase in the weeks before the track and field championships. On the street, though, people who are unsheltered are telling a different story. The story is exclusive to Oregonian/OregonLive subscribers.

Sarah Trent of High Country News has a summary of what’s at stake for Oregon as a dreaded forest pest — the emerald ash borer beetle — has inevitably arrived in the state. Here’s the summary: It’s really bad news, especially for ash trees.

Julia Shumway of the Oregon Capital Chronicle had an interesting update this week on fundraising in Oregon’s congressional races: The Republican candidate in the Fourth Congressional District, Alek Skarlatos, continues to raise more money than his Democratic foe, Val Hoyle. Skarlatos, who lost in 2020 to Peter DeFazio, has raised more than twice as much money overall than has Hoyle, $2.5 million to $1.2 million. During 2022’s second quarter, Skarlatos received $550,733 to Hoyle’s $373,866. Political experts still see Hoyle as the favorite in the district, which leans Democratic (especially so after redistricting). But it sure looks as if some GOP donors believe Skarlatos has a real shot.

Did you laugh, as I did, on Thursday when the Jan. 6 committee coupled U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley’s fist-raised salute with security footage of him fleeing the mob he helped to incite? You weren’t alone, reports Business Insider. Perhaps my favorite Tweet from the affair was this one from journalist Gregg Kilday: From now on, if political reporters ask Josh Hawley if he’s planning to run, he’s going to have to ask them to clarify.” Missouri Democrats didn’t miss out on the opportunity: They almost immediately scheduled a “Haulin’ Hawley” virtual 5K fundraising run for next week.

The Weekend Reader’s Animal Desk calls a pair of stories from The Atlantic to your attention:

First, Elaine Godfrey mounts a vigorous defense of the Virginia opossum — the only kind that lives in America. Godfrey writes that “the fundamental truth about the opossum is that she is a gentle survivor—a marsupial whose early relatives once waddled across a supercontinent, who tangles with snakes but harbors no ill will toward humans. You may be forgiven for disliking the look of the opossum, but never for disrespecting her.”

No such good will is due the squirrel, which I long have believed essentially are rats with better public relations. The Atlantic’s Jacob Stern agrees with me, although I suspect Stern is arguing more from affection for rats than from any real animus toward squirrels. This somewhat profane clip from the animated “Rick and Morty” series comes close to the truth about squirrels, but don’t let them know that you know.

That’s it for this edition. Stay cool and hydrated out there this next week. Watch out for those squirrels. I’ll see you next weekend.

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