Your Weekend Reader for June 4-5

by | Jun 4, 2022 | Miscellaneous, Weekend Reader | 0 comments

Another weekend, another bout of rainy weather, and now I see that forecasters have tossed a thunderstorm or two into the mix. Look, goodness knows we need the rain, and — obviously — I can’t weed the garden in this weather, right? So brew yourself another cup of coffee, put some Hank Williams on your streaming service, and settle down for this weekend’s recommended readings.

You might be saying to yourself, well, at least this rain could put a damper on this year’s wildfire season. Maybe. But the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise says central Oregon and southern Oregon remain at a higher-than-normal risk for wildfire this summer. It turns out that the above-average precipitation in April and May didn’t put much of a dent in the West’s worst drought in 1,200 years. By September, the risk of wildfire will decline across the state, but fires still will be possible in western Oregon and the Cascades — as we might remember from a couple of years ago. Alex Baumhardt of the Oregon Capital Chronicle has details about the center’s report.

Oregon’s primary election finally is in the books — thanks, Clackamas County! — and the stage is set for an unusually compelling November gubernatorial race between Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and nonaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson (assuming she can gather enough signatures to make the ballot). The big question, of course, is this: Does a Johnson candidacy siphon more votes away from Kotek or from Drazan? Julia Shumway had a good preview story about the race this week in the Oregon Capital Chronicle. One nugget from the story: Rebecca Tweed, the savvy Republican political consultant, believes the race easily could become the most expensive political race in state history, with upward of $60 million spent. (Kate Brown and Knute Buehler raised $36 million between them in the 2018 race.) Johnson already has raised more than $8 million.

Are you baffled about why Congress has such a difficult time passing any sort of gun-control measures, despite what appears to be across-the-board public support for those measures? The New York Times’ Nate Cohn takes a closer look at the numbers behind initiatives to expand background checks in four Democratic-leaning states — and finds that the support for those measures was much less widespread than believed. And Cohn adds a cautionary note for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party: “The apparent progressive political majority in the polls might just be illusory.” 

Speaking of gun control: You might recall that last week’s edition of Your Weekly Reader called attention to The Onion’s coverage of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas — and how the shooting offered the 21st occasion for the satirical site to run the same story with the same headline — “No Way to Prevent This, Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” The difference this time was that The Onion posted the story 21 times on its homepage, only changing the dateline and photos to reflect some of the other 20 shootings. It was powerful, and it got some notice — including from The Guardian newspaper, which ran this story about the post and talked with some of the people behind the original story, which first appeared in 2014. The recent shooting in Tulsa marked the 22nd time The Onion has run the story. You and I both know a 23rd time will come up, probably not too far from now.

And here’s a related story: If you work in a newsroom for any length of time, eventually you will be drawn into a discussion that goes something like this: Something horrible has happened — a terrible car accident or a shooting, perhaps — and a photographer or cameraperson has captured images of that horrible thing. The images likely do say something powerful and true about this horrible occurrence — but they are graphic. Do you publish them? Why or why not? I can tell you that these decisions do not get any easier over time, which is why I appreciated this thoughtful and well-reported story from The New York Times by Elizabeth Williamson about releasing violent imagery.

Kim Pokorny, the ace writer for Oregon State University’s Extension Service, has a new piece about whether backyard birders should take down their feeders in the wake of the avian flu outbreak. Her advice, in a nutshell: No, since songbirds rarely catch the disease. But the outbreak does highlight the importance of keeping those feeders clean. Here’s her full story, which also includes advice on what kinds of seed birds prefer.

The Atlantic’s Yasmin Tayag has a new piece taking a look at the nation’s current COVID surge — which she has aptly dubbed the “When Will It End?” wave. I read this piece with a little more attention than some other recent COVID stories, if you catch my drift. The big difference with this wave, Tayag writes: “Americans, on the whole, are more protected against COVID now than they were during previous times when infections have soared.” So, yes, I’m vaccinated and double-boosted, and I hope you are too. The Atlantic has kept its coronavirus coverage outside its paywall, a practice that other news outlets should follow.

Also this week, Atlantic newsletter writer Derek Thompson examined why it is, in the face of an improving economy, Americans still think it’s tanking — even if they themselves feel as if they’re doing OK economically. Thompson’s piece, “Everything is Terrible, But I’m Fine,” attributes much of this disconnect to basic human nature: “People all over the world,” Thompson writes, “tend to be individually optimistic and socially pessimistic.” It’s up to you, dear reader, to decide which of those two alternatives is the most delusional.

In the world of Oregon sports this week, there’s an effort underway to bring a WNBA team to Portland — the city is among the locations being considered for expansion by the professional women’s basketball league. It does seem as if Oregon would embrace a women’s pro team — and, in fact, the Portland Fire played in the WNBA from 2000 to 2002. (Um, maybe a better team name would be appropriate this time around if Portland does land a WNBA team.) Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian/OregonLive has the story.

Meanwhile, as you may have noticed, Nike founder Phil Knight and Los Angeles Dodgers minority owner Alan Smolinisky have offered to buy the Trail Blazers for more than $2 billion. But the Trail Blazers organization says the team, now run by Jody Allen (the sister of former owner Paul Allen, who died in 2018), is not for sale. Fentress and Jeff Manning of The Oregonian/OregonLive have the story.

Finally this week, from the Your Weekend Reader Running Desk: Back in the day, I ran a half-dozen or so marathons and am pleased to report a personal best of 3:07:20, achieved almost exactly 32 years ago in Helena, Montana. (I have that certificate framed on my wall.) I don’t have anything on the wall to commemorate my very first marathon, in Pocatello, Idaho — in which, amidst a field of about two dozen runners, I finished dead last — the runner behind me for almost the entire race reeled me in over the last few hundred yards. To add insult to injury, I do have an award from that marathon: Because there were so few runners in the race, I won my age group in that I was the only person in my age group. All this is by way of introducing a story from The New York Times from Danielle Friedman that delighted me, about the joys — and the surprising health benefits — of running slow. Real slow.

That’s it for this weekend. If you see me out running next week, it should be easy to pass me. Well, these days, it always is. See you next weekend.

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