Your Weekend Reader for March 2-3

by | Mar 2, 2024 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

Confidential to all the Weekend Reader readers who thought I might be overreacting to last weekend’s unseasonably warm weather: Yes, I’m better now. Thanks for asking.

Oregon is making national news again: The Legislature on Friday sent a bill to Gov. Tina Kotek overhauling Measure 110, the drug-decriminalization and addiction-treatment initiative voters approved in 2020. Kotek hasn’t said whether she’ll sign the bill, but chances seem good. If you’re just tuning into this issue now, Mike Baker at The New York Times has a good story that will catch you up in a hurry. Ben Botkin at the Oregon Capital Chronicle has additional details of the Legislature’s action Friday.

In essence, the bill the Legislature passed reimposes criminal penalties for possession of some drugs. But it also encourages the expansion of local programs, which in theory will allow law-enforcement officers to send offenders to a treatment provider instead of jail — the so-called “deflection” process. Offenders who complete treatment can have charges dismissed; those who fail to complete treatment face a more extended probation.

Baker’s story makes it clear what a devastating blow this is to proponents of drug decriminalization, who argued that the United States’ lengthy “War on Drugs” largely has been a failure. Those proponents have a good point — but Baker also notes how the lethal flood of fentanyl crippled decriminalization efforts.

Significantly, the bill that landed on Kotek’s desk was a largely bipartisan effort, a welcome sign that Democrats and Republicans still can work together, at least in Salem. Legislators talked a good game about trying to strike the right balance between mercy and justice. We’ll see if this bill, House Bill 4002, strikes the right balance. I worry about the state’s ability to sustain these “deflection” programs across Oregon over the long run, and note that even the chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court is worried about the impact this will have on the state’s court system. This is an issue we’ll be talking about for years to come.

In a related story, Aimee Green of The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that legislators have approved additional funding for the state’s drug courts, which have dwindled (and, in some cases, closed, as in Benton County) because of funding woes and decriminalization. But the evidence, as Green reports, is that drug courts are effective — and now, they might have a new lease on life.

The Weekend Reader’s Cat Desk was delighted to come across this new story in The New York Times about how humans often misunderstand the visual and auditory signals their cats are sending. And this misunderstanding can end with damage to your hand: A new study from France finds that you’re more likely to misread the signals being sent by an unhappy cat than a contented cat — which explains those times when you’re stroking a purring cat only to be rewarded with a quick bite. (Purring does not always mean the cat is happy.) As a bonus, the story also features two connections to Oregon State University: It quotes Monique Udell, director of OSU’s Human-Animal Interaction Laboratory, and Kristyn Vitale, an assistant professor of animal health and behavior at Unity Environmental University in Maine, who earned her doctorate at OSU.

Speaking of OSU, there’s a new commissioner at the Pac-12 Conference: Teresa Gould, formerly the conference’s deputy commissioner ,took over the conference reins on Friday, as former commissioner George Kliavkoff slipped away into the shadows. Jon Wilner, the best Pac-12 reporter in the country, filed this report about Gould’s Thursday’s Zoom session with reporters. Gould is the first female commissioner at a so-called “Power 5” college athletics conference. But, as Amanda Christovich of Front Office Sports explains in this piece, Gould could become the latest example of the “glass cliff” phenomenon that often befalls female executives. The idea is that women have a much better chance of breaking a barrier in corporate leadership roles as a result of crises and, therefore, are set up to fail. There’s little doubt, as Christovich writes, that Gould inherits a conference that is “fighting for its survival after being tanked by two former male commissioners.” But the situation may not be quite as bleak as one person posted this week on X (formerly Twitter): Taking over the leadership of the Pac-12, this user posted, was akin to “taking a job at Spirit Halloween on Oct. 30.”

Adam Rubenstein, a writer in New York, spent two years working on the Opinion desk at The New York Times. With a background that included writing for right-of-center publications, including The Weekly Standard, he thought his hiring at the Times was a sign that the paper’s opinion pages were serious about publishing “intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion,” as the Times’ founder, Adolph Ochs, put it in 1896. Then Rubenstein was assigned to edit what became a notorious op-ed column from Sen. Tom Cotton. In a new piece in The Atlantic, Rubenstein recalls the frenzy inside the Times that the piece generated.

Interestingly, there is dispute about whether the anecdote Rubenstein uses to start his story — it involves an icebreaker game at an orientation session for new Times staffers — ever happened. Tom Jones of the Poynter Institute has some of the details in a column, but you have to read down a bit to get to that particular item. The Atlantic said it checked out all the details in its fact-checking process.

But there’s this: The Atlantic recently settled a lawsuit in a Japanese court that forced it to add an editor’s note that included more than a dozen corrections and clarifications to a story that originally appeared in 2017. Not only does this appear to showcase an incident in which the magazine’s fact-checking apparatus could have performed better, it highlights interesting differences between libel laws in the United States and overseas, as Erik Wemple writes for The Washington Post.

Finally this week, here’s a piece from The New York Times about the future of journalism that starts by recounting the career of Roger Fidler, a longtime executive at Knight-Ridder who worked for years to design a portable device that would liberate news organizations from their printed editions. In many ways, Fidler was way ahead of his time — but, as David Streitfeld reports, Fidler didn’t foresee how the internet would erode the meaning of “news.”

That’s it for this weekend. We’ll gather back here next week to discuss how your efforts went during the week to improve communication with your cat.

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