Your Weekend Reader for Nov. 18-19

by | Nov 18, 2023 | Miscellaneous | 6 comments

We’ve got a bunch of news this week that centers on Oregon State University, so let’s get right to it.

Remember back when Oregon State University was one of the leaders in the effort to create North America’s largest research forest — the Elliott State Research Forest in Southwestern Oregon? Well, forget about it, at least as far as OSU goes: University President Jayathi Murthy has sent a letter to the Oregon State Land Board saying that OSU will no longer participate in the forest’s management. Murthy’s letter said she was concerned that management and habitat plans for the forest would not allow enough logging and would not bring in sustainable revenue. Alex Baumhardt of the Oregon Capital Chronicle has the story.

Speaking of Oregon Sate University: You might recall that last week’s edition of Your Weekend Reader featured a story about how Oregon’s NuScale Power had been forced to cancel a project that would have showcased the company’s small modular nuclear reactors. It was a serious setback for NuScale, which is based on technology developed at OSU. This week, The New York Times has a broader story about the state of the nuclear power industry — and the dozen or so companies that, like NuScale, are racing to develop these small modular reactors. The big advantage for nuclear power, of course, is that it’s carbon-free. But the companies working on these smaller reactors, as the Times notes, still face serious hurdles. At one time, it seemed that NuScale had the inside track in this race, but now that seems like less of a sure thing.

Meanwhile, I understand that the Beavers and the Washington Huskies are scheduled to play a football game on Saturday afternoon, It should be a good game. But the real Pac-12 conference action took place earlier this week in courtrooms throughout Washington state.

Here’s the rundown:

As expected, Whitman County Superior Court Judge Gary Libey this week granted a request from OSU and Washington State University for a preliminary injunction that essentially gives the two schools (the only schools remaining in the Pac-12) control over the conference. The judge sided with arguments by OSU and WSU that the other members of the conference relinquished their seats on the Pac-12 board when they announced plans to depart. The question behind all of this is who gets to determine what happens with the Pac-12’s remaining assets; OSU and WSU say they need at least some of those assets in their efforts to rebuild the conference and to cushion the impact of what likely will be a big financial hit when the Pac-12’s media-right contract expires next year.

Later in the week, in another widely expected development, the Washington Supreme Court temporarily paused the implementation of Libey’s ruling so that the state’s high court could examine the issue. (Libey essentially foreshadowed this when he issued a stay on his ruling so that the other schools could ask for a Supreme Court review.)

Meanwhile, Ralph Russo of The Associated Press, a veteran hand at college athletics, is reporting that OSU and WSU are working toward keeping the Pac-12 running as a two-team conference for at least the next two years — and that the schools are seeking an agreement with the Mountain West Conference to fill out the schedules for sports other than football. NCAA rules allow conferences to operate with as few as two teams for a two-year grace period. Under the deal, neither OSU or WSU would be eligible for Mountain West Conference championships, but the deal would give the two schools a bit of breathing room in which to rebuild the Pac-12.

The Associated Press also is running an occasional series about what fans, players and coaches have to say now that we’re in the final weeks of Pac-12 football. Here’s the latest dispatch in the series.

Here’s a new story from The Atlantic that makes clear a connection that probably should have been obvious from the start: As Americans spend more time indoors (as we develop more of what the story terms “biophobia”), we also tend to get lonelier as a nation — to the point where even the surgeon general terms loneliness a public health crisis. Spending more time outdoors won’t solve all our problems, of course, but it probably won’t hurt. (The Atlantic, by the way, is now offering a feature that I’ve enjoyed with The New York Times; it’s offering a limited number of “gift” links each month, so you don’t need to have an Atlantic subscription to read this story. The link is only good for 14 days, though.)

Speaking of humans and their interactions with nature, I had an incident this week in which a ruby-crowned kinglet, a bird little bigger than a hummingbird, was insistent about getting through the glass window of the office where I work; the hawk decal I have on the window wasn’t doing the job of deterring him. (It turns out those decals generally are worthless). The bird was unharmed, and after I drew the shade, he went away. Glass and birds don’t get along well, and the toll on birds is immense. (Glass ranks just behind cats as the biggest human-related threats to birds.) But it’s not that hard to stop birds from slamming into windows, as this story from The Atlantic explains.

Finally this week: I’m reading Beverly Gage’s “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century,” her Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, and I was struck by this bit of Oregon trivia I hadn’t known previously:

The book outlines the FBI’s outrageous wiretapping of Martin Luther King. In many cases, Gage reports, those wiretaps had been authorized by Robert Kennedy when he was attorney general. Hoover and Kennedy had a famously fraught relationship; in 1968, when Kennedy became the frontrunner in that year’s presidential campaign, Hoover became particularly outraged as Kennedy positioned himself as a longtime civil rights booster. So the FBI leaked information to columnist Drew Pearson about how Kennedy had approved the King wiretaps. When Pearson’s column appeared, Kennedy denied it, further outraging Hoover. But the column did its intended work, which was to undermine Kennedy’s performance specifically in the Oregon presidential primary. On May 28, Kennedy lost the Oregon primary to Eugene McCarthy. A week later in California, of course, Kennedy was assassinated.

And here’s a confidential note to the person who is right behind me on the “hold” list to read the copy of “G-Man” I’ve checked out from the library: Give me just a few more days. And don’t be complaining about how long I sometimes hold onto a library book so that I can finish it: Consider this case from St. Paul, Minnesota, where a library book was finally returned, a mere century after it was checked out.

That’s it for this edition. We’ll gather next weekend for the Thanksgiving edition of the Weekend Reader, and in the meantime, do what you can to hold off on the holiday music until Friday. I know it’s hard. But you’ll thank me.

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