Let’s start this weekend with a provocative new piece from The Atlantic’s Pulitzer-winning science writer, Ed Yong, about the future of public health — a particularly timely topic these days. Here’s a quote that gives you a feel for the piece:
As the 20th century progressed, the field moved away from the idea that social reforms were a necessary part of preventing disease and willingly silenced its own political voice. By swimming along with the changing currents of American ideology, it drowned many of the qualities that made it most effective.
It’s a strong and timely piece from Yong.
Here’s something I didn’t know about until Friday night — and bear with me for a bit, because this item takes a couple of paragraphs to adequately set up: Former Oregon State University President F. King Alexander was facing an Oregon ethics complaint centering on allegations that he used university attorneys to respond to a probe into Louisiana State University’s handling of campus rape reports during his tenure there. The staff of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission had recommended that the commission find that Alexander broke two state ethics law by receiving help from OSU’s general counsel, Rebecca Gose, and its vice president of marketing, Steve Clark, in responding to questions about his knowledge of how LSU handled sexual assault and domestic violence complaints. (OSU argued that Gose and Clark were working solely to protect the university’s interests and not necessarily Alexander’s.)
It’s a moot point now: The Government Ethics Commission voted 3-2 on Friday to dismiss the complaint. It’s a doubly moot point, because state law requires five votes in favor of any commission action. The commission is supposed to have seven members. The state Senate was supposed to confirm two appointees at its session last month, but that got sidelined by redistricting and COVID. Now, it may be true — as an assistant attorney general who worked with the commission said — that this complaint was a close call. But if you leave reading this story, from the new Oregon Capital Chronicle, thinking that the Ethics Commission is a relatively toothless entity, well, I don’t know if I’d disagree.
Staying local for a moment, here’s James Day’s piece from the Gazette-Times about the feud between the Whiteside Theatre and the city of Corvallis over fire-code issues. The feud boiled over Thursday night, with the cancellation of the Girls Night Out show, featuring “Magic Mike”-style male dancers. The city says that, for reasons involving fire safety, the Whiteside must limit audiences to 100 (the theater can hold 800). City officials say that they’ve been working with the Whiteside on fire-safety issues, but the theater’s executive director, Jen Waters, says she’s frustrated with the communications from the city: “We think things are going well,” Waters told Day, “and then they move the goal posts.” Among the recommendations from the city for the theater, which will be 100 years old next year: install a sprinkler system. Waters said the cost of a sprinkler system would be $600,000 — and, although the people who have worked to rehabilitate the old building have done miracles over the last decade or so, raising that kind of cash would be difficult, if not impossible.
Speaking of the Gazette-Times, here’s a story about David Cuddihy, the newly appointed regional president (read: publisher) of the G-T, along with the Democrat-Herald and the Lebanon Express. Cuddihy, currently the general manager of the Lee Enterprises newspaper in Longview, Washington, will continue his work at that paper. Cuddihy is the third publisher at the G-T and D-H over the past two years; the papers have had four editors in the same time span.
Turning back to national topics, here’s an interesting piece from The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson that takes a deeper look at the reasons behind the labor shortage in the United States; It’s a mix of fairly obvious factors — and some that you may not have considered.
Famed First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams has a new opinion piece in the Times about those two libel cases that the U.S. Supreme Court may decide to hear. The cases could pave the way for the court to dismantle its landmark ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan. Abrams does a good job of explaining what’s at stake.
A couple of notes from the Weekend Reader culture desk: Here’s a New York Times story about vinyl records, which have suddenly become the music industry’s most popular physical format (most music these days, of course, is streamed.) The Times’ Ben Sisario now reports that, because of this unexpected success, the vinyl format now faces a bottleneck, with production delays and outdated equipment.
If you’re planning to see “Dune” (or maybe, against all the advice, are just going to watch it on HBO Max), you might want to read this long New York Times Magazine profile of director Denis Villeneuve by the writer Helen Macdonald. Spoiler alert: Macdonald is a fan.
Finally, a pair of self-serving plugs: My preview story about the latest Majesticpiece Theatre production, the still-timely robot play “R.U.R,” is on the website now. And if you’re having a hard time keeping tabs on local arts-and-entertainment events — and a fall season is in full swing all around you — you’ll want to bookmark my curated (and frequently updated) list of local events.
Here’s hoping that your weekend is a good one. I’ll see you next week.