Your Weekend Reader for Oct. 8-9

by | Oct 8, 2022 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

Ace New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman is making the publicity rounds for her new book about Donald Trump, “Confidence Man.” But the most entertaining (and enlightening) interview with Haberman I’ve seen thus far is this one by Olivia Nuzzi in New York magazine. (It helps that Nuzzi, the magazine’s Washington correspondent, also is a veteran of the Trump beat.) Be warned: The interview contains some frank language, but if I had covered Trump for as long as Haberman has, I’d be swearing too.

Speaking of books, let’s enjoy them while we still can: Efforts to ban books in the United States have reached “unprecedented” levels, according to a new report issued last week by the organization PEN America. Many of the targeted titles feature LGBTQ+ characters and characters of color. Ariana Figueroa, who covers Washington, D.C. for the nonprofit States Newsroom, had the story. (The Oregon Capital Chronicle is affiliated with States Newsroom, and I first noticed the story on the Chronicle’s website.)

Speaking of the Chronicle, Lynne Terry had a story this week about a new chapter in the fight over a proposed large chicken facility near Scio. A lawsuit filed by opponents argues that the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality ignored potential pollution problems from the facility. The proposed J-S Ranch would raise about 3.4 million chickens a year under contract with Foster Farms. The owner, Eric Simon, says the suit is just another attempt to put him out of business. (Full disclosure: I occasionally do freelance work for the Capital Chronicle.)

The Nieman Lab at Harvard ran an intriguing story this week about civility and online debates. Back when I was moderating comments on news stories, I frequently lamented how quickly online discussions could take a turn to the nasty and brutish. Now, researchers are beginning to make the case that enforced civility might actually diminish the quality of online debates — and are noticing how even the most hateful speech can be cloaked in civil language.

We’re a month away from the Nov. 8 election, and ballots will be mailed out in less than two weeks. To help with your preparations, here’s Grant Stringer from The Oregonian/OregonLive, with a detailed story about the race in the Fourth Congressional District between Democrat Val Hoyle and Republican Alek Skarlatos. The winner replaces retiring U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio. Hoyle likely has an edge, in part because the redrawn district favors Democrats (Linn County, for example, was reassigned to the Fifth Congressional District), but the race might turn out to be a tight one.

The big news this past week in the race for Oregon governor was the $1 million donation from Nike co-founder Phil Knight to Republican Christine Drazan. Knight previously donated $3.75 million to unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson, but she’s trailing both Drazan and Democrat Tina Kotek in the polls. (Those polls also suggest that Drazan and Kotek are locked in a statistical tie.) Johnson still has raised more money than either of her opponents, but the three together have raised more than $45 million thus far. Jamie Goldberg of The Oregonian/OregonLive had a story on Knight’s donation, which was first reported by Willamette Week.

The members of the U.S. Supreme Court sat down together on Friday for their annual class portrait — it’s one of the rare times that the nine justices are pictured together. It’s also the first high court photo to feature the newest justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson. A fun story from the Associated Press (and, yes, this is the first time in a while I’ve used the word “fun” in a sentence that also includes the phrase “U.S. Supreme Court”) notes that the photo contains four historic firsts. See if you can name them.

The Capital Chronicle picked up a story by Sarah Trent of High Country News about this year’s outbreak of avian flu. The news is discouraging, as Trent reports: “This year’s avian flu epidemic — the first in North America since 2015 — is caused by a version of this virus unlike any that virologists and wildlife managers have ever seen.” And, for the first time, it’s spreading widely among wild birds, with implications for wildlife and human health.

It’s not all bad news on the bird front. Maybe you’re not aware of this, but every night — hundreds of feet above you — thousands of birds are migrating on their fall pilgrimages. It’s an astonishing event, and it doesn’t come without danger to the birds. But there’s an easy thing you can do to help, as Margaret Renkl wrote this week in The New York Times: Turn off your outside lights at night. Renkl’s column also mentions the BirdCast website, and that’s well worth checking out. (The Times story is for subscribers only, but I can “gift” you a link to the story, if you want; just leave a comment below.)

There’s no point in denying this any more: It’s Halloween season, complete with an onslaught of scary movies and candy that, frankly, barely deserves to be called candy — let alone edible. In that spirit, The Atlantic has a couple of fun Halloween pieces. First, here’s reliable critic David Sims with an interesting list of scary (mostly creepy) movies for people who really don’t like horror movies. And, now, here’s writer Ian Bogost with a piece that, perhaps, thinks a little too much about candy corn, which is (shockingly) the second most-popular Halloween concoction, behind chocolate. Here’s a sentence from the piece, which I think is meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek: “To set out a bowl of candy corn invites eating less than it marks a moment on the endless calendar that hurtles you ever closer to death. To grab a handful and dominate it by ingestion is to shake that certainty, if for only a moment.” Both pieces are for Atlantic subscribers only.

That’s it for this week. As you shop for your Halloween candy, grab your KitKats or whatever — but maybe take another look at that bag of candy corn as it signals your own mortality. Then maybe you should put it back on the shelf. See you next weekend.

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