Good Morning, News: More Solar Power in Oregon, U.S. Senate Passes $96 Billion Foreign Aid Bill (Which Includes a … – Portland Mercury

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GOOD MORNING, PORTLAND! It was quite nice out yesterday, huh? Well, we’re back to more seasonally appropriate temperatures in the early 60s today, with rain on its way for the rest of the week. While the sun was nice, we need the rain—we’re well below the standard for late April. Plus, these past few days of warmth have made me realize my sunny day wardrobe is desperately lacking. 

What isn’t desperately lacking, however, is today’s headlines. And you can read them right here. 


Portland Public Schools is facing a $30 million deficit, and the district’s Interim Superintendent Sandy Husk says something’s gotta give. The district’s new $2.39 billion budget, which Husk will present at tonight’s school board meeting, is an increase from last year, but evidently not enough to keep up with inflation and rising costs. On the chopping block? 250 full-time positions, which will likely include more than 100 teachers. This is a huge bummer for many reasons. Some people may blame the Portland Association of Teachers, PPS’s teachers’ union, which finally negotiated a new (somewhat pricey) contract after a lengthy strike last November. But remember— the things the teachers asked for were extremely reasonable (no rats in the classrooms, reasonable class sizes, adequate pay to allow teachers to live in the neighborhoods where they work). The district and the state ought to be able to figure out a way to make this happen without cutting jobs or putting the blame on workers. Will they? IDK! But tonight’s school board meeting is sure to be juicy. 

Oregon just received a major federal grant (around $87 million for the next five years) to bolster the state’s solar power infrastructure, particularly in low-income and rural communities. The program will enable low-income households to install rooftop solar panels without paying the large upfront cost, and it aims to have the added benefit of strengthening Oregon’s green jobs workforce (more solar panels to install, baby!). If you’re thinking that Oregon is too cloudy to be very generative for solar energy, remember that 1) things are a lot different on the other side of the Cascades, 2) it’s sometimes even sunny in the Willamette Valley (remember yesterday?) and 3) this federal investment in PNW solar power seems to indicate bounty within the field of renewable energy, which is super cool! 


• Remember that trial about Lake Oswego’s lake Oswego, and whether or not the city can keep restricting lake access to those of us who don’t own one of the seven-figure homes surrounding the body of water? Well, the Clackamas County jury (who, I imagine, was made up largely of people who do not live in Lake Oswego) on the case found the city “too restrictive,” advising the judge to issue a verdict that demands the city to be more lenient when it comes to lake access. The judge will likely make the final decision in May. Look, I’m not going there either way (the Willamette River and all its icky green slime algae is good enough for me!) but it would be a win for public space and a loss for rich NIMBYs if L.O. is forced to loosen its grip on the lake, so I’m obviously all for it. 

• Reminder to catch up on your Savage Love reading: 


• Last night, the Senate voted overwhelmingly (79-18) to approve $95 billion in war aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. President Biden is set to sign the contentious bill today. The majority of funds in the foreign aid package will go to Ukraine, which is desperately trying to hold its own against Russia. $26 billion is set to be divided humanitarian aid to Gaza and military aid (including missile replenishment) for Israel —which is kind of like sending your dog into pricey emergency surgery and then feeding it a huge bar of chocolate immediately afterwards. Most Democrats voted for it, but two standouts that did not include Senator Bernie Sanders and our very own Jeff Berkley, who expressed opposition to aiding Israel as it bombards Gaza and continues to kill tens of thousands of civilians. 

• Oh yeah…also included in that foreign aid bill? A TikTok ban. Well, kind of—the legislation states the U.S. will ban TikTok if the app’s Chinese owner ByteDance won’t relinquish the company within the next year. Regardless of any valid critiques against TikTok (and I certainly have some!), the anti-China statements from those who are really gung-ho about this ban are eyebrow-raising, to say the least. It’s also giving an opportunity for Donald Trump (who wanted to ban TikTok back in 2020) to try to get young, TikTok-addicted voters on his side. This country is really screwed.

Students at a growing number of U.S. college campuses are setting up encampments and demonstrations to show their support for Palestine, calling for their universities to divest from supporting Israel as it continues its deadly siege on Gaza. These protests started at Columbia University in New York last week, but have taken hold all over the country. I’m proud of the students, who are being painted in some media outlets as threatening and stubborn, for taking a strong stand in the face of such atrocities. But they’re being met with some truly nuts feedback from the warmonger set, who are advocating that the feds send in the National Guard to deal with the demonstrations. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted yesterday to ban the majority of noncompete agreements, which restrict workers from launching competitive businesses or joining existing ones. FTC Chair Lina Khan said the commission heard from employees who were “stuck in abusive workplaces” due to noncompetes, and the policy change could lead to $300 billion in increased wages. The policy may face high-level lawsuits from business organizations that want to keep their workers in line, so we’ll see if it is able to go into effect broadly. 

If a falling piece of space junk falls on your house and creates a big hole in your roof, who should pay for the damage? (And if nobody’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?) This is the conundrum a man in Naples, Florida is currently dealing with. In March, a large battery pallet from the International Space Station fell on his home when his son was home, luckily missing human contact by a few rooms. Once NASA arrived to remove the object, the family was left with tens of thousands of dollars in damage to his home. It looks like the man won’t be responsible for it, but the NPR story about the situation consults multiple space law experts (I did not know that field existed), and they don’t have a good answer about who might be liable. This is a novel story, but it also seems like a pain in the ass. And as NASA and SpaceX and similar organizations keep sending more shit into outer space, maybe more of us will have similar experiences? Yet another argument against exploring the unknowns of space. Two thumbs down. 

• I’ll leave you with this marvelous video of some penguin cliques. Hope your Wednesdays are FABULOUS! TTYL. 

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