The Mercury provides news and fun every single day—but your help is essential. If you believe Portland benefits from smart, local journalism and arts coverage, please consider making a small monthly contribution, because without you, there is no us. Thanks for your support! 

GOOD MORNING, PORTLAND! It's the last ~real~ week of December (that purgatory week between Christmas and New Year's Day doesn't count). Where has the time gone?! I wish you all joyous holidays, of course. Anyway, let's get to the news.


•  2024 will be a historic election year here in Portland, with dozens of candidates already announcing their runs for the new 12-seat City Council (BTW, check out the Mercury's helpful resource of who those people are HERE). But Portland's Small Donor Election program, which works to help candidates who don't have wealthy sponsors (a.k.a., the good ones) by matching the first $20 of individual donations 9-1, is running out of money and tightening operations, just when they're needed the most. Damn! Maybe, somehow, the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund can step in, like they're doing for a LOT of city programs nowadays (JK, PCEF, you're already stretching yourself thin). Here's hoping they find some funding so we can get some good, non-rich people representing Portlanders on council.

•  Oregon and Washington's transportation departments were each awarded $500,000 in federal rail development grants for Amtrak Cascades improvements and the Cascadia High-Speed Rail project. The bad news is...that's not nearly enough money to get started on either project, especially the pricey— but really awesome— plan for a 250 mph bullet train from Portland to Vancouver. The good news is that the Federal Railroad Administration doled out more than $8 billion in grants for passenger rail service across the country, so it's an exciting time for American passenger train fans. But come on, pay attention to us up here in the Pacific Northwest!! 

•  The Kah-Nee-Ta hot springs resort, owned and operated by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in central Oregon (about a two hour drive from Portland) has been closed since 2018. But it's set to reopen next summer after major renovations, giving Portlanders a semi-nearby option for luxury hot springin,' and hopefully providing a surge in funds to local tribes. LMK if you want to carpool there when it opens next year.

•  More than 700 people across the state participated in Oregon's therapeutic psilocybin (I can never spell this word correctly) mushrooms program in 2023, the program's inaugural year. Advocates for magic mushroom therapy say it's helpful for a host of conditions, from addiction to PTSD, and though there's not a ton of data for the program yet, it looks to be going well so far. The only real problem is how expensive the treatment is: $600 at the very least. (The Merry Pranksters are rolling in their graves.) Advocates are now looking into making the program more equitable, but it'll take time. In the meantime, here's hoping the rich people who pay big bucks to trip will do some much-needed staring into the abyss and have some ~realizations~ about what they should do with their money.


•  People looking forward to a warm weather, sunny Caribbean cruise this December are now facing a very different itinerary, thanks to the Nor'easter currently pounding the east coast. MSC Cruises made a last minute route switch, telling passengers their boat trip from New York to the Bahamas would actually be going to Boston, Portland, Maine, and Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. To be honest, I think I'd enjoy the New England cruise more— a lot less time at sea (I'm prone to motion sickness) and more authentic than the tourist playgrounds the cruise lines set up on the docks in the Caribbean— but I'm not sure I'd choose to do it in the middle of December. I hope the cruise line set them up with some nice, fluffy blankets and unlimited hot toddies. 

• The US Department of Housing and Urban Development released its report on the state of homelessness in the US, and damn it's a doozy. Nationally, homelessness rose across multiple age groups and demographics as people face the end of American Rescue Plan benefits, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Between 2021 and 2022, the number of people who became newly homeless rose by 25%, meaning they hadn't experienced homelessness before that year. The report draws a straight line between lack of affordable housing and homelessness. 

A volcano erupted in southwestern Iceland, producing some beautiful-looking lava, but no ash cloud or any real damage, as far as I could tell. Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice (and Björk) for a reason: the island is a volcanic hotspot, averaging an eruption every five or so years. 

• NPR knows how to ask the important questions, like: What's up with the Snoopy craze? (That might sound sarcastic, but it's not. I really have been wanting to know.) Apparently, Gen Z is obsessed with Snoopy, the dog from the Peanuts comic strip, with TikTok videos of the character going viral and toys of his likeness selling out in stores. Apparently, the Snoopy obsession isn't just for the obvious reason that he's adorable and has a weird amount of swag for a cartoon dog from an old comic strip. You'll have to read the NPR article, or a recent Atlantic article about Snoopy called "The Hero Gen Z Needs," to find out more. 

• Finally...this sounds about right. Happy holidays, everyone, and good luck getting your work done this week, if you're still trying on that front.