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Convention Beat: August 19, 2008 Archive

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Remember Spiro Agnew

Posted at 10:26 AM on August 19, 2008 by Tim Nelson (0 Comments)

The Veepstakes are heating up these days, and John McCain is supposedly going to name his pick the Friday before the Republican National Convention opens.

Last night, Time columnist Mark Halperin put a little water on the Gov. Tim Pawlenty flame, during Halperin's talk at Metro State University. It was part of the St. Paulitics series sponsored by the St. Paul Public Library.

spiroagnew.jpgHalperin suggested Mitt Romney might be a hotter prospect and more vice presidential.

But he also raised an interesting point about Pawlenty AND Romney's prospects from a purely technical point of view. Chief state executives, Halperin said, can actually be an uncertain prospect for someone at the top of the ticket.

Proof? The last governor to win election as vice president.

Spiro Agnew was reportedly disliked by Richard Nixon, who didn't want his No. 2 to succeed him.

Agnew implied in his 1980 biography that Nixon and chief of staff Alexander Haig were plotting to assasinate him to preclude his ascension. (Haig, for his part, suggested that if he "suddenly disappeared," his wife might consider looking for him in a recently poured concrete bridge piling in Agnew's native Maryland.)

You know, political rivalries just don't get any nastier than that.

Agnew took care of the problem himself by resigning in disgrace over pre-vice president bribery-related tax evasion charges. He put "nolo contendre" in the public lexicon and teed up the administration of Gerald Ford.

The St. Paulitics series continues tonight, at 7 p.m., at Metro State University, with Susan Estrich. She was Michael Dukakis's 1988 presidential campaign manager and the youngest woman ever to be a Harvard Law School professor.

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Hit the showers

Posted at 11:45 AM on August 19, 2008 by Tim Nelson (0 Comments)

biohazard.jpgUnited Hopsital, just a block and a half away from the Xcel Energy Center, is gearing up for the worst-case scenario during the RNC. Look soon for a number of big white decontamination tents to go up outside its emergency room.

"We're prepared to receive patients if there's a mass casualty, whether it's a radiologic or biohazard-type situation," said Dr. Marty Richards, an ER physician at United. "We'll have tents outside and also decontamination tents set up in our ambulance-receiving bay."

United is one of several area hospitals that have been gearing up for the convention. Folks there are bracing for about a 30 percent boost in ER visits during the four days.

But United spokeswoman Terri Dresen says the hospital staff has been talking to other hospitals across the country located in cities that have hosted national conventions. Doctors and administrators from those hospitals have told United that most patients will be seeking treatment for things like foodborne illnesses, heat exhaustion and sprained ankles.

"Anytime you have 50,000 people within a few blocks radius and several thousand of protesters, you do need to prepare for anything that could happen to these people," Dresen said.

-- Laura Yuen

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Shining a little light on the RNC. Really. A little.

Posted at 3:07 PM on August 19, 2008 by Tim Nelson (1 Comments)

solararray.jpgThe Republican National Convention is getting just a little bit greener this week.

Xcel Energy is putting up three new photovoltaic panels beside its new High Bridge power plant to provide solar power during the political convention next month. It isn't much: they're about the size of a parking space in a typical lot, and they put out a max of only about 3,100 watts, which is about 90 percent of what an energy efficient home uses.

That's only a tiny fraction of what it will take to power the truckloads of lights, amplifiers, computers and broadcast equipment running in and around the Xcel Energy Center when Republicans throw the switch on their quadrennial gathering.

Xcel has estimated power use at about 8 million watts, about 900 times what the new solar panels will provide.

But High Bridge plant manager Jim Zyduck says they'll nonetheless have a lasting impact. The panels are mounted permanently on the north side of the new 500 million watt natural gas turbine plant near downtown St. Paul.

"For this region, we're thinking solar is a possibility," Zyduck says. "This is kind of a small step to see how this will work for our customers and if its a viable option for the long term. It's a perfect opportunity to incorporate more environmentally friendly alternatives."

Money is the chief obstacle. The fuel for the photovoltaics is free, of course, but the initial outlay is a doozy. The gas plant cost about 60 cents per watt of capacity to build, compared to about $25.50 for the solar panels.

But Ralph Jacobson, with Minneapolis contractor Innovative Power Systems, says that's not quite a fair comparison. Big power plants may be able to generate millions of watts for a nickel or so a kilowatt hour, but they aren't built to accomodate peak demand affordably.

"Solar energy corrolates very highly with the summer air conditioning, the peak load, when most of the brownouts might occur in the city," Jacobson said. "So you've got the spot market that the utility has to go out and buy power on and the cost there might be anywhere from 5 cents a kilowatt hour to $500 a kilowatt hour. So it's really the Twilight Zone for the utility. If you take the power from this, its an expensive technology, but if you can eliminate that spot market purchase, you might have just saved 10 times what the cost of this is."

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