Since leaving active duty to take classes at the University of Wisconsin, Ross Gundlach has been trying to get permission to adopt the dog he befriended as a dog handler in Afghanistan.
The dog, Casey, finished her military career and was given to the Iowa State Fire Marshall's office to be used to detect explosives.
When Gundlach arrived at the Capitol in Des Moines today to plead his case, he got the dog.
"It's unbelievable ... the state of Iowa, I love 'em," the Marine's father told the Des Moines Register.(0 Comments)
In the media world, it's all about the latest technology to get people the information they need, wherever they are. These days, that seems to be about smartphone apps. Before that (and obviously to a great extent now), it's the Internet. Email newsletters -- so-called "push technology" -- was the next hot thing, before it wasn't.
Sometimes we forget that the simplicity of basic -- somewhat outdated -- methods of communication are still pretty important and we came across an anecdote today that bears that out.
On the World Headquarters of NewsCut, there's a message board that flashes the headlines of the day. It reached its most prominent visibility with some iconic photos during the 2008 Republican National Convention.
But it was there doing its work for years when few paid attention, too.
Recently, it stopped working and was shut down pending installation of a replacement or at least a fix. We newspeople didn't think much about it, what with our radio, and our Internet, and our smartphone apps and the occasional email newsletter to focus on.
But today, a homeless man walked into the building. He was in reporter Julie Siple's recent story about the Dorothy Day Center and its need to come up with a new approach to serving people. He wanted to hear how the story came out.
But he also had a complaint: His source of news had disappeared.
"He has coffee twice a day at Mickey's," Adam Caillier, the man who is the face of MPR in our lobby said. "Every morning, he'd stop to read about what happened overnight, on his way to the diner. When he was having his evening coffee, he'd step out to smoke and read what had happened during the day. However limited, it seemed like his primary source for general news."
And, apparently, this is true for other people in downtown Saint Paul -- some homeless people in need of information, some not.
The thing always seemed like a better building decoration than an informational tool.
We learned today that's not the case. We hope it comes back soon, too.
(h/t: Jennifer Vogel)(4 Comments)
If the scandals -- real or imagined -- this week have done nothing else, they've properly set up the summer of 2013 as a time to observe the 40th anniversary of the Watergate hearings.
The first hearings of the scandal began 40 years ago today:
"This is far worse than Watergate," Rep. Michele Bachmann declared this week, referring to the IRS focus on Tea Party groups. We can't possibly know that because we don't know enough about the IRS story yet.
But her hyperbole mirrors that of Democrats around this time 41 years ago. They were trying to get the country to pay attention to a political break-in and the steady drip of information that increasingly reflected a presidential cover-up, and the country wasn't at all interested because it was easy -- far too easy -- to dismiss the assertions as the work of partisan politicians and a liberal media.
"Back then, investigations followed facts. Today partisanship leads to distortion of facts to suit theory," a follower on Twitter commented this week when I noted the seizure of reporter phone records had the faint aroma of the Nixon administration.
He had part of it right -- the current part, but the assertion that Watergate lacked the politics of today's scandals reinforces that younger people really don't know much about either Watergate or the Nixon administration. And so when Rep. Bachmann declares the current situation worse than Watergate, it probably doesn't matter much to many Americans except those who remember Watergate and understand that the current scandal in its current form is nowhere close.
All of which is a lengthy lead-in to pointing out that PBS NewsHour is in the process of putting together a terrific site about the anniversary of the Watergate hearings, starting with a series of poignant remembrances from viewers about how the nation was captivated by the hearings.
Consider this one, for example:
The Watergate hearings made a lasting impression on me. I clearly remember and think of it often to this day, how I sat indoors most of the summer and listened to these hearing unfold. I was fascinated. I was 13 years old and glued to the television. I think now what a weird kid I must have been. But it had a lasting impression on me. I understood only part of it I am sure. The phrase 'to the best of my recollection' vibrates in my head still when I think of the hearings. John Dean, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Liddy, John Dean's wife with the tightly coiffed blonde hair...these are all images that remain with me. I don't really recall what my impression was in terms of government, morality and the media. I do think though that these televised hearings enabled the viewer to watch government unfold as it were and it seemed and seems to me to be a valuable public service - one of the few good reasons for television to exist. Now, I want the summer of '73 back - to have the fun I was supposed to be having!
And this one...
So many moments in our collective history have been described as "when we lost our innocence," but in the case of Watergate, that really was the case. How could anyone emerge from it unchanged? For me, I learned to be wary, if not suspicious of government. If something they do doesn't seem right, it's our duty to speak up. I also learned that the media, when it really wants to, and when it's allowed to, can change history. What would have happened to us as a nation had certain media outlets, particularly The Washington Post and CBS, not focused on this story and seen it to its conclusion? Few people believed them at first. Few people thought a president and his administration could be so venal. It was a major revelation to find out that was the case, and I'm so glad some determined media outlets saw it through when the pressure to back off was immense.
It obviously made us more cynical, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. A lot of us were naïve before, and this is just the opposite extreme. But sometimes the most patriotic thing an American can do is to keep asking questions. It happened once. It can happen again, if we're foolish enough to permit it.
Although the hearings started 40 years ago today in the Senate, it would be another year before it completed its work, and then the House Judiciary Committee did something even more remarkable in congressional history -- its job. Six of 17 Republicans on the committee sided with Democrats in impeaching a Republican president.
An engaged public? A savvy media? A Congress rising to the occasion? Setting aside the facts of Watergate, these were some of the most remarkable aspects of the scandal, which the present scandals are not likely to duplicate to any degree.(4 Comments)
There was another big jump in gasoline prices overnight in Minnesota when gas stations raised the price of gasoline by another 20 cents a gallon, to $4.39 at most major outlets. That's on top of the 50 cents-a-gallon increase over the last week and a half.
Since January's low, gasoline prices have jumped 55 percent in the Twin Cities.
How does this compare to the big price shock of 1973 when the Arab oil embargo hit the United States and many stations ran out of gasoline?
The average price of a gallon of gasoline in May 1973 was 38.5 cents a gallons ($1.96 in 2012 dollars). By June 1974, it had risen to 55 cents or $2.53 a gallon in '12 dollars.
In 1974, that was a 42-percent increase, far less than the current increase and that's for a situation in which there was no gas to sell. The current run-up is being blamed on just two refineries in Illinois that were closed for maintenance.
WCCO's Jason DeRusha pointed out this week that part of the reason for the increase is the gasoline refined in Minnesota was sent to Chicago to compensate for the closed refineries. As of today, the average price of gasoline in Chicago is falling.
(Photo: Associated Press)(15 Comments)
Among this week's must reads is the joint project with Marketplace and Pro Publica, examining the way military service members are being ripped off by the loan industry, despite laws designed to protect them.
It's a typical bureaucratic loop. Soldiers, who could get no-interest loans from the military, don't tell their commanding officers they need one, because they can lose security clearances over financial troubles.
So they go to private lenders, many of whom are only too happy to prey upon them, and who have cleverly figured out the loopholes of regulations.
Loans are broadly and legally available from stores and over the Internet. QC Holdings, Advance America, Cash America and Ace Cash Express -- all among the country's largest payday lenders -- offer loans that fall outside the definitions of the Military Lending Act, which defined a payday loan as lasting three months or less.
The annual rates can be sky high, such as those offered by Ace Cash Express in Texas, where a five-month loan for $400 comes with an annual rate of 585 percent, according to the company's website.
Two suspects in the Mother's Day parade shooting in New Orleans are in custody. Ten men, seven women, a boy and a girl were wounded in the attack.
Some attention now is focusing on the lack of attention.
Writing in The Guardian, David Dennis of New Orleans asserts it's a racial thing:
Because this is an act of domestic terrorism right? Just because the alleged shooter was wearing a white tee and jeans does that suddenly make the shooting a gang-related affair? And we all know how irrelevant gang-related shootings are in America. The Mother's Day shooting is so irrelevant that politicians haven't even bothered to mention it to further their anti-gun agendas. If the shootings aren't even important enough for politicians to spin, then it's truly reached a black hole of irrelevance.
Did I mention the shooter is still on the loose? I have? Just checking. Police have released photos and video of one of the suspects, but he is still at large.
Now take a moment and imagine a Mother's Day Parade in the suburbs of Denver, a neighborhood in Edina or a plaza in Austin where bullets rain down on civilians and even hit children. I can't help but imagine the around-the-clock news coverage. And I can't help but think it's because most of America can identify with the fear of being bombarded with gunfire while just enjoying a parade in the middle of town. But America can't identify with being at a parade in the "inner city" where "gang violence" erupts. The "oh my God, that could happen to me" factor isn't present with a story about New Orleans or the Chicago southside.
The allegations are similar to those voiced after a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee where attention did not reach the level of an earlier shooting in Aurora, Colorado.
We are the point in the season where sometimes we have to hit the brakes for ducklings and goslings crossing the road. Or, as my Twitter feed has revealed in disconcerting numbers of late, we can just speed through and kill them all.
Let's let Portland Police officer Mark James be our guide. He was chasing a speeder on Monday...
In St. Petersburg last evening, Alayna Adams, threw out the first pitch at last night's Rays - Red Sox game, after he father, a soldier in Afghanistan, sent a message that was played on the stadium's video board.
You know what's coming next, right?
Anthony Cymerys, known in Hartford, CT., as "Joe the Barber," sets up shop every Wednesday in a city park, and gives free haircuts to homeless people.
"It really is love. I love these guys," Cymerys told the Associated Press this week as he paused and turned to his client in the chair, "You know I love you, right?"
"Governor Dayton and DFL legislative leaders have announced a deal on an overall tax bill that would increase roughly $2 billion in new taxes," blogs MPR News reporter Tom Scheck. Today's Question: What do you make of the tax deal reached by Gov. Dayton and legislative leaders?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: Friday roundtable with area faith leaders talking with Jim Wallis of Sojourners, about his book, "On God's Side."
Second hour: The controversy over the Department of Justice seizing of reporters' phone records.
Third hour: The rise in adjunct professors.
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): MPR reporters Mike Mulcahy, Tom Scheck, and Tim Pugmire discuss the final weekend of the legislative session.
Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) - A look at eating insects.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - In 2007, Rochester resident Chris Skogen wanted to visit a friend who had recently moved to Mankato. An avid biker, Skogen, now 35, rounded up 12 friends and they pedaled west on gravel roads to stay away from cars and trucks. The trip was a success. Skogen was hooked on gravel and he's organized races every year since. Skogen now finds himself at the center of an emerging style of cycling that's done entirely on unpaved, backcountry roads. MPR's Elizabeth Baier will have the story.
Every summer in city parks in the mid 20th century, people would gather for community sings. In Minneapolis from about 1920 through 1943 community sings drew thousands of people. This year, there's an effort to recreate the community sing timed with a May 18th community sing event at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis. MPR baritone Dan Olson joins in.
MPR's Dan Gunderson will look at the Minnesota National Guard's new unmanned aircraft flight center at Camp Ripley that will expand training and testing for drones at the central Minnesota military facility. What will it mean for the future of unmanned aircraft in Minnesota?
When JJ Abrams re-booted the Star Trek movie franchise in 2009, fans worried about how their favorite characters would be played. They were especially uneasy about the portrayal of the iconic Mister Spock. Fortunately, many sci-fi fans see him living long and prospering thanks to actor Zachary Quinto . NPR profiles him.(4 Comments)
Using smokers to pay for a stadium for the Vikings, forget an increasing in the minimum wage, another head rolls in the IRS scandal, the twisters in Texas, and the mother who wouldn't let a man abduct her daughter.
Here's today's news conversation with Mary Lucia on The Current.
The Dayton administration released its heretofore secret plan to fix its botched Vikings stadium funding scheme today. The only surprise is that it didn't meet Dayton's description last week that his secret plan would be "something that you'd never even imagine."
It turned out to include a plan to take a fiscal hammer to smokers. Again.
The plan was unveiled at a Capitol hearing today and includes $24.5 million in one-time revenues from a tax on the current cigarette inventory, MPR's Tim Nelson reports.
DFLers had already targeted smokers by considering tax bills with cigarette tax increases. A House version was to increase the tax by $1.60 a pack, although Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says the final tax could match the $2.52 per pack rate charged in Wisconsin. That's $1.29 more than Minnesota assesses now, the Associated Press says.
It's understandable that Dayton would turn to the cigarette tax. Smokers, many of whom are poor, aren't much of a lobbying threat, and it's an easy sell under the excuse that it will force more people to quit. It's a health issue, not a revenue issue.
But it's surprising how quickly Gov. Dayton caught tobacco tax religion.
"You raise the price of a pack of cigarettes $1.50," Dayton said in a 2010 gubernatorial debate, "that's money out of the pockets of working people and poorer people, and that means kids don't have as much to eat or don't have the same quality of food. Those are addictions, and I think you treat addictions as addictions and you don't penalize the people who are dealing with them economically."
Enter the "health" argument. In March he told MPR that it's about health not revenue.
"I believe we want to make taxes fairer not more regressive but it serves other purposes," Dayton said.
Now, it's serving another purpose -- paying for a new football stadium, pretty much the scenario he decried in 2010.
In many ways, the politicians at the Capitol are trying to recover from several bad decisions of the last two sessions. One, of course, was a stadium funding scheme that many analysts said wouldn't work. But the more serious one is giving away the 1998 tobacco trial windfall.
In 2011, the Legislature decided to spend $1.2 billion over the next 20 years by selling off the windfall with "tobacco bonds." In exchange, the state got about $750 million to close an immediate budget shortfall. $117 million of that was set aside to pay for the cost of doing it. Do the math on all that.
It was a bad deal that provided an immediate political gain for legislators -- making the the budget deficit disappear without raising taxes prior to an election, an election the ruling majority went on to lose.
The situation also shows a deeper problem that's infected Minnesota for years: the lack of a sustainable vision, especially where anti-tobacco efforts are concerned. Having won the tobacco settlement, the state started an aggressive program to curb smoking, then eliminated it in 2003. Then it increased the cigarette tax to balance the budget and cut smoking, then it sold the tobacco settlement, then it turned to smokers for more money.
Any joke goes over better if you include Wisconsin in it somewhere. Or Congress.
It's even better if you include both, as Stephen Colbert proved this week.(0 Comments)
When I made this haphazard video four years ago this week, the price of gasoline had shot up and I had every intention of spending the summer riding to the World Headquarters from Casa NewsCut.
Sadly, the notion joined a long list of good intentions unfilled.
So there's really no reason to pay any attention to my intentions now, other than the fact I come from yankee stock and the the numbers 4 -1- 9 can make us do miraculous things. Also, at MPR, there's a lot of peer pressure to stay trendy and I may be one of the last employees not riding a bike to work and I'm already shut out of all conversations that includes the phrase "when I was traveling Europe by rail." Granted, "when I was biking through Pig's Eye" doesn't get you much admiration, either.
Most of us have these intentions to do something about energy prices, under the proven economic theory that "the solution to high gas prices is high gas prices." Some of us slow down, some of us buy cheaper cars, some of us move closer to work, some of us hop on the bike.
So, I stopped at the bike shop on the way home from work last night and bought $157 of additional gear -- bike rack, saddlebags etc -- in order to carry the laptop and clothes and lunch. And the bike experts on Twitter did a marvelous job guiding me through the installation mistakes.
The money invested would fill up the car four times. That's about 1,300 miles. To break even, I'd have to ride the bike to work (and back) 54 times.
My 12-mile ride probably saves me less than a half gallon of gas -- an amount saved that ends up in the pockets of Big Gatorade. The parking space I rent still has to be paid for in case it rains.
These are the questions and calculations one can ponder on a lengthy bike ride. Also, why don't bicyclists riding in the other direction ever say "hello" in return? Am I violating the unspoken rule of trendy?
The ride took about an hour; not bad for an old man. I could've done it faster, but I stopped to watch a deer.
Sorry, big oil. This might stick.
History is a young person's game, the gas price game, the Texas tornadoes, the poop detectives, and opening day for the Saints.
Minneapolis police reveal more -- but not much more -- about a crash that killed a motorcyclist, firefighters make headway on wildfires here, people locked out of jobs could get more unemployment.
Here's today's news conversation on The Current.
In the midst of juicier scandals, Edward Passetto's apparent suicide went pretty well unnoticed (although I mentioned it on 5x8 yesterday) outside of the community in which he tried to live after returning from war.
And that's too bad because if the nation wants a scandal, this one is it. Today, 22 veterans will take their own life. Tomorrow, 22 more will join them.
This is not new, and you've probably heard it before. A soldier returns from Afghanistan or Iraq, seeks help and gets stuck in a bureaucracy while politicians wear the flag pins, talk about supporting troops and do nothing in the face of overwhelming evidence of a growing problem.
Then the soldier kills himself.
This has been going on for years, now, and yet nothing seems to be changing. Passetto's situation was particularly unique because he was a public advocate to solve the problem, willingly discussing the woe that he and thousands of other returning soldiers are experiencing alone.
His hometown newspaper -- the Berkshire Eagle -- let it rip in an editorial today:
In chronicling his unsuccessful two-year battle with the VA office in Boston to get his disabilityclaim resolved, Mr. Passetto undoubtedly wrote for many veterans across the county, state and country. In an open letter to President Obama that he apparently never sent but was posted by a friend on Facebook, he wrote of the months waiting for his claim to advance, time interrupted by occasional calls from the VA office telling him he would have to wait a few months longer. Although he was suffering from PTSD, haunted by his memories of the horrific helicopter accident, and dealing with mounting debt, joblessness and a family crisis, Mr. Passetto said in his letter to the president that he was told by the VA office he would "have to show proof of eviction or homelessness to qualify for extreme hardship consideration for your claim."
While the specifics of Mr. Passetto's dealings with the VA office are unknown, the generally shabby treatment of veterans since they began returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is well known. It has been chronicled on The Eagle's editorial pages and throughout the media, most recently on CBS' "Sixty Minutes" last Sunday. While the war hawks of Washington can find plenty of money for foreign military adventures, the deficit hawks of Washington (most of whom also are war hawks) cannot find the funds to help returning warriors, many afflicted with grievous physical and psychological ailments, heal and make the transition back to society. They should not have to wait until they hit rock bottom and are homeless to receive expedited treatment. What a great jobs program it would be to train and hire people (with veterans a priority) to work in VA offices to bring two-year-old claims like Mr. Passetto's up to date and clear this indefensible backlog.
Suicides by military veterans have reached horrific proportions in recent years, and Mr. Passetto is the latest casualty. His sense that, as he wrote in the letter to the president, he was "abandoned by my own country" is undoubtedly shared by many veterans. It would honor Edward Passetto's memory and the memory of other forgotten veterans if Americans insisted that their appointed and elected officials do justice by the soldiers who are too often abandoned once they set foot again on U.S. soil.
A man trying to solve the problem, profiled on 60 Minutes last week, asked a simple question: "How do we let that happen?"(2 Comments)
In Keene, NH, a group of merry people patrols the downtown and when they find an expired parking meter, they throw some money in it and leave a note on the window:
"Your meter expired; however, we saved you from the king's tariffs, Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward."
Nice, right? Nothing is that easy in America.
The group -- an anti-government band -- is being sued by the city, the Manchester Union Leader reports:
In the filing, parking enforcement officer Linda Desruisseaux said, "Besides following me, crowding around me, making video recordings of my activities, and placing coins in expired meters to prevent me from writing tickets, these individuals repeatedly taunt and harass me, asking why I am stealing peoples' money and telling me to get another job ... In particular, Graham Colson likes to taunt me by saying, 'Linda, guess what you're not going to do today - write tickets.' ... The taunting and harassment tends to get worse when there is a group, as they try to one-up each other at my expense."
The lawsuit does not deny group members' right to videotape and takes no issue with them filling expired parking meters, but said there is a concern that the three parking enforcement officers will quit. The suit states the city would suffer financially from having to hire and train new employees, and might have difficulty filling the positions.
The city paid private investigator Peter "Sturdy" Thomas, a retired Keene police captain to record the group at work, the city later acknowledged.
Apparently, it's an issue that gets the people of Keene pretty worked up.
(h/t: Brian Hanf)(0 Comments)
The price of a gallon of gasoline hit a shocking level overnight. In the Twin Cities, several chain gas stations -- mostly in the outer ring -- raised their prices to between $4.09 and $4.19 a gallon. That's about 20 cents more overnight, 60 cents in the last two weeks, and $1.20 since January. At many stations, prices rose into the $4 range yesterday afternoon, then fell overnight into the $3.90 area.
What's going on here?
"As we head into Memorial Day, drivers are experiencing the lowest gasoline prices since 2008," CNBC says today, while noting that demand is relatively low and supplies are abundant.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department issued its wholesale price for April, pointing to low energy prices.
The Labor Department said that the bulk of the decline was driven by energy prices, which fell 2.5% on the month. These prices have been falling around the world among as the result of weakening demand and of indications that fast- rising U.S. oil production will greatly boost global supply in the coming years.
The decline in energy prices, in turn, was led by gasoline prices, which fell 6% in April. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has forecast demand for gasoline in the spring-summer driving season will fall to a 12-year low as the result of high unemployment, changes in driving habits and improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency.
The EIA, the government oil monitor, also proclaims good news:
Falling crude oil prices contributed to a decline in the U.S. regular gasoline retail price from a year-to-date high of $3.78 per gallon on February 25 to $3.52 per gallon on April 29. EIA expects the regular gasoline price will average $3.53 per gallon over the summer (April through September), down $0.10 per gallon from last month's STEO. The annual average regular gasoline retail price is projected to decline from $3.63 per gallon in 2012 to $3.50 per gallon in 2013 and to $3.39 per gallon in 2014. Energy price forecasts are highly uncertain, and the current values of futures and options contracts suggest that prices could differ significantly from the projected levels.
Usually, there is a relationship between the price of oil in the U.S., and the price of a gallon of gasoline. In the last few weeks, that has not been the case.
|Minnesota Historical Gas Price Charts Provided by GasBuddy.com|
So long, winter; the unanswered question of the marriage debate, a free press v. the United States, the reviews are in for the new Vikings stadium, and The Podium closes.