Years ago, there was a TV ad -- I think it was for the AMC Javelin or Gremlin automobile -- in which a woman pulls into a gas station and the attendant (this really was many years ago), all oiled up from working on someone's car (many many years ago), asks how much gas she wants.
"A dollar," she says.
"A dollar?" he responds incredulously. "Are you sure you can use alllll thaaaat gas?"
She pauses for a moment and thinks and then says, "you're right. Better make it.... a gallon."
You don't get it? You're too young, then.
(I have searched in vain on YouTube for this commercial. If you find it, let me know, please.)
The good news is the higher prices may be saving lives, according to a new study.
Minnesota, along with Missouri and New Jersey, still has the nation's lowest gas prices.(13 Comments)
In this he said-she said world of news, there's an actual story out there today getting almost no attention, which is odd since it was broken by the New York Times on its front page today.
The ammunition the United States is providing to its allies in Afghanistan is junk.
With the award last January of a federal contract worth as much as nearly $300 million, the company, AEY Inc., which operates out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach, became the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan's army and police forces.
Since then, the company has provided ammunition that is more than 40 years old and in decomposing packaging, according to an examination of the munitions by The New York Times and interviews with American and Afghan officials. Much of the ammunition comes from the aging stockpiles of the old Communist bloc, including stockpiles that the State Department and NATO have determined to be unreliable and obsolete, and have spent millions of dollars to have destroyed.
The company is run by a 22-year-old kid.
You'll need a scratchpad and a well-sharpened pencil to add up all the possible violations of law.
Here's the money quote from, "a senior State Department official:"
"A lot of us are asking a question: How did this guy get all the business?"
It's a fabulous piece of reporting.(3 Comments)
The U.S. Census Bureau is out with data today that confirms what most of us know, the South is where people want to live and eventually so many people will be living there that the earth will somehow become unbalanced and spin out of orbit. I hope it's all worth it, Texas.
In these parts, Sioux Falls is one of the fastest growing areas, but Minneapolis-St. Paul is no slouch. Its population grew 1.1 percent between July 2006 and July 2007.
By contrast, the fastest growing of the 100 metropolitan areas is Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina, which grew at the rate of 4.7 percent. Does this mean the Raleigh-Cary is better than the Twin Cities. No (although it may be).
Assuming that people vote with their feet, the "best" place among the 100 is the Dallas area, followed by Atlanta, Phoenix, Houston and Riverside, Calif.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, however, finishes 18th in the total number of people moving here (OK, it's not exactly people moving here, it could just as easily be that lots of people died in some areas where a few people moved, but work with me here!) We're just slightly ahead of Nashville and just slightly behind San Francisco.
And we actually have some work to do to catch up with Raleigh-Cary, which is 12th.
Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Detroit bring up the rear, as has become tradition for them.
In terms of the rate of growth, who are we most like?
Columbus, Ohio; Augusta, Ga.;Omaha;Tampa; Louisville, and Allentown, Pa.
In the last couple of days, the entire pre-ordained world of politics has been turned upside down following word of Rep. Michele Bachmann's filing of a bill to delay the phase-out of the manufacture of incandescent bulbs.
Republicans and conservatives are arguing against the environmental impact of CFL, while traditional Democratic and liberal constituencies are saying, "it's not that bad." Down is up. Up is down.
To be sure, most of Bachmann's arguments against CFL light bulbs are moot. Most of what she's asking for in the way of research and studies was already readily available. But there are two areas where her points -- oh, geez, I can hear the blogs now -- have merit.
-1- There is an environmental concern with CFLs to at least consider.
-2- For some people, CFLs are a health risk.
Let's take the second one first, but only because I've already written about it here. In the U.K., there's a phase-out of incandescents. I wrote about it January, long before the millions of you discovered News Cut.
The bulbs are suspected to cause migraines and there's at least some research that suggests they could contribute to an epileptic attack. In the UK, the BBC reported way back when, some groups are asking that the government still allow incandescents to be sold because of this.
As for number one, yes, there is mercury in CFLs and, no, it can't be disregarded out of hand. According to the EPA, there are 5 milligrams of mercury in every CFL. According to a story last month by National Public Radio, General Electric says it could be a problem if the CFLs are used on a wide scale, even though manufacturers have reduced mercury content by 87 percent, according to one trade group.
For the record, mercury is also in your car's HID lamps, streetlights, and the computer monitor on which you're reading this.
Still, if the concern over the coming phase-out is really the mercury involved in light bulbs, then the CFL still wins out. Popular Mechanics got at this issue in an article last year, which tends to turn the mercury anti-CFL argument on its head.
About 50 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. is generated by coal-fired power plants. When coal burns to produce electricity, mercury naturally contained in the coal releases into the air. In 2006, coal-fired power plants produced 1,971 billion kilowatt hours (kwh) of electricity, emitting 50.7 tons of mercury into the air--the equivalent amount of mercury contained in more than 9 billion CFLs (the bulbs emit zero mercury when in use or being handled).
Approximately 0.0234 mg of mercury--plus carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide--releases into the air per 1 kwh of electricity that a coal-fired power plant generates. Over the 7500-hour average range of one CFL, then, a plant will emit 13.16 mg of mercury to sustain a 75-watt incandescent bulb but only 3.51 mg of mercury to sustain a 20-watt CFL (the lightning equivalent of a 75-watt traditional bulb). Even if the mercury contained in a CFL was directly released into the atmosphere, an incandescent would still contribute 4.65 more milligrams of mercury into the environment over its lifetime.
CFLs should be disposed of at a county hazardous waste site. The problem is that they often don't make it there. They break while people are changing them or throwing them out. You can find cleanup suggestions here.
The brouhaha the story has caused is fascinating. Overall, the issue has been stretched a bit too tight to fit a political argument. It's not always a bad thing if government steps in to dictate a standard in the public interest. And, in the most honest moments, most people understand that. Otherwise, there'd be a bigger clamor for the right to buy toys painted with lead.(8 Comments)
Just a few days after I wrote about the Rate My Cop Web site, comes word through the interoffice mail of another site aimed at the law enforcement community.
This one -- the Speed Trap Exchange -- is designed for people to identify locations of regular speeding crackdowns. It's actually been operating for a few years.
Checking ye olde homestead -- Woodbury -- finds three "speed traps" listed, which basically amount to I-94. But the word "speed trap" suggests a fairly consistent location and that doesn't really exist on that stretch. They get you when they feel like getting you.
As with Rate My Cop, its primary purpose ends up being the entertainment value of the people complaining about breaking the law. As one person wrote:
I was nailed yesterday (yes I was speeding, but technically it shouldn't have mattered because I was going with the speed of traffic). Going west towards Woodbury-- two miles or so before the Manning Avenue exit. There were 4 police cars in that general area. I later learned (when I was pulled over) from the officer that they were doing a "speed detail" in the area and that I would indeed be receiving a citation. Be careful! Stay out of the left lane!
It shouldn't have mattered? The law doesn't matter as long as everyone is breaking it?
"Man, it felt so good to hear the customs agent say, 'Welcome home' when I'd get back from an overseas trip," Arafat Elbakri fairly gushed to me Thursday night. He was reminiscing. Since 9/11, says the Egyptian-born Coon Rapids man, he's usually pulled aside and interrogated instead.
"I used to be so proud when I'd go back to Egypt to say, 'I live in America.'"
Still reminiscing. He's frustrated now by what he sees as a talk-radio-fed hatred against Muslims.
"I don't believe we can change the world," he told a crowd of about 100 people who showed up at a forum in Anoka, "but we can try to make these people not feel comfortable and proud to hurt others under the name of patriotism."
These people include whoever firebombed Mohammad Ismail's convenience store on 109th Street in Blaine last January. It's a crime that has not been classified as a hate crime by police, but about which there is no doubt by the 100 who attended the forum, which was intended to explore ways to improve relations between the growing Muslim community in the region and the natives.
The FBI, the Anoka County attorney, the mayor of Blaine, and a representative of the Blaine Police Department tried to assure a decidedly mild-mannered audience they take the issue seriously, but not everyone buys it.
Chris Schumacher, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says five days before the January firebombing, someone in a truck threw a bottle at Ismail. "Maybe he was aiming for the garbage can," Schumacher says a Blaine cop told Ismail.
On Monday, someone shouted at a Muslim woman in a parking lot on 109th Street in Blaine, "Get out of here and get off 109th," she reported. That's the same street as the charred convenience store.
On Tuesday, according to one person in the audience, a Muslim woman -- his wife -- driving in Blaine was driven off the road by a man in a pickup truck.
Blaine has a problem. And Blaine knows it.
"I have complete embarrassment that someone who looks like me might have done something like this," said Joe Belcheck of Coon Rapids.
In a county that's growing twice as fast as Minnesota as a whole, the number of Muslims is also increasing. A survey by CAIR showed Minnesota is one of 12 states where American Muslim voters are concentrated.
Contributions to a reward fund for information about the firebombing has swelled it to $4,000. Some churches in the region have made contributions to help Ismail get his store rebuilt.
He did not attend the forum.