Posted at 6:01 AM on April 29, 2008
by Bob Collins
What's up on News Cut today?
Late this afternoon I'll be live blogging a conversation that my colleague says will likely consist of "disjointed candor."
The Youth Caucus: Why kids care about community/civic life? A Public Insight Forum by MPR and the Humphrey Institute
The long-standing knock on young people is that they aren't involved. But try telling that to the kids getting interested in this presidential race - or the young people using social networking to make connections.
There is evidence that kids are engaging more. But is it enough? Does it include teens from all walks of life and backgrounds? Minnesota Public Radio news and the Humphrey Institute are teaming up for a forum that will start this conversation. And the idea is to hear from kids.
I'm heading out for two weeks of vacation (back to New England to help my mother), so I have two interviews to do for the "Women of World War II" series (First one is here). I'll be in Two Harbors on Wednesday and have another in Bloomington on Thursday. Any readers in Two Harbors? What's interesting to you there that I should be writing about? I might as well take advantage of the drive up.
The weather has delayed my Bike with Bob series (or rather the "Oh, please, let me tag along with you" series).
A nice day for a news conference in the Rose Garden.
Main points of the president's morning news conference:
9:30 - Gas prices up $1.40 a gallon. Blasts Congress for not passing major legislation. Says it has blocked search for oil in ANWR. Says it could lead to 27 million gallons of gasoline a day and "likely mean lower gas prices."
9:33 - "It's been more than 30 years since America built a refinery." Blames Congress for that. Also blames Congress for lack of nuclear power.
>> Side note. Favorite saying, "The cure for high prices is high prices." New York Times reports today that's not working out this time.
9:36 - Says Congress is passing a "bloated" farm bill that fails to eliminate subsidies for "millionaire farmers." Notes that times are good right now for the farmer.
9:38 - Wants Congress to stop "sending bills that look like political statements."
Q: You said we need to wait until stimulus package is taken effect to act again but since it was passed foreclosures are up, gas prices up etc.? Time for further action and would you support moratorium on federal gas tax?
A: Money is just now making it into peoples' bank accounts. Wait and see. If Congress is "truly interested," they can send the right signal by saying "we're going to explore for oil and gas in U.S. territories, starting with ANWR." Proposes refineries on abandoned military bases.
Q; Were you premature in saying the U.S. economy was not in recession when food and energy prices are soaring. What more can you do to persuade Saudis to increase oil output?
A: The words on how to define economy don't reflect the anxiety of the American public. The average person doesn't care what we call it; the average person wants to know whether or not we know that they're paying higher gasoline prices and that they're worried about staying in their homes and I do understand that. That's why I call upon Congress to pass legislation that will enable people to... stay in their homes. These are tough times. Economists can argue over the terminology. The American people want to know whether Congress knows it (that these are tough times).
We're transitioning to a new era, by the way. An era where we're going to have batteries in our cars that are going to... enable people to drive 40 miles. More ethanol, alternative fuels. Our driving habits will change. (Repeats call for more refineries - See list of coming refinery shutdowns here.)
Q: Do you believe the alleged link between high food prices and biofuels?
A: I think 85% of world food prices are caused by weather, increased demand, and energy prices. 15% has been caused by ethanol. High price of gas is going to spur more investment in ethanol. It's in our national interest that our farmers grow energy. We are concerned about food prices. We should buy food from local farmers as a way to deal with scarcity and put infrastructure in place so we could be self-sustaining.
Q: Flesh out thinking on why gas tax moratorium is a good idea or not.
A: Appreciate you trying to drag me into the '08 race. We're concerned about high gasoline prices. I'm not going to jump into the middle of a presidential campaign.
Q: Do you think we've neared peak oil and if so, why haven't you put more emphasis on renewable energy?
A: We put a lot into ethanol. The solution is making ethanol out of switchgrasses or wood chips. Energy policy needs to be comprehensive. The problem is there's been a lot of focus in the intermediate steps but not enough emphasis on the
hear here (dangit!) and now. (Bob notes: "Immediate" is not " hearhere and now?") More riffs on ANWR.
Q: Should the U.S. stop filling the strategic petroleum reserve?
A: Wouldn't affect price. We're buying about 67,000-68,000 barrels of oil a day. World demand is 85 million barrels a day. The purchases account for 1/10 of 1 percent of global demand. I don't think that's going to affect price. It is in our national interest to get reserve filled. Al Qaeda wants to blow up oil facilities.
Q: Are we winning in Afghanistan?
A: We're making progress but there's a resilient enemy. Important to remember what life was like in Afghanistan before the country was liberated. Pleased with roads that have been built. Pleased with little girls being allowed to go to school.
Q: But do you think we're winning?
A: I do.
Q: In Iraq in 2006, you said we were winning and the strategy was working to boost troop morale. How can we believe you're not doing the same thing...
A: Are you trying to answer my question before? The question you asked me before -- and the exclusive I gave you at the ranch (this is to Martha Radatz) -- was 'you said we were winning in the past,' I also said that there was tough fighting. Make sure you put the comments in place. What I will tell you now is we're making progress in Afghanistan but it's tough fighting. I'm under no illusions that this isn't tough.
The notion that we can let these people have their way... let's don't stir 'em up... is naive or disingenuous and it's not in our nation's interest. We're in a global fight against thugs and killers and the United States of America has got to continue to take the lead.
Q: Last week you released classified photos of Israeli bombing of Syrian nuclear facility after earlier refusing to discuss it. Why the turnaround?
A: We briefed 22 members of Congress on what I'm about to tell you. We were concerned that an early disclosure would increase the risk of a confrontation in the Middle East or retaliation. We wanted to include more members of Congress when the risk of retaliation was reduced. That time came upon us. We want to let the North Koreans know that "we may know more about you than you think." Wanted to send message to Syria and Iran.
Q: (Softball) Are you frustrated, angry with Congress?
A: They're letting the American people down. It's either lack of leadership or the lack of understanding of the issue (FISA), but either way it's not good for the American people.
Q: I'm still waiting for my exclusive at the ranch .
A: Yeah....(laughs)... I'm at a loss for words. If only you'd have been at the White House Correspondents Dinner, I would've invited you. (Bob notes: This must be a NY Times reporter. The Times skipped the dinner. Good line.)
Q: ANWR, oil refineries are long-term solutions to gas prices. What are you doing in the short term?
A: It's intermediate term (ANWR). Market's going to encourage conservation. If there was a magic wand to wave I'd be waving it.
Q: Has Jimmy Carter's meeting with Hamas leaders undercut foreign policy?
A: Hamas is undercutting foreign policy. It's important for people to understand we're witnessing a struggle between those who understand liberty and those who want to stop it. Anybody can talk to anybody they want.
Q: Did any good come out of Carter's talk with Hamas.
A: I didn't talk to him and I don't know.
Q: Are you worried your successor will neglect war on terror?
A: I don't think John McCain is going to neglect the war on terror and I do think he will be the president (acknowledges that earlier said he wouldn't inject himself into the campaign).
Q; What will it take for you to say "we are in a recession"?
A: I've answered the question on the words. These are very difficult times, we'll let the economists define it for what it is. Calls for making tax cuts permanent.
Area police departments continue to turn back the clock on squad car designs. Last month, the State Patrol went back to its maroon and white look. Today, the Minneapolis Police Department took a stand for the retro look:
Says a news release this morning:
MPD will gradually replace its fleet of approximately 200 squad cars with these redesigned Fords which feature black front and rear ends with a large police badge on a white midsection. If this design looks familiar, it's because it is. The black and white design was last seen on Minneapolis streets in 1973 when MPD drove Dodge Coronets. In 1974, MPD went to the current all-white design on its Plymouth Furys.
Pictures pending.(6 Comments)
The cost of jet fuel is bankrupting airlines. Maybe there's a cure coming.
Biomass Magazine reports on Solena Group Technology's intention to build a biobased jet fuel facility in Gilroy, California. It will produce jet fuel from "municipal, agricultural and forestry waste."
The plan involves the use of "plasma gasification," which Matternetwork describesas " super-heating biomass with plasma torches (aka, death rays), rapidly breaking down the material into their component compounds, resulting in synthetic gas, or syngas."
Perhaps the biggest key in the idea is the fact that Gilroy wants the plant in their community.(2 Comments)
The Minnesota House, you may have heard in Tim Pugmire's story this morning, has approved a bill establishing a sex education requirement for Minnesota schools. Some people, however, don't care for a one-size-fits-all approach to the subject.
Which brings us to condoms, specifically Rep. Sondra Erickson's reading from "a sex education curriculum:"
"Barriers and methods for preventions. Is the condom going to be used for anal sex, vaginal sex or oral sex? Parents, I hope you're listening. That's what can be in these curricula that parents may choose, some parents choose that you don't want. Your children need to be excused. Under safer choices explicitly how to put a condom on. What's that about for 7th through 12th graders.
Well, yes, that's what can be in "these curricula," but is that what's in this curriculum? No. It hasn't been written yet. Here's the requirement as specified in the bill:
Curriculum requirements. (a) Consistent with its curriculum review cycle under section 120B.11, or no later than the start of the 2011-2012 school year, whichever comes first, a school district must offer and may independently establish policies, procedures, curriculum, and services for providing responsible family life and sexuality education that is age-appropriate and medically accurate for grades 7 through 12.
So what was Erickson citing? It appears to be the curriculum of the Birds and Bees Project (see it here - pdf), a Minnesota-based group that claims to be presenting it to 8,000 students and adults in "area high schools, alternative learning centers, correctional facilities, churches, synagogues and adult-education programs."
Which ones in particular? They haven't yet told MPR's Tim Nelson, who's working the story today.
Here's an "exercise" that's aimed to 15-18 year olds:
For questions 4-5 have the teens focus only on the lists for Vaginal Sex, Anal Sex and Oral Sex.
4. Let's say you are trying to communicate your feelings, desires and boundaries with your sexual partner. If all the above words listed are synonyms for sex, how would your sexual partner understand what specifically you meant if you said "do you want to have sex?" Could the same problems occur that we listed earlier when we talked about styles of communication? What additional problems might we add to the list? How can you be sure that your sexual partner is consenting to the same sexual experience as you if the words you use are vague or if you are using different communication styles?
Well, OK, that's... uncomfortable, and I know it is based on the number of folks who've reacted to hearing Erickson's comments on the radio this morning while their kids were in the car.
Where it's likely to get testy, if this curriculum should actually be adopted in schools statewide, are sections such as this:
This activity illustrates the fact that whether or not abortion is legal, there is a need for the procedure. Making abortion legal makes it safe for the women who access these services. 1. Write "1973" on the board. 2. Explain that 1973 was the year when abortion became legal in the U.S., but that women had abortions before then. 3. Ask students to think of reasons why a woman would have an illegal abortion and write all of their responses in a column to the left of "1973". 4. Next, have students think about why women have abortions today, and list all of their responses in a column to the right of "1973".
Over to you, governor.(8 Comments)
The Minnesota Corn Growers Association is out with a survey of 800 people that generally gives high marks to corn growers and ethanol. A spokesperson says the survey was not undertaken to be released to the media, but it subsequently was.
Since we've talked about the cost of ethanol-blended gasoline vs. the cost of straight gasoline on News Cut several times in the last month, it's worth pointing out that 55% of the people surveyed don't think it is less expensive and support its production for other reasons.
By the way, 70 percent of those surveyed believe global warming is a fact.(4 Comments)
It's sweeps month in local TV and that usually spawns a round of "I'm not saying, I'm just saying" investigations that create more heat than light. KSTP's story on the death of Chris Jenkins in Minneapolis in 2002 suggests a conspiracy to kill young men around the country, leaving behind a "smiley face" at the point where a body went in nearby water.
But even the reporter involved says she's not all that interested in knowing whether the conspiracy theory is true.
"I totally agree that it is a way-out there theory that sounds pretty far-fetched. But it's not my job to say if they are right. I'm just reporting on what they think," reporter Kristi Piehl told media critic Brian Lambert
This afternoon, the Minneapolis Police Department released a statement on Jenkins' death and investigation:
Investigators with the Minneapolis Police Department Homicide Unit have been investigating the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and tragic death of Chris Jenkins since 2002. Although we have collaborated with investigators from the FBI and communicated with other jurisdictions in which similar drownings have occurred, we can neither confirm nor endorse the 'Smiley Face Murders' theory currently being publicized.
The investigation into Chris Jenkins' murder remains open. Investigators are assigned to the case and will follow-up on any credible leads. There is no shortage of theories about what happened to Chris Jenkins on Halloween night in 2002; however, there simply is not sufficient, demonstrable evidence to support a criminal prosecution. As in every unsolved murder, it is our goal not only to uncover the facts surrounding Chris Jenkins' death, but to identify evidence which objectively proves those facts beyond a reasonable doubt. Until the day when those facts may be proven, our investigation will remain active.
Our sympathy continues to be with the Jenkins family and all of those who have suffered the loss of a child in these incidents.
What does it take to get dozens of young people to come inside on a gorgeous afternoon to talk about increasing their involvement in civic life? An invitation. I'm live blogging an event in MPR's UBS Forum organized by MPR and the Humphrey Institute, called "The Youth Caucus: Why kids care about community/civic life?"
The young people -- it feels wrong to say "kids" -- have just broken into small groups to talk about various issues before returning at 6:30 for a group discussion. The group I'm listening to at the moment is talking about the concept of mandatory service. Should young people be required to perform some sort of community service.
"Can you kids think of anything you're required to do now that you enjoy?" a facilitator asked.
One person said she was required to perform community service as part of some sort of punishment and said while she liked what she was assigned to do, she would rather have done it on her own.
"Picking up trash is good; you're picking up trash. But are you really building up virtues by doing so?" one teen said.
Maybe so, another said. "I used to work in a gift shop and now I'm really nice when I go into a store," she said. So maybe next time you won't throw trash on the ground.
Students also talking about school and how the election is not being talked about in their classes.
Your turn (in comments). Mandatory service for young people: good or bad?
6:32 - Groups about to get together for large session. This smaller group I've been listening to was just told that "stakeholders" (I have no idea who they are. The facilitator is a government affairs lobbyist for Target.) will be attending. "You mean what we're saying might make a difference?" one young person asked. "Yes," the reply. Gasps. So young to think they can't make a difference.
6:50 - Six people have showed up to listen to what the kids have to say. Among them: Beth Fraser, dir. of government affairs, Secy. of State; Mary Jo McGuire, former state rep. and coordinator of Project Citizen; Jennifer Bloom, learning law and democracy project; Lars Sandstrom, statewide kids voting initiative in Duluth;
Panelists say what they want to hear: What obstacles exist for you (the kids) to get involved, how they can learn without teachers boring them to death, peer pressure and peer leadership.
6:57 To the kids. Laurel, a junior from Roseville Area High School says they used to have civics but now not until senior year. Says in discussions with fellow students it was clear "we didn't know our senators, we didn't know our mayors. When civics is taught, it's not taught in a way that kids can understand."
6:59 Student: "Teachers lecture us. She's talking...talking...talking. It doesn't mean anything to us. Kids know Desmond Tutu but they don't know their own mayor."
7:00 Student - "Our mayor came to speak to our class to talk about how we should be involved and all the time I was thinking, 'maybe I should get involved.' But when I kept asking the question how, I never got an answer."
The question of mandatory service comes up. Student says they shouldn't be forced to do so, they should be taught to do so.
Tracy, Minneapolis Youth Congress and North Side Resident: "If I feel a politician doesn't relate to me, teachers come to our area but don't come from my area, I really don't want that person talking to me. Teachers don't facilitate the classroom, they direct."
Cara from Irondale Senior High : When something is forced on a teenager, they'll automatically oppose it. (Politics) goes right over my head. It should be taught to us. There should be a happy medium. It breaks down to the will of the teenager about what they want to know.
7:04 Panelist: "No Child Left Behind" creates real challenges for elementary schools. She talks to teachers who say they have no time to teach civics.
Elijah James - Minneapolis Youth Congress: There's a language barrier with kids when you talk about politics. His knowledge, he said, didn't come from "my school, it came from my father. They had to teach me the language of politics."
Student - If you don't have a stable environment at home and your basic needs aren't being met, why should you go vote for a guy you never met? "Our governor and mayor has never come to our school or done anything to get to know us."
7:11 Frederick: "It's not just about voting; whether it's lobbying or speaking with city's representatives, just being aware of that information can make a big difference. My school is suffering from levy referendums and I can't vote. But I can use the two feed God gave me and tell people in my community why they should vote for it (referendum)."
7:17 Brett, Avalon Charter School - Problems with funding at our school is you can't fund something without it being taken from somewhere else.
McGuire reponds: "It really matters if you talk to your local elected officials." (LOTS of hands go up)
7:19 Student speaks from group I'd never heard of before. Youth Farm. Interesting.
7:20 - Student says walkouts work but students can't do it without being suspended. "It's hard to be involved when teachers are telling you to shut up."
7:22 Panelist: "How many of you who have family members who are politically active?" (About half the hands go up.) Asks those whose hands aren't up how they got here.
Student; Joined organizations outside of school because we was curious. "When I try to voice my opinion, there's always someone to say 'don't say that.' A lot of people don't want us to voice our opinion."
7:27 Patrick from Central High School. Voting is one small part. The other part is "service." "The real problem lies in the kids who aren't here. Most kids need changes they can see and one of the big problem is legislators are doing things you never hear about or see in your neighborhood."
7:29 - Taylor, Blake School: Adults want to reach out and help kids but they don't know how.
7:37 - Malcolm from Central High School: Whose duty is it to get us involved? "It's unfair to say other people should be getting me involved."
7:38 - Student: "I don't watch CNN. I'm youth. I watch MTV so why not spend some of that (campaign) money into MTV that says, 'this is what affects you as a youth."
Q: What is the message you want to leave with the panel?
Answers: "Let kids know at a young age that they have a voice and they have power."
"Support us. Be behind us. If we have an idea, don't shut it down automatically."
"Change our advertising. Change our approach."
"Youth need to be involved in the implementation of everything there is."
"Give us an opportunity to voice our opinion. We want to get our voice out. Make us be as important as you."
Panel reax. What's one thing you heard you might walk away with?
Zoey Haas, Youth Farm: "Start local. Meet your neighbors. Go to centers and find out what's going on in your neighborhood. If they tell you they don't have a program for people your age, start something."
Jennifer Bloom: "Struck by your passion. I'm going to push hard to think of ways to teach you your rights to speak in school."
Lars Sandstrom: "A frustration that your teachers are scared to allow political candidate discussions to go on in the classroom."
"I'm going to go back and write elected officials and let them know they should hear this MPR event when it's on."
McGuire: "Embrace your rights as a citizen. Don't take 'no' for an answer from elected officials if they don't want to talk to you."
Fraser: "It's a legislative election. There's someone running in every one of your neighborhoods. Wants to work to help kids to get to know candidates more."
-- End --(4 Comments)