It's always a bad idea to get too far ahead where medical research is concerned, but it's hard not to play "what if" with a science story being reported now.
Researchers have found monkeys, taught to play a computer game, can regain use of paralyzed muscles and even learned to use muscles that previously had nothing to do with wrist movement.
The significance? According to the Associated Press:
Remarkably, the monkeys regained use of paralyzed muscles by learning to control the activity of just a single brain cell.
The result is "an important step forward," said Dawn Taylor of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, who studies the concept of using brain signals to overcome paralysis. She wasn't involved in the new work.(1 Comments)
There've been a few developments since I called attention last week to the plight of Ratchet, the dog befriended -- and then taken away from -- a Minnesota soldier in Iraq.
The military has decided to allow the dog to leave, and be flown back home to Gwen Beberg's parents near Minneapolis. But the dog missed yesterday's flight out of Baghdad. The plan now is to put the dog on a flight on Sunday.
Still unclear is what happens to Sgt. Beberg. In an e-mail to her friend last week, she said she might be demoted (see comments):
I was "negatively counseled" for disobeying a direct order. This is the icing on the cake towards getting demoted. We'll find out how that turns out on the 10th when I face my demotion board. It could have been worse. I fully expected to be demoted for this. Do I deserve it? Probably. I did violate orders. Does Ratchet deserve to stay in Iraq when he has a loving home waiting for him in America? Hell no. Let my dog go!
Ratchet served America by protecting his troops as a loud alarm system for nighttime movements and by providing urgently needed moral to lonely troops (not just me!). If a citizen of, let's say Mexico for example, enlists in the U.S. Army and serves honorably, he or she gets fasttracked for naturalization as a U.S. citizen. Several people here from multiple nations have already taken advantage of this policy and become American citizens. Well, Ratchet didn't enlist, but he served honorably, and I think that should entitle him to a chance to continue that service in the States.
I'm trying to arrange an interview with Sgt. Beberg, so perhaps I can get an update by later today.
Curiously, the same sort of story played out in Chicago around the same time. Army Specialist Ashley Siwula has been trying to get Boo the dog out of Iraq against the orders of her superior. She, too, appears to have succeeded. Boo was able to make a flight to Kuwait yesterday and is expected in Chicago on Saturday, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
The dog will live in Wisconsin until Siwula returns from Iraq late next year.(4 Comments)
The Scranton newspaper that reported someone shouted "Kill him" at a Sarah Palin rally in Scranton earlier this week has some 'splainin' to do. The Secret Service says it didn't happen:
Agent Bill Slavoski said he was in the audience, along with an undisclosed number of additional secret service agents and other law enforcement officers and not one heard the comment.
"I was baffled," he said after reading the report in Wednesday's Times-Tribune.
He said the agency conducted an investigation Wednesday, after seeing the story, and could not find one person to corroborate the allegation other than Singleton.
Slavoski said more than 20 non-security agents were interviewed Wednesday, from news media to ordinary citizens in attendance at the rally for the Republican vice presidential candidate held at the Riverfront Sports Complex. He said Singleton was the only one to say he heard someone yell "kill him."
The editor of the Scranton newspaper that reported the threat (see 1:25 p.m. notation) says it stands by its story.(2 Comments)
What's the old joke? The best way to make a small fortune in the airline business is to start with a large fortune. Southwest Airlines, until today, seemed to buck the trend of losing money. But today it reported its first quarterly loss in 17 years, mostly because of the dropping cost of jet fuel.
Company officials are conducting a conference call with analysts and reporters at this hour, and attempted to put a happy face on things. It said that it posted its 70th consecutive quarterly profit. Welcome to the world of financial disclosure. The company subtracted the cost of a hedge fund portfolio it uses to lock in fuel costs. The hedge practice has saved the company millions over the last year, as prices for jet fuel skyrocketed, but when the price of oil drops, the company actually loses money on the practice. Take that away, the company said, and it made an operating profit, it's 7th straight quarterly operating profit.
The company also said it would tap a $400 million line of credit. "You get cash when you can, not when you have to have it," Gary Kelly, Southwest's boss said.
The airline's plans to move into the Minneapolis market next March came up briefly. " It's not an aggressive move," he said. "We're only flying to Chicago Midway, a route on which one-way fares are as high as $400." But he didn't hold out much immediate hope for adding more routes out of the Twin Cities. He said the airline may cut capacity in 2009, the first time it's done so.
While Southwest fees is a "good way to differentiate ourselves from other airlines," Kelly said, he didn't promise that Southwest wouldn't ever follow airlines like Northwest in tacking on charges for previously-free services.
Meanwhile, the soon-to-be-former hometown airline -- Northwest -- will report its third-quarter results next Wednesday.
Dear Debate Minnesota: You have a broken debate mechanism. There have been four and a half hours of debate and a narrow set of questions. You can't hear new ideas if the same questions are asked. The format being used gave the moderators the first round of questions. Every moderator asked the same question. In this debate, there was no new information obtained because the organizers didn't ask for it.
7 p.m. - We're underway. The person making the introductions says this is the "third and final" debate. I was under the impression the traditional MPR Sunday-before-Election-Day debate would be held at the Fitz. (Update: It will be held.)
Tonight's crowd is the most boisterous we've head so far. Chants of "Norm...Norm...Norm"
The format is two-minute opening statements. Again, the subjects are the economy, foreign policy, and energy, which means we stand a good chance of having the exact same questions and the exact same answers as the first two debates. As I wrote earlier this week, in three hours of debates so far, moderators have asked only about 6 questions.
Barkley: Says the middle class will be talked about quite a bit tonight and he knows the middle class because he comes from the middle class. Barkley comes out a bit more warm-and-fuzzy tonight after a very strident performance in the second debate.
He says he's watched his retirement savings dissipate and he doesn't need the consultants to tell him why he's angry.
Franken: Starts exactly the same way as last debate. "This election isn't about the three of us; it's about you." Recounts his upbringing in St. Louis Park. Expecting the "I felt like the luckiest kid in the world" line. And there it is: "I felt like the luckiest kid in the world." Same opening statement as the previous two debates. (Here's the first debate. Here's the second.
Coleman: Doesn't lead with a biographical sketch. He starts out promising to put people on Wall Street in jail, then goes with the "stop the negativity" message. He tells the Franklin Roosevelt funeral story again. This does not bode well for new material in this debate.
Q: Does either presidential candidate get to the heart of the economic matter? If not, what's missing?
Barkley: No. People don't trust Wall Street anymore. Calls again for a law that says people running for Congress can't take money from people they regulate.
Franken: Says he's the only one "up here" who said he was not for the bailout. Says John McCain gets it "a lot less" than Sen. Obama (That's not exactly a ringing endorsement of the top of the Democratic ticket). Says deregulation of financial markets and housing crisis weren't taken care of. (Aside: Pew survey this week said people aren't buying the deregulation argument)
Coleman: Says Congress can generate confidence by tightening its belt. Talks about spending caps, stealing a position Barkley staked out in the first two debates. Wants an energy policy that includes more drilling and more "clean coal." (Aside: Clean coal through the eyes of a WV miner)
Rebuttal Barkley takes note of the Coleman's call for spending caps. Franken says economic policies have been tilted toward the wealthy and wealth is created by the middle class. Coleman says the middle class needs to be able to afford energy and says Franken would've voted against the bill that created renewable fuel policy.
Q: Can we win the war on terrorism and how will we know if we do?
Franken: The U.S. was right to invade Afghanistan but Iraq was "a tragic mistake." Paul Wellstone voted against the war and Norm Coleman said "that vote was way out of the mainstream.... but he was right." (Aside: If you've got RealAudio, listen to Paul Wellstone's speech before casting his vote on Iraq) He didn't answer the question that was asked.
Coleman. We have to win. Part of it is a military piece. Forces have pushed al Qaeda out of Iraq. Says Franken has changed his position on the war "as he got closer to the Democratic nomination." Says when "forces of moderation prevail over forces of extremism," the war will have been won.
Barkley: Everyone "wants us out now except Bush." He says "we broke it, we fixed it... we've done enough." Says it's up to Iraq to decide. Says al Qaeda was never in Iraq until the U.S. invaded. Says we have to be in Afghanistan and says terrorism flourishes there because they have no economy. The long-term economy is to "start building schools, not dropping bombs."
Rebuttal: Franken says he's been to too many memorials and the only leverage the U.S. has "is to tell them we're leaving." Says the U.S. could hire 5,800 teachers a year for what it costs to be in Iraq. Coleman says everyone wants to get out but do you listen to MoveOn.org or to Gen. Petraeus. Says it's not about whether you were for the war in the beginning, then points out again that Franken was for the war in the beginning. Says he's not going to say the war was a mistake. Barkley says the best way to support the troops is to bring them home (That's been an applause line in other debates. There was no applause this time.)
Q: What's the most important steps we can make to achieve energy independence?.
Coleman: More drilling, more subsidies for winds and solar and more transmission lines, more nuclear.
Barkley: Needs to strengthen the dolar. Says you have to send someone to the Senate who's going to do something and not just talk about it. Barkley throws off the "warm and fuzzy" and goes back on the attack.
Franken; We can create jobs with green industry. Also calls for more energy efficiency, and talks about a company in Elk River that "does geothermal." Refused to sell out. Tells the bell-going-off-when-they-sell-a-system story. This is the company.
Rebuttal: Coleman says you're not going to get the jobs if you don't have wind credit and Franken would've voted against the bill. Barkley says Coleman has rewarded oil companies with tax credits while taking campaign contributions from the industry. Franken says he started the campaign talking about "an Apollo project" for energy efficiency, suggesting Coleman started talking about it when gasoline went to $4 a gallon.
Q: What are you going to do to reduce the "brain drain" from the heartland and northeastern Minnesota?
Coleman: Wants to double the Pell Grants. Raises concern about huge endowments that colleges have.
Barkley: Says Coleman didn't answer the question so he will. Says he studied rural economic development under the Ventura administration as planning director for Minnesota. Create good-paying jobs. How? Telecommunications. They need access to high-speed Internet. They need infrastructure to get products to market and they need ventura capital to start new businesses.
Franken: Asks what the question is again. Is it about college? He goes with that version. Says rural schools are hurting, going to four-day school weeks and losing after-school programs. Says the feds are passing on unfunded mandates. "What do you want a kid doing between 3 and 5?"
Rebuttal Smarter kids are key to good jobs, says Coleman. He says he doesn't think the Ventura administration is an example of good government. (Ventura's cabinet was perhaps the most bipartisan cabinet in the history of Minnesota. Coleman's been campaigning on that very issue). Barkley says Ventura didn't have anyone in the Legislature to stop the politicking and tells Coleman, "it's your buddy Tim Pawlenty and Roger Moe" that caused the problems. Franken calls for loan forgiveness programs to get people to go into teaching .
Q: What are your guiding principles on Supreme Court justices?
Barkley: Starts talking about college tax credits proposed by Franken and suggests he's pandering. On the question, "they're not going to create things that don't exist."
Franken: Experience. Intellect. Judicial temperament. Doesn't want ideologues. Wants a judge that believes the Constitution is a "living, breathing, document." Says Clarence Thomas is "the number one activist judge."
Coleman: Says Franken's "single pay" universal health care for kids is unaffordable (what's this got to do with the Supreme Court?) Goes with the "you can't just place blame." Gets to the Supreme Court: Doesn't want justices who legislate from the bench.
For more on this question, see the second debate. We're plowing the same ground except that in this debate, Barkley wasn't asked to name a Supreme Court justice.
Rebuttal: The debate is now completely out of control. Barkley repeats his second debate attack on Coleman for allowing the economic collapse. Franken goes after Coleman for saying Franken intends to increase taxes. Coleman says Franken championed single-payer health care.
Bob: Take a look at that. It was a question about the Supreme Court. The moderator, Patrick Marx, is doing nothing to get this thing focused, and as a result the debate had degenerated into a meandering mash of stump speeches.
Q: What can you do to assure the revival of mining in an eco friendly manner. What can you do to support forest industry?
Franken: There's demand for steel. Thinks we can create a balance for non-ferrous mining in an economically friendly way, but doesn't say how.
Barkley: Until we build houses again, the forestry industry won't recover. We have to be careful on trade agreements.
Coleman; It's a time for opportunity for the Range.India and China provide opportunity for non-ferrous mining. Says he's been a champion and again says "it's not about talk, it's about what you do." Says he supports Excelsior Energy Project (a big controversy on the range)
These answers really didn't answer the question but if you want to read more about the concerns that led to the question, here's one source.
Q: What is your position on special interest influence on the legislative process and publicly funded campaigns?
Barkley: Reads definition or bribe. "Bribery is illegal everywhere in this country except in Congress." Says the Senate race is the best example of "money gone wild." Says campaigns should be financed through vouchers. (There's a little more here)
Coleman; "If you think you don't like those (TV) commercial now, just wait until you're paying for them." Says there's got to be a better way. Opposes public financing.
Franken: Says Coleman "ran millions of dollars in negative ads and then they backfired so he stopped them." Suggests Coleman's campaign dollars from the health care industry led to his vote on Medicare Part D. Talks about the high cost of drugs but doesn't answer the question that was asked.
Rebuttal Says to Coleman, "The only thing missing from your statement was an apology" for the negative ads. Drops the second Paul Wellstone reference of the evening and says he supported public financing. Coleman says the discussion "degrades the institution" and says Barkley was a gambling lobbyist. Franken says Coleman has taken more special interest money than any politician in the history of Minnesota.
CLOSING STATEMENTS (special one-sentence version)
Barkley; We're running out of time.
Franken: If you want change in Washington, i ask for your vote .
Coleman: I've taken on special interests and the pessimists.
The final debate will be held Sunday November 2, between 7 and 8 p.m. at the Fitz, and I'm pretty sure that Gary Eichten will prove once again why he's in the Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He'll ask some tough questions and he'll step in when they don't answer them.(4 Comments)
Should you be publicly shamed if you don't vote?
A Nashville newspaper is publishing the names of people who didn't vote in the 2004 presidential election.
"We have people over here who won't go out and vote," said Rosetta Miller-Perry, president and publisher of the Tennessee Tribune. "It's ridiculous. It really hurts."
But voting isn't a requirement and when the Constitution granted the right of people to vote, it also granted them the right not to vote.
Still, the idea achieved the results Miller-Perry wanted when it was tried in a 2006 Senate race. Turnout almost doubled.
If you have any friends in Nashville, you might be interested in seeing if they're on the list.
(h/t: David Brauer via Twitter)(2 Comments)
What's the most important amendment to the U.S. Constitution?In Duluth today, Todd Palin, the husband of the vice presidential candidate, told sportsmen that the 2nd Amendment "isn't just another amendment." Palin was introducing Sen. Norm Coleman at a rally.
"He stood by you. He protected your rights on land, land rights, and Second Amendment rights. It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you your United States senator; someone who has stood with hunters; with sportsmen and women; who knows that the Second Amendment isn't just another amendment. It's our right to stand up for and to protect."
Which amendments are just another amendment? Which one is your favorite? In a way, it's like being asked which of your children is your favorite.(5 Comments)
A woman in Kansas City is suing the McCain-Palin campaign.
Mary Kay Green said she had been injured by their campaign tactics and suffered "terror of the heart, anxiety and grave fear" for Obama's life, according to the Kansas City Star. Here's a copy of the complaint.
Green claims that Barack Obama is in danger of being assassinated because the McCain-Palin campaign "recklessly and irresponsibly porhayed (sic) Presidential candidate Barack Obama as un-American, a terrorist by association, and 'not like us,' a non-white individual."
Green comes from a long-time political family in Nebraska. Her father is a former party chair, according to this post from the former communications director for the Nebraska Democratic Party, who is now the associate communications director for the Minnesota DFL (See? I can eventually link every news item to Minnesota!)(4 Comments)