Today's recommended listening:
American Public Media's The Story featured an interview with a woman who entered the country illegally, and was caught in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid.
Flor is from Mexico, but her children were born in the U.S. She'd rather leave voluntarily, but Flor has been told she can't leave the state. She talks to Dick Gordon about the day of the raid, her hopes for the future, and how she and her husband are getting by financially while they wait.
One interesting moment: The part where she talks about all the money she used to spend at the stores in her town.
What did the Big Bang look like?
Scientists at Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology, have recreated the "Cosmic Dawn" - the formation of the first big galaxies in the Universe.
"We are effectively looking back in time and by doing so we hope to learn how galaxies like our own were made and to understand more about dark matter. The presence of dark matter is the key to building galaxies - without dark matter we wouldn't be here today," Alvaro Orsi, a research postgraduate in Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology tells Science Daily
The green depicts "dark matter", which is believed to make up 80 percent of the universe.(1 Comments)
A Minnesota House committee today is taking up the Capitol equivalent of the president throwing out the first pitch on opening day of the baseball season: The bill to require people to show a photo ID when voting.
Last fall the conservative group, Minnesota Majority, pressed for the law, saying same-day registration leads to errors, such as voters casting ballots in the wrong precinct.
The Franken-Coleman race, however, overshadowed the anecdotal evidence on Election Day that same-day voter registration saved the right to vote for a number of people.
Remember the Election Day story of Csilla Szabo of Rochester? I wrote about it on Election Day.
...she's still upset at her experience when she tried to vote at the People of Hope Church in Rochester around Midmorning. "I've been registered for two years, I went through the line and my name was not on the voter roll," she said. "I had to re-register and it's a good thing I had proper ID with me. I asked the election judge where I could file a complaint and she said she didn't think there was any way for individuals to file a complaint."
We heard quite a few stories like this on Election Day. One Washington County official told me they had planned for the possibility of errors by keeping the Licensing Bureau offices open late so people could get IDs, and then register to vote and then... vote.
During the Democratic National Convention, the Indiana clerk answered the assertion of the League of Women Voters that Voter ID diminishes the turnout by noting that Indiana already had a tradition of low turnouts. Turnout in November in the state was about 60 percent. In 2002, it was reported as 38 percent.
Several states are now debating the voter ID law. In Oklahoma, it may be the bargaining chip for efforts to allow early voting. Is it, perhaps, a scenario for Minnesota? On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie proposed early voting for Minnesota.
The House hearing is underway, I'm live blogging.
8:31 a.m. - Rep. Tom Emmer is speaking on behalf is bill. "It's about confidence in the outcome of the election," he says. He says the only argument against the bill is that it will disenfranchise part of the population -- elderly, minorities, and special needs. "That argument has been entirely disproved." He cites the Supreme Court decision I mentioned (and linked to) above. "So now the only argument you're going to hear is about cost."
8:35 a.m. - Emmer says IDs will be provided at no cost to the person who needs it. It would cost the state $1.19 each. He says an estimated 143,000 people would need to get IDs (presuming they don't have it now). He says the average voter turnout since same-day registration is less than the six presidential elections prior.
>> Note: Here's the statistics from the Secretary of State on that. Emmer cited presidential turnout. Here's the non-presidential turnout. Blue is the primary, red is the general election.
8:40 a.m. - Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, the former secretary of state, is now speaking. She says other states have seen an increase in turnout after the Voter ID law.
8:45 a.m. - By way of background, this effort failed last year in the Legislature when supporters tried to amend another bill.
8:46 a.m. - Rep. Ryan Winkler notes that Minnesota Majority says that elections in Minnesota have no integrity. "Did elections when you were secretary of state have integrity?" he asks Kiffmeyer. "We can do better," she said, not really answering the question. Winkler persists. "You used a categorical statement that it has no integrity, and I can't be responsible for others' comments," Kiffmeyer said.
Aside: Kiffmeyer was a member of Minnesota Majority.
8:50 a.m. - Kiffmeyer says MM wasn't saying the entire election has no integrity.
8:51 a.m. - Rep. Paul Marquart rejects notion that it was Voter ID that caused an increase in turnout in Indiana, noting most states had an increase in turnout. He and Emmer debate whether turnout has gone down since same-day registration was adopted in Minnesota.
Marquart says Emmer is comparing off-year elections and the average voter turnout in an off-year election is about 38 percent.
8:55 a.m. "We've got a solution looking for a problem," Marquart says. Emmer suggests Marquart is questioning his integrity. They're debating statistics.
Let's dig deeper into this question because the reps don't have the data. Here's a study by the University of Minnesota. Here's what it said:
Same-day registration has contributed to Minnesota's strong voter participation, accounting for 15 percent to nearly 21 percent of the state's turnout. (Minnesota is one of just six states -- including Wisconsin -- that permits same-day registration. Most of these states lead the country in voter turnout.)
8:59 a.m. - Rep. Mark Buesgens of Jordan cites statistics showing turnout is up higher in Voter ID states than non-voter ID states.
9:01 a.m. - David Schultz, Hamline professor and former president of Common Cause. He wrote this: "Lies, Damn Lies, and Voter IDs:The Fraud of Voter Fraud." He says the level of voter fraud is "statistically insignificant." In a MinnPost article, he called it a "myth."
9:08 a.m. "Have you done any research on voter fraud?" Rep. Steve Gottwalt of St. Cloud asks. "I know where you're going to head," Schultz says. "That voter fraud is hard to detect." Schultz says the allegations of voter fraud do not stand up to the evidence.
9:10 a.m. - Gottwalt says Schultz' tone is "one of vitriol and anger." "The problem is these studies don't investigate the allegations," he said. "Twenty-five precincts in this state recorded more votes than voters in the precincts." He says Schultz's studies only focus on official claims of voter fraud. Schultz says they do.
9:12 a.m. - Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, gives Schultz three softballs to take the pressure off the professor. Schultz explains his methodology, dismisses higher turnout in Indiana and says it can't be pinned to voter ID (Bob notes: this is a pretty irrelevant point since the claim isn't that voter ID makes people more likely to vote, it's that voter ID doesn't make it so hard that people won't vote.),
Recommended reading: Slate Magazine 2007 article, "The first big survey of voter ID requirements -- and its surprising findings."
Fraud is one of those things for which social scientists simply do not have the tools for systematic measurement. We know fraud happens sometimes--particularly in the context of absentee ballots, if the number of prosecutions is any indicator. But we have not figured out a way to investigate it on a national scale.
9:22 a.m. - Josh Reed was a poll challenger for one of the Minneapolis precincts with the missing ballots. "It seemed very difficult for the students to vote. When you come from another state, you don't have a local driver's license. In most of the cases, the utility bills were paid by someone else, so they didn't have anything." He says the judges were having a hard time deciding who could vote and many students were turned away.
He says people tried to vouch for people even though they didn't know who they were. One girl, who had been vouched for, came back and vouched for three other people. He says a voter ID law errs on the side of accuracy.
9:32 a.m. - Sec. of State Mark Ritchie says he's been conducting listening sessions around the state and everybody is commenting how smoothly the election went. He says he's been asking people about the legislation and gets five reactions:
9:38 a.m. - "What is the primary goal of your office?" Rep. Gottwalt asks. Ritchie gives him four, one of which is running free and fair elections.
"Would voter ID increase or decrease the integrity of elections?" asks Gottwalt.
"Since there's no documentation of voter fraud, it would have zero effect," he says, adding that opinions about voter ID hurt the integrity of the elections.
Kiffmeyer presses Ritchie on the problem students at the U of M had and Ritchie blames Gov. Pawlenty for opposing a bill that would allow students to use their student IDs as valid election day identification. Kiffmeyer says that would be a valid ID (government-issued student ID) under the bill.
Recommended reading: The Smart Politics blog at the U of M Humphrey Institute says there's strong voter support for this bill.
9:46 a.m. - A man who served as an election judge says people were vouching for people and didn't even know the names of the person for whom they were vouching. He also says people presented IDs, even though they didn't have to, "and it didn't take any time at all." He says an "old-folks home" and a chemical dependency center is in his precinct. "They don't have utility bills." He says employees of the organizations wouldn't vouch for the residents. "And none of those people voted," he said. "If they'd had a photo ID, they would've voted."
9:55 a.m. -Keesha Gaskins of the Minnesota League of Women Voters testifies and calls it a costly bill. She says "if you don't have a piece of paper that had a current address along with a birth date -- none of which is provided under same-day voter registration -- " none of them could get a voter ID card and couldn't vote.
"We are offended by the comparison of voting to commercial activities," she said. She didn't explain what she means by that. Is it that I have to show an ID to cash a check but not vote?
9:58 a.m. - Lucky Rosenbloom speaks, he says, on behalf of the African American community. He is chair of the Black Republican Caucus. He tells the historical story of people in the south who were beaten for voting. "When I stand in line waiting to vote and I have people in front of me being turned away because they don't have a utility bill, I tell them they have to come back and vote." But he says they've thrown away the bill after paying it.
He says a photo ID will allow empower "people in my community" to vote.
10:04 a.m. - Scott McMahon of the Minnesota Private College Council, says private college IDs wouldn't be accepted. He says if there were two students from the same family -- one attending Winona State and one attending St. Mary's -- only one would be allowed to vote.
Trivia time: In the three times this issue has come up in the House, no Republican has voted against it. Several DFLers have voted for it.
10:10 a.m. - Rep. Emmer is making his final comments. He says it shouldn't be a partisan issue. We're near a vote. Prediction: It goes down on an 11-to-8 vote.
10:12 a.m. - The bill is dead on an 11-to-8 vote.
One DFLer voted for the bill. Rep. Philip Sterner of Rosemount.(26 Comments)
It's Abraham Lincoln's birthday and the nation's leaders are making the appropriate tributes today. President Obama, speaking in Illinois, said without Lincoln, he would not today be president. No quibble there. But there is history, and there is legend, and on this day, particularly in Minnesota, we find ourselves consumed by the legend, and ignoring aspects of history.
Truth is, there's far more to the history of Abraham Lincoln than black and white. There's more to him than the Civil War and the Gettysburg Address. There's more than what they teach about Lincoln in the classrooms of America.
There is Minnesota and the Dakota Indians.
The Dakota gave up their homeland -- most of southern Minnesota -- in an 1851 treaty. The U.S. agreed to pay $500,000 to move them and pay the Dakota debts to traders. They saw very little of the money.
President Buchanan told the Dakota they had to move off a portion of the reservation the treaty created. A white family in Acton, Minnesota was killed and the Dakota leader -- Little Crow -- declared war on the settlers. Only women and children were taken prisoner by Little Crow.
After many battles, Little Crow fled to the Dakota Territory. Gen. Henry Sibley eventually rounded up the Dakota who participated in the uprising.
This is where the opportunity for a more scholarly discussion in Minnesota of Lincoln has its greatest opportunity, and suffers its annual disappointment. Hundreds of Native Americans were sentenced to death. Lincoln commuted all but 38, whom he believed to be guilty of the most heinous crimes.
The trials were quick affairs, getting quicker as they progressed. The commission heard nearly forty cases on November 3, the last day it met. The commission believed that mere participation in a battle justified a death sentence, so in the many cases, perhaps two-thirds of the total, where the prisoner admitted firing shots it proceeded to a guilty verdict in a matter of a few minutes. Somewhat more deliberation was required for trials in which the charge was the murder or rape of settlers, because admissions were much rarer in these cases. After the defendant gave whatever response he cared to make to the charge, prosecution witnesses were called. Where prosecution witnesses contradicted the testimony of the defendant, the commission almost invariably found the prisoner to be guilty.
On December 16, 1862, 38 were hanged in Mankato. The largest mass execution in the history of the United States took place under orders of Abraham Lincoln.
Was Lincoln an example of compassion for sparing the deaths of hundreds? Or were 38 sent to their deaths because of the political pressure of responding to the deaths of over 400 white people? Lincoln reportedly was shaken by the hangings and vowed to change U.S. policy toward Native Americans. What if he had?
They're fascinating questions, but -- for the record -- no mention of Mankato was mentioned in either Midmorning's hour-long discussion of Lincoln today, nor Midday's broadcast of the NPR special on Lincoln this afternoon, and a tribute at the Minnesota House of Representatives made no mention.
It's almost as if the events in Minnesota never happened.
(Image: Minnesota Historical Society)(4 Comments)
The "bipartisan thing" didn't work for Judd Gregg, and it's not going so well for Barack Obama either..
Doomed from the start, the New Hampshire senator withdrew his nomination as Commerce Secretary over differences with the White House about who should oversee the Census.
Gregg's statement confirms this:
"However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy."
Then, in the best traditions of politics, he then unsheathes the sword.
"Obviously the President requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiative."
This makes two nominees for commerce secretary who have withdrawn their nominations.(2 Comments)
It's no secret that hospitals in the area are hurting. During the economic downturn, people are putting off elective surgery. The state has cut $73 million in funding for health care and human services. And with people losing their jobs and health care coverage, they're showing up in emergency rooms for free care, which the hospitals have to absorb.
Even people with health insurance are costing the hospitals money, however. I was checking out a rumor that North Memorial had eliminated more nursing positions (they hadn't) today, when Robert Prevost, a spokesman for the hospital, told me about the rapidly rising rate of delinquent accounts by people with health insurance.
In 2007, he said, the hospital had over $1 million in unpaid bills by people who had health insurance coverage. In 2008, that number has risen to $8 million.
No interest is added to medical bills, Prevost said, so people who have insurance but may be having financial difficulty, are putting medical bills last in line to be paid. And quite often they're not paid at all.
Each week, after the Wednesday News Cut on Campus stop, either All Things Considered or Morning Edition graciously invites me to stop in and share what I've learned from the most recent stop. And each week I'm more and more impressed with the producers' ability to edit my rambling dissertation into a less-rambling one. MPR is an iceberg. You see (hear) the very tip of an active organization that is primarily underwater. Well, perhaps that wasn't the best analogy in these economic times.
Here's this week's version, based on my stop on Wednesday at Minnesota West Community and Technical College's Worthington campus (hat tip for the picture to MWCTC).
Here's the whole list of profiles of students I've met over the last month. Perhaps you have learned something from them, too.
Next week I'll be at Lake Superior College in Duluth. On Friday, I'm driving up to Moorhead to visit with the people who are helping me set up at Minnesota State Moorhead in two weeks, so posting (at least from me) will be light.
There are few relationships on the planet these days worse than the one between the Somali community in the Twin Cities and news organizations which don't know how to cover it. There's plenty of fallout following coverage in the last week of rumors/allegations that a Minneapolis mosque had something to do with the disappearance of young Somali men. On Thursday night, the Minnesota News Council sponsored a panel to try to repair the damage that the story, and other coverage of Somalis, has caused.
The panelists were:
Julia Opoti, editor of Mshale, the African newspaper
Duchesne Drew, Star Tribune's assistant managing editor
Ruben Rosario, columnist for the Pioneer Press
Laura Yuen, reporter for MPR
Esme Murphy, WCCO reporter/anchor
Mohamed Hassan, president of the Somali Institute for Peace and Justice
Sahra Noor, director of language services and community health at Fairview/U of M Medical Center
Hassan Mohamud, William Mitchell College of Law
Dr. Abdirahman D. Mohamed, chief of staff, AXIS Medical Center
Hussein Samatar, executive director of African Development Center
"It's a hole in our organization that we don't have a lot of Somali people in the newsroom," said Duchesne Drew of the Star Tribune, explaining his newspaper's coverage of the story and rumors that the young Somalis have been recruited to fight in Somalia. "The story we had was an important one in helping the larger community explain what the issues are."
Laura Yuen said her first exposure to the story was a news conference in December when some family members of the missing youth held a news conference to suggest the mosque had something to do with their disappearance. She says she had only two Somalis in her Rolodex then, and has more than 30 now.
Opoti said she wasn't comfortable basing any story on rumors. She acknowledged the Minnesota media has to learn to get more engaged in the African community, suggesting the only time they "come to the community is when there's a disaster or a crime."
Hassan Mohamud said the mistrust between the media and the Somali community is growing, singling out a story on Minnesota Public Radio. "Coverage is not beneficial to the community; it is damaging," he said. "(It) paints the most important institutions -- which is the mosque -- in the worst light. Mosques are everything for the Muslim community." He said the broadcast damaged the community with coverage of Tuesday's news conference. "They never showed the good in our community. They used military language about how we line up. Instead of talking about the positive statements that are made, they talked about my face... We cannot trust these people."
Yuen said the story Mohamud referred to was a National Public Radio story that ran on Minnesota Public Radio. She said she hoped the national media, "which parachutes in and then takes off," doesn't hurt the relationship between the Somali community and the local media.
Without identifying him by name, Mohamud also made clear that Omar Jamal, often quoted by the Twin Cities media as a representative of the Somali community, does not represent the entire community.
The audience, made up mostly of Somalis, laughed when the Star Tribune's Drew said Jamal's name. "Omar returns phone calls," he said, adding that while his name appears in the paper often, reporters often make many calls without success. "We're not amateurs," he said. "I hope next time, you guys return phone calls. We're not not going to run a story because you don't want to talk.... We tried very hard to get as broad a mix of voices as we could."
Opoti said she has little faith in Jamal. She relayed her work on a story on Election Day in which a Senate campaign was alleged to have told Somali voters how to vote. "Whatever I was reading in the papers was not what I saw happening One of the challenges for me was people who were there but didn't want to have their names used. It took me three or more days. I called Omar Jamal because he told several different numbers (of Somalis) to different papers. He refused to answer me and he's never answered my call since then. If he's going to b.s., then don't take any quotes from him."
Jamal did not attend the forum.
"I do feel some of the criticism here," Esme Murphy said. "The problem with television is the TV cycle is very immediate." She said television reporters often have only "an hour or two" to produce a story. She said TV "does not have the luxury" of devoting many people to stories as the Star Tribune or Minnesota Public Radio.
"I don't think we should exchange quality for time," Sahra Noor said.
"I'm afraid the issue is trust," Mohamed Hassan said. "And it is just a cop out on our part to say we don't have time. If your work is to bridge the community, inform the community, you should be able to make time to bridge the community so the new community seems welcomed. We don't want to talk to you, of course, because we think you want to labor us as terrorists, but I think there's still an opportunity to repair this." Somalia is in chaos but not all of Somalia. Some of us are going back to visit family.
"If you return calls, your face is going to be on TV," Rosario said. "As long as we don't have people from your community entering the media business, we're going to continue having these problems. I've seen a lot of stories about Somali citizens doing good, but they're not on the front page." He criticized the reporters, however. "That's not journalism; that's rumor."
"The mosques are accountable to the community, but the people accusing the mosques, they have to come up with evidence," Mohamed Hassan, president of the Somali Institute for Peace and Justice, said.
"My cousin went to Kenya to visit family, he was held at this airport for two hours," said Dr. Abdirahman D. Mohamed. "One of the questions asked was 'have you been to a mosque?' It's like asking someone in this panel, 'Have you been to a Starbucks?' Is it a crime to go to a mosque?"
"You've tried to defame a mosque, the most sacred place for us," he told the news media members. "We're not trying to minimize your right to cover stories, but to be fair and objective so you earn back the trust in the community."
If you have something you think is a story, feel free to call me at 651-290-1414 or drop me an e-mail. If I'm not aware of something you think is a story, I can't write about it. There's more to the Twin Cities media than the newspapers and TVs.