1) Storm thoughts: Yesterday's storms may be the most photographed storms in the history of Minnesota. Jeff Blanch of Minneapolis sent this picture from 38th St. and 4th Ave last evening. No doubt by now you've seen hundreds of these on this Web site and just about every other one.
So where do you start when you clean up a mess like this? I took some prunings over to my city's compost dump last weekend, jamming them into my wife's Subaru, and I noticed something at the compost site. Nobody was bringing their debris in Subarus or any other car for that matter. Pick-ups and SUVs. When Cash for Clunkers and high gas prices have ridded the driveways of these vehicles, how do we clean up from storms like this?
In any event, here are a few tips for cleaning up. Purdue University has a page of resources, including this Word document on how to check for damage. In many cases, ignore Indiana, substitute Minnesota. The University of Minnesota Extension Service has frequently asked questions about tornado recovery.
Each of the communities affected in yesterday's storms has different policies on what to do with the debris. In Cottage Grove, from what I understand, you haul it to the curb and the city will pick it up. North Branch is requiring residents to bring it to the city compost area on Ash St. I've not yet been able to find information for Minneapolis residents.
Meanwhile, the weather people will be out assessing the damage from the storm and determining (a) whether it was a tornado and if so (b) how big it was. Here's the Fujita scale by which it will be measured.
A great Good Question from Jason Derusha last night on WCCO: How often do tornadoes hit cities? Scientific American looked at the question last year. Why don't tornadoes hit cities more often? They're small.
2) Newsweek looks at the attacks on the Obama health care proposal and analyzes why it was so successful. Hint: It has to do with fear of dying:
The power of "death panels" as a phrase and a scare tactic also works because Americans are deeply uncomfortable with death. We don't like to think about it or talk about it, says bioethicist Tom Murray, president of the Hastings Center. Only 29 percent of us have a living will. As a result of that discomfort, reminding people of death sends them off the deep end, into the part of the neuronal pool where reason cowers behind existential terror. And we're particularly vulnerable to scaremongering in the atmosphere of dread created by the economic meltdown. When people are already scared about losing their jobs and their homes and paying for health care, it doesn't take a lot to make them afraid of one more thing. We're living with "free-floating anxiety" every day, says psychiatrist Louann Brizendine of the University of California, San Francisco. "The brain is signaling 'danger' right now. Whenever that happens, the brain typically loses its logical reasoning power." Fear is also the most contagious emotion. If Chuck Grassley is worried about death panels, millions of people reason (check that: feel), how can I be sure they're a myth?
From Slate: Many of the pundits attacking government health care have government health care.
3) The New York Times has its third installment in its excellent series on end-of-life care, Months to Live. It's on the art of delivering bad news:
Most doctors do not excel at delivering bad news, decades of studies show, if only because it goes against their training to save lives, not end them. But Dr. O'Mahony, who works at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, belongs to a class of doctors, known as palliative care specialists, who have made death their life's work. They study how to deliver bad news, and they do it again and again. They know secrets like who, as a rule, takes it better. They know who is more likely to suffer silently, and when is the best time to suggest a do-not-resuscitate order.
4) What if we lost the ability to know what a kilogram weighs? There's an official kilogram and it's well protected.
5) Eric Ostermeier at the Smart Politics blog calculates the f-stop for Rep. Michele Bachmann. She's on TV every 9 days, he says. Factoid: Despite her attempt for a national following, most of the money she raised in the last quarter came from within Minnesota, Ostermeier reports.
Bonus: Kindle vs. the book:
Recent polling finds U.S. public support for the war in Afghanistan at a historic low. And as Afghans prepared to vote in today's presidential election, U.S. casualties were mounting at a record rate. After nearly eight years of war, what would success in Afghanistan look like?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai leads in the public opinion polls, despite some dissatisfaction with the way he has governed the country. And more U.S. troops were killed this week, putting August on a pace to match July, the deadliest month yet for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Second hour: Writer Mike Steinberger didn't believe the talk of a decline in French cuisine, but then he went to France and discovered it was worse than he imagined. In his new book, he chronicles what's gone wrong with the French food industry.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Former Sen. David Durenberger will be in the studio to discuss health care reform
Second hour: Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California about his new book, "Leading the Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom."
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Afghans talk about Afghanistan.
Second hour: Restaurant critic Frank Bruni discusses his memoir is called, "Born Round."
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - We'll have day two of the tornado story, obviously. NPR will look at the new credit card law that takes effect today. Financial institutions have to give you a 45-day notice of an increase in rates, but credit card companies figured out how to get around the law. They've already raises your rates.
The state has released its unemployment figures for July, and like the national figures (released a few weeks ago), it's being hailed as a bright spot.
"Minnesota Employers Add 10,300 Jobs in July", the press release's headline from the Department of Employment and Economic Development said. The unemployment rate fell .3 percent in July, to 8.1 percent (seasonally adjusted).
235,167, however, are out of work in the state. That's 17,000 fewer than June, according to the data, but it's 6,000 more than May, when the unemployment rate was also 7.8 percent. It's possible this signals a turnaround. Of course, it was possible May signaled a turnaround, too.
Here's the release:
Minnesota employers added 10,300 jobs in July, the state's first monthly employment gains since August 2008, according to figures released today by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
The state's unemployment rate fell 0.3 percent from June to a seasonally adjusted 8.1 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate in July was 9.4 percent.
"This is encouraging news, particularly because the job gains were widespread across industry sectors," said DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy. "We are hopeful that this is the beginning of an upward trend for our economy. As always, we continue our efforts to help businesses grow and to help people find jobs in Minnesota."
Eight of the state's 11 industry sectors gained employment during the month, led by leisure and hospitality, which added 3,900 jobs. Other gains were posted by government (up 2,800), manufacturing (up 1,700), professional and business services (up 1,700), education and health services (up 1,200), construction (up 700), logging and mining (up 200), and financial activities (up 100).
Job losses occurred in trade, transportation and utilities (down 1,300), information (down 500) and other services (down 200).
Over the past year, education and health services added 13,600 jobs and government added 6,000 jobs.
Jobs losses occurred over the past year in manufacturing (down 38,900), professional and business services (down 31,900), trade, transportation and utilities (down 20,600), construction (down 17,000), other services (down 3,900), financial activities (down 3,600), information (down 3,000), logging and mining (down 2,200), and leisure and hospitality (down 600).
In the state's Metropolitan Statistical Areas, over-the-year job losses occurred in the Minneapolis-St. Paul MSA (down 3.5 percent), Duluth-Superior MSA (down 4.4 percent), Rochester MSA (down 1.6 percent) and St. Cloud MSA (down 2.7 percent).
The agency also announced the results of its second quarter job vacancy survey, which showed 31,400 job vacancies in the state between April and June 2009, down 39.4 percent from the same period a year ago. The survey showed that there were 7.7 unemployed people for each vacancy statewide during the quarter. The survey also indicates that over 95 percent of Minnesota employers expect to increase or maintain current employment levels through the end of the year.
If missing his sister's funeral wasn't an indication enough that Sen. Ted Kennedy's brain tumor is about to claim his life, today's letter to Massachusetts state officials is. In it, Kennedy asks the state to revise a 2004 law to allow a temporary appointee to fill his unexpired term.
The political analysts suggest the move is also an admission that health care reform itself is on its deathbed at the Capitol.
I prefer to use the occasion -- as a son of the Bay State -- to recall significant moments in Kennedy's life. Such moments, it seems, have to start with this one:
Never quite the orator that his brothers were, it only took two words to finish Kennedy's career as president-in-waiting: "I know."
His national "goodbye" came one year ago next Tuesday. :
Regardless of where you stand on Kennedy politically, you'll want to spend some time with the Boston Globe's seven-part series on him.(4 Comments)
A Baptist preacher in Minneapolis is causing a stir today by claiming the tornado that took part of a steeple off a Lutheran church near the Minneapolis Convention Center (near where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was holdings its Assembly) was God's message to the Lutherans who were about to take up the issue of gays in the pulpit.
Said John Piper:
The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.
As part of his proof, Piper noted the significance of the occurrence...
On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected...a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts--most saying they've never seen anything like it.
True, perhaps, that there was no expectation that a tornado -- a pretty darned small one -- would hit Minneapolis, but severe weather was not surprising. Here's Paul Huttner's note from his Updraft blog on Wednesday morning:
The overnight rain was just round one of a slow-moving weather system that will bring waves of showers and thunderstorms through Thursday. The system will set up shop over the state, bringing more rainfall to some of the drought parched areas. It will not rain all the time, but expect periods of rain into Friday morning before the system pulls out.
That said, I'm not qualified to say what God's message is based on the weather provided on the day such an issue is discussed. When the Northwest Minnesota Synod discussed this last spring, the weather was clear and seasonable, high of 68. Low of 34.
Pastor Piper pointed out that the tornado struck as the Assembly began discussions on the issue, according to its published agenda. But, technically, they hadn't started yet and one attendee "tweeted" that the biggest groan at the Convention Center came when it was announced the tornado had forced the closure of the pub.
But Piper wasn't the first to tie the two events together. Lutherans were.
"We trust that the weather is not a commentary on our work," said Steven Loy, chairman of the committee overseeing the pastoral statement being considered.
Some thought it was, according to Christianity Today:
But WordAlone, a renewal group within the ELCA, reported that both sides sought to find commentary in the weather: "A supporter of the social statement typified the storm as a mighty wind of the Holy Spirit and as a positive message. Some WordAlone Network members heard a different message, a warning of God's anger at the ELCA in the wind."
Far above my pay grade is the answer to another question: Why do we think God speaks only through the weather?(38 Comments)
Some scientists are questioning whether the first people to get inoculated against the H1N1 flu should be the ones that are scheduled to.
The current formula calls for the people most likely to die to get the vaccine first. An article in Science Magazine, by way of Time.com, says it should, perhaps, be the people most likely to spread the illness.
"If you can stop transmission, you can protect the people who are vulnerable," says Jan Medlock, a mathematician at Clemson University and one of the authors of the Science paper.
That would be kids and the age group of their parents -- basically 20- and 30-somethings. Those are the people who, not coincidentally, have been the hardest-hit Minnesotans by the H1N1 outbreak so far.
The Minnesota plan for inoculation follows the federal guidelines: Health care workers, pregnant women, young children and people who care for infants under 6 months of age go first.(4 Comments)
The release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrah by Scotland on Thursday tests the definitions of compassion. Abdel Baset al-Megrahi served 8 years of a sentence for bombing a plane, killing 259 people aboard, many of them kids from the United States coming home for Christmas in 1988.
Sometimes, concepts of compassion collide with one another.
It could be letting a man with prostate cancer go home to die, feeble and slow afoot going up the plane's stairs in Scotland.
Or it could be sparing the families of the people he killed from seeing the image of an airport rally hours later, the message of which could easily be interpreted as, "good job on that bombing thing."
Scotland made its choice.(4 Comments)