1) In the aftermath of yesterday's tragedy in Texas, the bigger question is being asked again. The New Yorker is asking it. "The United States has the highest homicide rate of any affluent democracy, nearly four times that of France and the United Kingdom, and six times that of Germany. Why?" I know what you're thinking -- a gun control riff. But no. One theory: We have the freedom to be murderous.
2) History lesson. The U.S. military has a long history with goats. MPR's Euan Kerr profiles Jon Ronson's work on the new movie "The Men Who Stare at Goats." The Guardian approaches this differently. Ronson heads to a goat sanctuary and provides this multimedia presentation. Is the movie any good? Here's NPR's review.
3) Researchers say babies are born already knowing the language of their mothers. Sort of. They cry with the accent of mom. The findings suggest that unborn babies are influenced by the sound of the first language that penetrates the womb. They studied French and German babies and you can hear the differences in their cries here.
4) Members of Congress are outraged -- outraged -- that banks used the 9-month grace period before a new law limiting credit card practices to jack up rates, effectively neutering the law. Who gave them the grace period? Members of Congress, most of whom get a ton of campaign cash from financial institutions.
"I didn't think they would be as blatant as they were about doing this,'' Rep. Barney Frank said, showing an amazing lack of understanding about why the biggest buildings in cities are banks. "This is really just a way for them to make more money.''
The banks say they're not trying to circumvent the new law, they're trying to recover losses. What can consumers do? According to an article on Newsweek.com:
If consumers feel unfairly targeted by their credit-card companies, consumer advocates say they should act rather than simply mope. First, people should watch their statements closely and contact their banks if they see interest rates rising or additional fees tacked onto their monthly statements. In other words, there's room to haggle. "If you have a strong credit score, some institutions are willing to say, 'You're an exceptional cardholder for us,' " says Adam Levin, founder of Credit.com and a former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
How is this playing out in the real world? Now I'm forced into a situation to survive, to pay for my family's needs. I've got to use what I've got to use to keep my head afloat," Dale Petrie of St. Paul tells MPR's Michael Caputo. "I decided to charge on these cards ... pay 11-12 percent for now because the interest rate is so low and it's probably not going to go anywhere. But all of sudden they jack it up by 8 percent."
The house always wins.
5) Science! How does Jello work? Why does such a small amount of gelatin powder make such a huge amount of water "hold together'' in a block of Jell-O? Nothing like that happens with similar amounts of salt or sugar?
Is internal combustion dying? On TVs American Chopper last evening, they started building a "green" motorcycle." It's electric.
But what guy is going to drive a motorcycle that goes "buzzzzzz" and not "vroom"?
Bonus: Economic fallout. NFL ratings on TV are through the roof this season, apparently because people are cutting back on leisure activities and watching the tube instead, the Washington Post reports today.
Saturday is opening day of Minnesota's firearm season on white-tailed deer. According to the Department of Natural Resources, about half a million hunters participate in the hunt each year. What does the opening of deer season mean to your family?
WHAT WE'RE WORKING ON
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: National unemployment is expected to reach 10 percent, a high not seen since the early 1980s, and the Senate has approved an extension of unemployment benefits. But should other positive economic indicators lessen our fears about September's increase in job losses and slip in wage increase?
Second hour: Infant mortality rates in the U.S. are high relative to other industrialized countries. But one hospital in Texas may have figured out how to reduce infant deaths, in part by putting more clinics closer to the women who need prenatal care. A look at the factors that may lead to better births.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Midday features stories from Minnesota cities with some of the highest jobless rates in the state, cities that will test the strength and breadth of the economic recovery.
Second hour: A new documentary from American RadioWorks, "Rising by Degrees," tells the story of Latino students working towards a college degree, and why it's so hard for them to get what they want.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - It's Science Friday! First hour:
Bacterial machines that sniff out pollution.
Second hour: Should values should be reflected in our health care system?
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - MPR's Elizabeth Stawicki looks at how a public option would work in a reformed health care system and who would be covered by it.
After all the fuss and town hall meetings, how would this thing work and who would be covered?
When Sadiya Mohamed arrived in Minneapolis five years ago, she didn't speak a word of English. The only school she'd ever been to was a Madrassa to learn the Koran. Life in Minnesota with its cold winters and ubiquitous English was a shock. Mohamed wondered, "Does it get easier?" The Youth Radio reporter answers the question this afternoon.
The author of "The Wolf at Twilight" talks about the challenges of telling stories about the native community, and what it's like to have your book blurbed by Leonard Peltier.
NPR's David Kestenbaum will report that the Fed's determination to drive interest rates down may be making things worse in other markets -- oil, for example. It's the economic equivalent of Whack-A-Mole.
The local angle in the Fort Hood shootings has emerged.
The Kansas City Star reports that Army Reserve Spc. Keara Bono (Torkelson) was one of those shot in the assault on Thursday. She's a graduate of a high school in Independence, MO., but she recently married and lives in the St. Paul area, according to the newspaper.
Here's her Facebook page. A posting on her wall there says she was treated and released.
Just a few hours before the shootings, she posted that life at the facility was "boring."
Says the London Evening Standard:
Another of the injured, 21-year-old Private Keara Bono, called her husband to say: "They shot me. And I'm still here in this country." He heard shots and shouting, before the line went dead.
I'm calling your attention to an American RadioWorks documentary, airing at this hour on MPR's Midday program. Rising by Degrees looks at a developing problem. The fastest-growing segment of our society -- young Latinos -- are the least likely to graduate from college. What does this mean for the future of the country?
You'll meet Veder Garcia, who spoke no English when he arrived in the U.S. from El Salvador as a high school junior, and is now completing his Ph.D. in plant biology at UC Berkeley. Community college was a critical step along the way. And the program introduces us to Mike Carvalho, who "always knew he would attend community college. What the 20-year-old didn't know is that he would drop out two years after he started."
If you can't listen, you can find the Web site for the project here.(1 Comments)
It seems like only yesterday when the news media was being skewered for overblowing the H1N1 flu (which for some reason is increasingly being referred to as the "swine flu" again). Now, a survey by Pew Research Center suggests the news consumer can't get enough.
According to the survey of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press:
About three-in-ten (29%) name reports about the fast-spreading flu and its vaccine as the story they followed more closely than any other last week, according to the latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted Oct. 30-Nov. 2 among 1,001 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Somewhat fewer mention news about health care reform (22%) or the economy (17%) as their top story.
But a second survey, from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), shows a disconnect between what the people want and what the people are getting:
The national news media devoted 5% of the newshole to swine flu, much less than the coverage given to the health care debate (16%), Afghanistan (13%) or the economy (12%).
Let's see if we can adjust that a little bit. Here's some H1N1 news:
Most people who are looking for the H1N1 vaccine can't find it, Harvard reports today.
Since the H1N1 flu vaccine became available in October, 17% of American adults, 41% of parents, and 21% of high-priority adults have tried to get it. Among adults who tried to get it for themselves, 30% were able to get the vaccine and 70% were unable to get it. Among parents who tried to get the H1N1 vaccine for their children, 34% were able to get it and 66% were unable to get it. Among high priority adults who tried to get the H1N1 vaccine, 34% were able to get it and 66% were unable to get it.
So far Minnesota has ordered more than 460,000 doses of vaccine from its share of the federal supply, MPR's Lorna Benson reported today. The state health department has been using a random lottery system to select sites from among thousands of clinics who'll get the vaccine.
Officials are worrying that people are getting frustrated in their search for the vaccine, and will just give up looking.
The Northwest Airlines Flight 188 debacle gave us the opportunity to examine whether the communications between the air defense officials and air traffic controllers have improved much since 9/11. They haven't.
What about on the ground?
When we go to the airport, we've been taking off our shoes, stashing our mouthwash, and dragging our handicapped parents out of their wheelchairs long enough that the Transportation Security Administration procedures almost seem normal; they almost make sense.
The Atlantic's James Fallows calls our attention this afternoon to a General Accounting Office assessment of the Transportation Security Administration.
The GAO report found that the security checkpoint procedures don't match the relative risk, GAO-speak for "they don't make any sense."
From time to time, we hear about new technologies to make getting through security easier. In fact, after 9/11, a Minnesota firm's facial-recognition software was supposed to be one of the next big things. It failed.
In fact, the GAO notes, the Department of Homeland Security has invested $795 million in technologies to screen passengers at airport checkpoints since 9/11. Since TSA was created, 10 passenger screening technologies have been in various phases of research and development.
How many have been deployed over that time and at that cost? None.
"The ongoing impossibility of applying logic to this situation really is discouraging -- or, more positively, is an opportunity for someone in government to address," Fallows writes.
By the way, the TSA has a response to the cartoon above:
The batteries may be more dangerous than a bottle of water, but they are not more dangerous than a water bottle filled with liquid explosives.
Find the whole post here. Feel free to share your going-through-security story below.
Comic: xkcd(2 Comments)