2) There's a hearing in Washington today on how well the EPA enforces drinking water standards. In my neck of the woods -- the same neck of the woods where 3M dumped chemicals -- we're constantly told by local authorities that our water meets or exceeds federal standards.
But many systems remained out of compliance, even after aid was offered, according to E.P.A. data. And for over a quarter of systems that violated the arsenic or radioactivity standards, there is no record that they were ever contacted by a regulator, even after they sent in paperwork revealing their violations.
Those figures are particularly worrisome, say researchers, because the Safe Drinking Water Act's limits on arsenic are so weak to begin with. A system could deliver tap water that puts residents at a 1-in-600 risk of developing bladder cancer from arsenic, and still comply with the law.
More environment: MPR News this week is examining some of the solutions to global warming being discussed in Copenhagen. The "cap and trade" proposal has a big impact on Minnesota, it reveals, since most of the energy here is still generated by fossil-burning plants.
But this video from The Story of Stuff Project claims the problem with cap and trade is the middle man:
Just another tirade against the big bankers? Maybe. But have you noticed the voices being added to the chorus have become decidedly Republican in nature? Here's Ben Stein's take:
4) Richard Branson yesterday unveiled the spaceshift he's doing to use to ferry people willing to spend $200,000 to the lower levels of space. For the rest of us, there are seven other ways to be a space tourist -- even if you're broke, according to Discover Magazine.
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens looks into the future of mobile technology. Also, one of the founders of Geek Girls talks about what tech developers can do to make their products more user friendly.
Second hour: An author discovers late in life that the father who raised him was not his biological parent. He goes in search of the donor, another family member, who allowed the secret to persist for decades.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: The adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, Larry Shellito, will be in the studio to talk about the men and women of the Minnesota National Guard who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Second hour: President Obama's speech about the economy and jobs, given this morning at the Brookings Institution.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: A Copenhagen primer on climate change.
Second hour: Paul Mooney talks with Neal Conan about his new book, Black, Is the New White.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - The CDC says nasty pneumonia is more prevalent with H1N1. The agency recently drew attention to a big jump in cases in Denver in October. Some Twin Cities hospitals say they've been swamped with bacterial pneumonia caused by flu and that they've had to take some extraordinary measures to save some patients. MPR's Lorna Benson will have the story.
Annie Baxter looks at the continuing debate over extending unemployment benefits.
The court today ordered a panel to reconsider the request of a convicted rapist to be released or transferred from the sexual offenders facility in Moose Lake. It ruled in the case of Christopher Coker, who had initially served time for forcing a 16-year old runaway into prostitution after sexually assaulting her four times in 24 hours, raping two 15 year-olds, and then a 17-year-old. He was committed under the state law that allows the state to lock up offenders for "treatment" after they've served their time.
Earlier this year, a panel turned down his request for release or transfer, even after a doctor testified "that sexual deviance was no longer an issue for Coker and that clinical concern over sexual deviance 'has essentially remitted' as of December 18, 2008.' The doctor referred to Coker a "treatment success," a significant term given the debate over whether it's possible to "treat" sex offenders.
The Appeals Court reversed the decision and ordered a new hearing while making it clear it's not ruling on the merit of Coker's argument for release or transfer. But it reinforced a change in the law that the Legislature adopted in the mid '90s -- the state has to prove now that Coker will reoffend if he's released:
To be clear, we do not hold today that a petitioner has no duty to demonstrate to the appeal panel sufficient evidence that he or she meets the statutory criteria for transfer, discharge, or provisional discharge. Nor is the burden met merely by filing a petition for a change in custody. We simply hold--as the statute dictates--that a petitioning party bears only a burden of going forward with evidence that he or she meets the statutory criteria for transfer, discharge, or provisional discharge. Once that lesser burden is met, the party opposing the petition must show by clear and convincing evidence that the petitioning party is still in need of commitment.
The case may focus more attention on one of the most controversial aspects of the Minnesota judicial system.
Dr. Michael Farnsworth, a psychiatrist and former medical director for the Department of Human Services, told MPR's All Things Considered in October. "No one has been successfully returned to the community since that program has been started. It's questionable whether these men are rehabilitatable with the current modalities of treatment. These are people who, by definition, have had a long history of abhorrent and dangerous sexual behavior. It's like taking people who are in the final stages of a terminal disease, placing them in an intensive care unit, providing millions of dollars worth of treatment, and expecting them to recover."
(Here's the full Appeals Court ruling in the case)
"We're selling this peace thing like soap," John Lennon told an interviewer in this 1969 interview. It was 29 years ago today that the ex-Beatle was killed outside his New York apartment building.
Twenty-nine years later, does anyone still care on days other than the anniversary of Lennon's death? Apparently so. The New York Times profiles Gary dos Santos, who drifts in an out of homelessness as the self-appointed mayor of Strawberry Fields.
A new study suggests there's no shortage of cities that can take on an NFL franchise if one is interested in moving.
The study from Portfolio.com has a downside for Vikings fans. It reports that Los Angeles -- rumored to be a suitor for the Vikings if taxpayers don't build a new stadium for the team -- is number one of many possible cities.
The Web site used a calculation that factors in total personal income for an area, ticket prices, and the amount of money it takes to support a sports franchise.
It finds plenty of cities have the capacity to take on an NFL, NHL, or NBA team. They include San Jose, Louisville, Las Vegas, Austin, and Birmingham. But only two cities -- Montreal and Riverside, Calif. -- have the capacity to host a Major League Baseball franchise.
It found Denver, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Tampa are the most "overextended" cities with current franchises.
My idea for the Minnesota Fantasy Legislature a few years was only marginally successful. So I'm avoiding creation of the Minnesota Fantasy Weathercaster League, and News Cut this winter season will entertain itself with the Golden Snowball Award competition, which will be given on April 1 to the Twin Cities meteorologist who most closely predicts the official snow totals for a given storm.
Here are the rules:
(1) The rules are whatever we make up as we go.
(2) The weatherperson on duty at the start of the snow -- as determined by looking out the window of the News Cut World Headquarters -- will be the official meteorologist of record. For example, if the snow starts at 7 a.m., the 10 p.m. local newscast meteorologist won't be entered into the particular storm's competition (unless he/she/it makes a prediction at 7 a.m., of course).
(3) For purposes of scoring, the "average" of the meteorologist's prediction will be the actual prediction. A 6-10" prediction will be regarded as an 8" prediction.
(4) Scoring will be based on nearness to the actual official National Weather Service observation for St. Paul at the conclusion of the snow event.
5) Eligible snowstorms will be determined by the official Golden Snowball Award committee.
(5) This is for fun. Some people sit in wooden boxes on lakes staring at a hole in the ice; some people invent games to get through winter.
Here's the current lineup for this storm's competition:
Augustyniak, Mike (WCCO)
Douglas, Paul (MinnPost)
Hammer, Patrick (KSTP)
Huttner, Paul (MPR)
Marler, Keith (KMSP)
Moldenhauer, Don (Bring Me The News)
National Weather Serivce
a) A meteorologist will be awarded 10 points for coming within .10 of the official National Weather Service observation.
b) A meteorologist will be awarded 9 points for coming within .25 of the official National Weather Service observation.
c)A meteorologist will be awarded 8 points for coming within .50 of the official National Weather Service observation.
ca) (Update) A meteorologist will be award 7 point for coming within .75 of the official National Weather Service observation.
d) A meteorologist will lose 5 points for missing the official National Weather Service observation by 1-2 inches.
d) A meteorologist will lose 8 points for missing the official National Weather Service observation by 2-4 inches.
e) A meteorologist will lose 10 points for missing the official National Weather Service observation by more than 4 inches.
Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, announced today he's leaving the Senate to become a lobbyist for the group trying to bring a "racino" -- a horse track and gambling casino -- to the Twin Cities.
Minnesota doesn't have a law -- as Congress does -- banning legislators from lobbying activities for a year after they leave office.
The Star Tribune's Capitol expert, Lori Sturdevant, thinks it might be time to consider the idea:
Day is by no means the first legislator to leave office at midterm and take a lobbying job. But as a former minority leader, he is making a particularly visible move -- one that's sure to renew calls for restrictions on lawmakers' ability to abruptly become pleaders among their former colleagues. The ability of interest groups to dangle offers of lucrative positions in front of the legislators whose votes they are soliciting has come under fire from reformers both in St. Paul and in Washington.
But the lobbying world is not of much interest to former lawmakers, judging by the relatively few who are registered lobbyists. A very quick glance today revealed:
Kevin Goodno (91-02)
John Hottinger (91-02)
Phil Krinkie (91-06)
Gary Laidig (73-82)
Bert McKasy (83-88)
Mary Joe McGuire (89-02)
Roger Moe (71-02)
Steve Novak (75-00)
Douglas Peterson (91-92)
Leonard Price (83-02)
Julie Sabo (01-02)
Russ Standon (73-78)
Robert Vanasek (83-92)
Charles Weaver (89-98)
Tim Wilkin (99-06)
Tom Workman (93-02)
Could some organization dangle a job in front of a legislator in exchange for favorable action on legislation? Sure, but why would you make it obvious by taking a lobbyist position, where your ties are right out there in the open under current Minnesota law?
Sure, it might look like a big St. Paul traffic jam at first glance. But notice the lack of gridlock, and the relatively small amount of traffic in the opposite direction? That's Twin Cities drivers handling the first slippery conditions of the year like the champs they are. That's our story on today's Fresh Eye on the Radio and we're sticking with it.
He wrote the song at the request of Jeffrey Goldberg, who writes for The Atlantic.
"I am willing to serve as a Semitic song muse for any United States senator," Mr. Goldberg told the New York Times. "God forbid any of the Jewish senators write a Hanukkah song."