1) A Star Tribune look at the way a sales tax increase is being divvied up by arts groups proves an old saw usually applied to journalism: It doesn't take a conflict of interest to undermine credibility; it only takes an appearance of a conflict of interest. The paper reports that half the groups who sit on a panel recommending appropriations to the Legislature -- the panel includes a representative from Minnesota Public Radio -- get money from the panel.
The sales tax increase was authorized by voters via a change in the state Constitution dedicating the revenue to outdoors and arts projects. The outdoors group completed its recommendations last week.
Judging by the comments section of the newspaper article, some voters feel they were duped into voting for a bill they thought was only about the outdoors. Here's a WCCO pre-election story on the amendment. Here's an op-ed debate in the Star Tribune. And here's the actual ballot question:
Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?
Did the question play down the "arts" component in favor of the imagery of the outdoors?
2) In Washington state, Democratic State Sen. Rosa Franklin wants to rewrite the state's laws to get rid of "negative" descriptions. She says negative labels are hurting kids' chances for success. On her list for removal: "at risk" and "disadvantaged." Instead of "children at risk," for example, the senator suggests "children at hope."
3) Big bottoms, hips, and thighs are healthy. And you just forked over the dough for the health club membership.
4) The recent cold snap in this hemisphere has some people claiming it disproves global warming.
And now the weather: In Melbourne overnight, the low temperature dropped to 93. It's the worst heat wave in Australia since 1902. Farmers are predicting 70 percent of their crops have or will be destroyed.
5) The Star Tribune has posted its story based on its request for gubernatorial candidates to reveal their substance abuse and mental health issues. Twelve candidates complied with the Star Tribune request. DFLers Steve Kelley and Republicans Leslie Davis, David Hann, Bill Haas, and Tom Emmer were the only candidates to decline the survey. A political scientist claimed the survey is no big deal because mental health doesn't have the stigma it once had, especially for politicians. It's a claim that's been made several times since candidate Mark Dayton acknowledged his alcoholism and battles with depression. Name one non-incumbent candidate who's gotten elected after acknowledging getting mental health treatment. There may well be a few, but none of the claims have been accompanied by proof.
The BBC considered this a few years ago and found relative ambivalence among the UK pols:
But a lead has to come from the top. For all the supportive words we hear from politicians, endorsing such anti-stigma work and criticising prejudice when called upon to do so, there remains a sense of ambivalence about their being too closely identified with this agenda.
The article mentions an unidentified MP who decided not to go public with his illness because of "a thread of real cruelty that runs through the modern media".
Tangent time: China has moved ahead of Germany as the #1 exporter in the world. America? We export our brand of mental illness, Essayist Ethan Watters says in the New York Times. He's a guest today on Talk of the Nation.
This unnerving possibility springs from recent research by a loose group of anthropologists and cross-cultural psychiatrists. Swimming against the biomedical currents of the time, they have argued that mental illnesses are not discrete entities like the polio virus with their own natural histories. These researchers have amassed an impressive body of evidence suggesting that mental illnesses have never been the same the world over (either in prevalence or in form) but are inevitably sparked and shaped by the ethos of particular times and places. In some Southeast Asian cultures, men have been known to experience what is called amok, an episode of murderous rage followed by amnesia; men in the region also suffer from koro, which is characterized by the debilitating certainty that their genitals are retracting into their bodies. Across the fertile crescent of the Middle East there is zar, a condition related to spirit-possession beliefs that brings forth dissociative episodes of laughing, shouting and singing.
Bonus: The Dallas media is pretty cocky about the Cowboys facing the Vikings this weekend.
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Two war journalists talk about the war in Afghanistan.
Second hour: As genomic science expands, and more rare diseases are discovered and understood, it has been brought to the forefront of preventive care, even for reproductive genetic screening.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour:Former U.S. ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine discusses the politics, economy and culture of Yemen.
Second hour: TBA
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: New York Times' labor
correspondent Steven Greenhouse.
Second hour: Journalist Ethan Watters says we're exporting American mental illness.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Prosecutors have until this afternoon to charge the two juveniles they've arrested with the shooting deaths of three people at the Seward Market in Minneapolis last Wednesday. Officials have said they'll wait to disclose a motive in the shootings until the pair is charged. We're following the story, of course.
MPR's Euan Kerr lights the candles for the Ordway's 25th birthday. and looks at how it helped put Minnesota performers on a national stage without having to leave St Paul.
A study from Australia reports that every hour you spend watching television increases your risk of heart disease by 18%. "What has happened is that a lot of the normal activities of daily living that involved standing up and moving the muscles in the body have been converted to sitting," Dr. David Dunstan says in a news release.
It also contends that each hour of TV is also associated with an 11% increased risk of death from all causes, and a 9% increased risk of cancer death.
Let's do the math. The average person watches five hours of television per day. If Dr. Dunstan's theory is true, our risk of heart disease nearly doubles each day.
It's a good example of framing a study in a way to get the most media coverage. The study is actually about the lack of exercise that people get. It's true, much of their day is spent sitting watching TV, but a lot of people in America's cubicle farms -- work -- are sitting, too. Theoretically is your work increasing the chance of death? Yes.
But the authors said they focused on TV because it's a leisure activity. Still, sitting and reading a book for an hour, could also increase your risk of death.(6 Comments)
There's been a big upswing in how black America sees their prospects. A Pew Research survey of blacks finds only 39 percent of those surveyed think the "situation" of black people is better than it was five years ago. But that's almost twice what it was in 2007. It's an interesting response given that the black unemployment rate in America is 16.2 percent.
More than half, however, think the future will be better.
A majority of blacks (54%) also report that Obama's barrier-breaking election has improved race relations in America; just 7% say it has made race relations worse. Whites, too, see progress on this front, though by much smaller margins. A plurality of whites (45%) say Obama's election has made no difference to race relations, while about a third (32%) say it has made things better and 15% say it has made race relations worse.
The rest of the survey shows the deep racial divide in the country when it comes to evaluating life in America. For example, 43% of blacks say there's a lot of discrimination against blacks. That's about the same as the response in 2001, the survey says. Among whites surveyed, however, only 13% believe there's a lot of discrimination against blacks, a significant drop since 2001.
Eighty percent of blacks say the country needs to make changes to ensure equal rights. But only a third of whites agree.
One significant shift in responses from blacks is worth noting, however. More than half of those surveyed say blacks who cannot get ahead in this country are mainly responsible for their own situation. Fifteen years ago, most surveyed said if blacks can't get ahead, it's because of discrimination.
Here's the full report.
The Associated Press today is reporting that reports of airplanes hitting birds and other
wildlife surged last year, "including serious accidents such as birds crashing through cockpits and crippling engines in flight." The report focused on bird migration routes, including one from Minnesota to Texas.
It's unclear, however, whether the increasing number means there are more birds around airports, or just greater attention to reporting bird strikes, especially after the US Airways Flight 1549 "miracle on the Hudson," which occurred a year ago Friday.
The statistics for Minnesota also show a growing threat, according to the data. Through July 2009, the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport recorded 50 bird strikes. From 1990, it's averaged 32 bird strike reports a year.
The airport with the second-most bird-strike reports -- Rochester -- did not show much difference from previous years (8 strikes were reported). Neither did Duluth, which had only one report of a bird strike.(1 Comments)
Norm Coleman is going to run for governor. The signs are almost as obvious as the ones that say Tim Pawlenty is running for president.
There's no greater indication of what a political insider is planning to do, than other political insiders getting out of his/her way, and today gubernatorial candidate Pat Anderson became, instead, a candidate for state auditor, 24 hours after she talked to Coleman.
But Coleman had already given indications he'll get into the race. A few days ago, he went on the defensive when a man told him to stay out of the governor's race:
"The beauty of democracy is that one person doesn't decide. The public decides," said Coleman. "Right now I'm not a candidate. I'm thinking about it. A lot of people, unlike you, but a lot of people have come to me and knocked on my door."
Look at his statement today:
In the near future, my decision about which path I intend to pursue to help Minnesota and its citizens address our state's challenges and opportunities will become clear.
Refreshing as it might be, a politician doesn't announce his intention "to help Minnesota and its citizens..." by not running for office.
Coleman automatically becomes the favorite to win the Republican nomination and enters the general election with 1,211,590 votes, the number he picked up in his race for U.S. Senate against Al Franken. The bitterness escalated during the protracted recount with Franken, but it's unlikely Coleman supporters defected to the DFL side because of it.
Keep that vote number in mind because it's almost 200,000 more than Tim Pawlenty got in 2008, and 300,000 more than Pawlenty got in 2002. In both cases, the Independence Party (previously the Reform Party) fielded a strong candidate. That isn't the case this year. It's also true, of course, that those Independent votes don't automatically go to a Republican.
On the other hand, look at Barack Obama's win in Minnesota last year. A lot of Republican districts voted Democrat at the top of the ticket, and Republican in the Senate race.
Coleman has the ability to raise cash (Anderson had previously indicated the big money is sitting on the sidelines until Coleman indicates whether he's in the race), name recognition, and one poll already showed he's the Republican front-runner if he gets in the race.
But whether he'd win a head-to-head race with a DFLer is another matter entirely. A poll last summer showed he wouldn't, but that was also at the height of the Senate recount.
Coleman's biggest challenge is his own party. Former party chair Ron Eibensteiner, in a commentary for the Star Tribune, said winning the endorsement "is a virtual impossibility." He's not far enough to the right.
We've been here before, Minnesota. In the '90s, Republican power brokers regularly turned their backs on then Gov. Arne Carlson -- a Republican -- in favor of farther-right candidates like Alan Quist. All Carlson did was win general elections. Easily.
So that's what the situation comes down to. Is Norm Coleman willing to buck the Republican core and run in a primary? That'd be a great way to woo independent voters.
But Coleman is in a position to satisfy disgruntled party insiders. He could add Rep. Laura Brod, a rising star in Republican circles who has been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate, to the ticket.
Much can -- and perhaps, should -- be made about the fact Coleman has lost two statewide races in his career. That might be a factor. But Democrats running for governor haven't been appealing to the voters since the last time one was elected... in 1986.(11 Comments)
People of Earth:Here's today's Fresh Eye with Mary Lucia:
In the last few days, I've been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I've been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky. That said, I've been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.
Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.
But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.
Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.
So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn't matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.
There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.
Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it's always been that way.