1) Sports and drug wags in the Twin Cities are wondering whether an unvetted CNN iReport about marijuana use at Target Field is iTrue. An iReporter claims a man spent part of the game carving out a red pepper and then used it to be "the first person to smoke marijuana at Target Field." Alerted, the security guards reportedly did not throw the man out. It's either a great example of the best of citizen journalism, or a great example of the worst of citizen journalism. The "iReporter" had never posted anything before. It has the whiff of a hoax to it.
2) A priest in India now says he'll leave India if the U.S. extradites him for allegedly sexually assaulting a teenager in northern Minnesota. How is it a bishop overruled a Vatican recommendation to remove Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul? "Unless guilt is proved, we cannot take any strong action," said the Most Rev. A. Almaraj of the Diocese of Ootacamund in southern India.
Does celibacy lead to sexual abuse? "The "celibate lifestyle can attract people who have an abnormal sexuality and cannot integrate sexuality into their lives," an auxiliary bishop in Germany said.
3) There has been a lot of CO2 generated by discussions about bullies in the last week or so, but what's it like to find out your kid is the bully? Are they to blame? PRI's The Takeaway has the answer.
Lisa Belken, who writes a parenting blog for the New York Times, wrote more about it after the show.
This morning's conversation also connected some dots for me about why children become bullies. The experts disagree on the reasons. Some, like Allan Beane of the Bully Free program, say they believe that kids who bully often have low self-esteem or suffer from a sense of social isolation. Others, like those at the Stop Bullying Now campaign run by the Department of Health and Human Services, say that "youth who bully have average or above-average self-esteem" and have "an easier time making friends than children and youth who do not bully."
In South Hadley, Massachusetts, three students will be arraigned today on charges that they inspired the suicide of a fellow student because of bullying.
4) Here's the full version of the most controversial video in the world today:
The video, released by Wikileaks, shows the killing of a photographer who was working for Reuters, which has been trying to get the video released for years. It doesn't get much uglier than this description from the New York Times:
A short time later a van arrives to pick up the wounded and the pilots open fire on it, wounding two children inside. "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle," one pilot says.
Here's how the video came to be released.
5) I wish I knew how Steve Hartmann does it. He's found a championship hockey game that was postponed for 21 years.
Signs that direct travelers to the respective terminals of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport are being changed to make them less confusing. What other signs in Minnesota need to be fixed?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: A day after the earthquake destroyed Port au Prince, Dr. Joia Mukherjee was on the ground caring for the injured. Now she says it's time for her organization and others to restore and improve the health care.
Second hour: The passage of the health care bill has brought out attacks on both sides. The U.S. Senate's failure to agree on extending unemployment benefits, passed by the House is just one example of the partisan divide that appears to widening as the midterm elections approach.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: The Minnesota Legislature returns from its Easter-Passover break. MPR political editor Mike Mulcahy, along with reporters Tom Scheck and Tim Pugmire, join Midday for a look at the major issues lawmakers will tackle yet this session.
Second hour: Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, speaks to the National Press Club about the health care overhaul.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: A road map for the looming debate over immigration.
Second hour: In federal prison, Piper Kerman, author of "Orange is the New Black," learned to clean her cell using maxi pads, wire a light fixture, tell at a glance whether a duo were best friends or girlfriends, when and how to curse someone in Spanish, learned to fly Con Air, and mastered a recipe for prison cheesecake.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - State education leaders and lawmakers are meeting today to decide whether to pursue federal money in the second phase of Race to the Top grants. MPR's Tom Weber will have details.
NPR will report on the latest efforts to prevent the failure of one giant company from bringing down the nation's financial system.
These signs have started sprouting at the pumps of some area gas stations. What's it all about? It's an attempt by the companies to get Congress involved in the credit card company practice of charging merchants every time a credit card purchase is processed.
The companies are making more money off the fees now that recent card card reform in Washington has limited some of the profits from high interest rates and fees charged to people who carry a balance.
Robert Shapiro, a former Clinton administration advisor and author of a study on swipe fees wrote on Forbes.com in February that the credit card legislation should've included limits on "swipe fees."
While free market competition tends to drive prices down, the kind of cartel-like competition that goes on between the handful of major credit card companies--Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover account for 85% of the market--drives up these fees. The credit card companies recruit banks to their networks by promising them higher fees paid by consumers and merchants, and the banks try to attract new, well-to-do subscribers by offering rewards that are then financed through these fees. All of these costs are hidden from consumers.
"Credit card fees are hidden to our customers and have increased at a double-digit annual compound growth rate during the past decade," Tony Kenney, the head of SuperAmerica Speedway said.
Shapiro's "report" said without the fees, up to 250,000 jobs could be created. Not everyone is buying that, including Mike Duff, writing on BNET.
Besides the inherently dubious nature of the assertion that X amount of money translates into Y number of jobs, the retailers ignore the other side of the transaction. To wit: If banks are deprived of profiting from credit-card transactions, which is what the study bases its numbers on, how many bank jobs will be lost?
The retail organizations face other problems if they want the government to intervene with the credit-card industry. First, the government is propping up the banking system. Taking money out of the finance system, as in reduction of credit card fees, could mean money out of the U.S. treasury system.
Plus there's the philosophical question in the wake of recent health care and banking legislation: Is there a compelling public interest for Congress to intervene? Or is it a matter between private businesses?
One solution to paying fees for checked baggage -- carrying your baggage onto the flight -- is on its way out. Privately-held Spirit Airlines announced today it's going to start charging as much as $45 for carry-on luggage that's put in an overhead bin. The airline said anything stuffed under the seat in front of passengers will still be free, which should add a new headache to the boarding process.
"Bring less; pay less. It's simple," Spirit's Chief Operating Officer Ken McKenzie said in a statement.
So far no other airlines have followed suit. "I personally think that would spark a major customer backlash," Standard & Poor's analyst Jim Corridore told Reuters. "The general public is sick and tired of fees. They pay them because they have to."
Is that true? Does the paying public have to? Or do they just consider exercising what little power they have as consumers (not flying) a less appealing alternative to paying airline fees?. Airlines charge fees because customers will pay them.
Spirit Air has several schemes to get around the fee. It's lowering its airfares -- in some cases to a penny, and charging "fees" for the cost of getting you to where you want to go. The Seattle Post Intelligencer does the math on that:
If you fly from Detroit to Las Vegas, the 1 cent ticket, plus the $54.22 in fuel costs, plus $18.70 in taxes adds up to be $72.93... and you must be a $9 Fare Club member to have access to this sale, which costs $39.95 a year. Compared with pre-Penny Saver fares, the savings are about $40 -- just slightly lower than what travelers on Spirit will have to pay if they carry-on bags. For those of you that travel without any luggage or take quick day-trips, this might be the deal for you.
Great ideas occasionally come from a broken furnace.
Sometime in the next month, Twin Citian James Gorney, and two of his friends, will launch a Web site to provide reviews of apartments and the landlords who own them.
The idea came as a result of his introduction to Minneapolis five years ago when there was no heat in the apartment he'd just agreed to rent. "I called the office and the owner happened to be there and he said, 'I don't know what you're complaining about. We sent someone in to fix the radiator. Everything should be fine.'" It was a broken boiler. "I don't think I was asking anything ridiculous, I just wanted my house to be more than 55 degrees," Gorney told me.
"There was no reason to treat people like that. I went online and thought, 'there must be a place to blog about this or post comments and say 'this guy's a jerk; stay away from him. Find someplace else,'" he said. "But there wasn't."
Gorney, a software engineer, has since come up with an idea for a social networking site that would provide reviews of properties and the landlords behind them. "I've got to believe other people are going through similar things."
"I've always had the best luck just finding an area I want to live and then just wandering around, looking at the For Rent signs and just writing down the number," he said. So he created ApartmentTruth.com. "It's not a place to hook up with the apartment renters; that's been done before. It's more like a 'how is this place?' I want to hear from someone who's lived there."
It's not far from the hotel/motel reviews on travel sites, such as Travelocity. "You can pick an area and it'll come up with the previously-rated apartments in the database," according to Gorney. The site will include apartments across the country. "We're focusing our energy on Minneapolis because that's our hometown."
His challenge, however, is to get current renters not only to write reviews of their properties, but also to move out before people start going to his Web site to learn about the apartments. "There's statistics out there that if someone has a bad experience, they'll tell six people and if they have a good experience they'll tell two or three, he said. "We're kind of in that area of how to get that kicked off and I'm not sure there's a better way than just putting it out there."
"We don't want people getting on there and saying, 'my sink's dripping; I'm going to trash this guy,'" he said. "So we came up with an algorithm that makes it extremely difficult to just trash somebody, because there are good landlords out there."
He hopes to unveil the site around May 1. He says the information it will be free. "Even if takes off and we don't make any money on it, we haven't spent a lot of money on it."
The Federal Communications Commission lost its battle with the big cable operators today, when a court ruled that the government agency doesn't have the regulatory authority to require cable companies to treat all Internet traffic equally.
This is one of those issues where the court's decision can easily get lost over the question of whether cable companies should treat all Internet traffic equally. Most reasonable people, it would seem, believe it should.
Common Cause's treatise on the subject explains why:
For example, if you are shopping for a new appliance online you should be able to shop on any and all websites, not just the ones with whom your provider has a preferred business relationship. Or if you want to use your high-speed Internet connection to make phone calls, your provider should not be able to impede your ability to do so.
But the court didn't rule on that aspect of the argument. It ruled on whether it's a role the Federal Communications Commission has.
Jen Howard, from the FCC, hit it on the head:
"Today's court decision invalidated the prior Commission's approach to preserving an open Internet," said Howard. "But the Court in no way disagreed with the importance of preserving a free and open Internet; nor did it close the door to other methods for achieving this important end."
Look at it this way. Actors can swear on a cable TV show because it isn't delivered "over the air." The FCC has no ownership to apply its obscenity standards. The same program over the air would be bleeped out.
The cable under your street? You don't own it. Comcast does.
Megan Tady of the group FreePress, however, says there's an easy fix to that:
Here's the deal: under the Bush FCC, the agency decided to classify and treat broadband Internet service providers the same as any Internet applications company like Facebook or Lexis-Nexis, placing broadband providers outside of the legal framework that traditionally applied to the companies that offer two-way communications services.
That's the loophole that let Comcast wiggle out from under the agency's thumb.
Change it back
There's an easy fix here: The FCC can change broadband back to a "communications service," which is where it should have been in the first place. By reclassifying broadband, all of these questions about authority will fall away and the FCC can pick up where it left off - protecting the Internet for the public and bridging the digital divide.(6 Comments)