1) How much would you charge for your kidney? You only need one, right? That baby's just sitting there like a bad investment, but if you could sell it to someone who needed it, how much would you charge? It's illegal to sell organs, but the UK is thinking of changing that as a way to increase the number of donated organs. "We need to think about the morality of pressing people to donate their bodily material," said a medical professor who's on a commission studying ideas on the subject. "Offering payment or other incentives may encourage people to take risks or go against their beliefs in a way they could not have otherwise done," she said.
2) In Brooklyn, the most important person in a hardware store, is a mentally-impaired man who's not much of an interview. But for all of our book smarts, nothing in the world remains a bigger mystery than the thing on the top of our head.
This is Autism Awareness Week. So here's another story. In Boston, they've figured out that the iPhone, and an application to help people communicate with autistic people, is far and away better than any other technology to deliver services to people. All it takes is a committed city, the Boston Globe says.
3) Dorothy Height has died. "People have said we had separation because of prejudice. History will show we had prejudice because of separation," she said.
In St. Paul, Katie McWatt has died. She paved the way for African Americans to run for office here.
Where is the next generation of civil rights activists?
4) We shall see today whether the latest tuition and fee increase for MnSCU gets as much attention as the imposition of a $45 baggage fee on an airline nobody's ever heard of. MnSCU released its proposed budget on Monday. It's a supply-and-demand equation. On many MnSCU campuses, workers and veterans are returning for retraining. The classrooms are full. What's the alternative? A college education, we've been told for a generation, is the difference between success and failure. So tuition goes up and students graduate with a crushing load of debt, confident that at some point, they'll make enough money to pay off the debt.
Economics says at some point, it might not be worth it. Here's the question: Where is that point?
Meanwhile, back in the land of K-12, St. Paul is likely to close Arlington High School and will have another empty building on its hands. What happens to old schools? Not much, usually. Schools sometimes end up as senior housing, occasionally they're purchased by a business of some sort, but more often than not, they stand empty.
Redwood Falls Renville, for example. The school board there is trying to unload its building in Sacred Heart. They've listed it on eBay, says the Redwood Gazette. (H/t: Bob Ingrassia)
5) There have been dozens -- let's face it, way too many -- of gushing articles about Target Field since it opened last week. But they've been written by locals. We're in Minnesota. What we really want to know is what others think about us. The Hardball Times complies today with a lengthy piece on the new Twins stadium. The advice: Buy outfield seats over infield seats in the upper deck.
While Metrodome veterans surely recoil with horror at the prospect of sitting beyond the outfield walls, I promise this is a new experience entirely. For a few bucks less than upper deck infield seats, outfield-dwelling patrons feel right on top of the action. For my money, the best budget seats in the park are in the Overlook section, an aptly named seating box which sits on a platform jutting out over right field. It's a small section, which means quick access to the concourses. The Overlook is also right inside Gate 34, making for a quick escape to the nightlife scene, win or lose.
But the entertainment is in the minor leagues today. Who wouldn't feel bad catching him/herself laughing at the site of this obvious tragedy last week in Reno?
Pew Research survey finds that most Americans distrust the federal government, and that only 1 in 5 trusts Washington most of the time. Do you trust the government?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Senate Republicans say they will oppose most new regulations intended to prevent a financial meltdown. They charge Democrats are playing politics with a civil suit against Goldman Sachs. Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued the Wall Street firm, saying it defrauded investors by misleading them on toxic assets. Goldman Sachs says the suit is baseless.
Second hour: In her latest book, Terry Tempest Williams writes of the old mosaics in Ravenna, Italy. The exquisite art made from tiles is just one of the man-made and natural wonders that inspires a meditation on the power of beauty. She wrote the book after reflecting on how bitter her writing and speaking became after Bush administration's reaction to 9-11.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Four DFL candidates for governor: Paul Thissen, John Marty, Matt Entenza and Tom Rukavina.
Second hour: Pedro Noguera, speaking recently at Macalester College. He's the author of "Unfinished Business: Closing the Racial Achievement Gap in Our Schools."
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: A California SWAT sergeant sends suggestive texts to his wife and his mistress on the pager provided by the police department. When the department read them, he sued. Now, the text privacy case goes to the Supreme Court -- and could affect employee privacy rights everywhere.
Second hour: Ever since the earthquake that devastated Haiti, officials have had one thing on their mind: the onset of the rainy season. The heavy rains have begun, and many living in temporary shelters fear being washed away.
Just for the heck of it, call your I.T. department today and double-check that they've not taken privacy invasion to new heights the way a suburban Philadelphia school has.
Unbeknownst to te 6,900 students in the Lower Merion School District, the free Macbooks they got from their high schools came with a surveillance program, which was supposed to be used to track missing laptops.
But a lawsuit claims the webcams were switched on to see what some of the kids were up to. Here's senior Blake Robbins engaged in some mighty suspicious deed.
Robbins, who has sued the district, was disciplined by his school, however, for the pill-popping the camera allegedly caught.
Could it happen to you? The Louisville Courier-Journal says "maybe."
There are several control packages out there that allow remote access to webcams and microphones, which are equally risky to your privacy. The vast majority of these pop up a warning that someone is accessing your computer and ask you if you wish to allow this access. So the odds of someone installing one of these without your knowledge is pretty low, but you may want to scroll through your running programs for software you don't understand.
There are some Trojan horse programs out there that can turn on your camera or microphone; they are not terribly common, but they are out there. The defense for that, of course, is to make sure your security software is up to date. If you have a Mac, consider Norton; If you have a PC, get the latest free version of Security Essentials from the Microsoft Web site.
Meanwhile, data turned over by the school district has since shown that 56,000 images of students were taken in about 80 cases, and that the webcams were kept on long after "missing" laptops were located.
In other privacy news, you may want to stop photocopying those personal papers on your office computer.(1 Comments)
I've said it before. I'll say it again. Despite all the bumper-sticker platitudes about freedom, much of it comes from protecting the despicable acts of some unsavory characters.
The latest example comes from a decision today at the U.S. Supreme Court in which justices defined -- again -- what freedom the Constitution extends. Today, it said people have a right to sell videos of animal fights, and videos of lovely women crushing small animals.
The court today struck down a 1999 law, passed by Congress, that prohibits the depiction of certain animal cruelty. It wasn't close -- an 8-to-1 vote -- and proved again there's nothing more interesting than a Supreme Court opinion.
From the desk of Chief Justice John Roberts:
Such videos feature the intentional torture and killing of helpless animals, including cats, dogs, monkeys, mice, and hamsters. H. R. Rep. No. 106-397, p. 2 (1999) (hereinafter H. R. Rep.).Crush videos often depict women slowly crushing animals to death "with their bare feet or while wearing high heeled shoes," sometimes while "talking to the animals in a kind of dominatrix patter" over "[t]he cries and squeals of the animals, obviously in great pain."
Doing battle on behalf of the freedom of speech was Robert Stevens, who ran a business called "Dogs of Velvet and Steel." Among the featured videos was "Japan Pit Fights" and "Pick-A-Winna: A Pit Bull Documentary."
He challenged a lower court ruling that said the law preventing him from disseminating his work was constitutional. The government, obviously, claimed otherwise, saying "Whether a given category of speech enjoys First Amendment protection depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal cost."
Justice Roberts found that sentence "startling and dangerous."
"The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs," Roberts wrote. "Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it. The Constitution is not a document 'prescribing limits, and declaring that those limits may be passed at pleasure.'"
Beautifully-written words, unless you're a small animal. In other words: Perverts and derelicts get to say what they want to say, too. And the videos are the portrayal of a criminal act, not a criminal act.
Justice Samuel Alito didn't necessarily agree. In his dissent he said the laws against depictions of child pornography should be applied in this case.
Thus, any crush video made in this country records the actual commission of a criminal act that in-flicts severe physical injury and excruciating pain and ultimately results in death. Those who record the under-lying criminal acts are likely to be criminally culpable, either as aiders and abettors or conspirators. And in the tight and secretive market for these videos, some who sell the videos or possess them with the intent to make a profit may be similarly culpable. (For example, in some cases,crush videos were commissioned by purchasers who speci-fied the details of the acts that they wanted to see per-formed. See H. R. Rep., at 3; Hearing on Depictions of Animal Cruelty 27).
Here is the full opinion (pdf).(1 Comments)
The politicians moved in pretty quickly when word spread that Spirit Airlines intended to charge for carry-on luggage, threatening legislation that would ban the practice. But they might have missed the other part of the equation. The airline intended to lower the cost of a ticket.
The people have spoken. "The Street" reports that bookings on Spirit after August 1 (when the policy goes into effect) are up 50%.
"Our customers get it," (Ben) Baldanza said. "The media says they don't like it, but if you are me, you see that the number of people who buy tickets is expanding. I think the outrage is from people who already pay high fares on other carriers. But our customers see the power of a really low fare with the option to choose what else they want."
There's a fair whiff of PR-writing in that comment, but it leads to a good question: Why shouldn't people get to decide what they'll pay for? Spirit's plan is (was?) to charge less for the ticket itself, because it charges for everything else. If a passenger doesn't want "everything else," why pay for it?
The article had a fascinating statistic. Spirit claims that eliminating most carry-on would save 5 minutes that each plane spends at the gate, allowing the airline to fly -- and make money -- for 15 more hours a day.
(h/t: Susan Leem)(4 Comments)
Airlines are flying again, despite the ash cloud that's spewing from the volcano in Iceland. Is it because it's safe to fly or because they need the money?
You can follow the extent to which the planes are flying (or not) on FlightExplorer.com
Planes are flying into and out of Amsterdam, but at last check, the UK is a dark place where air traffic is concerned. It is supposed to reopen at 4 p.m. CT. (Update: It is now reopened)
How safe is this? Nobody really seems to know, the Associated Press reports, because nobody's ever done this on a widespread basis before.
"There are really no facts about risk. It's just how we interpret the information we have," said David Ropeik, an instructor in risk perception at Harvard and author of the book "How Risky Is It, Really?"
"This is a great example of how the pace of modern technological invention is making a lot more people nervous about just how sure science can be about anything," he said.
Watching the same people who earlier said it was too dangerous to fly now say it's safe "is just more proof that risk is a subjective idea," Ropeik said Tuesday. "It involves a lot more than what people assume it does."(3 Comments)