1) A bunch of marginal NBA players became big-time millionaires yesterday on the first day of the free-agency period. The Timberwolves signed two centers who they feel can continue the honored tradition of Stanley Roberts and Cherokee Parks.
But then there's former University of Minnesota player Ray Williams, now 55. The Boston Globe reveals the sorry state of life after basketball.
Williams has needed help since he went from owning fine cars and comfortable homes -- one for his mother in his hometown of Mount Vernon, N.Y., another for his family in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. -- to seeking bankruptcy protection in 1994. No longer able to sustain his NBA lifestyle, he worked for a couple of years as a substitute teacher. He also delivered mail and tended bar, but he had trouble holding the jobs partly because he had spent his life training for little else but playing basketball.
He got a little help from a fund financed by contributions by NBA players. He got $2,000, or about the amount Timberwolves center Darko Milicic will make every 30 minutes (based on a 40-hour work week) under the contract he agreed to yesterday.
2) The Kagan hearings are over. The streak is alive. You've probably seen this clip of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., strangely invoking the "Twilight" movie at the beginning of her questioning of the Supreme Court nominee.
It's an attempt, of course, to show that senators and Supreme Court nominees are just like "normal" people, even though they're not.
But what is it about Minnesota senators and Supreme Court nominees? Let's hit the Wayback Machine. At Sonia Sotomayor's nomination hearings, Sen. Al Franken, DFL-Minn., also went all popular culture.
What did we learn about the new Supreme Court justice over the course of three days. She's got excellent comedic timing.
3) Ryan Air, the no-frills airline, is considering selling standing-room-only airline tickets, according to the Guardian.
The airline is going to start testing "vertical seats," which allow
inmates passengers to be seat-belted to a seat standing up. It may be time to bring back a thread here on your worst airline experiences.
Airline? Who needs an airline? The FAA has given the OK for the Terrafugia -- the flying car -- to be certified under the agency's "light sport" category. That means you can fly it -- or is it, drive it? -- solo with as few as 20 hours of instruction.
4) The media has -- mostly -- moved on from Wadena, ravaged by a tornado a few weeks ago. But last night the students in the city found out what their educational future will be. They found out it may be two years before they get back into their school. At a pep rally, the Brainerd Dispatch reports, we got an idea just how complicated taking a school away from a town can be:
As for lunch, the decision has yet to be made whether student would eat at M State or eat in shifts at the elementary school. A woman wondered about her graduating senior's transcripts. All safely stored in accessible computers, school officials reported.
Students wondered about the future of classes such as physical education courses. The school is still looking into a proper location for a weight room. But officials said the plan is to offer all the programs the school provided before the tornado struck while noting there is a lot to do before Sept. 7.
Band and choir trips are going forward as is the behind-the-wheel instruction, although the driving course may be delayed a couple weeks as they are seeking a vehicle.
It could be worse. In Chicago, 258 students were shot in the recently completed school year, the New York Times reports.
"Have you ever been shot?" the student, a high school senior, asked. When Ms. Tinajero replied no, he looked genuinely amazed and said, "Wow, almost everybody I know's been shot." Later, he ticked off a list of his own bullet wounds: upper thigh, left hand, scalp.
"I should have been dead already," he said.
That's Chicago's version of test score results. If you're still alive at the end of the school year, you've met standards. (h/t: Vince Tuss)
5) The city of Canby, Minnesota had a celebration for dentist Ziad Tedini on Flag Day. He became a U.S. citizen that day,
"It means a lot for me. I love this country a lot," he said. "I love Lebanon and appreciate Lebanon, but there is something unique about the United States." (Marshall Independent)
And that provides today's -- and this holiday weekend's -- discussion point. What is it that's unique?
News that authorities were searching a farm near the scene of Jacob Wetterling's abduction has generated intense interest among the media and the public. Why do we find the Jacob Wetterling story so compelling?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Stimulus vs. deficit. President Obama has been touring the country this week to tout his economic plan. While he makes the case for more stimulus spending, world leaders at last weekend's G-20 summit pledged to halve their government spending to avoid the fate of Greece. Can Obama fix the economy while reducing the deficit?
Second hour: Three life decisions that couples have to make. 1. How they will work together on money as a couple-- in their daily couple life? 2. What happens if their relationship ends? 3. What happens when the first one of them dies? Financial planner Ruth Hayden is the guest.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Education Commissioner Alice Seagren will answer questions about the latest school test results in math and reading.
Second hour: David Rubenstein, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival about the Declaration of Independence. How it was written and why it is central to American life.
Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: A new look at the sun and how scientists track the activity of our closest star.
Second hour: A discussion on longevity and new research that reveals the genes shared by many centenarians.
Isn't it time to come up with another way of measuring unemployment than the unemployment rate?
Today, the government said the unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent. Great news? No. Although the unemployment rate dropped to the lowest level since July 2009, it fell because 652,000 people gave up on their job searches and left the labor force.
People who are no longer looking for work aren't counted as unemployed, the Associated Press reported. But the problem with that rationale is obvious: they are unemployed.
So, what's the real unemployment rate? About 16.5%, the Wall Street Journal says. But even that rate dropped, though not by much.
The effect of the recession on workers, however, is much more significant, according to a new poll from Pew Research. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed say they've been negatively affected by the recession; they have suffered a spell of unemployment, a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or have become involuntary part-time workers.
Sixty-two percent of people, however, believe their personal finances will get better.
"We're heading in the right direction," President Obama said this morning, shortly before leaving Washington for a vacation. It's a common presidential tactic. If you want people to think things are looking up, just say they are.
At the start of the year in which that iconic ad ran, unemployment was only 1.5% lower than it is now, although it was much lower than the high of 10.8% in 1982. In Minnesota, the current unemployment rate is only .2 percent higher than it was in 1984.
The chart of the U.S. unemployment rate now, however -- even with its statistical phoniness described above -- doesn't suggest that things are getting much better.
"It's going to be a slow recovery for unemployment," The Atlantic's David Indiviglio wrote today in his analysis. That much was obvious months ago.
The tentative agreement between some Twin Cities hospitals and nurses will have little trouble when it goes to the rank-and-file for a vote next week, if some of the responses we've been getting from nurses is any indication. Here are a few:
"The adults showed up, both comprimised, we can finally move on."
Marie T of St. Paul:
"First of all, the union was willing to let the current contract float as is for another year in view of the lousy economy. TCH wanted to take it apart and mess with the pension for one, and then everything went down hill from there! Now it seems that we have arrived at an "agreement" which is exactly what we already had! What irks me is the amount of anxiety and angst among all of those involved, not to mention resources wasted when it might all have been avoided in the first place!
"Our unit has been very busy lately, and I am very tired of working through the morning and not getting a break until 1:30- 2:00 in the afternoon, especially if I'm working a 12 hour shift. I will be less tolerant of this tight staffing in the name of the budget, and will be more vocal about getting relief. My work is physically and mentally demanding, and breaks make all the difference."
"I trust my negotiating team implicitly. If my negotiating Team of RNs says ratify, I will ratify. They are good, smart, solid and reliable RNS with whom I work and have known for years. I am grateful for their service, commitment and skills. Their job is one I have shared, and there is not enough money in the world to reimburse them for their dedication and relentless pursuit of what is a fair and equitable settlement for the Childrens' RNs.Tracy Stewart of Burnsville:
"It is a better deal than we have been offered before and it is not moving backward. We would be losing 20 years of progress in all our previous offers and this offer at least keeps us in place. Not moving forward, but not losing ground either.
"I would still like to have nurses more involved in staffing decisions and the ability to staff for admissions.
"It will be difficult to work with those who were so vocal about crossing the picket line and not supporting the union, but yet have been fully willing to use the union to their benefit in the past."
Carolyn Dolan Bong of Minneapolis:
"Still waiting for task force details- Have always appreciated the strength of the ability to close a unit if unable to staff safely. Thanks for such fair and quick reporting-It's been an honor to refer people to MPR's site over these weeks."Molly Ley of St. Paul:
"I am both excited and nervous about the agreement. I am beyond excited to not have to go out on strike again. I cried with all my patients the evening before the one day strike and have been worried sick about having to do it again. I am very happy that my benefits and pension are left intact, something that was agreed upon in past contracts to recruit and retain nurses into long careers in the hospitals. I am nervous about the staffing piece as there is not an immediate change. However, I am looking forward to being involved in the renewed commitment the hospitals have agreed to engage in related to staffing. I have not seen the official proposal, but imagine it will acceptable to vote to ratify the contract.(1 Comments)
" I was ready to walk out on strike to push for safe staffing, but now am looking forward to heading back to work tomorrow with the renewed commitment the hospital has promised me."
It's probably just as well that Pew Research waited until today to drop this can of debatable worms; few people are paying attention to the news on the day before a long holiday weekend.
But here's the apparent takeaway from Pew's latest poll: The more patriotic you are, the more likely you are to be critical of the government.
Those who give Barack Obama the lowest job ratings - predominately Republicans and independents who lean Republican - also are more likely to say that they are extremely proud to be an American than are those who give the president more positive ratings.
Cue the debate on what it means to be "patriotic."
Mrs. Newscut and I drove down to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester on Tuesday and somewhere along Highway 52 -- it might've been just south of Rosemount -- we saw the usual line of tractors mowing the median strip. "There's something they could do without if the state was looking to save a few bucks," I said. There doesn't really seem to be any sense in mowing the medians, especially since we've become more appreciative of wild flowers and are getting away from the notion that if it's grass, it has to look like a Scott's grass seed commercial.
It turns out, according to the Wadena Pioneer Journal, that maybe they shouldn't be mowing at all. An article this afternoon quotes a Department of Natural Resources official.
"State law prohibits road authorities from mowing an entire right-of-way until July 31," Nelson said. "Private landowners may mow or hay the roadside adjacent to their property at any time, but they can help wildlife by waiting."
A nesting pheasant hen lays eggs at a rate of about one per day, resulting in nests that contain an average of 12 eggs. The incubation period of 23 days starts after all eggs have been laid. The hen remains on the nest during incubation, leaving only briefly to feed. If the nest is destroyed, the hen will repeatedly nest until she is successful in hatching a clutch, although re-nesting clutches have fewer eggs.
There's a difference, of course, between a median and an adjacent right-of-way. MnDOT says mowing is necessary to improve visibility for motorists but that's only true near intersections, perhaps.
This weekend, thousands of people are heading for the wilderness. Would it really bother us if we had to look at some along the way?
In Wisconsin, the state is paying counties for only one mowing a season, leaving the counties to pay for the rest. Some tried using jail prisoners, but the state employee union objected. Wisconsin, like Minnesota, shifted funds from transportation to other accounts, prompting an official to ask for a constitutional amendment, prohibiting the shifting of funds. "We have a grass-growing problem," he said last week.
He said Wisconsinites don't want median strips looking like hayfields. Why not?
Besides, the tall wildflowers -- you can call them weeds if you wish -- hide all the litter that gets tossed out.(7 Comments)