The Monday Morning Rouser:
1) It'll be difficult to read the Washington Post's huge investigative report. Top Secret America, without comparing what the nation has become to the state secret nature of our cold war enemies past. You also can't read it without realizing -- again -- that the attackers on 9/11 did more than destroy or damage three iconic buildings and kill thousands of people.
It's also a big business. The Post's Web site provides a map of secret America's tentacles, which reach to Minneapolis, Bemidji, Brainerd, Mankato, and Rochester. 854,000 people in the county hold top-secret clearances. The terrifying bureaucracy also produces 50,000 intelligence reports a year, many of which are ignored.
"I'm not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything" was how one Super User put it. The other recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn't take notes. Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled ''Stop!" in frustration.
The story took two years to put together.
Meanwhile, Russia is restoring some KGB-era power to its security forces, NPR reports this morning.
2) Minnesota has been ground zero in the raw milk debate since the government started targeting a farm near Gibbon where raw milk is believed to have sickened several people. But raw milk has plenty of supporters nationwide. "Legally I can feed my children fast food three meals a day. But then to get this incredible, nutrient dense, fresh local food, the farmer in my state is criminalized for selling that to me," says a Maryland woman in an NPR story this morning. What can break the stalemate? Safer raw milk. Find the story here.
3) Fivethirtyeight.com's Nate Silver has issued another forecast for the November elections. Things are looking grim for the Democrats. He calculates that the Dems will maintain the majority in the Senate, but only by about three seats, and that assumes Joe Lieberman will continue to caucus with the Democrats.
What effect will the gulf oil spill have on the election? That's the subject of Cokie Roberts' interview today.
4) Good question: Why do we listen to sad music when we're sad?
5) Pro golfer John Daly has remade himself from a substance-abusing hacker to a crowd-favorite because of his outrageous golf fashion. That Daly is not aware of the U.S. flag code and its admonishment that the flag should never be worn as apparel, is not at all surprising. His choice of attire for yesterday's final round of the British Open would have been less disrespectful had he chosen simply to burn the flag on the first tee.
Some pro athletes deserve the attention for better reasons:
More sports: New commercials for the Minnesota Lottery air this week. John Randle can... sort of... act:
Last week, BP seemed finally to make some progress in stopping the undersea oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. What effect should the Gulf oil disaster have on U.S. energy policy?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Last month, the Supreme Court ruled against the city of Chicago's long-time ban on handgun ownership. Advocates on both sides of the gun-control debate are using this decision to re-evaluate the way guns are regulated in cities across the country.
Second hour: Motorcycle enthusiast and philosopher Matthew Crawford explores craftsmanship and what we lose in the modern workplace by not working with our hands to make a tangible product.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Art Rolnick wraps up his 25-year career at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve this month. He'll talk about the economy and the value of education.
Second hour: A discussion from the Aspen Ideas Festival: "Is America Still the Land of Opportunity?"
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Remembering the 1980 Cuban exodus., the Mariel Boatlift.
Second hour: Cheating in college.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - David Mitchell comes to Minnesota to read from his new novel "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" which examines life in a Dutch settlement on the Japanese coast in 1799. MPR's Euan Kerr will have the story.
Kristine Fladeboe Duininck, 36, of Willmar, won the title of top female auctioneer in the country over the weekend.
Her company specializes in selling farms via auction and raising money in benefit auctions, according to a press release. The above video was produced by her company. among other things, it reveals that there are actual auctioneer schools, which sounds like a definite future News Cut video.(3 Comments)
The big air show opened in Farnborough, UK today. Unlike the one that opens at Oshkosh next week, this one is all about selling the latest commercial jet, or the latest weapons system.
A video released today is bound to strike some terror into the hearts of, well, just about anyone.
It's a laser weapon:
The Star Wars-like weapon was made by Raytheon.
At face value, such a weapon would appear to have little use in either of the two most recent wars fought by the U.S.(7 Comments)
If it's true that Lake Superior is a "canary in a coal mine," as some scientists suggested last week, perhaps it's time to shop for a new pet.
The New York Times today reports on the warming of Lake Superior
Total ice cover on the lake has shrunk by about 20 percent over the past 37 years, he said. Though the change has made for longer, warmer summers, it's a problem because ice is crucial for keeping water from evaporating and it regulates the natural cycles of the Great Lakes.
But the warming shows no sign of abatement. This year, the waters in Lake Superior are on track to reach -- and potentially exceed -- the lake's record-high temperatures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which occurred in 1998.
The lake's temperature could reach a record high by this time next month.
In other canary news, June was the hottest month on record, the fourth month in a row of record warmth.
In North Dakota, several counties are giving up on trying to keep the roads in halfway-decent shape. So they're grinding up the asphalt on some roads and going back to the old days -- gravel, the Wall Street Journal reports.
"A lot of these roads have just deteriorated to the point that they have no other choice than to turn them back to gravel," Larry Galehouse, director of the National Center for Pavement Preservation at Michigan State University told the paper. "We're leaving an awful legacy for future generations."
The problem is one you've probably heard of. Governments are cash-strapped, the cost of oil-based products is skyrocketing, and taxpayers are reluctant to increase their taxes, which doesn't keep several of them from being mighty upset about a return to dusty drives.
But gravel may not be the answer, either.
A 2005-2009 study from the Minnesota Department of Transportation found that in rural Minnesota counties, the cost of keeping up a gravel road is considerable -- $4,160 per year per mile, after an initial $13,000 per mile cost. The cost of building an asphalt road is $130,000 per mile, but it can be maintained for $2,460 per mile per year after that.
After that, it becomes a six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other situation. It costs more to plow a paved road than a gravel road in the winter. The dust from a gravel road can cause health problems and increased maintenance costs for homeowners. A paved road is safer. Drivers slow down on gravel roads. Property values go up along paved roads.
"Upgrading a gravel road to an (asphalt) surface should be considered an investment that will primarily reap rewards that do not result in a monetary savings to the government agency," the report said.
That's an attitude that's almost as quaint as chip in the windshield.
Last Friday, NPR's All Things Considered aired its usual letters segment and many listeners complained that a five-minute segment on Mel Gibson's latest transgressions was about five minutes too long. But NPR did not respond to the criticism that questioned whether public radio still stands for what public radio once stood for -- smart information that can exercise the brain muscle.
Today, All Things Considered's executive producer responded by way of a post by the NPR ombudsman. As they say on radio, we caution that what follows might be considered offensive to old-time public radio fans:
The Mel Gibson story is totally defensible," said Christopher Turpin, ATC's executive producer. "To me Mel Gibson is a huge international star. It's a story that everyone is talking about. I was in the coffee shop and what were people talking about in line? They were talking about Mel Gibson. So I don't think we can pretend these things don't happen. I think because there's a huge amount of business involved, there are very interesting questions about the entertainment industry, what happens to celebrities when their personality or character is undermined by their personal behavior."
"Good," as the man once said, "grief."
Fortunately, Alicia Shepard, NPR's ombudsman doesn't let her employer off lightly:
While I understand that NPR programs struggle to find the right balance between serious news and tapping into the zeitgeist in the story of the moment, I agree with many who complained that NPR could have skipped this story and lost nothing. After all, NPR has built its reputation on in-depth reporting of important news and arts and entertainment coverage that rises above the ordinary.
Listeners generally do not turn their dials to public radio for the kind of gossip featured at the grocery store check-out counter. At the very least, if ATC really believed this story deserved airtime, something less than 4 minutes and 31 seconds would have done the job.(7 Comments)
This weekend, one of the odder events in the history of Harriet Island takes place in St. Paul.
During Flugtag, teams attempt to fly themed human-powered flying machines. They are launched off a pier about 30 feet high. None of them fly. They all end up in the drink.
The "teams" applied for entry by submitting videos. I don't, actually, know what to make of any of them.