The life of a sperm-donor child examined, sensitivity and the First Amendment, the love of a good siren, a ban on satire, and the secrets of outdoor photography.
In its reporting on a federal court judge Vance Walker's decision that California's Proposition 8 -- the anti same-sex marriage law -- is unconstitutional, National Public Radio reporter Karen Grigsby Bates added an aside on Walker:
"He was appointed by the first President Bush - George H.W. Bush. He is generally considered to be very thoughtful, very thorough. And he's gay. He's gay and out," she said.
NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shephard points out that Walker's sexual orientation is an accepted fact among many journalists, but it may not be.
"But, in a case such as this, the first obligation is to verify that the person is gay and that can only come from Walker or close personal friends or family who are quoted by name. As far as I could determine, Walker has never openly said he is gay," she writes today.
But Shepard's most illuminating revelation may be why so many journos accept it as fact:
When I asked about sources, NPR cited the Chronicle column, a dozen or so Internet links to show it was widely discussed in California and gay press - and that Walker isn't denying it.
It must not be comfortable for NPR reporters and editors to be quizzed by an ombudsman on an issue such as this, but the reporters and editors did themselves no favors by replying with an excuse that is, basically, "everyone says so."
Then there's the question of whether a judge's sexual orientation matters to the story, which Shepard doesn't really think is a question at all:
It only becomes relevant if there is a conflict of interest, and then the news media is obligated to report it.
"If the judge had actively participated in the Prop 8 debate in some fashion - fundraising for advocates or opponents - that would be significant," said Bob Steele, an ethicist with the Poynter Institute. "Such activism would likely disqualify him from this case no matter what his sexual orientation."
If the judge confirmed he is gay that might be an interesting factoid. But since we expect judges to be impartial - even though all judges have some conflict - then it's wrong to assume Walker or any judge can't be objective on a topic that may have something to do with his personal life.(7 Comments)
Mohamed was born in 1992 in the midst of civil war in his West African homeland of Sierra Leone. Any semblance of a normal childhood was unavailable to him. As the oldest of three brothers and two sisters with an absent father and a mother suddenly ill, he was forced to become the "man of the house" at age 9, providing for his family by foraging on his own to prevent their starvation.Today, the Yankees' C.C. Sabathia, Derek Jeter and team officials Reggie Jackson and Brian Cashman took Kamara to the New York Stock Exchange, where he rang the bell and opened trading. Then they went to City Hall to meet the mayor (photo above).
When the war subsided approximately six years ago, Mohamed, who did not speak English at the time, made the difficult decision to come to the United States to join his aunt and uncle in an impoverished section of the Bronx.
Since arriving in the United States, Mohamed has simultaneously created a life for himself and improved the lives of others. He graduated in the top quarter of his class at Bronx Leadership Academy High School and earned a partial scholarship to Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, where he will work toward a business degree.
Over the last four years, he has remained the breadwinner for his family in Africa despite being a full-time Bronx high school student, working as a caddie at Montammy Golf Club in Alpine, N.J., which requires him to wake up for work at 4:00 a.m. and spend nearly five hours a day in transit in an effort to send every last possible dollar back to Africa.
He also displays selflessness in his treatment of his peers. He became a mentor and sounding board for other African students in his school, and he founded the Sierra Leone Gentlemen, which organizes benefits at his local church to raise money for children in his homeland to attend school. Despite being a student in name, his actions prove he is a teacher in life.
Every year around this time, we start getting questions about why candidates for some political parties aren't included in debates.
In past years, MPR has used a requirement that certain candidates poll a minimum percentage to be invited to debates it sponsors, which created a chicken-and-egg situation. How can a candidate poll a significant percentage if he/she can't get coverage from the media? It's a fair point.
The question arises today because the reaction to a show Monday "sizing up" the gubernatorial campaign.
"The Green Party is one of four parties listed on the Secretary of State's Web site, is there a reason they're not being included in your discussion or in any of the debates?" a caller asked.
"Well, they're not a major party," Midday host Gary Eichten responded.
"I think the interesting thing to me is why they still are a minor party," guest Dan Hofrenning, a professor of political science at St. Olaf said. "I think in this day and age, when you have Al Gore winning a Nobel Prize, lots of people thinking issues like global warming and energy, why is that the Green Party is still stuck in the 1, 2, and 3 percent?"
Listener Jim Ivey was the caller and follows up with this e-mail today:
"I was one of the callers with a question on Monday's Midday program. Specifically I tried to point out that there are four officially recognized parties in Minnesota (three major and one minor), and that the fourth is given no mention in any of the MPR discussions, much less an opportunity to participate in a debate. Gary's response was dismissive, saying that there are only three major parties, and the Green Party is just one of many minor parties. He was wrong, and should have known better. The Green Party is the only officially recognized minor party in Minnesota, and goes to great lengths to maintain that status. Have him read the secretary of state's website, which shows the registered parties and has a link to the definition of a minor party. As a taxpayer I'd appreciate it if MPR did a better job of avoiding the path taken by corporate-sponsored media in purposefully censoring any discussion of the Green Party and the issues that it tries to bring to the table. After the hundreds of hours of interviews with candidates from the other parties, the least you could do is invite the two state-wide Green Party candidates for separate short interviews on Midday, to allow them to briefly explain what they offer. Ideally you'd also have a separate show to talk about the challenges that the Green Party faces in terms of ballot access restrictions, which are draconian in comparison with most other states. Thanks for your consideration."
I'll save you the trouble. Here's the definition of a minor party:
(a) "Minor political party" means a political party that has adopted a state constitution, designated a state party chair, held a state convention in the last two years, filed with the secretary of state no later than December 31 following the most recent state general election a certification that the party has met the foregoing requirements, and met the requirements of paragraph (b) or (e), as applicable.
(b) To be considered a minor party in all elections statewide, the political party must have presented at least one candidate for election to the office of:
(1) governor and lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, or attorney general, at the last preceding state general election for those offices; or
(2) presidential elector or U.S. senator at the preceding state general election for presidential electors; and who received votes in each county that in the aggregate equal at least one percent of the total number of individuals who voted in the election, or its members must have presented to the secretary of state at any time before the close of filing for the state partisan primary ballot a nominating petition in a form prescribed by the secretary of state containing the signatures of party members in a number equal to at least one percent of the total number of individuals who voted in the preceding state general election.
(c) A political party whose candidate receives a sufficient number of votes at a state general election described in paragraph (b) becomes a minor political party as of January 1 following that election and retains its minor party status for at least two state general elections even if the party fails to present a candidate who receives the number and percentage of votes required under paragraph (b) at subsequent state general elections.
(d) A minor political party whose candidates fail to receive the number and percentage of votes required under paragraph (b) at each of two consecutive state general elections described by paragraph (b) loses minor party status as of December 31 following the later of the two consecutive state general elections.
(e) A minor party that qualifies to be a major party loses its status as a minor party at the time it becomes a major party. Votes received by the candidates of a major party must be counted in determining whether the party received sufficient votes to qualify as a minor party, notwithstanding that the party does not receive sufficient votes to retain its major party status. To be considered a minor party in an election in a legislative district, the political party must have presented at least one candidate for a legislative office in that district who received votes from at least ten percent of the total number of individuals who voted for that office, or its members must have presented to the secretary of state a nominating petition in a form prescribed by the secretary of state containing the signatures of party members in a number equal to at least ten percent of the total number of individuals who voted in the preceding state general election for that legislative office.
The Green Party candidate is Farheen Hakeem, who has also been a candidate in the Legislature, Hennepin County commissioner in 2006, and ran for mayor of Minneapolis in 2005.
The irony of the issue of access to debates is that a "minor party" candidate wants in on the debates and can't get in. A major party is in on debates, and wants out of one scheduled this week.(3 Comments)
The controversy over the proposed mosque near the World Trade Center has been years in the making.
It's a short -- too short -- story from the Associated Press today which provides a comparison between two cities that were targets of terrorists on 9/11:
A chapel was built at the Pentagon in 2002 to host prayer services by a number of different religions, Muslim included, according to the AP, which reports that "nobody has ever protested."
The story seems to originate from a fairly smarmy Salon.com blog post a few weeks ago that appears to have gone largely unnoticed.
Yes, Muslims have infiltrated the Pentagon for their nefarious, prayerful purposes -- daring to practice their religion inside the building where 184 people died on Sept. 11, 2001. They haven't even had the sensitivity to move two blocks, let alone a mile, away from that sacred site.
The "desecration" began shockingly soon after the attacks.
This week, FactCheck.org addressed the question of whether an actual mosque existed at the Pentagon.
The truth is that there is no "mosque" in the Pentagon, according to Army spokesman George Wright. There is a chapel inside the Pentagon where Muslim employees can go to pray, as ABC News recently reported. It's just not exclusive to followers of Islam.
The Pentagon's non-denominational chapel was built and dedicated in 2002 in honor of Pentagon employees and passengers of American Airlines Flight 77 who died in the terrorist attack on the building on Sept. 11, 2001.
So, in New York the issue is an actual mosque/community center. In Washington, there's less of a controversy because other faiths are involved. And unmentioned in all of this is Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which started the controversy over the inclusion of an Islamic symbol with a 9/11 memorial years ago when the parents of Thomas Burnett Jr., of Bloomington, said they didn't want their son's name on the memorial as long as a design (above) included a crescent, the symbol of Islam.
About two weeks ago, the Flight 93 Memorial Task Force disbanded after an agreement was reached on the memorial's construction. Burnett's name will appear on it (Update: See comments).
The memorial site is being called Sacred Ground.
Meanwhile, back near the World Trade Center, the controversy continues. Today, President Obama said he has "no regrets" about defending religious freedom in the controversy about whether a mosque planned near the WTC site is "disrespectful."(3 Comments)
The Rolling Twins are getting a break, thanks to the other Twins in town.
The wheelchair softball team has been playing in the parking lot of a library because the Courage Center didn't have the money to build a rubberized field. Today, the Minnesota Twins announced the team has been given a $200,000 grant (from Pepsi) to build the field.
Fifteen major league teams each selected an organization that would benefit from the grant, and then people voted for which team's pick would win the money. The Minnesota choice came out on top.
Here's some video of the Rolling Twins shot by MSP Magazine a few years ago:(1 Comments)
Among the more touching moments when a police officer dies, is the last mention on the police radio.
Hennepin County made such a call for Mahnomen County deputy Chris Dewey, whose funeral was held today.
There were many restrictions on video and image recording at the funeral, but Hennepin County has provided some additional images here.