1) BOYS TO MEN TO PRISON
Most of the stories surrounding the new Republican-dominated committees at the Minnesota Capitol are about inside baseball -- the national pastime of politicians. But here's one real societal change that will likely come as a result of it: More children who commit crimes will be tried as adults.
For several years, Republicans have tried to get "Emily's Law" passed, only to have it languish in a DFL-dominated committee. The bill, filed by Rep. Bud Nornes and Rep. Torrey Westrom, is nicknamed after 2-year-old Emily Johnson of Fergus Falls, who died a day after she was sexually assaulted and then thrown against a wall by the 13-year-old son of the daycare provider. The bill would allow more juveniles who commit crimes to be tried as adults. Currently, no one under 14 in the state can be so tried. (Here's a News Cut post I wrote about the issue in 2008)
"He's allowed to go to high school, now," her mother said yesterday of the man -- then a boy -- who killed her daughter.
On Wednesday, Westrom was appointed to chair the Civil Law Committee in the House. "We're praying this is the year it'll pass," Lynn Johnson said.
The topic comes up because of the arrest of a Twin Cities teenager, who is charged with killing two convenience store clerks in Iowa on Monday. Michael Swanson will most certainly be tried as an adult. But the Star Tribune reports his crime record goes back to age 13.
In Iowa, meanwhile, the Des Moines Register reports that one of the women who was killed may have saved the life of another woman by sending her home from work early.
2) SCANNER SCARE
Are the new X-ray machines in airports safe or not? This assessment on the Discover Web site is the best read on the subject yet. Bottom line: You pays your money and you takes your chances.
The basic risk of x-ray exposure isn't the only worry. Back in May, Brenner pointed out that x-ray damage does not hit all passengers equally.
Recent research, Brenner says, indicates that about 5 percent of the population -- one person in 20 -- is especially sensitive to radiation. These people have gene mutations that make them less able to repair X-ray damage to their DNA. Two examples are the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations associated with breast and ovarian cancer, but scientists believe many more such defects are unknown. "I don't know if I'm one of those 5 percent. I don't know if you're one of those 5 percent," Brenner says, "And we don't really have a quick and easy test to find those individuals." [NPR]
Furthermore, the UCSF researchers write in their letter, older passengers are more susceptible to mutagenic effects of x-rays, and "the risk of radiation emission to children and adolescents does not appears to have been fully evaluated."
The topic brings us to today's Tweet of the Day (so far):
3) IS MARRIAGE OBSOLETE?
Four in 10 people say marriage is obsolete, according to a new poll today from Pew Research. Americans are less likely to be married now that at any time in the nation's history.
And yet, a majority of people say single women having children is "a bad thing."
Defending marriage: A New Jersey pastor says adultery and Facebook go hand in hand.
4) REAL MINNESOTA
Meet the real Minnesota Twins from Dexter.
5) MYSTERY MISSILE
We now have proof that the "mystery missile" off the California coast last week was, as some experts claimed, a jet contrail. An image from space captured the contrail, proving that it wasn't something going up, it was going sideways, apparently at the same altitude.
Bonus: Fox boss: NPR execs are Nazis. The overuse of the allegation of being a "Nazi" in recent years has taken most of the sting out of what it means to actually be a Nazi.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE DAY
I first passed this along on Monday, but now that it's embeddable, here:
The University of Minnesota is in the process of selecting a new president. Today's Question: If you ran the University of Minnesota, what three things would you do to make it better?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Posting may be a little thin this morning. I'm spending it with a journalism class at East Ridge High School in Woodbury.
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: One of the great challenges for educators is the widening achievement gap between students of different races and different economic backgrounds. The directors of two charter schools join Midmorning to discuss their efforts to close that gap and create a culture of achievement among minority and low-income students
Second hour: When popular public figures fail us with a faux pas or massive mistake, some lose face and disappear from sight, but a special few are more resilient. How are these redeemed able to polish their image back up and should the public forgive them at all.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Nina Archabal, the longtime director of the MN Historical Society who is stepping down.
Second hour: Live broadcast from Westminster Town Hall Forum. David Eisenhowe talks about his new book about his grandfather, President Dwight Eisenhower.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Michael Korda on his new biography, Hero. It's the story of Lawrence of Arabia.
Second hour: Balancing privacy and security on the airport security line.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - U of M regents publicly interview Eric Kaler, the sole finalist to succeed president Robert Bruininks. MPR's Tim Post is covering the event.
Isn't this just the greatest picture ever?
It's astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson looking out the window of the International Space Station. Click for a larger image, especially if you ever had a dream of going into space, and looking back at our home.
One of the attached comments is equally thought-provoking:
Why can't people just stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and just look at the beauty of our planet just for a few minutes; to see it in all it's wonder.
But so is another:
Very beautiful who would have thought it was full of crazies.
Here's a little video company for your lunch today. Food courts can make you sick. A Today Show reporter finds more than 60-percent of the vendors in the food court at the Mall of America have had violations since 2009.
The MOA response was well hidden on the Today Show web site:
Statement from Mall of America spokesperson Dan Jasper:
"Our goal at Mall of America is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all of our guests. With more than 40 million visitors a year enjoying our more than 500 retail stores and 60 restaurants, we recognize that exceeding our own expectations is not always easy. However, it is a challenge we have embraced for our 18 years of operation, and a challenge we fully expect our tenants to embrace along with us. Mall of America restaurants are inspected regularly by the City of Bloomington and held to the highest standards. The inspection process serves a vital role -- to protect the health of all of us. While Mall of America management is not involved in the inspection process, we take such violation notifications very seriously and work with tenants to make sure the problem is corrected. All violations cited in the NBC report were addressed promptly by our tenants. The City has an inspection process to follow up on violations cited.
"That said, we take several steps to ensure a continued safe food environment, including: Our tenants take prompt action when notified of any violations or issues. We have instituted a texting campaign that will allow guests to quickly and easily share any concerns they have regarding food safety or cleanliness issues; texts will be monitored during all operational hours, with responses to the guest, as well as the tenant. We contract with a well respected professional firm to identify and resolve any pest issues. The City of Bloomington gives awards each year for outstanding food safety. Several of our tenants have received this award and as landlords we sponsor this award and encourage all of our restaurants to participant. Mall of America has always taken the safety of our guests seriously, and we will continue to do so. We remain committed to responding quickly to any issue whether we discover them, are notified by the City or by a guest. We do everything within our power to resolve all issues promptly."
The only way to really come close to understanding the scale of the pilgrimage to Mecca is to click the image for a larger view. And even that doesn't do it justice.
This AP photo shows Muslim pilgrims on their way to throw cast stones at a pillar, symbolizing the stoning of Satan, in a ritual called "Jamarat," the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina near the Saudi holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010.
The Boston Globe's The Big Picture has many more images, including one showing thousands of tents set up to handle some of the crowd. Each one has air conditioning.(3 Comments)
Today's surprise announcement that Eagan is going to lose 650 jobs is certainly an invitation to revisit the simple proverbs of the recently completed campaign season.
Six-hundred-and-fifty jobs? That's a lot of people working and spending money. Is the impact of losing them going to be any less just because they were jobs created with government money?
Lockheed Martin, the largest defense contractor in the world, makes the avionics systems for the P-1 marine surveillance plane. It's a private company, of course, that employs the people because the U.S. and other nations wage wars and/or have huge defense budgets.
There's a little something for everyone in today's announcement. Except for the people losing their jobs.
The reality of how intertwined jobs are with government spending becomes more clear, and more confusing. Liberals, for example, might point out that conservatives are for less government spending and this is what happens when government spends less; that the claim that "government doesn't create jobs" is wrong. They could even point out that the jobs are going to three states, two of which are rated in the top 10 of business-unfriendly states.
But conservatives could equally point out that liberals who want the U.S. to cut its defense budget will cost people their jobs. And that peace thing? War employs people even as it bankrupts a treasury.
In the complex nature of the economy, where does the government part end and the private part begin?
In other unemployment news today, Republicans in the House have blocked a bill
that would have extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed beyond the holiday season.Two million people will lose benefits averaging $310 a week nationwide by the end of the year.
A business professor in Florida has figured out that several hundred of his students have been cheating, so he gave them a lecture they may remember -- if we're lucky -- for the rest of their lives.
He told the students -- he used statistical analysis to identify them -- that if they admitted to the cheating, and if they took a four-hour ethics class, they wouldn't be kicked out of school.
Two-hundred have come forward so far.
It would have been great if the camera had caught the expressions on the kids' faces.
The other lesson for students: Kids, some adults are smarter than you are.(8 Comments)
How deeply involved in radio and TV station programming should politicians be?
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposal that would have barred local public radio and TV stations from buying any programming from NPR (formerly "National Public Radio").
The House has rejected a Republican push to block public stations from using their Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants to buy NPR programming, voting not to take up the matter. NPR receives little direct government funding, but would have lost a significant part of its funding with the end of CPB-funded programming purchases.
The attempt to block NPR funding came after a poll on the Republican YouCut website showed it as the top choice among respondents for a spending cut. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (VA) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in a joint statement also cited NPR's abrupt firing of analyst Juan Williams -- a liberal commentator who also appears regularly on Fox News -- as proof of political bias at the public broadcaster. Williams was fired after he said on Fox that he gets "nervous" when seeing Muslims in traditional dress at airports.
The proposal will likely make a return appearance once Republicans take control of the House next year.
Make no mistake about it, this is topic #1 in public broadcasting circles. They're very worried that their budgets will be cut by the loss of CPB funds (which come primarily through government grants).
But the threat of it is a big stick that politicians carry, not unlike the one it uses on Major League Baseball through its granting of an anti-trust exemption. Congress has constantly threatened to pull the anti-trust exemption to extract action from this private business (that's why Washington keeps getting baseball teams after it continually proves it shouldn't have one). If they ever actually followed through on the threat, Congress would be giving up power.
(Here's a list of how CPB money is presently allocated in Minnesota)
The Minnesota Supreme Court may listen to arguments on Monday over a claim from Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer that could throw out some ballots that were cast on Election Day.
In a filing on Wednesday, Emmer's legal team cited 11 election judges who say they didn't see reconciliation happen correctly in the precincts where they worked. Under "reconciliation," officials count the number of signatures in the voter logs and compare it to the number of votes cast.
Who are these "election judges?" They're people with some skin in the game, the Minnesota Independent is reporting today. It could not find links to the Republican Party or the tea party on only two of the 11 witnesses.
That doesn't necessarily mean the claim is without merit. But David Schultz, a professor at Hamline University, says it suggests a shaky assertion. "From a legal point of view, it suggests the petition doesn't have much merit," he told MnIndy.