1) WHERE TO START?
After almost a week, this is the image I still can't process.
Where do you start to put your life back together? How do you not give up?
We have a few inches of snow in the winter, and we treat it like a tragedy. But this, of course, really is a tragedy -- three of them.
There have been some interesting conversations I've been having on some of the social networking sites about how we -- Americans -- would respond to this and it's against the backdrop of that hypothetical that we hear the stories of how the Japanese are approaching this.
NPR's Rob Gifford, in his report last evening, talked to a teacher. Many of his students are missing. "I'm very, very sad," he said, pausing and then adding, "but thank you very much for coming."
How do we honor that?
Today, all evidence points to a worsening nuclear meltdown in Japan and more media are focusing on what it means for us (it's all about us). According to the Center for Global Research.
The Pacific jetstream is currently flowing due east directly toward the United States. In the event of a major meltdown and continuous large-volume radioactive release, airborne particles will be carried across the ocean in bands that will cross over the southern halves of Oregon, Montana and Idaho, all of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, the Dakotas, northern Nebraska and Iowa and ending in Wisconsin and Illinois, with possible further eastward drift depending on surface wind direction.
It doesn't pose a significant health risk for the U.S., we're told. But that isn't stopping some people from overreacting.
2) SOUTH BY ST. PAUL
South by Southwest -- SXSW -- is a sprawling event in Austin but St. Paul is getting some attention there, the blog TechDirt reports. A new documentary on the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul is being screened there focusing on the role of informant Brandon Darby, who was a key to the arrest of two men for making Molotov cocktails.
... the documentary really highlights the ridiculous nature of government prosecutions in cases such as this. In the last few months, we've seen multiple stories, that have a familiar ring to them, involving the FBI busting up "bomb plots" that appear as if they would not have existed if the FBI had not become involved. In other words, multiple cases where it appears that the FBI found people who would have had no capability to actually do any damage, and then were enabled by the FBI or partners to put those people in a position where they could be arrested for preparing to do "acts" that they otherwise would not have been able to do. Is that entrapment? It certainly comes close to the borderline.
Variety gives the film the thumbs up:
Playing out against the high drama of the GOP gathering in St. Paul, Minn., compounded by the U.S. policy of targeting terrorists as a top priority, "Better This World" delivers the kind of case study, rich in national and personal dimensions, that would have made the New Journalists of the '60s and '70s swoon. In a sense, the film represents the next generation of that movement in subject and style: The street-based opponents of the GOP vividly recall Vietnam-era protesters, and the film integrates facts and re-enactments, as well as some clearly prearranged scenes, to tell its story.
Darby, by the way, is suing the New York Times for defamation because of this story which
revealed him as the informant. He objects to the Times' claimed that he encouraged the two men to make Molotov cocktails. (Correction: An earlier link led to an incorrect reference to the New York Times in question. The article cited by Darby's suit was a February 22, 2011 article, to which a correction was later appended. I apologize for the error of the incorrect reference. There is no challenge to the accuracy of the January 9, 2009 story at the original link, which described Mr. Darby's acknowledgment that he was a government informant for the FBI during the period leading up to the convention in St. Paul.)
Yesterday was a lousy day for public radio. First, Garrison Keillor announced he would retire in 2013. He's money in the bank for public radio stations around the country and while they might all talk about developing new programming, they've known Keillor wasn't going to live forever for years and they still haven't come up with a program to be a cornerstone of their non-NPR-News broadcast schedule.
Why not? It's a complicated process but here's a story that might explain it. Several years ago, when I was running this website, the Smithsonian asked for a copy of the very first broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion. Because that constituted a news story, I dug out the copy, encoded it for online listening, and posted it on the site. An hour later, the boss (no longer with the company, but it's not related) ordered it taken down.
Frankly, it wasn't very good and though I never heard from Keillor, I wondered whether he was embarrassed by the broadcast the way many of us in the business are embarrassed by our early work. There were technical difficulties, the main guest was a WCCO weatherman, and there was, then, no Guy's All Star Shoe Band.
When media companies are small, they can afford to play with ideas -- they didn't have that many listeners anyway. A show can get the time to find its legs. But I wondered whether A Prairie Home Companion in that early form could get on the air today. I suspect not for the same reason good TV shows can't stay on the air anymore. There's too much at stake and the time is short to garner an audience.
From the sound of things on Marianne Combs' blog, Keillor intends to keep his company alive and is said to be searching for a host. How'd you like to be the person to replace Garrison Keillor? How would you prepare for such a role? By having people shout at your every few seconds, "you're no Garrison Keillor!"
Then, yesterday, Congressional Republicans figured out a new way to hamstring public radio stations when they unveiled -- and held a hearing on short notice -- a plan to strip funding for NPR programming. Affiliate stations would be prevented from using taxpayer money to buy programming from other public radio stations. The cash could only be used for administrative costs.
Meanwhile, current.org carries the transcript of a lecture given to NPR board members by an independent radio producer who suggests it's time for the network to expand its audience, which requires acknowledging politicians may be right.
In other public radio news: Today is the 19th anniversary of my first MPR job interview. St. Paul is holding a big parade to celebrate.
Sarah Betzler was jogging on Highway 61 near Duluth on Sunday when she thought she was hit by a car. It turned out to be a flying deer, the News Tribune reports.
A truck had hit the deer and sent it flying into Betzler. The truck kept driving, ignoring Betzler.
"I remember trying to wave at that truck a little bit to say, 'Hey, you know, I was here, come help me,' but ... they just kept on driving," Betzler said. "That road there is so wide that there's no way he could have missed (seeing) me. He had to have seen me for about a half-mile at least, if not a mile. That's how straight and wide it is right there."
5) WE CAN LEARN A LOT FROM DOGS
Bonus: Reality TV doesn't particularly challenge the brain. So why did some version of the SAT tests given to people who want to be educated require them to know something about reality TV? It was one of the essay questions on the test, the Times says.
A bill that would ban human cloning in Minnesota is making its way through the Legislature. The bill's sponsor says he is promoting it as a preventive measure. Does Minnesota need a law to prohibit human cloning?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Considered an epidemic by addiction experts and policy makers, prescription drug abuse is sweeping the nation. How has it become so widespread, and what can be do to stop it?
Second hour: Author Wesley Stace is better known to music fans as John Wesley Harding. He joins Midmorning to talk about his new novel and the difference between writing songs and writing novels.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: The politics of the federal budget.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Update from Japan.
Second hour: The ethics of prisoners and organ donation,
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - The Senate is expected to approve a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating another three weeks. It cuts spending by $6 billion. We'll hear from some of Minnesota's delegation in Washington and what's being cut and what they want to protect from cuts.
MPR's Tim Post reports that the University of Minnesota is considering mothballing or demolishing more than a dozen buildings on its Twin Cities campus. U of M officials say it's an effort to save money by reducing the amount of space the college takes care of. But some of the buildings are historic and that has preservationists concerned.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota say proposed human cloning legislation would make the state the first in the nation to ban embryonic stem cell research. What would it mean to the U's research? MPR's Lorna Benson will report.(10 Comments)
Robert Stephens -- for the record, a member of the MPR Board of Directors -- has uploaded this video he shot at today's massive gas line explosion at 58th and Nicollet.
WCCO also has a gallery of images submitted by its viewers.(3 Comments)
The NCAA basketball tournament got underway today, and though we aren't big college basketball fans, we fully understand the needs of the considerable News Cut audience -- brackets.
Today, an expert on statistics at the University of Minnesota gave away all of his secrets during a live chat at the Washington Post. Brad Carlin, a biostatistician, developed the Poologic Calculator. Fill in the data, and it spits out a bracket for you.
You think this is all just a game played by people who take the easy credits? Here's Carlin's response to the question of whether injuries are affecting the chances of a mid-seed team in the tournament?
I think there is room in the statistical modeling of these games to account for things like autocorrelation -- e.g., a team like KSU that started poorly but is playing better lately (UConn might be another example). A lot of the current methods probably assume the games are all independent, but that's probably an oversimplification. Time series methods could be used to account for the 'streakiness' in some teams' performance and thus do a better job of predicting who's going to persist in the tourney.
Well, yeah, obviously.
Good luck with your bracket.
Live-blogging the highlights of today's debate over stripping NPR of funding and prohibiting public radio stations from using public funding to purchase programming.
Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass: "They want to move to radio silence and when the American people find out about that, they're going to be outraged."
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn: "It is a wealthy, educated listening audience. If people want this programming, they're going to be willing to pay for it but the American taxpayer has said, 'get NPR out of our pocket.' They have some sponsors that land in the $1 million plus category."
Rep. John Dingel, D-Mich., "Public broadcast is a national treasure... It sheds a little bit of culture on our people, something my Republican colleagues find offensive."
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon: "It's not going to stop NPR, which will go on. What it will cripple is what happens in smaller stations around the country."
Rep. John Larson, D-CT: "Americans are seeing through this... it's an ideological purge under the guise of dealing with the deficit... What they are doing is silencing NPR because it's not on the same ideological frequency as the extreme right."
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-CA. "I guess they figure if they can't catch Bin Laden, they might as well go after Prairie Home Companion. Public broadcasting is twice as popular as the Afghanistan war.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas: "These Republicans just can't tell the difference between Big Government and Big Bird. All things considered, their attack has nothing to do with balancing the budget.
Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fl. " The CEO of Sesame Street makes $956 million. Are we serious?
Rep. Renee Ellmers R-NC: "The bill would prohibit public radio from using federal funds for the production or acquisition of programming. I don't believe NPR has the right to public funds to our hard-earned taxpayer dollars when they have funding from private interests.
Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ: "Saying factual information is somehow a liberal bias... we talk about the need for a well-informed public. Today there was a news report on the slow progress the Army is making on seeing that the wounded soldiers get their Purple Heart. This is good reporting. The other side seems to think this is... wait, wait, don't tell me.... biased reporting. We need NPR."
Rep. Carolyn Mahoney, D-NY: "Those who primarily listen to NPR were considerably less likely to hold demonstrably false beliefs. So now our colleagues across the country want to pull the plug on NPR... our colleagues want to fire the messenger. (It) is not a move to save money; it's a move to save face."
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn: (Closing) This bill isn't about taking NPR off the air. What it simply says is if you are an affiliate station and you want to pay NPR dues, you can't use taxpayer dollars. If you want to buy NPR programming, you can't use taxpayer dollars for that. There's plenty of popular programming out there... if listeners like the NPR that they have, they can keep it. They need to raise the money for this.
(Their audience) is college educated, the average household income is $86,000 a year... NPR has said they don't need our taxpayer funding. There are 17 different positions attached to creating one hour radio show. There are talented people all over this nation who would love to have a platform that they would like to create. The time has come for us to claw back this money... and send a message.
1:44 p.m. - Democrats try to amend the bill to allow public radio to air Amber Alerts, presumably using taxpayer funding.
Rep. Blackburn: "This is a procedural move to try to derail the funding to NPR. There's nothing in the bill preventing Amber Alerts. (Amendment defeated. A 15-minute roll call vote follows)
2:15 p.m. - On a quick voice vote, Democrats out-shout Republicans on the bill, but a roll call has now been ordered.
2:23 p.m. - The bill defunding NPR has passed 228-192. One congressperson voted "present."
Here's the roll call.(21 Comments)