Five at 8 – 7/10/09

1) The pick of the day is clearly Dan Gunderson’s tour of a former North Dakota missile silo. It’s not the first look we’ve had underground. Former MPR reporter Cara Hetland gave us a similar tour in September 2001. Unfortunately, the multimedia tour that went with it has been orphaned by all the moving of servers and redesigns over the years. I suppose it was only fitting that the story of these relics was told via a RealPlayer presentation. History lesson for you whippersnappers: These were massive, powerful weapons that could be stopped by a third-grader’s desk.

2) Calculations. How can you wipe out your credit card debt? “The Fed’s free credit card calculator that shows how long it would take you to pay off your card debt at its current interest rate if you made only the minimum monthly payment, along with the grand total of how much you’d pay in finance charges over that time,” Consumer Reports says.

I love online calculators. Here’s another: The Liquid Candy Tax Calculator, from a group that wants taxes on soda… err, pop. Playing with it a bit shows it would take $1 a can to pay for the cost of medical care for obese Minnesotans.

3) New technology in baseball, says the New York Times:


A new camera and software system in its final testing phases will record the exact speed and location of the ball and every player on the field, allowing the most digitized of sports to be overrun anew by hundreds of innovative statistics that will rate players more accurately, almost certainly affect their compensation and perhaps alter how the game itself is played.

The new gizmo will reveal that the Twins need a secondbaseman who can hit.

4) Most experts agree “drug court” has been a success in Minnesota. Here’s a related court: Family Dependency Court. In Mankato this week, Michael Bakke became the first graduate in Blue Earth County, the Mankato Free Press reports.


But some people commit crimes because they’re addicted to alcohol or other drugs, or because they have mental health problems, (Judge Kurt) Johnson said. When those problems are addressed, the criminal behavior usually stops.

The financial benefit, of course, is participants who are successful become productive members of the community instead of a drain on law enforcement and social services resources, he added.

“We’re helping people,” Johnson said. “We’re actually making a difference in people’s lives instead of taking their kids away or throwing them in jail.”

5) Why do Scandinavians write such great crime fiction? It’s a peaceful spot of the earth. You know the people are gentle (when they’re not merging on the highways). “Scandinavia is a bleak, ungodly, extraordinarily violent place to live. The capitals are seething hot pots of murder,” Nathaniel Rich says on Slate.com. Oh.

Follow-up: The Pennsylvania pool story isn’t over yet.
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TODAY’S QUESTION

Have women achieved equality in American politics?

Recommended commentary: For Iranians in the streets, ‘landslide’ was humiliating lie

WHAT WE’RE DOING

I hope to have an MPR News Cut Quiz by mid-afternoon. I’ve got a few questions in mind and, of course, they’re going to be maddeningly hard. If you have a news-based question you’d like me to consider, send it in. Appropriate credit and riches will be given.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – How much do you know about science. Take the Pew Center quiz, then listen to Midmorning’s first hour and find out you don’t know much. At 10: The magic of the circus. The guest is James Tanabe, assistant artistic director of Cirque du Soleil and a Rochester, Minn., native. The circus is playing in Lowertown in St. Paul.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – Sort through the economy in the first hour with economics professor Louis Johnston of St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict. Second hour: Veterinarian Dr. Kate An Hunter and her dog Ansel will be in the studio to answer questions about your pets. Sniff. We had to put our dog down a couple of weeks ago.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – It’s Science Friday! The talk turns to a form

of ebolavirus carried in pigs. Plus, reforming health care reform, and how the

personal life of presidents can shape healthcare policy. In the second hour: How the snack industry designs the snacks you crave.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Some students in Northfield have taken years to research and write a visitor’s guide to the Jesse James gang’s time in Northfield and Southern Minnesota. MPR’s Tom Weber will have their story this afternoon.

MPR’s Mark Steil says personal wind mills are going up faster than big wind farms, but the individuals who build them are often disappointed that they get less power than expected. That reminds me of a story in the eastern ‘burbs. In Woodbury, a new school wants to power itself with a windmill. The trouble it’s having getting permission to build it shows why wind energy in populated areas may be a lost cause.

NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli, the most enjoyable name to say in all of the news business, has details of the meeting today between the Pope and the president. Robert Siegel talks to a couple of people who have invented the “coil guitar,” the next generation of electric guitars.

Guitars provides today’s discussion point. United Airlines broke Dave Carroll’s guitar last year but the story since has been the company’s response, which led to Dave’s response:

Question: In a time of economic troubles for most company’s, why have so many American corporations, filled with smart execs, figured out the economic benefit or providing great customer service?

Give us a story of a business you’ll patronize forever because of the service they gave to you. Maybe some of the smart execs are reading.