Five at 8 – 1/21/10: When people surprise us

1) People can surprise you sometimes, especially when it comes to politics. You think you know everything about someone, just because of the people they hang around with. And the next thing you know, you find out they have a mind of their own, an independent streak, you might say. Scott Brown? No. Cindy McCain, wife of the former presidential candidate.

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She played the political wife. Nobody knew the independent streak that hid behind the image.

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She’s lent her name and picture to NOH8, a gay rights group challenging Proposition 8 passed by California voters in 2008 banning same sex marriage. Her husband says he respects her views but remains opposed to same-sex marriage.

Politics makes strange…

2) Sometimes people don’t surprise you, however. “It’s completely untrue, ridiculous,” former presidential candidate John Edwards said of a published report in October 2007 that he had an affair with a campaign staffer. He later admitted that was untrue. But he denied he was the father of the child the woman had.

“I’ve seen a picture of the baby. I have no idea. It doesn’t look like my children but I don’t have any idea,” Elizabeth Edwards told Oprah Winfrey last year.

She knows now. Today, he admitted he lied about that, too.

Federal authorities are reportedly investigating whether Edwards used campaign cash as “hush money” in the affair. He denies the allegation.

Meanwhile, NBC overnight agreed to end its marriage with Conan O’Brien, after acknowledging its affair with Jay Leno.

NBC will pay $45 million in alimony. O’Brien’s last show will be Friday.

3) 123456. The chances are that’s one of the passwords you use in your online world. A researcher examined passwords stolen from an online site and found the most popular ones are pretty much the same ones from the 90s. More than 30 million people use 123456. Second-most popular is 12345. “Nowadays, we have to keep probably 10 times as many passwords in our head as we did 10 years ago,” said Jeff Moss, who founded a popular hacking conference and is now on the Homeland Security Advisory Council. “Voice mail passwords, A.T.M. PINs and Internet passwords — it’s so hard to keep track of.”

4) When MPR News examined Minnesota’s mental health system a few years ago, one constant complaint was the state’s inability to attract mental health care providers to the state. Parents were waiting months to get help for their children.

The Legislature changed some laws to fix the problem, but as MPR’s Tom Robertson reports, lawmakers left out three words — mental health professional — in the legislation which created a new class of mental health counselors. The problem has been fixed, but now a rural mental health expert laments that Minnesota’s economy is undermining whatever progress the state has made toward getting people the help they need.

“Money in Minnesota, as you may have noticed, is getting a little tight. We can’t expect the state to come up with a lot of bucks to train anybody anymore. It’s just going to get tougher and tougher, I’m afraid,” he said.

With the Legislature about to start its session, the lament illuminates one of the state’s other problems — no firm vision. Will the state end up being where the money available takes us? Or do we have a specific vision of what and where we want to be in, say, 5 years? What’s yours?

5) A study out today shows that people who are good at video games might have bigger sections of the brain. Possible conclusion: You don’t have to accept the brain you’re born with, researchers say.

Bonus: Do you have any use for an Airbus 320? Most everything has been stripped from it, but it’s going to be auctioned off in an auction open to the general public. Perhaps you’ve heard of this plane.

TODAY’S QUESTION

Each year, roughly 35,000 Minnesotans are convicted of driving drunk, and about 524,000 Minnesotans have such a conviction on their records. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has proposed tougher sanctions against drunk drivers. What should Minnesota do to reduce the number of DWI offenses?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Posting will be a little light today. I’m heading to Wrenshall this afternoon to meet what I presume are an intriguing group of high school girls, who are showing up for basketball practice, again, today, even though there’s little hope they’ll win a game. They lost a game a week or so ago by 106 points.

Then tomorrow, I’m heading for New Orleans. I hear there’s a football game there.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: President Obama entered office as the dire effects of the worst recession in decades washed through the economy. But rescuing the financial system wasn’t the only job the Obama administration took on in its first year. A look back at what happened to the domestic policy agenda.

Second hour: Health care reform legislation: where does it go from here?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Congressional expert Steven Smith of Washington University discusses the new politics of the health care debate in Washington.

Second hour: Two documentaries about little-known parts of Minnesota history. The first is about Sister Kenny, the Minnesota nurse who took on the medical establishment and helped thousands of polio survivors. A play, “Sister Kenny’s Children” opens Saturday at the History Theater in St. Paul. The second, called “No Jews Allowed,” looks back at anti-Semitism in Minneapolis in the ’30s and ’40s.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The future of health care overhaul.

Second hour: Searching for the roots of extremism.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Half a million Americans are sitting in jail today. They haven’t been convicted. They haven’t even been tried. They just can’t make bail. The bail system is broken. It strands inmates in jail, and costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year. NPR will look into the situation.

Duluth airplane manufacturer Cirrus Design begins the year on the heels of a recession-forced corporate rebuilding. Company officials are optimistic they’ll weather the rest of the downturn; eventually returning to production levels of two years ago; but they face challenges maintaining just the right inventory; keeping cash on hand; and trying to develop an expensive personal jet. MPR’s Bob Kelleher will report.

Gov. Pawlenty holds a $250 a person fundraiser tonight in Minneapolis. The timing is important because the legislative session begins in just two weeks. Normally, Gov. Pawlenty wouldn’t be allowed to accept any contributions from Minnesota-based lobbyists or political committees during a legislation session, but the restrictions aren’t as harsh on the federal level. That has some calling on Pawlenty to not take money from any lobbyists or PACs during session. MPR’s Tom Scheck will have the story.

  • Deb

    Yes, Cindy McCain has surprised me in a good way. Regarding John Edwards, I don’t know how he can stand to live with himself.