The new NewsCut (5×8 – 5/30/13)

Blog housekeeping, is reading or math more important, the people who disappear, what might have been for Bachmann, and paying it back.


At some point tomorrow, this page will no longer exist, at least in the style to which you’ve become accustomed. Gone will be the big red banner and also gone, hopefully, will be some of the limitations of the blog design, which we’ve been using since October 16, 2007.

If you look at some of the other blogs on our site (Stadium Watch, for example), you can see what’s in store. The font will be larger and more readable, and it is designed to be better read on phones and tablets. Things will format properly on those devices and the load time will be significantly reduced.

We’re also ditching the current system of comments and we will be using Disqus, the global commenting system which also allows you to share discussions on Facebook or Twitter. I’m hoping this will increase the amount of daily discussion we have in this space.

The old comments (and all of the old posts) will be imported into the new system, but there might be delays in bringing some of the comments over.

In the coming months, I’d love to increase the two-way nature of NewsCut, getting more ideas for posts and interviews from you and observations from you.


The national spelling bee has opened. For several days a year we learn how much smarter some young kids are than we might be. It’s even worse this year; they have to know the meaning of the word too, the Associated Press reports:

The first 20 spellers breezed through words such as “mandir,” “Eocene” and “tertiary” before the telltale bell rang for the first time when Alan Shi of Irvine, Calif., put an “s” instead of a “c” at the start of “cynosure.” The first to be eliminated, Alan was uncertain which way to go until officials directed him to the offstage comfort couch to be met by a parent.

The mere mention of “spelling bee” inspired a charming note from Gordon Schesel of Mahtomedi:

I was a regional winner from small town Wisconsin way back in 1961. An 8th grader, we traveled to Minneapolis for the final contest; held at the now demolished Hotel Leamington. Sadly, or not, I recall not progressing very far; I think there was a written word contest first, which is where my experience ended.

My mom, now age 96, cheered me up with a new bicycle from the Coast to Coast store. Of course, I had to share it with my 5 younger siblings.

This is also the occasion when we consider the value of things like spelling and reading and math. The New York Times reports today that fretting over math skills might be misplaced; it’s actually reading that needs attention.

Teachers and administrators who work with children from low-income families say one reason teachers struggle to help these students improve reading comprehension is that deficits start at such a young age: in the 1980s, the psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley found that by the time they are 4 years old, children from poor families have heard 32 million fewer words than children with professional parents.

By contrast, children learn math predominantly in school.

“Your mother or father doesn’t come up and tuck you in at night and read you equations,” said Geoffrey Borman, a professor at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin. “But parents do read kids bedtime stories, and kids do engage in discussions around literacy, and kids are exposed to literacy in all walks of life outside of school.”


How is it we lose track of people who were once close to us? That question permeates the Fargo Forum story this morning of Paul Hatchett, a star football player in North Dakota in the 1960s who played his last game in 1969 and then was rarely heard from again.

A sister hadn’t heard from him in a years and years. A Minneapolis man was one of the few people to try, apparently.

Hatchett was descending into a life of crime, prison, and homelessness.

There are those who believe Hatchett’s nice side was close to steering him down a lawful path in the late ’60s and early ’70s. His mother, Margaret, in a questionnaire that was on file at NDSU, wrote after the 1968 season that the reason Paul picked NDSU was because “it is a great little school and he loves it.”

He was president of a Red Cross club in high school at Minneapolis Central. He worked with underprivileged kids at a community center in Minneapolis, according to a document from the NDSU sports information office.

“He was really fond of kids,” Washington said. “He even took my son to the circus.”

Washington said he worked out with Hatchett in the summer months of his college career. He painted a picture of an athlete who worked to exhaustion.

“He was the kind of guy who wouldn’t brag,” he said.

He died Monday at age 64.


What’s left to say after Rep. Michele Bachmann’s announcement that she’s not running for re-election? That she had a chance to change American politics, and she blew it, the New York Times’ Michael D. Shear says. He cites three examples.

MPR’s Conrad Wilson suggests Republicans may be as happy to see her go as Democrats.5) PAYING IT BACK

Muji Karim was badly injured in a car crash in August 2011. He was a former football star but both of his legs had to be amputated.

When he was in the hospital, another man who had been badly burned years before told him he could — as the Boston Globe described — “choose to spend the next months worrying that he wouldn’t run or play football again, that he wouldn’t get married or have a life apart from his injuries — but if Karim thought that way, Pessotti warned, he would indeed be disabled.”

It worked. He was walking in a few weeks and he decided that if he could ever help somebody else the way he was helped, he would.

And then came the Boston marathon bombing.

Watch the video. You’ll feel better.

Meanwhile, From the Department of “If people were more like dogs…”

Bonus I: Confessions of a stay-at-home dad. (Wall St. Journal)

Bonus II: There was a time when it would be local news if a Vining, Minnesota woman became only the 9th woman to make a long-duration trip in space.


Is Al Franken doing a good job in the U.S. Senate?


I’m on the road to Brainerd today so posting will be light.

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Two-thirds of all pending disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs have been sitting there longer than 125 days. Members of Congress, veterans’ groups and even Comedy Central’s The Daily Show have focused their attention on this issue and some are calling for President Obama to replace Eric Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs. What’s the cause of the backlog, and what’s being done to alleviate the problem?

Second hour: Van Jones, a former advisor to President Obama on green jobs, was in town earlier this month addressing a local think tank about environmental issues and his thoughts on the movement. In an earlier Washington Post article, he talked about diversity within the environmental movement. “We essentially have a racially segregated environmental movement,” said Van Jones, co-founder of the nonprofit Rebuild the Dream and a former adviser on green jobs to the Obama administration. “We’re too polite to say that. Instead, we say we have an environmental justice movement and a mainstream movement.” Is this true; is the environmental movement hampered by its “too-white” image? What is the “big issue” that can unite the clean air mainstream and the environmental justice arms of the movement?

Third hour: Tom Weber speaks with the director and one of the subjects of a new documentary that looks at the lives of people who were the sole survivors of commercial aviation disasters.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Kathleen Hall Jamieson at a University of Minnesota speech titled, “The Attack on Fact: American Politics and the Loss of Accountability.”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The war in Syria, and Hezbollah’s role.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Minnesota has long been home to the headquarters of big companies, leading to a flourishing Twin Cities advertising production industry. But some modeling and casting companies say they’ve hit a hurdle that’s causing them to lose business: They have a hard time finding Hispanic people to appear in ads. And companies are demanding a more diverse look to lure consumers. MPR’s Rupa Shenoy will have the story.

Sasha Aslanian looks at the Obama administration’s big anti-poverty effort in North Minneapolis to evaluate how it is — or isn’t — working.

This weekend soprano Dawn Upshaw wraps up six years as an artistic partner at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. She says it’s a bittersweet moment for her, particularly given the recent lockout. However she has enjoyed a close artistic collaboration with the musicians at the orchestra, and looks forward to hearing them play as an audience member. MPR’s Euan Kerr will have the story.