Five at 8 – 6/25/09

Greetings. Thanks for putting a little extra work into finding News Cut this morning. Enjoy the new design. One feature of it is the Daily Question from Eric Ringham and Anna Weggel. Today: What should government health care look like?

Now then…

I don’t have a Thursday Morning Rouser, so let’s just call this the song of the day, instead:

1) Mark Malkoff, who has a general fear of flying, is spending 30 days flying on an AirTran jet. It’s Day 25 and he says he’s still sane. The Crankly Flyer blog interviewed him from the lav yesterday (Listen). Here’s his Web site and his Twitter feed. It’s been awhile since we’ve collected your “flying horror stories” (Use comments below) and this would be a good day. In the Star Tribune today, columnist Gail Rosenblum revealed the “expert” security lines are, in fact, not.

Mrs. News Cut reported her flight from Minneapolis to Hartford yesterday was a disaster, thanks to the sweaty fat guy in the seat next to her, who spilled into her seat, and had to put his leg under the seat in front of hers, who snored with his mouth open, and had bad breath. Southwest gets a lot of grief for requiring passengers like that to buy two seats. This column in an Australia paper notes for the historical record today that Boeing — quickly becoming the latest American basket case — set the standard size of an airline seat in 1954.

2) Pick of the week: Drop what you’re doing and listen to the episode of Fresh Air, which ran on Minnesota Public Radio last evening. It was a compelling discussion of what happens to soldiers after they’re killed in a war — right after they’re killed in war. Captain Craig T. Mallak, a pathologist and lawyer who is also the chief of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, described how the physical and sometimes virtual autopsies of soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan have not only assisted in the design of body armor, helmets and vehicle shields, but medical equipment as well.

3) To embed or not to embed? It’s an ethical question for journalists that isn’t asked much these days. But today is one of those days. The U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry unit in Mosul “barred a Stars & Stripes reporter from embedding with one of its units in that still hinky northern city. Military flacks justified the disbarment by citing a March story from the reporter that ‘refused to highlight’ what amounted to good news the Army was doing in Mosul. They also said he ‘behaved unprofessionally’ and wouldn’t answer questions about stories he was writing,” the Baghdad Observer reports. Easy answer, right? Of course you don’t embed. But it’s not so simple because if you don’t embed, and get the protection afforded, you stand a good chance of getting killed or kidnapped.

I read the Stripes’ reporter’s March story that got the 1st Cav brass PO’d at him. I’d have written it much the same way. I thought it was a good piece of journalism. Not sure why the military got its knickers twisted to the point of banning a guy who works in a business that buys ink by the barrel–though those cheap little pixels are now trying to take us down.

Meanwhile, Stars and Stripes has the story today of a soldier who’s fighting in Iraq while the government tries to deport his wife.

But here’s the bigger story:

“I probably get one of these calls a week,” said Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, an Army reservist who works with the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “It’s a military readiness problem. The spouses are over there, stressing out about what’s happening back home. They can’t focus because they’re worried about where their wives will end up.”

4) It’s getting harder to figure out what economic news that sounds like good news is actually good news. Home sales are up, we’re told, and that’s good news. Or is it?

Realtor Teresa Boardman, who writes the St. Paul Real Estate blog, has crunched the numbers and has a different take.

Some see the increase in sales as a sign that the housing market is on the rebound. I don’t see it that way. I think the numbers mean that a bunch of foreclosures sold because the prices were so low and the tax incentive helped fuel the buying.

5) Two days, two stories. Tuesday: Fewer lifeguards at beaches around Twin Cities, the Star Tribune reported. Today’s story: Boy, 6, Critical After Pulled From Metro Lake, says WCCO.

“They were playing and one just didn’t come up from the water. From what I heard is that the lifeguard saw it right away, instantly, and went over and made sure that the kids in the raft stayed in one spot. They had other lifeguards and people there scouring the water and found the boy fairly quickly,” a witness told the TV station.

Here’s hoping the young man pulls through and here’s big props for the lifeguards, without whom, it’s safe to say, this boy would be dead this morning, and we’d be talking about the need to save four or five cents per household in city budgets by dumping a few lifeguards.

Are we sure we want to do this?

Update 12:47 p.m. – Sad news. The young man has died.


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Will the green economy live up to its promise? Second hour: Romance. Espionage. Parisian cafes and back alleys in Berlin. These are the elements that make the novels of Alan Furst among the best in the spy genre. He joins Midmorning to discuss his latest novel, and his fascination with World War II-era Europe.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – Kurt Zellers, the new House Minority Leader in Minnesota, sits down with Gary Eichten for a chat in the first hour. Second hour: Economist Robert Frank, speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California about “Common Sense Principles for Troubled Times.” Here’s a speech he gave at YouTube well before the meltdown. See if he got it right.

Talk of the Nation (1 – 3 p.m.) – First hour: In the fight over health care reform — is private insurance the problem? Second hour: Why is homosexuality apparently fair game for jokes when ethnic slurs, for example, are not?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Is there a solution at hand to the problem of aging septic systems near Minnesota’s lakes? Could be. Dan Gunderson will have that story. MPR’s Lorna Benson will report on advocates for the homeless, who say the governor’s unallotment puts a big burden on people with no permanent place to live. The Minnesota Department of Health is meeting with taconite miners to recruit them for an intensive study on cancer among miners.

Some PR pros will opine on how to handle a crisis like, for example, admitting to your cheatin’ heart.