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 Oh.

Follow-up: The Pennsylvania pool story isn’t over yet.
Watch CBS Videos Online


Have women achieved equality in American politics?

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


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.

  • Joshua

    I clicked the follow up video about the swimming pool story from Pennsylvania and was not in the least bit surprised to watch a commercial prior to the news story. I wasn’t all that surprised to watch a family of white people at an all white pool go about whatever business the commercial was about. Just another story about poor targeted ad placement.

  • Scandinavian crime writers: a truly great breed. I think it has something to do with the fact that there’s not much to do for the long, dark winters except read and brood about the nature of things. Hakan Nesser has got to be one of the darkest.

    But if I may also make a plug for Jakob Arjouni, a German writer who writes the Kayankaya series about a Turkish-German private investigator in Frankfurt really exploring the modern German condition that doesn’t involve Jews or Nazis.

  • GregS

    Regarding the Pennsylvania story, do we need to remind ourselves there are at least two sides to a story?

    We only seem to be hearing one.

    Accusations of racism make for righteous indignation, thus good press, however these tales often play out quite another way, cases in point: the Duke Lacrosse/rape and Tawana Browly stories.

    The other side says

    “The Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley says accusations of racism toward the Creative Steps day camp are untrue. It says it [the pool] was overcrowded and [they] returned funds to more than one camp.

  • Bob Collins

    We’re hearing only one Greg because the other side has refused to speak about it other than to issue a statement denying it was racism (I believe, by the way, that was included in the story above.

    The comments that were directed toward the kids would seem to suggest something other than simple overcrowding was at work here.

    Yes, Greg, there is racism in America. And, yes, it is worthy of righteous indignation.

  • JohnnyZoom

    >>suggest something other than simple overcrowding was at work here

    Implied here of course should be that these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive.

    Much of the local coverage of this incident has been noticably more balanced than some of the more national coverage. The exception is that the titles still tend to be equally and predictably sensationalistic.

    I am reminded of Bob’s noting the very different implication of the headline re distribution of stimulus funds and the actual story content in another thread. As usual, this is merely “media bias” at work, bias for the most captivating hook.

    I tend to call stories like that, where the content is much less of a big deal than the headline is meant to imply, “hook, byline, and stinker”

  • Bob Collins

    Cool. I love these threads. The “You Are Editor” threads.

    What’s the headline for this story?

  • GregS

    “Yes, Greg, there is racism in America. And, yes, it is worthy of righteous indignation.

    In a country of 300 million, there is something of everything, which means we can: A) be consumed by indignation or B) put things in perspective and deal with nuance.

    Let’s put things into perspective: we just elected a black president.

    Now, let’s deal with nuance and talk about something interesting.

    Walk into any diverse public place, be it a workplace, school or even a family gathering and take note how un-diverse people’s behavior is.

    People do clump up.

    Kids hang out with kids, adults with adults, seniors with seniors, women with women and men with men.

    Sure there are exceptions, but clumping behavior is the rule.

    Does that mean we are racist, sexist and ageist?

    But now let’s flip that on its head.

    I’ll bet those black kids in the pool have had a lot of experience being being in the minority. I am sure they all have had times when they were the only spot of black in a lily-white crowd.

    They are used to it. It’s something they live with.

    On the other hand, the white kids in the pool probably had little experience with being in the minority.

    Now all of a sudden, there 60 inner-city kids in the pool, no wonder a lot of them headed for the lockers.

    That’s could be interpreted as behaving badly.

    But what if 60 blue haired suburban women had all jumped in the pool?

    What if a couple kids complained to each other about “old ladies” as they headed to the locker.

    Would that be “ageist”?

    The sad part about this story is that it could have been a learning experience. It could have turned out differently.

    It is easy to cast this case as racist because of the national legacy of racism, but that just it, it’s easy and doesn’t require a lot of thought.

  • Kim V

    Why are we bickering about headlines, when this week, there was a group of small children who were told “You can’t do this” possibly because of their race. I am indeed “righteously indignant” regardless of what the headline said. It is unacceptable to say, within earshot of 5-year old kids, “Uh, what are all these black kids doing here? I’m scared they might do something to my child.” They’ll probably remember that for the rest of their lives.

  • bsimon

    “But what if 60 blue haired suburban women had all jumped in the pool?

    What if a couple kids complained to each other about “old ladies” as they headed to the locker.

    Would that be “ageist”?”

    If the 60 old ladies were told “we’re worried that your group will change the complexion of our club” and their money refunded and they were asked not to return, yes, that would be ageist and people would be indignant.


  • GregS

    >>suggest something other than simple overcrowding was at work here.

    The club issued this statement.

    “We had originally agreed to invite the camps to use our facility, knowing full well that the children from the camps were from multi-ethnic backgrounds.

    Yes, there is something else going on here.

  • GregS

    If the 60 old ladies were told “we’re worried that your group will change the complexion of our club” and their money refunded and they were asked not to return, yes, that would be ageist and people would be indignant. “

    If no one used the word “complexion”, why did you use it and enclose it in quotes?

    See how easy it is to make something what it is not.

  • GregS

    “If the 60 old ladies were told “we’re worried that your group will change the [atmosphere] of our club” and their money refunded and they were asked not to return, yes, that would be ageist and people would be indignant.

    I doubt it.

    My pool in Chaska separated pool walkers, lap swimmers and children by time slot because the three groups were incompatible.

    Each group had a distinct “pool atmosphere”.

  • bsimon

    GregS, I was paraphrasing. You are right though, I should have been more clear. Here’s a link to the story I read yesterday that included the (I paraphrase) ‘change of complexion’ explanation:

    “The explanation they got was either dishearteningly honest or poorly worded.

    “There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club,” John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club said in a statement.”

    So, to reiterate my point, I think if a bunch of blue-haired white ladies were denied access to a club for changing the complexion, people would be indignant.

    Having seperate times for seperate activities is a sensible alternative that does not compare to the Valley Swim Club case.

  • GregS

    I had not seen that version of the statement. It may put an entirely different “complexion” on the matter. Yet, the club invited the kids in despite, or just maybe, because of their complexion.

    The truth is, discrimination by class is very common. For instance, in most senior housing, no children are allowed.

    Such is a case of blue-haired ladies deciding who and who cannot swim in their pool and run in their halls.