Five at 8 – 7/22/09

1) An African American man is walking around a nice home in toney Cambridge, Massachusetts. The neighbor assumes — not without a little justification, perhaps — that it’s a burglar at work. The cops show up and arrest the guy. Only he turns out not to be a burglar; he’s a professor at Harvard. And he lives in the house.

Did someone say “post racial America?

I thought the whole idea that America was post-racial and post-black was laughable from the beginning. There is no more important event in the history of black people in America than the election of Barack Obama. I cried when he was elected, and I cried at his inauguration, but that does not change the percentage of black men in prison, the percentage of black men harassed by racial profiling. It does not change the number of black children living near the poverty line. Which is almost a similar percentage as were under poverty when Martin Luther King was assassinated.

The incident is putting the discussion of race in America back on the front burner.

Linton Weeks on NPR:

What makes the Gates affair so extraordinary, Kennedy says, is its outrageousness — it’s like the unimaginably perfect rock in a whole river of rocks.

Here’s where the story will go next. This happens all the time. Why does it have to happen to a wealthy man before it becomes news? I’ll go discuss that with the mirror.

By the way, the comments section of the Cambridge black newspaper article uses the shooting in Kasota to claim that it “happens to white people, too.” File that under “unclear on the concept.”

2) Lazy summer days are perfect for starting your day at work by wasting some time. The University of Minnesota is our enabler today. “Gridlock Buster,” from the Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute at the U.

As a player, you will imagine you have just been hired by the Traffic Management Laboratory and handed your first assignment. You must work through a series of levels by controlling the traffic and ensuring that delays don’t get out of hand–such as lines of backed-up traffic and frustrated drivers–in the simulated environment. Your “supervisor” will guide you through the challenges toward greater challenges and responsibility.

If you fancy yourself a civil engineer — and who hasn’t? — give it a shot.

Related: “Why the single-minded focus on vehicles when the “root cause” of nearly all crashes is human error?” the New York Times’ idea of the day asks today.

3) Is this a new front on the battle for animal rights? In Las Vegas, the cool people are eating sushi — live lobster sushi. In this video, note the chef doesn’t see the irony when he refers to respecting the animal by eating all of it.

4) How bad are things on the Iron Range? Colleague Paul Tosto looks behind the unemployment number in Hibbing, which is 18.7 percent. That’s four times what it is in Moorhead, indicating perhaps we’re a have/have not state. In fact, things in Moorhead sound positively “90s-like” with reports of construction and electricians “all out working.” Mining, like the economy, is a cyclical industry. In good times, everyone knows the bad times are coming. But like consumers who didn’t save for the rainy day, Iron Rangers have been swept up in the flood.

Over in Duluth, ABC’s Extreme Makeover is coming to town to build a mansion for some family down on its luck. It’s asked a construction firm that caters to the well-heeled to work for free.

I’ve always enjoyed watching the program but I usually end up in a philosophical disagreement with the family. The show is full of product placement. Sears, in particular, gets plenty of free advertising in exchange for providing furnishings for the home. That gets under my family’s skin. I, being the contrarian, counter with “at least they’re doing something.” Discussion point: Is it less charitable if you get something in return? What if all you get in return is a good feeling?

5) – A few weeks ago, MPR’s Dan Gunderson gave you a tour of an underground missile site. Today, the BBC provides the story of Hanford, Washington — where the weapons for the Cold War were born.


We’ve all seen it: Drivers sending text messages, drivers putting on makeup, drivers eating breakfast or talking on the phone. Federal officials are concerned about the role such distractions play in traffic accidents. If you’re driving right now, please wait until you get where you’re going, but then we’d like to hear your confession. What do you do while driving that you shouldn’t?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Businessman and social entrepreneur John Hope Bryant has spent much of his career working to eradicate poverty and improve financial literacy in inner city communities. He says a close look at the decisions consumers make explains why many have become victims of the recession. Second hour: An ER physician’s desire to heal led him to a contested border town in Sudan, Africa, where he treated malnutrition and a measles epidemic while trying to avoid military conflict.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie will be in the studio to talk about the election reform ideas discussed at last weekend’s meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Second hour: Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, speaking this week at the Chautauqua Institution about the ethics of capitalism.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.): From the sound of things, Political Junkie Ken Rudin will try to trump Al Franken when it comes to Perry Mason trivia. Second hour: Singer Judy Collins. Or, as my colleagues at Midmorning might say, “been there.”

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Some local non-grain farmers have gotten a USDA grant to try to resuscitate the transport and storage infrastructure necessary to sustain fruit and vegetable producers. These assets disappeared with the large-scale conversion to corn and soybean production. Will the “eat local” movement make this a viable idea? MPR’s Sea Stachura will have the answer.

arch_dig.jpgFrom NPR, Daniel Robison will have the story of an archaeological dig in Indianapolis, where an African American community was bulldozed in the ’60s. What they’ve found is something they’ve found in similar projects around the country: The neighborhood wasn’t as “blighted” as popular history suggests. Here’s the story from Indiana University.

David Welna will have the results of a showdown in the Senate today. Sen. John Thune is trying to attach an amendment to a defense bill that extends a state’s concealed carry gun rights to people when they travel to another state. Is this an issue for the feds? Or an issue for the states?


There’s a Barack Obama news conference at 7 p.m. (CT). We’ll carry it live on the radio and online. I will also live blog it here. Topic: Health care.