Five at 8 – 9/2/09: The guard did it

1) Laura Ling and Euna Lee have made the first extensive statement since President Bill Clinton flew to North Korea last month to fetch the two journalists from a prison sentence of hard labor. The statement is posted today on the Web site of their employer, Current TV.

They blamed their guard for their incursion in North Korea:

There were no signs marking the international border, no fences, no barbed wire. But we knew our guide was taking us closer to the North Korean side of the river. As he walked, he began making deep, low hooting sounds, which we assumed was his way of making contact with North Korean border guards he knew. The previous night, he had called his associates in North Korea on a black cellphone he kept for that purpose, trying to arrange an interview for us. He was unsuccessful, but he could, he assured us, show us the no-man’s land along the river, where smugglers pay off guards to move human traffic from one country to another.

Discussion point. “If the power to tax is the power to destroy, then shouldn’t we at least try taxing stupidity?” They’re thinking about doing it in France, says the blog Going Concern about a Bloomberg commentary on a French proposal to tax citizens who wander into international zones.

2) Some bike riders in Duluth acknowledge their cause isn’t exactly the equivalent of the civil rights movement, but a story in the Duluth News Tribune this morning is the sort of thing that can touch off a wider spat. Three bikers use their steeds to pick up food for the homeless. But their bikes impede traffic and they’ve been ticketed twice. A friend who was sent flying by a driver opening a door of a parked car also got a ticket. Public safety or bikers working too hard to make a point? Let the debate begin.

Better relations at the bottom of the state. The Midwest tandem rally gets underway in Rochester.

And there’s a paradigm shift for Americans on display in DC. How transportation infrastructure is bending toward bicyclists.

Oh, heck, as long as we’re on the subject:

Girls Do Awesome Bike Routine

3) Remember that cramped college dorm room you shared when you were in college? Those days are ending, at least at one public institution in Boston.

Other amenities include soundproof piano rooms that allow students to practice without disturbing those studying in the 24-hour reading room, which is outfitted with plush adjustable furniture befitting a first-class airport lounge. The laundry room – with washers and dryers programmed to alert students via computer when they are available – overlooks the athletic field and stadium.

“Students want beauty, and they should have beauty,” Kenneth Elmore, BU’s dean of students, said during a tour of the dorm. With its hotel ambience, “the only thing we’re missing is music” – though he’s considering getting it piped in.

$3,000 a month. I knew you’d want to know that.

4) Can you afford to be a good citizen anymore? The New York Times reports a call to jury duty is an invitation to financial ruin now.

Judges and court officials around the country say they are seeing the impact of the recession in their courtrooms. While no one keeps overall statistics on juror excuses, those closest to the process say that in many parts of the country an increasing number of jurors are trying to get out of service, forcing courts to call an ever larger pool of jurors to meet their needs.

In Minnesota, jurors get only $10 a day and 27 cents a mile for expenses. Wisconsin leaves it up to the counties but requires jurors to be paid at least $16 a day.

5) Eric Ostermeier has delivered his third part in a series on Republican chances of taking control of the Minnesota House, today listing the most vulnerable seats to GOP takeover. He notes that in recent elections, the DFL has been gaining momentum in 24 of 40 “swing” districts. The most targeted race, he suggests, will likely be in Apple Valley.


I hope to have another installment in The Unemployed series by early this afternoon.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) First hour: A couple of experts in finances, behavior and saving say acknowledging the limits of our investing know-how is the first step to better money management.

Second hour: Now we’re talking. A whole show on Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Industry analysts and critics say the game is changing the way we experience music and transforming the music business. My sleuthing reveals that Kerri Miller doesn’t play it.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson and former DFL Speaker of the House Dee Long will discuss the state’s financial situation and preview the big leadership summit next week.

Second hour: A National Public Radio special on health care, hosted by Robert Siegel.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Political editor Ken Rudin.

Second hour: What do babies really think?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Half of the kids who go to college never graduate. Why isn’t there as much emphasis on graduating as there is on getting them into college in the first place? In Milwaukee, a federal judge hasn’t accepted a new criminal case in more than a month. He won’t explain why. He doesn’t have to. He’s got a lifetime appointment to the bench. And a look at this week’s New Yorker article which contends that for the first time in modern U.S. history, an innocent man was executed. Here’s a video about the story. The writer also has a live chat scheduled for this afternoon at 2 p.m. (CT).

  • BJ

    “They blamed their guard for their incursion in North Korea”

    From the quote, I got the impression that the guard was paid to get them close enough to talk to North Korean border guards. You would have to be pretty stupid to think that North Korean border guards would cross the border to do the interview. So they had to know they would be in North Korea, to be able to talk to border guards.

    They had the potential of ending the armistice. Stupid.