Five by 8 – 6/7/10: A pelican’s world

The Monday Morning Rouser. I don’t really “get” soccer. But this? This I get.

1) I was sitting in the terminal at St. Paul’s Fleming Field yesterday afternoon when an amphibian airplane pulled up. It came down from Red Lake, carrying a woman from Maine who’s been in Canada for the last month, surveying migrating ducks for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “I’m freaking out,” she said of the Gulf oil disaster. “Fortunately, these guys are still migrating north, but when they migrate south, they’ll be heading into the oil.” Then she said something I didn’t know. “If you dig into the ground around Prince William Sound, they’re still finding oil.” That was 21 years ago.

But the Exxon Valdez was easy, writes Michael McCarthy in the Independent. “It had an end; this doesn’t.” He reports on the the spill from a pelican’s perspective:

The pelicans are the most difficult to clean as they are so big. They are firstly “marinaded” in warmed vegetable oil, which loosens the crude oil sticking to their feathers, and then they are washed in washing-up liquid – a process which takes about 45 minutes for each bird. “It’s a real ordeal for them,” said Rebecca Dunne, the Tri-State co-ordinator. “That’s 45 minutes of each of these guys thinking ‘I’m going to be eaten’. Wild animals are not normally handled and they think, ‘Something is attacking me’. It’s not just panic; there is a huge release of stress hormones. If we handled them too long, they could die.”

The New York Times says because of this, oil-covered pelicans have to be kept for a day and fed before they can be cleaned.

The Deepwater Horizon Response team, meanwhile, released its own set of images on Sunday — cleaned-up pelicans being set free.


Related: The BP oil disaster re-enacted by cats (not suitable for the workplace).

2) A fascinating debate on “On the Media” on Sunday posed the question, “If you criticize Israel, are you an enemy of Israel?”

3) Identical twins are running for the Minnesota Legislature. One of the Backer boys is running for the House, the other for the Senate. They’re both Republicans.

4) The Duluth News Tribune has an interview today with the man who was a model for the Duluth lynching memorial:

“I feel like it’s our job as citizens of today to really make sure we are having conversations about — I don’t want to say race or race relations or any of that kind of stuff, but just to remember that there is a conversation that needs to be had,” Grant said. “So that one day we can … really look back and say, well, we did something to change that or remember it. Because history repeats itself over and over again.”

Lynching? Duluth? MPR’s series, “Postcard from a Lynching,” is worth revisiting. Next week is the 90th anniversary of the lynching of three young, black circus workers.

At the southern end of the state, Greg Sellnow, a Rochester Post Bulletin columnist, writes that he’s taken a lot of grief when he’s written about race in Rochester. So he writes about it again.

It’s quite apparent to me that we still have a ways to go as a community before we can say that we’ve genuinely “gotten over it” where issues of race are concerned. And I don’t think Mayo Clinic would have spent upwards of $100,000 to share this exhibit with its employees and other local residents, and the library wouldn’t have agreed to turn over about a third of its second floor space for this project if they didn’t believe the community could benefit from some introspection on the topic of race.

5) Reading Rupa Shenoy’s excellent article on the coming nurses’ strike, a discussion point makes itself obvious: Is it ethical for the medical community to leave patients, no matter what the issue? “Safety is already a huge issue,” union spokesman John Nemo told Shenoy. “That’s why 12,000 nurses are going to go on strike right now, in this economy. So to say that things will be great with replacements — no.”

Without the option to strike, a labor organization has little power in negotiations, true. But there are still people inside the hospitals who aren’t on either side of the issue. Does it undercut a professed concern that patient safety is at risk with current staffing levels, by walking out on them? Writing in the Star Tribune today, a 38-year nurse doesn’t like what she’s seeing on both sides:

In all those years I have never had to strike. Yet over time I have watched our professional organization lean more and more toward the philosophy of organized labor, and in so doing it has become more political, contentious and self-serving. As this has happened, the real issue of providing the best patient experience possible has become clouded behind talk of pensions and salary.

Good staffing with less interruption of nursing care does lessen the chance of error.


The end of the traditional academic year brings summer vacation, but some school districts are moving toward year-round classes. Does summer vacation still serve a useful purpose?

Bonus: The most beautiful “tweet” ever?


The honor was bestowed yesterday at the Hays Literary Festival in Wales.


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Ethics and the Gulf oil disaster. Corporations spend millions on assuring the public that they are helping the environment, and that they act as ethical citizens. But can a company really have a conscience?

Second hour: Life of Pi author Yann Martel talks about his latest book, “Beatrice and Virgil.” Like his first book, the novel makes characters of animals. This time illustrating the genocide of the Holocaust.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Congressman John Kline just returned from Afghanistan and will be in the studio to discuss the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as education and financial reform legislation.

Second hour: Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft at the National Press Club.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The latest on the Gulf oil disaster.

Second hour: Author Kathryn Schulz talks about her book “Being Wrong”, and why what you think about being wrong is probably wrong.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Tom Weber reports there was a lot of heated rhetoric about teacher reform during the legislative session. What’s behind these proposals for alternative licensure, merit pay, etc?

  • 2) A fascinating debate on “On the Media” on Sunday posed the question, “If you criticize Israel, are you an enemy of Israel?”

    Unfortunately, Bob, for the most part, yes. Even when Israel does odious or unconscionable things, even pointing this out, mildly, is seen as an attack. Just saying that the blockade of Gaza is doing Israel more harm than good (and is a disaster for the population in Gaza) makes you an enemy of Israel.

    On a lighter note, I do like that tweet!