Stuck in red tape in Japan (5×8 – 3/18/11)

A Minnesotan wants to come home, a flood on top of a flood, dangers of the legal drugs,


The U.S. government is moving ahead with plans to help evacuate Americans from Japan, but a Minnesota native has a problem. He’s married to a Japanese woman who doesn’t have a visa. She’s not allowed in.

Since 9/11, non-Americans are required to get their visa outside of the country, which is a lengthy process even if their government is functioning normally. Japan, in particular, is not functioning normally.

“We just want some-thing that was granted to people before 9/11 and that is to bring in my wife from a foreign country and apply for a visa to live and a green card to work in the US for my wife,” Brook Chelmo of Detroit Lakes says. “Right now the US is the best place for us to be in terms of safety for my daughter and also my family as a whole.”

Meanwhile, you don’t often hear an interviewee on stodgy public radio calling out Americans for being selfish and ignorant — at least in such an animated way — in buying up all the surplus iodine pills on the market, to protect them from radiation from Japan. Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told “The World” that because of Americans, there are no supplies on the worldwide market to help the people in Japan. (Listen)

I wonder how many Americans who bought the pills also smoke?


The Minnesota news universe is gearing up to provide coverage of the spring floods. I still don’t know which direction I’m heading for, yet. Too many places are in danger of flooding.

But it might be a good time to revisit the people whose homes have already been destroyed and are facing another wet season. Last September, floodwaters decimated the people of Hammond, Minnesota and environs. Minnesota Prairie Roots writer Audrey Kletscher Helbling has been following a Hammond family that’s tried to put things back together.

A devastating natural disaster like this flood raises many questions and elicits mixed emotions, including anger. Tina has felt her share of anger and I’m allowing her to air her concerns here so that perhaps we can all learn from her experience.

Tina says Hammond, population 230, was neglected and forgotten during the “threat” of the rising river. No one came to help on Thursday night until it was too late, she claims. The evacuation in Hammond occurred many hours after the exodus in nearby Zumbro Falls.

While food and shelter were offered in Hammond, Tina says that did not help her family displaced to a hotel in neighboring Rochester.

“There was no immediate help in the aftermath, and a lot of what was being done didn’t make sense to us. We were left to fend for ourselves for nearly two months,” Tina continues.

The family is back home now, feeling somewhat guilty because they’re one of the few that is.


A young main in Blaine is dead, and others are in the hospital because they bought a synthetic drug online and overdosed on it. I’ll admit my first reaction to the story wasn’t, “if only they’d been able to use drugs legally” as this letter-writer suggested:

These kids got sick because they bought fake ecstasy (sp). But you reporters never ask why ecstast or marijuana is illegal. Why is alcohol legal? Alcohol kills people everyday, teenagers included. You never link fake pot to the fact that pot is illegal and we are drug tested for work. When they say drugs are dangerous you never question how they are dangerous or how dangerous they are. Why aren’t you questioning the drug war orthodoxy. Alcohol and tobacco are the most dangerous and lethal drugs in america. Why do you guys never question drug war orthodoxy, or america’s puritan moralism? Marijuana is the ‘safest therapeutically active substance known to man” (dea judge Young).

You guys never question the drug fighters! the drug moralists! Why do you never second guess the anti-drug experts? All your drug stories are unquestioning of the anti-drug authorities. Crack cocaine and herion injection are products of prohibition. Without the drug war we would have wild poppies, cannabis and coco tea/chew/bubblegum available. You are shabby journalists. I expect you to criticise the moralists and question the orthodoxy.

If I understand the assertion, it is that these kids wouldn’t be dead or hospitalized from their legal synthetic drug if marijuana were legalized. Maybe, but that assumes that these kids ignored the plentiful — and easily obtained — marijuana to get high, just because it’s illegal, and opted instead for 2C-E, merely because it’s legal. Where’s the proof of that?

So, here’s the reaction I did have to the story: What is it about their lives that caused them to find an escape in a legal — if lethal — drug? For the record, I ask myself the same question when I watched people on the streets of St. Paul yesterday.

In other drug news: A fourth-grader hooked his friends up with some cocaine in DC. Is this a big problem? Nobody really knows because there are no official surveys of drug use in kids that young.


There’s no longer a reason to read nursery rhymes to your darlings. You can stay at work.

The theory is the same as the system that allows you to follow your kid’s Little League game without actually having to go to the game. In today’s economy, you can be more productive by showing your kids how much you care, without actually having to spend time with them.



A vote by the U.N. Security Council cleared the way Thursday for the United States and its allies to begin military intervention in Libya. Is supporting the Libyan rebellion in the vital interest of the United States?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Both parties have plans to cut the state’s $5 billion deficit. The Republican leaders talk about theirs.

Second hour: As President Obama prepares to travel to South America, the Secret Service has to plan ahead for several different security scenarios abroad. What does it take to ensure the safety of the most powerful man in America?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Barbara Bodine, former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, takes questions about America’s relationship with the Middle East on the eve of the eight anniversary of the Iraq war.

Second hour: TBD

Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Thee latest on the deteriorating nuclear reactors in Japan, and a look at who might be affected by radioactivity coming from the nuclear plant. Plus, how last week’s earthquake changed the earth’s rotation, and made our days a little longer.

Second hour: Camouflaging red blood cells.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Food shelves aren’t just for groceries anymore. When food shelves first popped up in the ’70s and ’80s, most were just cupboards in church basements, or small rooms with canned goods. Over the past decade, some Minnesota food shelves have evolved into something different – social service organizations that give hungry Minnesotans all kinds of help to get through rough times. MPR’s Julie Siple reports that needs have changed and food shelves have had evolve to meet those needs.