What war really looks like (5×8 – 4/21/11)

The people who won’t let us turn away, Oslo flooding by air, when will drivers start slowing down, the pop-top-powered car, and Kevin Love’s big day.

It’s National High-Five Day.


It’s true, of course, that journalists are no better than anyone else and it’s easy — trust me — to get indignant when people like me make a big deal when journalists are killed covering a war, while remaining relatively silent while non-journalists die all around. Guilty, and I’m certainly not going to argue that journalists are more important.

But journalists leave a record behind that remind us that the reason they cover war is because we turn away from it. Their mission is not only to intentionally go into a war where they have a good chance of dying and have no means of defending themselves, it’s to then find something that will make us not turn away and consider the cost of a war. It’s more than yellow ribbon magnets on our cars, signs on the lawns, or applause lines in speeches — it’s where people die for no good reason.

Tim Hetherington, one of two photojournalists killed in Libya yesterday, left this behind for you:

Diary (2010) from Tim Hetherington on Vimeo.

Chris Hondros, a New York-based, award-winning staff photographer for Getty Images, was also killed in Misrata, Libya. He left these behind.

Photojournalist Andrea Bruce remembered Hondros’ gift:

People may not understand life in Iraq or Libya, but most know what its like to hurt. Or to lose someone they love. Crossing the language and cultural barriers of the world, photos point out the similarities of human nature. We have a visceral reaction when we see a little girl cry because her parents were shot in front of her. They are not just numbers or names. They are people. We want to reach inside the frame and help her.

And this is well worth your time to read. It describes the process of just getting dead photojournalists back to their families.


Hang on. We’re going for a ride…

This is the ScanEagle, an unmanned aircraft that took video of flooding in the Oslo area yesterday, the Grand Forks Herald reports.

Mark Hastings, the on-the-ground pilot for Wednesday’s exercise, said that the aircraft and its camera are ideal for flood monitoring, perhaps even better than manned flight.

“It can stay up for 20 hours, staring at the same thing without getting bored,” he said.

Mike Nelson, a UAS manager with the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace (at the University of North Dakota), said it’s an effective tool for flood research and for flood search-and-rescue “spotting people who are stranded.”


A few gas stations in the Twin Cities are now selling gasoline for more than $4 a gallon, and people are saying the kind of things you’d expect them to say, but are you seeing any changes in the way people drive that would confirm that what they’re saying matches what they’re doing.

Driving 55 on I-94 these days is still — at least for one blogger I know — a great way to see almost all cars on the road approach from behind at a high speed, and whiz by at an even higher one, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the driving shooting you a glimpse in return. Driving 55 is a solitary — and fairly dangerous — experience.

MPR’s Sasha Aslanian couldn’t experience this when she went for a ride with some long-distance commuters recently; the traffic was mostly stalled. MPR listeners called in to tell us their sad commuting stories. One guy spends $200 a month on gas, can’t move (he’s underwater on his mortgage), and a new car is pricey.

We did not hear, apparently, from the people who drive when I’m on my commute to work.

Oh, by the way, plan for $6-a-gallon gasoline soon. You might want to consider these apps to save a few dollars.


We’re trying to calculate how many cases of beer or soda you’d have to drink to make this idea of a car powered by aluminum pop-tops a legit fuel source. A professor in Barcelona developed the idea using an remote-controlled car, which turns the pop-tops into hydrogen.

dAlH2Orean H2 R/C Car powered by Aluminium from Aleix Llovet on Vimeo.

(h/t: Wired)


Kevin Love is going to be awarded the most-improved-player award today. Let’s enjoy the lad while we can.

Maestro Knows – Special Edition (Kevin Love) from Maestro Knows on Vimeo.

Bonus: From the ain’t-technology-grand folder: You can now track your checked bag on Delta.


For Christians, this is Holy Week. For Jews, it’s Passover. It is a time when people of faith, of lapsed faith or of no faith might contemplate their religious and spiritual practices. Today’s Question: Do you pray?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Is how we treat heart disease good enough?

Second hour: Stanley Fish on the art of the sentence.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

Second hour: Westminster Town Hall Forum broadcastm featuring religious philosopher Marcus Borg. His newest book is “Putting Away Childish Things: A Tale of Modern Faith.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The siege of Misrata, and the way ahead in Libya.

Second hour: The cultures of war: from Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9/11, and the invasion of Iraq.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – When Congress passed the federal health care law, it included a provision designed to cut down on Medicare fraud and improve care for patients. That rule just took effect April 1. It requires doctors to meet face-to-face with patients who need home health care. But doctors may not be ready to comply with the change, according to MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki.

  • David Wilford

    Re 3), if you don’t mind driving a ten year old car, you can find Ford Escorts or Saturns with manual transmissions for around $2,500 that get around 35MPG on the highway. I bought a Mercury Tracer for two grand two months ago and save $30+ a week on gas now compared to my previous minivan.

    Still, the best thing would be to car or van pool.

  • Drae

    The ever increasing price of gasoline should create a demand from the American people for something better – either developing domestic supply or developing an alternative (or both), because there is no quick fix to this problem except to quit driving so much.

    Frankly, I think it would be easier to get the Republican and Democrats to agree on a budget deal than it would be to convince an American to ditch their car, but $4-6 gas might do the trick.

  • There is an alternative, Drae. It’s selling for about 70 cents less per gallon than regular unleaded right now. Both Republicans and Democrats agree on it.

    Judi Dutcher didn’t know what it was. But I’ll bet you have heard of it…

  • bsimon

    “Oh, by the way, plan for $6-a-gallon gasoline soon. You might want to consider these apps to save a few dollars.”

    Finding some apps to save a few cents a gallon or cut a couple miles off a route are not going to solve the $6 per gallon problem.

    If people are really, truly fed up with the price of gas, they will significantly alter their behavior. I am skeptical that many people will take real action.

    Bob M – your suggested alternative is a false economy both in terms of dollars and air quality. Until they start producing it with renewable energy sources rather than natural gas, it’s not a sound alternative.

  • andy

    3) I love driving 55. It certainly is a solitary experience however. What I love the most is seeing the cars who just flew by me in the ‘fast lane’ jacking their brakes due to a slow-up, and I simply cruise on by in the ‘slow lane’ with a smile on my face.

    What? Mr. Moffitt pushing ethanol?!? What next, will the clear sky be blue and the grass green? Unfortunately due to government MANDATED ethanol, my car is less efficient – eating (well, drinking) any savings I might get from the “cheaper” corn gas.

    I’m all for freedom, therefore if people want ethanol they should be able to buy it. I just wish I had the choice to buy non-corn gas for my car. Sorry Mr. Moffitt – I know you mean well and I’m sure we would agree on many other issues we face, ethanol will not be one of those things however.

  • lucy

    #1 People don’t like to look at this-obviouslyI

    I appreciate how you wrote this one, Bob.

    // It’s more than yellow ribbon magnets on our cars, signs on the lawns, or applause lines in speeches — it’s where people die for no good reason.

    Tim Hetherington

    I am sorry to hear of another loss.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Dear Bob –

    Thanks for the powerful commentary on the deaths of the photojournalists, and the link that gives thanks to those who help.

  • Bsimon: Let me get this straight: you are against ethanol because it is produced with the cleanest buring fossil fuel available. You are aware how the majorty of petroleum fuels sold in Minnesota are being taken out of the ground in Alberta Canada, aren’t you? There are some excellent stories on the MPR web on the Alberta Tar Sands, and where we get our fuel from.

    However, if it helps, the Al-Corn plant in Winnebago gets about 45% of it’s electricity from 2 wind turbines installed nearby. Other plants are using biomass to reduce their natural gas use. So it’s a start.

    Andy: Move to Iowa. It’s not mandated there, oddly enough. But I was talking about E85, not E10. Big difference. You have a choice with E85.

  • Jim Shapiro

    More on war photographers:

    Today Terri Gross of Fresh Aire played an interview with two photographers recorded Tuesday (ironically one day before the deaths of Hetherington and Hondros).

    Her incomprehension of their life choices is palpable.


  • Noelle

    @Bob Moffitt

    One of the underlying issues with ethanol that you don’t hear much about, is that it requires the use of a lot of land to grow the corn that goes into it. That’s land that could be used to grow food (and will cause food prices to rise as demand grows), but instead goes to create a hybrid fuel that will be useless once oil reserves are depleted. Growing all that corn also leads to a huge loss of biodiversity (see: monoculture), and the long-term impact that will have on the environment.

    I agree with bsimon. We need a more sustainable way to get around than fossil fuels. Ethanol is not the way to do it.

  • Shannon

    We traded in both of our cars for a used hybrid. When we’re not car pooling one of us takes the bus. We shuttle our three year old to daycare making our whole round trip [to work] about 6 miles or so; we’re very lucky to live near our places of employment. As gas prices crept higher and higher, I thought, “Do we really need to have two cars?” I was determined to get out from under the heinous gas price climate we’re in now. I despise the profits being made for big oil companies. In big ways or small ways I think all of us can make a difference. And the speeding on the highway thing? Yeah, I like to drive 55 too, but the ahole who passes me on the right on two lane highway obviously feels much differently. It’s happened twice. Both times I was above the speed limit.

  • bsimon

    Bob Moffit asks “Let me get this straight: you are against ethanol because it is produced with the cleanest buring fossil fuel available.”

    If the natural gas is clean enough, why not burn it directly?

    It is ridiculous to promote corn ethanol as a clean, renewable, carbon-neutral biofuel, then use enormous quantities of a non-renewable fuel that is not carbon neutral to process it.

    When there is algae or switchgrass based ethanol that requires neither subsidies to be cost competitive nor petrofuels for production, sign me up.

    Until then, using a subsidized farm commodity (corn), the production of which causes environmental damage (nutrient depletion in soils; sedimentation in rivers; dead zone in Gulf of Mexico), to produce a so-called ‘green’ fuel that consumes petrofuels throughout its produduction (in the field with fertilizers & farm equipment; then the nat gas in processing) is taking steps backward & wasting money and resources in a way that doesn’t solve the problem.

    Is that straight enough?