The case of the scavenging women (5×8 – 1/26/12)

You’re a cop who discovers hungry scavengers, the cost of cool, let the robots do the dying, requiem for a funeral in Mille Lacs County, and the lyrics to the Morning Edition theme revealed.


One of the most fascinating elements of the community newspaper is the local police log. Many of the calls are mildly serious — the woman who heard her garage door opening, for example. Police found no criminal activity. But this entry in the Woodbury Bulletin is worth discussing.

Two Twin Cities women learned the hard way that Woodbury doesn’t allow so-called Dumpster diving.

An officer on patrol Jan. 6 outside of Trader Joe’s, 8960 Hudson Road, spotted a car parked behind the store near a Dumpster. The officer located two women inside the gated Dumpster area collecting food that had been discarded by Trader Joe’s.

The women – one from Minneapolis, the other from Fridley – were informed that scavenging is illegal in Woodbury. The officer took the scavenged food and returned it to the Dumpster.

Both women were released with verbal warnings.

The scavenging ordinance is pretty clear:

It is unlawful for any person or business to scavenge or otherwise collect garbage, other refuse, recyclables, white goods, or yard waste at the curb or from recyclable containers without a license therefor from the city and an account relationship with the owner of the premises.

We don’t know further details. The women could’ve been looking for expired food to resell, for example. Or they could have been hungry. If it’s the latter, it’s hard to imagine a cop taking food away from hungry people and tossing it back in the dumpster. So we prefer to think it’s the former.

You are: the police officer. What do you do?

Dumpster diving tips, by the way, are available at Do It Green Minnesota:

The tools that I recommend bringing are a flashlight, a backpack and possibly gloves (depends on what you’re dumpstering). When a dumpster needs to be liberated, bolt cutters or lock picks are a must. If you’re shopping for clothes or furniture the best place to find them is in University areas. College students throw out tons of good stuff, especially at the end of semesters. Call each college to find out specific dates.

I’ve heard of people finding computers and I knew a woman who found a pair of pants with a hundred dollar bill in it! Furniture can also be found on curbs and alleys all over in residential areas. Building materials can be found at construction sites, especially in residential areas also. People are fairly laid back about taking scraps from construction dumpsters, because it’s not as socially deviant as taking food out of the dumpsters. But for all of you social deviants out there, food can be found at bakeries, co-ops and non-chain grocery stores.

The other issue here, of course, is the amount of food thrown away in the first place:

Dive! Trailer from Compeller Pictures on Vimeo.

(h/t: Jen Keavy)


What’s in your iPad? A lot of human misery, the New York Times reports. It investigated the conditions under which workers labor, assembling the products favored by a demographic that’s generally sensitive to human struggles.

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.

Earlier this month, Ira Glass jumped into this on This American Life when he talked to a self-described “Mac cult” worshiper who learned a little more about the birthing process of his favorite gadgets:


Will eliminating human casualties of war make war more likely? That’s the crux of the ethical debate that naturally follows word (via the Los Angeles Times today) that the U.S. military is testing a drone that isn’t under the control of anybody. Current drones use a “pilot” in a far-off, safe location. But the X-47B is, basically, a robot.

“Lethal actions should have a clear chain of accountability,” said Noel Sharkey, a computer scientist and robotics expert. “This is difficult with a robot weapon. The robot cannot be held accountable. So is it the commander who used it? The politician who authorized it? The military’s acquisition process? The manufacturer, for faulty equipment?”

Next year the X-47B will land on an aircraft carrier for the first time… by itself. Experts say humans might “monitor” the killing decisions of the drone over a battlefield, but not actually make them.


True or false: Taxpayers have to pay the burial expenses of people who don’t have the money for the final trip? True, and that’s causing a problem for at least one funeral home in Mille Lacs County. The Mille Lacs Messenger reports on one funeral home director who asked the county board to increase the reimbursement for embalming and burials from the current $920. The commissioners refused. Die poor in the county now, the funeral home director said, and there’ll no longer be any funeral services and embalming required for public viewings. And the hour-long visitation and burial service is out, too.


Who knew? There are lyrics to the Morning Edition theme song. They’ve been posted on NPR’s Tumblr page:

Oh I hate to get up in the morning
Please don’t wake me up this morning
Let me stay in bed … and … sleep (I don’t like to daydream)

The world can turn without me today
And if you wake me up I can say
That we will not be friends… for… long


Remember when… we used to sleep forever?
Dreams… floating as light as feathers
When… will those delightful dreams

Come back again?
Tell me when!!!


For crying out loud, please would you shut up
No news, no features, I’ve had enough …
But, say, who wrote your great … theme … song???

Bonus I: Confirmed by mathematics. SpongeBob Squarepants does not live in a pineapple house under the sea. It’s a mathematical impossibility:

Bonus II: Behind the scenes at WCCO. Doesn’t anyone there have a messy desk?

Sneaking Around WCCO TV from Sean Skinner on Vimeo.


Google has announced that it will begin tracking the web-surfing habits of users across all of its many services, and not give users the chance to opt out. Technology watchers say the change will allow Google to target ads more precisely to individual consumers. Today’s Question: How have your perceptions of Google changed over the years?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Can the GOP appeal to Hispanics in Florida?

Second hour: Do you have destination you’ve always wanted to visit? If you do, travel writer Patricia Schultz can probably tell where to go and what to do when you finally get there.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Political analysis with Susan MacManus.

Second hour:American RadioWorks’ “The President Calling”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The crisis in Nigeria. The New year has seen mounting tensions in Nigeria. A series of coordinated bomb blasts, hundreds killed, entrenched corruption, and massive labor strikes. The country is a huge oil producer, yet still imports its gas.

Second hour: What happens when multiple generations live under the same roof?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – How debates have shaped the GOP race for president.

  • Joanna

    I am: the police officer. I engage the women in conversation, inform them of the ordinance, ask them if they need any help. I might help them carry the food to the car.

  • Kevin Watterson

    I think Steve Jobs’ reported comment to the president about manufacturing jobs not coming back is interesting in light of that story. It’s a favourite political tagline to say we need to “bring back” jobs from overseas, but it is obvious we can’t compete with – nor should we want to replicate – what overseas manufacturers offer. To simply say bring jobs back as if that is an answer only makes it harder to find a real way to make American manufacturing competitive. But it’s a great political slogan, so it will continue, and the challenge will never be met.

  • Aaron

    A buddy of mine sent me a link to the TAL program. He doesn’t like apple and I do like apple. I think it’s an issue more about china’s labor regulations and policies rather than apple having poor standard.. Apple, in my opinion, is being exploited because of how popular they are.; but I wonder about Dell, Sony, HP, nike shoes, other CHINA made products. Is apple the really only “bad guy” in the market place or is it a matter of having products made where there are poor labor standards? The program talks about how apple no longer does business with some companies due to their lack of cooperation, and how apple has flexed their muscle when they found out workers were being treated poorly.Apple also recently listed all of their suppliers on apple’s website. The list was quite deep. The TAL program was a good eye opener, but didn’t paint the picture that apple was completely the bad guy.

  • Tyler
  • Alison

    I agree with Tyler. Clearly Apple couldn’t possibly pay a living wage with decent working conditions. If they did that they might only be rich rather filthy stinking rich. How much profit is enough?

  • BenCh

    Out of curiosity, is there an MPR or NewsCut tumblr yet? I feel like it would be a lot nicer than something like Google+ (remember that thing?). The Current would probably benefit a lot more, being able to post in-studio performances via their YouTube. (Maybe I am trying to connect too many things in my life via social media).

    RE: Dumpster diving women-

    I think one thing is that reading the story I immediately began to assume the women were poor. However, they have a car so I am assuming they might also have a place to live. I wish there was more insight into the story.

  • Aaron

    @ Tyler

    So is slave labor the only reason why they are having record profits? I mean, if that’s the case, wouldn’t all china manufactured products have record profits? I’m sure that the marketing/ad campaigns, or the engineering behind the products would all attribute to their success. Don’t get me wrong, I think more could be done to prevent problems of sweat shops, but get all the information on the table fairly before we condemn.

  • Kassie

    Last night on my drive home I heard a NPR story about Keen bringing jobs back to the US. Now, they aren’t high tech manufacturing, but what they said was that it isn’t more expensive. Their point was that in the long run, they are able to have more control over their production processes and are able to control their intellectual property around design and manufacturing.

    This makes me think that if Apple brought their manufacturing home, they may lose a small amount of money in the manufacturing, but save money by having their technology copied less quickly and their production processes remain secret, which doesn’t happen in China. But that is me just speculating.

  • This is NOT lucy

    i agree with Joanna.

  • Brent

    The food scavenging story made me think about a thought-provoking show that was recently aired on Food Network.

    It made me really think about how we look at food – and how sad it is that so much is wasted that could be used somewhere.

    Thanks for bringing this story to our attention!

  • Kassie

    @BenCh having a car is no indication of having a place to live. I’ve known many homeless people living in their cars or living in shelters, but still have a car. I’m not going to speculate if these women have money or not, I’ve known middle class people to dumpster dive, but having a car is not an indicator of wealth or poverty.

  • BenCh


    I thought of that… I know some people can’t afford anything more than a car and live in it. It just seems like the first impression is that they are so poor they cannot afford to shop for food. However, they have a car and are from Minneapolis and Fridley and decided to drive to a Trader Joe’s in Woodbury to look in a dumpster for food. I am probably making more of it than what it is, but I feel like more facts could shine a different light on the situation.

  • Jim Shapiro

    “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

    – Anatole France

    The wealthy and powerful influence legislators, who make the laws.

    We should commend law enforcement officials who follow a higher duty, have compassion and try to influence those who merely do their assigned tasks, and deliver consequences to those whose darker natures take over.

  • kennedy

    Does the scavenging law also mean it is illegal for authorities to root through a persons trash without a search warrant?

  • Alison

    \\but I feel like more facts could shine a different light on the situation.

    Yeah, Ben. I’m sure you’re right. I know lots of well-off people who dumpster dive behind grocery stores. All the cool people are doing it these days.

  • Tyler


    No, I’m not saying that. You’re right – if every company that made products in China had such enormous profits, Apple wouldn’t be alone at the top of the charts.

    In fact, I read recently that it would cost Apple $49 more per phone if they manufactured in the US (I can’t find a link to that story, but here’s an older one saying their profits per phone would drop 15%

    Regardless, Apple has taken Steve Jobs’ lead in philanthropy (practically none) and drive towards profits. Is Apple alone? No. Could they, and most other companies, do better? Yes.

  • Alison

    \\So is slave labor the only reason why they are having record profits?

    Aaron – If Apple has record profits they could almost certainly afford to provide decent working conditions and still make a profit. Deplorable working coditions doesn’t have to be the only reason. To amass ridiculous amounts of wealth while exploiting your employees is shameful regardless of how perfect your product is or whether everyone else is doing it.

  • One of our neighbors is a freegan and regularly dumpster dives all around both of the Twin Cities. I admit to regular dumpster diving when I lived in Oregon. The Wedge has gotten to know her so well that they leave stuff out for her with notes.

    She coordinates with the food banks and regularly brings us bounty with which there’s absolutely nothing wrong.

    The amount of perfectly edible food thrown out in this country is abominable.

    The neighbor says Trader Joe’s in Saint Paul is the absolute worst, as it goes out of its way to destroy food that is just fine.

  • Alison

    Further, to amass ridiculous amounts of wealth while exploiting your employees is shameful even if it’s legal in the country your factory is in.

  • Aaron

    I completely agree that China should up there labor standards and that all American companies should do business in America. The business model of apple is much more in-depth than any of us have knowledge on. Steve Jobs accrued a big bank account for apple to protect their intellectual property against their competition in who are infringing on their patents. Which is also why Steve never gave out dividends to their shareholders. I encourage you to listen to the TAL program regarding the apple factor. Perhaps if you’re against the practices of apple’s supply chain you should investigate to see where samsung, htc, and other electronic manufacturers get their supplies from. Our globalized world is not so cut and dry, right and wrong like everyone wants it to be.

  • Celena

    Were the two women of said dumpster diving wearing gang-related belt buckles?

    Did said Officer drink Red Bull prior to the investigation of said dumpster diving?

    Was the said vehicle a Chevy Volt?

    Does Michelle Bachman have Chuutzpah?

  • tboom

    If we could just get the government out of our lives America could compete with China. You know, eliminate minimum wage rules, 12 hour days with no overtime, expand the work week to Saturday and half days on Sunday, eliminate that pesky OSHA, … and what’s the deal with clean air and water?

    Of course if the rest of us cared, maybe we wouldn’t buy the cheapest products on the shelf.

  • THis is NOT lucy

    “\\but I feel like more facts could shine a different light on the situation.

    Yeah, Ben. I’m sure you’re right. I know lots of well-off people who dumpster dive behind grocery stores. All the cool people are doing it these days.

    Posted by Alison | January 26, 2012 11:12 AM”

    This reminds me of the early to mid 90’s where panhandling in Uptown was big with the late teens/early 20’s but the deal was that most of these kids were silver spoons from Wayzata and Minnetonka trying to be cool or fauxhemian…ungrunge.

    The Sisters of Camelot- m, I know my linking edicate causes a bug up your bung but deal brotha) a group (voluntary) came around for donations in my neighborhood last summer. i really liked their idea of going to grocery stores and getting the stuff that would be through out and then delivering it to people in need. They were collecting for gas for the bus.

  • Mark Snyder

    Thanks for the link to Do It Green! Minnesota, Bob. I’ve been a volunteer/board member for that organization for over ten years. The dumpster diving article has caused controversy from time to time because of ordinances like the one Woodbury has, but as Michael pointed out, the amount of edible food that gets thrown away is pretty ridiculous. Grocers should be working with Second Harvest Heartland or some similar organization to make sure that food goes to someone who needs it.