‘What leadership should be’ (5×8 – 9/6/12)

Why one man lived, are pesticides good or bad, the Pillager Mud Run, and when you can give up or keep going.


The Star Tribune’s Gail Rosenblum carries word on the doorstep today that “Hank” Andersen has died. Andersen, a Presbyterian minister, was on the Leopold troop ship when it was torpedoed, killing 800 soldiers. Rosenblum’s father was also on the ship heading for France.

Mr. Andersen’s son — Rev. Tim Hart-Andersen — told his father’s story last year at the Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Christmas celebration.

Watch Minn. Church Recalls How Christmas Carols Saved Some U.S. Lives in World War II on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

“This is a guy who could simply appreciate his white privilege,” Fred de Sam Lazaro, the PBS journalist told Rosenblum. “But, when the war was over, he fought for social justice and became a preacher. It epitomizes what leadership should be.”


Leave it to Maggie Koerth-Baker (via Boing Boing) to bring a more scientific voice to the debate this week surrounding organic foods. She asks the fascinating question, “Are pesticides evil, or awesome?”

If you think the answer is simple, she suggests, you’re mistaken:

It’s legitimate to be concerned about how pesticides affect biodiversity. It’s also legitimate to be concerned about having access to the tools we need to protect people from malaria. At some point, you have to make a decision, but you’re fooling yourself if you think that decision is clear-cut.

The situation gets doubly confusing when you start adding in the fact that we don’t actually have a lot of great data on the human health impacts of pesticides. In fact, we might never have good data on that.

Which is a scary thought, indeed.


If the rest of the world was accomplishing the things science does on a daily basis, it’d be a heck of a world. The latest breathtaking accomplishment comes from scientists who have figured out why some diseases and afflictions are so hard to diagnose, the New York Times reports.

The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.

“Most of the changes that affect disease don’t lie in the genes themselves; they lie in the switches,” said Michael Snyder, a Stanford University researcher for the project, called Encode, for Encyclopedia of DNA Elements.

It is a big deal. If scientists can figure out which changes occur in, say, cancer or mental illness, they can figure out why. When they figure out why, that’s a step toward being able to prevent it. That would be a cure.

“A given drug only works in about a third of the people you give it to, but you don’t know which third,” a researcher says. “A lot of that is related to genomics, so if you knew the relationship between a person’s genome and which drugs work for them and which ones they shouldn’t take because it gives them side effects, that would improve medicine.”

A long way off? Probably. But it’s possible and that’s where the excitement comes from. Hope comes from possibility. It also comes from a computer. The research took more than 300 years of computer time.

On his blog, Trail Baboon, Dale Connelly makes an excellent point:

Complex diseases appear to be influenced by the throwing of hundreds of these gene switches. All that remains is to figure out which levers cause which things to happen. Not a simple task by any measure, but this work by hundreds of researchers in dozens of labs around the globe will have amazing and long lasting scientific and medical effects.

All because they had the patience to investigate the junk in the corner.

Maybe science is one of the last fields to embrace patience.


By way of the Brainerd Dispatch, we learn that Eric Sumner and Sheila Eldred of Minneapolis are your champion mud runners at Camp Lake Placid in Pillager. Our mothers used to tell us not to do this sort of thing …


Your inspiration to face the day…

Always A Fire from Union HZ on Vimeo.

Bonus: A new video from Steve Russell of Apple Valley. You’re a fine-looking state, Minnesota.


According to a guest appearing on the Daily Circuit, the federal government is running a global surveillance system that is collecting huge amounts of information. Some observers fear that the communications of U.S. citizens are coming under the scrutiny of federal agencies. Meanwhile, a new survey finds that people are avoiding cell-phone apps that might compromise their privacy. Today’s Question: Are you concerned that you’re being watched too much?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Will anything really change in Washington after the election?

Second hour: The rise of the surveillance state.

Third hour: Adam Johnson, the author of “The Orphan Master’s Son.”

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): The first of two Chautauqua Lectures about the presidents. Tim Naftali speaks about the relationship between Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The changing car business. For decades, government regulations drove innovation in the car business. Now, the rules call for an average of better than fifty miles per gallon by 2025. But auto makers are already moving onto better batteries and new and lighter materials, and many of their customers are ready, too.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Euan Kerr looks at the issues at play in talks involving both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and its musicians. What are the stakes for the institutions and the artists?

NPR will report on “issue placement” in Hollywood. Finding product placement on television shows is simple. But there’s a similar type of placement on TV that’s off most people’s radars. Non-profits are getting in on the act, advocating for their issues in popular programs.