5 x 8: Is the air going out of the NSA story?

This will be the last 5×8 until Tuesday. I’m heading out on a baseball road trip to Cleveland to watch the formerly mighty Indians take on the formerly mighty Twins. Enjoy the break.


Whatever public outrage and surprise there was over the revelation that the National Security Agency was monitoring telephone metadata and online behavior has mostly faded in the intervening week.

Yesterday, Congress was told that the practice has stopped at least 50 terrorist attacks, including a bombing plot against the New York Stock Exchange.

And Rep. Michele Bachmann went on the record indicating her support for the practice, which puts her in nearly full agreement with President Obama and if there’s anything to indicate a controversy is going nowhere, it’s when President Obama and Rep. Bachmann agree with each other.

Meanwhile, one wonders if Edward Snowden isn’t sitting in Hong Kong wondering why the country is already turning its attention to other things.

For a smart guy, apparently, Snowden was blissfully unaware of history when he insisted he was shocked by his country’s behavior. As the Daily Dot pointed out this week, it didn’t just start…

The telegraph operation, codenamed SHAMROCK, was a massive undertaking in the time before digital data storage: Once a day, beginning in late 1945, the Army sent couriers to telegraph offices in New York; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; and San Antonio to pick up all their international telegrams—which were stored at first on hole-punched paper and later on reels of magnetic tape. Analysts then sifted through the communiques, looking for encrypted intelligence and evidence of Soviet spying.

The Army’s concern was not without justification. By the time SHAMROCK was underway, the Soviets were aggressively pursuing an atomic weapon. The project was fueled by “atomic spies” such as the infamous Morris Cohen, who, in cooperation with an unknown Los Alamos scientist, sent the Soviet Union detailed blueprints of America’s first nuclear bomb only 12 days before it was successfully detonated in the Trinity test. “Stalin ordered a crash program and exploded a similar atomic device four years later,” wrote the New York Times.

Related: Dana Milbank: Congress has become a rubber stamp for the NSA. (Washington Post)


You can avoid jail time for a fair number of crimes in Minnesota but cheating at a fishing derby isn’t one of them.

A man who snuck two previously-captured — and still live — northern pike into the Park Rapids American Legion Community Fishing Derby was sentenced to a week in jail, the Forum News Service reports.

Tom Mead, 72, pleaded guilty to the charges. He wanted to win the $10,000 fish house first prize.

And then there’s the great gopher feet caper of 2013.

For the benefit of my out-of-the-area friends whose jaws drop when I tell them many Minnesota counties have bounties on the feet of gophers, I call your attention to this story from the mean streets of Preston, Minnesota where a mother and her son have been charged with stealing gopher feet.

The Rochester Post Bulletin reports a gopher trapper from Granger called police, saying bags of frozen gopher feet had been stolen from his freezer between Nov. 23 and Dec. 5, the newspaper reported, without indicating how someone steals gopher feet out of someone else’s freezer.

The jig was up when the alleged perpetrator turned in $3,780 worth of gopher feet, which the township clerk said is unusual. She claimed he’d been saving them for three years. But her son had previously turned in $1,014 worth of gopher feet several months earlier, apparently destroying the alibi.

How many gophers is all that? In Harmony Township, you get $3 for every pair of gopher feet you bring in.

Related: 100 years later, state's gophers still golden for bounty hunters (StarTribune)

Meanwhile, there have been no arrests yet in the garden planter heist in Stillwater, the Pioneer Press reports. And now there’s speculation the old lady may actually be a man dressed like an old lady, which — as any old lady will tell you — is a lot of work to go to in order to to boost some flowers.

Related: Why there may be no crime on the mean streets of the local neighborhood festivals . (Star Tribune)


If you work in any semi-large organization, you’re probably inundated with constant claims about the next hot thing that you’ve got to shift allegiance to. If you’re a company not on Facebook or Twitter, you’re in deep customer doodoo.

That’s why this story in Wired today grabs the eye. The company website — the next hot thing in the ’90s — is making a comeback at the expense of the next hot thing of the ’00s.


It took Steve Gleason four hours to punch out this guest column on Sports Illustrated, because he has ALS, which is going to kill him fairly soon. The former NFL player’s essay is every bit as terrific and touching on the subject as Bruce Kramer’s interviews with MPR’s Cathy Wurzer have been.

For that he was mocked by a couple of morning radio knuckleheads in Atlanta, who have since been fired, avoiding any discussion of the reality that it’s precisely the sort of thing too many people flip the radio on to hear in the morning.

But enough about them.

How did Gleason react? “We have all made mistakes in this life,” Gleason wrote on Facebook after the two apologized.

I think everyone can learn from this event. Its clear to me that, on a national & global scale, ALS is not understood, which is part of why its under funded and largely ignored. In the past 36 hours lots of people have been talking. Lets talk about this… There are zero treatments for ALS. If you take any action as a result of this event, I prefer it to be action to end ALS. See what we are doing to change that @ teamgleason.org. SG


What’s your 12-year-old doing today?

Bonus I: Mayor R.T. Rybak doesn’t want food stamps to be used to buy soda (pop, if you’re of that persuasion). Meanwhile, the Minnesota Daily reports cigarette tax worries businesses. Discuss the obvious theme.

Bonus II:
Public radio housekeeping. Get your Political Junkie fix while you still can. Via Twitter:

Bonus III:
A couple, just engaged, cast a message in a bottle off Massachusetts in 2001. It was found in Florida in 2013, in the same community in which one of the betrothed parents’ lived.

Is it a good idea to cut food stamps?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Two Minnesota state senators discuss how best to create job growth and promote business development in the state. Guests: Sen. John Marty (DFL) and Sen. Julianne Ortman (GOP).

Second hour: What might account for the dramatically different ruling ideologies between Wisconsin and Minnesota? Might these shifts be permanent?

Third hour: How are parents’ career ambitions affected by the number of children in a family? And what does that say about the balance of work and life in our country today?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): National Press Club broadcast featuring Gary Pruitt, the president and CEO of the Associated Press.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie. The speaker says no majority GOP support, then no immigration bill. Claire McCaskill puts her support behind Hillary Clinton for 2016, and President Obama insists he’s no Dick Cheney.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Drive around most of northeast Minnesota, and you’d likely never know that a historic flood recently devastated the region. It was a year ago today that the rain started, bringing up to 10 inches in just 24 hours, drowning hundreds of basements, ripping up streets, and opening up giant sinkholes that swallowed cars. Most of that damage from Duluth to Sturgeon Lake has long since been repaired, but one year later there are still stark examples of the flood’s destruction. MPR’s Dan Kraker will have the story.

NPR will look at seed banking and environmental regeneration in New York City. Hurricane Sandy swept away much of the sand dunes on the beaches. Along with them, native plant species were devastated. But some are going to be restored, thanks to a project that had been collecting local seeds.