5 x 8: Should climate change deniers be censored?


Climate change is a scientific fact, a fact that reasonable people have probably concluded too late to do much about the eventual demise of the planet. Misinformation — some of it intentional, some of it not — has stalled planetary action. As the Star Tribune reported over the weekend, within 100 years, Minnesota is going to be Kansas.

The Los Angeles Times recently adjusted its editorial policy on letters to the editor to disqualify the letters from climate change deniers.

In an editorial, editor Paul Thornton noted the work of scientists with peer reviews is more dependable and accurate than those who consider climate change a hoax perpetuated by liberals to curtail personal freedom.

Just last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a body made up of the world’s top climate scientists — said it was 95% certain that we fossil-fuel-burning humans are driving global warming. The debate right now isn’t whether this evidence exists (clearly, it does) but what this evidence means for us.

Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying “there’s no sign humans have caused climate change” is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.

So when the Star Tribune printed its series over the weekend, it was widely expected a flood of letters from non-scientists would debunk it with a flurry of letters.

The Star Tribune is printing them. In an explanation today, commentary editor David Banks said the claims need to be debated.

In compiling letters packages, we have three main goals: to provide insight; to reflect, on the whole, the nature of the sentiments we receive, and to produce a collection that’s engaging for readers. These goals can be conflicting.

With respect to accuracy (on climate change or any topic), the fact is that many opinions are based on incomplete or inaccurate information or are underpinned by logical fallacies — yet they represent beliefs held, to varying degrees, by the public. If misconceptions exist, is it helpful to hide them, or better to debate them? A tenet of free speech is that the best ideas, through competition, will prevail.

We consider Readers Write to be a community forum, not merely the province of authorities. We grant participants some leeway while taking care to avoid deliberate misrepresentations. We are mindful of our own biases, and we recognize that the format makes it difficult for any one writer to treat a subject comprehensively. Still, we appreciate genuine insight and hope that, over time, we help readers come to informed conclusions about complex matters.

Which brings us back to the original question that led the Times to its position: Can you help readers come to informed conclusions about complex matters by presenting information that’s wrong?

Related: Study Shows That Human Beings Are Too Selfish to Fix Climate Change (Time.com).

How to Talk to Climate Change Deniers (New Republic).


There are a lot of famous voices at NPR but pretty soon Frank Tavares won’t be one of them. You probably don’t know him by name, but he’s “the voice” behind all the NPR underwriting announcements.

NPR has decided to dump Tavares, a freelancer, and move the operation in house for the sake of efficiency, according to the trade publication Current.

Today it will announce who that person will be.

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The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has completed its survey of trash thrown out in the Duluth area and several other locations around the state, the Duluth News Tribune reports. The results are not pretty.

Despite efforts to get people to compost food waste, the percentage of trash that’s food has increased from around 13 to near 20 percent, the paper reports. Statewide, the average is about 18 percent.

“That one has us puzzled. … Are we really throwing out that much more food? Because we’re diverting thousands of tons of food away from the landfill to composting, which we weren’t doing in 1999, yet the number still went up,” said Karen Anderson, WLSSD community relations director. She added that the 1999 and 2013 surveys were not identical and differences may account for some of the apparent increase.

The percentage of trash that’s plastic is up, metal and paper is down, the survey said.


Almost as if they read my post last Friday, Time notes that two “insufferable” franchises are squaring off when the World Series begins tonite.

So it’s printed a guide for baseball fans who want both teams to lose.

4. Take advantage of every fan-related schadenfreude opportunity. Whatever you do, don’t ever get caught in the trap of empathizing with fans of either team. These are people who have gotten to fully enjoy baseball for weeks (or in the case of Mets fans, months) longer than you. They might be agonizing at this very moment, but they didn’t have to go to the trouble of figuring out how to hate-watch the World Series just to make it palatable like you did. At the very least, their team has won a pennant — a successful season by any measure — so don’t be afraid to make light of any minor misfortune via whatever avenue you deem most convenient (Twitter, text message, unnecessarily elaborate schadenfreude dance routine).

Also: prepare for an obscene amount of narratives connecting the joy the Red Sox bring as an antidote to the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing. There’s always the danger of trivializing the tragedy, NPR reported this morning.

Yes. There is.


You’re going to want to read this one before lunch.

A professor of medicine at the University of Mississippi has done an autopsy on a chicken nugget to see what’s inside.

“I was floored. I was astounded,” Richard D. deShazo tells The Atlantic about the moment he had a look under the microscope.

Here. Have a look for yourself:

(University of Mississippi)

The nugget from the first restaurant (breading not included) was approximately 50 percent muscle. The other half was primarily fat, with some blood vessels and nerve, as well as “generous quantities of epithelium [from skin of visceral organs] and associated supportive tissue.” That broke down overall to 56 percent fat, 25 percent carbohydrates, and 19 percent protein.

The chicken industry disputed the doctor’s findings.

Bonus I: How to trick or treat as an adult.

Bonus II: Want Your Daughter To Be A Science Whiz? Soccer Might Help (NPR)

Bonus III: A Father, A Daughter And Lessons Learned. The celebration of Story Corps’ 10th anniversary is providing a daily lift this week. (NPR)

When do you know what you read on Wikipedia is true?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Doctor-patient relationships and the future of health care.

Second hour: Depending on where you stand on the political spectrum, the free market is either espoused as the key to prosperity and the basis for a well-functioning society, or decried as the source of all ills. Either way, it’s often viewed as something that acts independently of government. But journalist Alex Marshall argues in a new book that the idea of a free market is a myth.

Third hour: Tom Weber speaks with MPR’s Dave Peters about small towns that sometimes find themselves in the position of needing to merge or consolidate. Carleton and Thompson are in that situation now with a vote coming November 5th.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): An Intelligence Squared debate: “Should We Break Up the Big Banks?”

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – The Obama administration faces mounting criticism over the Affordable Care Act rollout, The Takeaway examines federal health care policy past, present, and future. Plus: Iran’s tumultuous history and how it informed the nation’s modern relationship with the West.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Don Samuels’ resume includes stints as a gospel music star, a toy designer, an ordained minister and a city council member. Now he’s trying to add a new position: mayor of Minneapolis. MPR’s Curtis Gilbert continues his series.

Bret Neely reports Minnesota lawmakers in Congress unsuccessfully tried to delay or repeal the tax on medical device companies as part of the deal to end the government shutdown. With Democrats and Republicans now negotiating on fiscal issues, is a repeal of the tax any more likely? And if a repeal takes place, will it unravel the funding stream of the 2010 health care law?

The days of plague epidemics ravaging the population are long gone — for humans. Now, plague is killing small wildlife across the American West. NPR will have the story.