1) WHEN PEOPLE DO GOOD (CONT'D)
Like most people with great personal stories to tell, NewsCut reader Jennifer Nelson prefaced her e-mail to me by noting that her story isn't as big of a deal as the "When People Do Good" entries of previous posts. Like most people with great stories to tell, she undersells her story.
Yesterday I decided to grab my camera and head out to the State Fair to take some photos since my family had an advance purchase ticket left over. It was a beautiful day. Since on the last day of the Fair vendors are usually offering deals, I made my way to the grandstand to check out a pillow that's been recommended to me. (Since I have a permanent neck injury, the right pillow can make a huge difference.) They didn't have any last minute deals and for my budget they are just a little too pricey. So I simply asked the saleswoman where else they sell them for future reference since I wasn't able to purchase one right then. She told me and I was about to leave when another customer at the booth announces "I'm going to buy two of them. One for each of us," and gestured towards me. I was a bit taken aback. This woman was a complete stranger. I'd never seen her before in my life and she knew nothing about me except that I was interested in this pillow.
"Really?" I asked.
"Yep." She replied.
"You don't have to..."
"I want to."
By that time the saleswoman had already swiped the card. She asked if we wanted one bag or two, to which the stranger replied "You better make it two. I don't even know her." The saleswoman stopped dead in her tracks. "Wait, you don't even know her and you just bought her a pillow? Wow. That's some good karma." I turned to thank the woman, nearly in tears and she simply smiled, said "We're going to sleep really good tonight," and walked away. I was speechless. Not only had a complete stranger just bought me a new pillow, but she seemed genuinely excited to do so.
The reason that this meant so much to me is what that stranger didn't know. Seven years ago I suffered permanent injuries in a car accident. One of those injuries was to a joint in my neck that has left me with chronic pain. I have purchased pretty much every type of pillow you could imagine over the years since when I sleep wrong, I wake up with headaches, muscle spasms, and numbness in my fingers. This isn't a visible injury and since I'm only 29, most wouldn't assume I have an injury like that.
What's made the situation even more complicated is that I was laid off just over a year and a half ago. It was difficult to get the insurance to cover any treatment for my injuries even when I had coverage, but when I lost my job I also lost my access to healthcare. In this economy, I have been unable to find work. I work what freelance I can, get some help from family members when needed, and am currently on my final tier of unemployment benefits. Even with all that, the bills barely get paid. When it comes to my chronic pain and injuries (which also include my knees - something that's complicated my job search efforts since I can't work full time on my feet), my only choice is to manage them the best I can on my own. I do what exercises and stretches I can, rely on over the counter medicine when needed, and save up my money when able for other items that help (supportive shoes, kinesiotape, braces, heat/ice packs, pillows, etc). When I stopped at that booth, I was simply trying to plan out how I could best save to purchase their product in the future. Instead I took one home that night. It may seem like such a small thing, but it makes every day a lot easier for me.
From now on, if anyone asks me if "Minnesota Nice" is real, I can confidently reply "You betcha!"
Keep 'em coming, people!
2) REVISITING RNC 2008
We got an inside look last night at the work of Brandon Darby, the FBI informant who blew the whistle on his colleagues who allegedly intended to come to Minneapolis St. Paul in 2008 and disrupt the Republican National Convention, including throwing bombs at police vehicles.
The documentary, Better this World, aired last night on PBS' Point of View program.
Darby's role came out during the Minnesota trial of David McKay. Darby initially agreed to be interviewed by filmmakers, but then reneged. There were no cameras permitted in the federal trial of McKay.
How did the filmmakers get all the footage of the protests? These babies....
"The Twin Cities got a $50,000 grant to put up cameras throughout the cities for the Republican National Convention as part of a security effort," documentary producer Kelly Duane de la Vega said. "There was a massive amount of security footage filmed throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul. That footage is actually part of the public domain -- not very many people know that, but we discovered that. We got a great deal of that footage, and then we started looking for our subjects. And it was like a needle in a haystack in many ways, but they would pop up, because there were cameras absolutely everywhere. There's a scene in a Walmart where the young men are going in to buy materials to build Molotov cocktails. And that's from Walmart's security cameras. We're all being filmed all the time."
McKay's trial ended in a mistrial, and shortly before a second trial, he pleaded guilty to one count of possession of an unregistered firearm, one count of illegal manufacture of a firearm and one count of possession of a firearm with no serial number. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
The film showed compelling scenes of his family discussing whether to make the plea or whether it was worth going to trial to say what happened and get a longer sentence as the penalty for doing so.
But the documentary suggests it was the FBI informant calling the shots and recruiting the people who ultimately went to prison while he went free.
According to Larra Elliott, one of the activists who accompanied the three to the RNC, "Brandon . . . said something that caught my attention, like, 'Don't you feel that firebombs and armed militias . . . that kind of . . . action is necessary sometimes?' And Brad was like, 'No, I don't feel that way.' Brandon would not leave it alone."
"Your own actions have taken you away from someone who might need you in the future, and you can't be there for that person. I don't feel anything but shame and guilt because I want nothing more to be there for the people that I love," McKay says near the end of the film.
The POV website today offers this quiz about the use of FBI informants.
3) PAWLENTY'S SPARKS
Tim Pawlenty's first interview since announcing he was ending his campaign for the White House wasn't with a reporter, or a news organization from the old sod of Minnesota; it was in New York, with a comedian.
The governor sported a more relaxed look, but he took a swipe at the electorate for being more interested in something other than serious policy. Then he made a joke about "shooting sparks out my butt."
A few minutes earlier, David Letterman was zeroing in on the other Minnesotan, with "top 10" reasons why Michele Bachmann's campaign is in trouble:
10.Intern answers phone, "Hello, O'Bachmann Train Wreck"
9.She keeps referring to the Governor of Texas as Katy Perry
8.Husband is leaving campaign to host a makeover show on Bravo
7.Spent last weekend campaigning in Juarez, Mexico
6.Ranks behind that creepy middle-aged white guy, that other creepy middle-aged white guy, and barely ahead of other creepy middle-aged white guy
5.Only polling well with people who are heavily medicated
4."Headquarters" is now the backseat of a Hyundai Sonata
3.Claims bad weather is God punishing us for J-Lo and Marc Anthony break up
2.Has yet to acknowledge the road to the White House goes through me, Dave
1.She's running out of batsh** crazy things to say
4) 9/11 at 10
The most iconic movie and TV roles for the icons of 9/11.
Meanwhile, the 9/11 Memorial Foundation has rejected the contribution of a French artist whose sculpture depicts the twin towers as a nude couple.
5) MICROFINANCE MISSILES
Kiva is a website with some Minnesota roots that lets you give small loans to people around the world. to help them get their small business up and running. This 2007 MPR story explained how the concept works.
Kiva has received a lot of attention for the innovative way it allows people around the world to make loans. Everyday people can act as banks, and make a loan of as little as $25 over the Internet.
If you log onto the Kiva Web site, you see exactly who is doing the lending and who is trying to start a business. You get updates as well, to see if the business is thriving or failing.
How well has it caught on? Check out this fascinating data map treats each loan as a dot and the type as a color and tracks the number of them over the last few years.
Reportedly, the the loan repayment rate is 99 percent.
Bonus: Wednesdays should always start with bulldog-police horse love stories.
Although Minnesota has a reputation for stiff penalties against drunken driving, state law addresses only the operation of a motor vehicle - not a bicycle. Today's Question: Should it be illegal in Minnesota to ride a bike while intoxicated?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: The disappearing moderate.
Second hour: Severe drought in Texas and an active hurricane season in the Atlantic are just the latest events in what has already been a wild year for weather. MPR chief meteorologist Paul Huttner joins Midmorning to discuss what's going on with our weather.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Michael Hurley of the 9-11 Commission joins discusses what was learned in the investigation and in the decade since.
Second hour: Rebroadcast of 2004 American RadioWorks documentary about the 9-11 Commission hearings. "Witnesses to Terror."
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Political talk with Ken Rudin.
Second hour: . Authors tell their stories of taunts and teases and tears.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - A decade after the terrorist attacks, MPR's Sasha Aslanian profiles its legacy for two Minnesotans. FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley made the cover of Time magazine for her criticism of U.S. intelligence failures. Today, she no longer has her FBI career and failed to win public office. Now on the outside, she devotes herself to fulltime activism against what she considers the US's misguided response to 9/11. The parents of Tom Burnett Jr., who fought the hijackers on flight 93 that crashed near Shanksville, PA., have taken a different path. Tom's death propelled them into suing the terrorists in an attempt to bankrupt them. They're pledging to fight on and want the U.S. government do everything possible to shut terrorism down.(5 Comments)
It's a fine line some businesses are walking between a respectful honoring of the deaths of hundreds of New York emergency responders on 9/11 and taking advantage of a national tragedy to increase business.
This e-mail from Axel's Bonfire raised two eyebrows this morning (click image for the larger version). It's offering $20 to emergency responders on Sunday only -- September 11th, if you haven't heard. You don't get the cash, though. You get it on an Axel's rewards card which you can later show for the discount when you patronize the place at some future time.
But the deal is not valid at two of Axel's locations.
Still the company is giving 5% of its take to local firefighter organizations that day
If you see other businesses that are featuring 9/11 promotions, please send the ads my way.(1 Comments)
This is the kind of suspicious activity that can get you an interview with the FBI. The video was shot from the parking ramp at the Mall of America.
The Center for Investigative Reporting has pulled the curtain back from the world of counterterrorism at the Mall of America.
Their story, which is posted on its website and airs on NPR this afternoon, says many Mall of America visitors have ended up in counterterror reports without their knowledge, after private security officers interviewed them.
The report raises the possibility that the mall guards are using racial and ethnic profiling, a charge the mall denies.
In some cases, the questioning appears to have the hallmarks of profiling - something that officials at the mall deny. In nearly two-thirds of the cases reviewed, subjects are described as African American, people of Asian and Arabic descent, and other minorities, according to an analysis of the documents.
Mall spokesman Dan Jasper said the private security guards would not conduct interviews based on racial or ethnic characteristics because "we may miss someone who truly does have harmful intent."
A mall spokesman, however, acknowledged to the reporters that the guards' activities "may infringe on freedoms."
"We're charged with trying to keep people safe. We're trying to do it the best way we can. You may be questioned at the Mall of America about suspicious activity. It's something that may happen. It's part of today's society," mall spokesman Dan Jasper said in a statement.
Here's an example of a report that ended up in the hands of law enforcement. The suspicious behavior? The man took pictures inside the mall.
"For all the 30 years that I have lived in the United States, I've never been a suspect," said Emil Khalil of California. After being questioned for taking pictures, the FBI stopped him and his brother at the airport for more questioning.
Another man, an Army veteran, was "caught" videotaping in the mall. He was questioned for two hours, the report said.
(Francis) Van Asten said it was not clear to him at the time why he was stopped. After all, he was told nothing prohibited him from taking photographs or footage of the mall. But the mall's guards still called Bloomington police, and they alerted the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. Van Asten was given a pat-down search, and the FBI demanded that his memory card be confiscated "for further analysis."
Exhausted and rattled, Van Asten had trouble finding his car after the ordeal was over.
"I sat down in my car and I cried, and I was shaking like a leaf," Van Asten said in an interview at his home. "That kind of sensation doesn't leave you real quickly when you've had an experience like that."
Another person was questioned because he was writing in a notebook while waiting for his lunch date.
"Before the male would write in his notebook, it appeared as though he would look at his watch. Periodically, the male would briefly look up from his notebook, look around, and then continue writing," the security guards' report said.
Subsequently, he was photographed, his information recorded, and he ended up in a police report as a person of interest.
"Everybody that lives in this country," one mall visitor said, "is a person of interest as far as these reports are concerned."
There's no indication that any terrorist activity has been uncovered at the mall.
Ever been questioned at the Mall of America? Tell me about it below.
People who follow me on Twitter probably know that I have a habit of reading every obituary in the Sunday paper, trying to pick out the people who took their own life. I don't do it for entertainment; I do it to see if there's any breakthrough in the willingness to confront an epidemic head-on by acknowledging it exists. Last Sunday, for example, one obituary for a 15-year old said only, the youngster "chose to be with the Lord."
This is National Suicide Prevention Week, something you're not likely to hear about because the journalism community generally believes that talk of suicide encourages suicide. But they give me this blog to make a difference.... so...
Here are some statistics, courtesy of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
-Over 34,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year.
-In 2007 (latest available data), there were 34,598 reported suicide deaths.
-Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years in the United States (28,628 suicides).
-Currently, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.
-A person dies by suicide about every 15 minutes in the United States.
-Every day, approximately 90 Americans take their own life.
-Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
-There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but three times as many females as males attempt suicide.
-There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides for every suicide death.
-Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among those 5-14 years old.
-Suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.
-Between the mid-1950s and the late 1970s, the suicide rate among U.S. males aged 15-24 more than tripled (from 6.3 per 100,000 in 1955 to 21.3 in 1977). Among females aged 15-24, the rate more than doubled during this period (from 2.0 to 5.2). The youth suicide rate generally leveled off during the 1980s and early 1990s, and since the mid-1990s has been steadily decreasing.
-Between 1980-1996, the suicide rate for African-American males aged 15-19 has also doubled.
-Risk factors for suicide among the young include suicidal thoughts, psychiatric disorders (such as depression, impulsive aggressive behavior, bipolar disorder, certain anxiety disorders), drug and/or alcohol abuse and previous suicide attempts, with the risk increased if there is situational stress and access to firearms.
-The suicide rates for men rise with age, most significantly after age 65.
-The rate of suicide in men 65+ is seven times that of females who are 65+.
-The suicide rates for women peak between the ages of 45-54 years old, and again after age 75.
-About 60 percent of elderly patients who take their own lives see their primary care physician within a few months of their death.
-Six to 9 percent of older Americans who are in a primary care setting suffer from major depression.
-More than 30 percent of patients suffering from major depression report suicidal ideation.
-Risk factors for suicide among the elderly include: a previous attempt, the presence of a mental illness, the presence of a physical illness, social isolation (some studies have shown this is especially so in older males who are recently widowed) and access to means, such as the availability of firearms in the home.
-Over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent.
-Depression affects nearly 10 percent of Americans ages 18 and over in a given year, or more than 24 million people.
-More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease (17 million), cancer (12 million) and HIV/AIDS (1 million).
-About 15 percent of the population will suffer from clinical depression at some time during their lifetime. Thirty percent of all clinically depressed patients attempt suicide; half of them ultimately die by suicide.
-Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment, and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. But first, depression has to be recognized.
Alcohol and Suicide
-Ninety-six percent of alcoholics who die by suicide continue their substance abuse up to the end of their lives.
-Alcoholism is a factor in about 30 percent of all completed suicides.
-Approximately 7 percent of those with alcohol dependence will die by suicide.
Firearms and Suicide
A-lthough most gun owners reportedly keep a firearm in their home for "protection" or "self defense," 83 percent of gun-related deaths in these homes are the result of a suicide, often by someone other than the gun owner.
-Firearms are used in more suicides than homicides.
-Death by firearms is the fastest growing method of suicide.
-Firearms account for 50 percent of all suicides.
Medical Illness and Suicide
-Patients who desire an early death during a serious or terminal illness are usually suffering from a treatable depressive condition.
-People with AIDS have a suicide risk up to 20 times that of the general population.
And here are some resources in Minnesota.(19 Comments)
What would it be like to never have been allowed to go outside? This German video, making the rounds today on the Intertubes, supposes to be a heartwarming tale of what happened when some chimps, who had been research animals, were sent to a safari camp and allowed to wander on their own.
Good for the chimps above but not so heartwarming once you realize the world from which they come. A week or so ago, the Humane Society in the U.S. released an investigation into the use of chimps in research.
In stories like this, it's hard to shake this amazing photo from National Geographic in 2009 when a dead chimp was wheeled away.
(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)