Happy Juneteenth (5×8 – 6/19/12)

Freedom Day, living the buddy-system way, encounter with a homeless man, Minds Interrupted, a question of priorities in West Fargo, and how a bucket list can kill you.


1) FREEDOM DAY

Some day, education officials will be as concerned about the teaching of American history as they are (rightfully) focused on math and reading. Our own history is not our strong suit. If it were, we’d know more about Juneteenth and its historical significance. Why, there’s not even a clever Google doodle today to mark the date.

Texas, as a part of the Confederacy, was resistant to the Emancipation Proclamation. Today commemorates the day Union forces arrived in Galveston to enforce President Lincoln’s order freeing slaves, an order he issued nine months earlier.

2) LIVING THE BUDDY SYSTEM WAY

One in seven American adults lives alone, and there’s some evidence that they die sooner because of it, at least until their mid-sixties.

The study, from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers, says living alone was associated with four-year mortality (14.1 per cent vs. 11.1 per cent) and cardiovascular death (8.6 per cent vs. 6.8 per cent) compared with those not living alone.

“Living alone may be a marker of a stressful situation, such as social isolation due to work or personal reasons, which can influence biological effects on the cardiovascular system,” Dr. Jacob Udell says in a release. “Also, patients who live alone may delay seeking medical attention for concerning symptoms, which can increase their risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke,” he added in a release.

More health research: Ruh roh. People are risking their health by working on smartphones, tablets and laptops after they have left the office, according to research out today.

While doing a bit of extra work at home may seem like a good short-term fix, if it becomes a regular part of your evening routine then it can lead to problems such as back and neck pain, as well as stress-related illness, the BBC reports.

“This is especially the case if you’re using hand-held devices and not thinking about your posture,” one scientist says.

3) ENCOUNTER WITH A HOMELESS MAN

A man with a hoodie and slip-on shoes walked into a Virginia Starbucks in January. It got an area manager for the chain interested in finding out about him. She asked him where he lived? “In the woods,” he said. She visited the woods nearby and found dozens of homeless people, many with mental health issues.

Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak picks up the story today…


Kelly is still new at this and is still coming to grips with the depressing, crippling cycle of addiction and mental illness that is at the root of many cases of long-term homelessness.

She knows homeless folks don’t always inspire much sympathy from others. Fredericksburg went into a small furor last summer after the city police department issued a report about the homeless population and their share of the area’s crimes.

Police estimated that about 300 people have no fixed address in the area and that they are responsible for about 10 percent of the 3,000 crimes committed in this quiet exurb.

The City Council called for hearings and solutions. Some residents demanded that all the homeless be rounded up and jailed. The leaders at Micah Ministries, a Christian outreach program that provides social services, asked for calm and understanding.

Kelly did her part. She told customers who would listen about the scope of the problem, and they would shake their heads in disbelief as they bought their $5 drinks.

Her stores began leaving a bin by the register to collect hotel toiletries, new socks, money. And every couple of weeks, she and other Starbucks employees would make packages to deliver to the homeless.

“And those first few months, I’d be coming back to my car crying,” she said.

She started Project Dominic, which aims to provide a small measure of dignity and compassion.

Related: It was a full house at the Minnesota History Theater last night for Minds Interrupted, in which seven people from the area tell their stories of struggles with mental illness. Occasionally, a speaker would pause and fight to keep going, and the audience would silently root them on, and they’d continue with their courageous act of defiance against the stigma of mental illness.

Be sure to read Ruben Rosario’s Pioneer Press article about some of the people who literally took a stand last evening.

One of them was Mariah Carroll Owens of Minneapolis, whose mother has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Another speaker made a fine point. We talk about people “battling” cancer, for example, but we say someone is schizophrenic.

4) A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES

A North Dakota family won a “dream home” in West Fargo and could’ve moved in last week. They’ve decided not to. They’ll sell the $500,000 home because the money they’ll be left with after the sale — about $300,000– could be better spent, the Fargo Forum says.

It will be used to help put the five grandchildren of Michele Gilbertson’s sister, Mary, through college. Mary Christopherson died of cancer two months ago.

“It really came down to Art asking me, “Well, what would Mary do?” And she wouldn’t live there, she would make sure her kids and her grandkids are taken care of,” she said.

5) IF THE CANCER DOESN’T GET YOU, THE BUCKET LIST WILL

Frank and Wilma — they didn’t want their last names used in the New Zealand Herald article — learned Frank had terminal cancer. So they sold their house — at a $70,000 loss — gave possessions away and hit the road in search of checking items off the “bucket list.”

Says the Herald:


Frank began smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee after quitting during his first cancer diagnosis.

The couple went to Fiji for 10 days. They blew $30,000 on food, a five-star resort and fishing activities, expecting his life insurance to cover the costs.

“We had a good time. We spent too much money on food, going around New Zealand and then a business which fell down,” Wilma said.

“What would you do in this situation? If he said jump I would jump … I was putting him first, whatever he wanted, he got.

“I’m short on my credit cards for $80,000 and the money we had left went on a business and that didn’t work out so we are broke.”

They’ve found out that Frank’s diagnosis was wrong.

Bonus I: Host a National Night Out event in Saint Paul and maybe the top cop will come flip burgers.

Bonus II: We’re getting out-flashmobbed by the Russians, people!

Bonus III: On the subject of Public Radio, the New York Times basically repeats the points I made a week ago on the subject of new programming.

Bonus IV: A man with no legs has reached the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro by walking on his hands.

TODAY’S QUESTION

The Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court’s ruling against a 450-foot cell phone tower near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. AT&T says the tower, which will be visible from within the BWCA, is needed to improve cell phone coverage. Today’s Question: Should people who live near a wilderness area be willing to accept a lack of technology?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Military suicides.

Second hour: The life cycle of an athlete.

Third hour: The future of weather forecasting.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Columnist E.J. Dionne, from his appearance Friday at the Westminster Forum.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Warfighting continues to evolve, and the United States leads the way with covert CIA operations, special forces, unmanned drones and, increasingly, cyberwarfare. David Sanger, author of the new book, “Confront and Conceal” and NPR commentator Ted Koppel join host Neal Conan.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - NPR will look at the role of failure in high-tech industries. For every high-tech business success, there are countless failures. Failure is accepted — even welcomed — as a guide for future success.