The soldiers’ quilter (5×8 – 8/2/12)

Sewing for soldiers, a new direction in treating mental illness, tax-free gold for Olympians, the bad grammar debate, and the happiness experiment.


1) SEWING FOR SOLDIERS

marisela.jpgWhen I met Marisela Solesbee, left, in Wisconsin late last week, she was taking a break from what comes naturally these days: making quilts. Solesbee, of Corona, California, makes quilts for wounded soldiers being treated in Germany and those returning to the U.S. after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Solesbee started making the quilts after her cousin died in the war in 2010. Her three sons are also in the military, two are deployed, and one is about to leave for the war.

“I just talked to him this morning,” she told me. “We said our goodbyes.”

Ms. Solesbee did not question her sons’ decisions to join the military. “I’m not from this country,” she said. “But I’m a citizen now and I love this country. I’m proud of them.”

Each quilt is different, she says, although the American flag in the center is standard. She writes a short note on a card when she sends a quilt off to a soldier.

She’s made 85 quilts so far, and there are 85 soldiers somewhere who might be wanting to meet her. They won’t. She doesn’t sign her name or address to the cards, because it’s not about her, she says.

Someday she’ll make three quilts for her returning children, but she’s not thinking about stopping quilt-making anytime soon. “I think we’re always going to be at war somewhere,” she said.

Update 8/29/12 – Here’s the audio of our interview, courtesy of EAA Radio.

2) A NEW DIRECTION IN TREATING MENTAL ILLNESS

In the Freudian days, mental illness was thought to be centered in the life of the family. Then it was thought it was exclusively to be within the brain itself. That led to attempts to treat the illness with pharmaceuticals. Now, anthropologist Tanya Marie Lurhmann writes in the Wilson Quarterly, the social factors have to be considered as a cause.

The article is behind a paywall, but the Boston Globe’s “Braniac” blog dissects it:


Research from around the world, Lurhmann writes, has shown that social life plays a much larger role than you might think. Immigrants, for example, suffer at higher rates than normal – especially when their social environments are stressful (“One of the more disconcerting findings if that if you have dark skin, your risk of falling victim to schizophrenia increases as your neighborhood whitens”). And changes in one’s social situation can help lessen the impact of the disease. If sufferers are relocated to cleaner, more organized homes, for instance, their symptoms become easier to manage. In India, doctors take a totally different approach to schizophrenia, and end up with better results – patients “had fewer symptoms, took less medication, and were more likely to be employed and married” than their Western counterparts.

If true, the assertion could change the way mental illness is treated, requiring the sufferer to change his/her “social world.” How that might be accomplished isn’t clear, however.

More science: Caffeine has promise in treating movement symptoms in people with Parkinson’s disease, a new Canadian study suggests.

3) TAX-FREE GOLD?

The U.S. athletes who win gold medals at the Olympics, get $25,000 from the U.S. Olympic Committee. They’ll pay a nearly $9,000 income tax bill on their earnings. Should they?

“Athletes representing our nation overseas in the Olympics shouldn’t have to worry about an extra tax bill waiting for them back at home,” Sen. Marco Rubio said in unveiling legislation making the bonuses tax free.

Related Olympics: How NBC is editing the Olympics to create drama where none existed.

4) THE BAD GRAMMAR DEBATE

Is bad grammar making the language more “vibrant and relevant?”

An English professor in North Carolina says students today are better writers than their counterparts 30 years ago, which should shock their counterparts of 30 years ago who’ve read the current works.

On NPR’s Monkey See popular culture blog today, Linton Weeks explores the notion that the kids are destroying the language…


In the pre-digital era, he says, “most texts we read came from published works — books, newspapers, journals, et cetera. This means they represented the variety of English associated with such media — generally formal, edited prose using the grammatical and orthographic conventions of ‘standard English.’ ”

Such texts are still part of our world today, Gordon says, “but we also encounter very different kinds of writing online and sometimes elsewhere.” He cites the use of “U” to represent “you,” confused homophones such as “you’re” and “your” or “it’s” and “its,” and the use of newish terms like “LOL” for “laughing out loud” and “totes” for “totally.”

But it would be wrong to take such contemporary usages as indicative of the deterioration of the language or even a relaxing of the rules of grammar, Gordon says. “They are trivial matters in terms of the overall structure of English.”

But another professor gets it… well… right:


“Good grammar is credibility, especially on the Internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.”

5) THE HAPPINESS EXPERIMENT

Bonus I: North Minneapolis’ attempt to set a record for longest Soul Train line at last weekend’s Flow Northside Art Crawl.

Bonus II: What constitutes the good life? Why do we work more hours to accumulate more wealth? How much money is enough?

Bonus III: New math and the summer vacation…

3d.jpg

(h/t: The Big Picture)

Bonus IV: A public address announcer at a minor league ballpark (he also plays the music) was ejected from a game for playing Three Blind Mice…

TODAY’S QUESTION

Republicans in the Legislature have gone to court to object to the titles Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has assigned to two ballot questions that concern proposed constitutional amendments. One deals with voting procedures, and the other with the definition of marriage. Today’s Question: What titles would you give the ballot questions for the proposed constitutional amendments?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Car accidents and teen drivers.

Second hour: Incoming college freshmen take financial control.

Third hour: Crime labs and tainted evidence.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A debate from the Intelligence Squared series. The motion they debated is: “No Fracking Way: The Natural Gas Boom is Doing More Harm than Good.”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Art, exploitation and violence. A filmmaker reconsiders the violence in his films in the wake of the Aurora massacre.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Interest rates are at record lows. That’s good news for some borrowers, but not all. NPR takes a look at who is getting to take advantage of low interest rates and who is not.

  • BJ

    Love the color man in the baseball video (bonus VI) – “Derek was ejected from the game! That, was awesome!”

  • Disco

    Income is taxed. Doesn’t matter if it’s a gift, a contest, the lottery, or an Olympic medal. You pay taxes on income.

    This is another cynical political stunt aimed at winning votes from low-information, non-thinking voters.

    It is laughable that someone would propose another law lowering taxes with the deficit we have. It’s amazing.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Great idea to give olympic athletes a tax waiver. After all, they are clearly in the top 1% of their fields, and look at all the jobs they produce!

    In fact, when they return to the homeland as conquering heroes, they should be given their choice of virgins as playthings, expropriate whatever property they desire, and we the humble peasantry will gladly give them an ample portion of whatever we produce.

  • Snyder

    I would be OK with making Olympic medal bonuses tax-free. The income relative to the costs of training and so forth is pretty small, as is the cost to the Treasury for providing such an exemption.

    If someone proposed to exempt ncome derived from sponsorships or endorsements obtained based on one’s status as an Olympic athlete/medal winner, that’s what should be opposed.

  • Dave S.

    But how does that tax hit really play out? Next April, doesn’t that $9K get factored into taxes paid, such that it all comes out in the wash? In other words, depending on their total income for the year, they could get some of that $9K back.

  • Kassie

    Snyder, the cost of training me for the work I do was in the hundreds of thousands if you count K-12 education, my undergrad degree, my graduate school degree, the continuing education course I’ve taken and my work sponsored education, so should my income be exempt too? Because that would be awesome.

    Just as I don’t live in a vacuum, either do Olympic athletes. It costs a lot of public dollars, though the building of roads to get them to practice, the building of stadiums and practice facilities, and in some cases medicaid and food stamps, to get them to be Olympic winners. They should have to pay taxes too.

  • kennedy

    Nobel prize money is taxed. Choosing athletics as a profession should not qualify for a tax break.

    US athletes have won 14 gold medals so far. With a $1.3 trillion federal budget deficit, we only need our athletes to win 144 million more to balance the budget…this year.

  • Kurt Nelson

    I am on the fence with this one. I spent most of my life coaching elite teen athletes, and have had athletes move onto the U.S. Team, so I have a pretty intimate understanding of what it takes to perform at that level. A financial reward is nice, but I guess that is what the medal is for, reward for hard work and dedication

    But,

    Does Phelps, who has tremendous resources and an income to match need 25k tax free, probably not, but for every Phelps, there are hundreds of self-funded athletes competing in sports that are not shown on tv, and some of them win gold. That 25k can make a huge difference to many of those athletes, and whether they continue on, or call it quits.

    Also, where does the $9000 come from. If they are low income, and many are, their tax burden for winning 25k would not come close to $9000. If they are cleaver, they can use Romney like tactics to reduce that burden to zero. Go 1%

  • jeff

    / The U.S. athletes who win gold medals at the Olympics, get $25,000 from the U.S. Olympic Committee. They’ll pay a nearly $9,000 income tax bill on their earnings.

    Bob – You should say that they MIGHT pay nearly $9,000 on their earnings. That is the tax rate for athletes who make over $380,000 per year. Those athletes who make less will pay less. Some, like other Americans, may not pay any taxes on their earnings because their total annual income is so low that they are exempt from paying federal income taxes.

    I see nothing wrong with a very wealthy athlete paying their fair share of taxes, regardless of where they were competing.

    I wish that Sen. Rubio was asked why this income should be exempt from federal taxes. I can’t think of any justifiable reason.

  • Chris N.

    Well, here’s a counter-argument to the “tax it” position to consider. Are the athletes making that income by doing something that provides a direct benefit to the US (raising our international profile, morale boost at home)? If so, should we provide some sort of tax advantage to acknowledge that benefit?

    Do we give any sort of tax breaks to other folks who directly benefit the US, like people in military service?

    I’m leaning more on the “tax it” side, but the national benefit argument is the only one I could think of that might convince me otherwise.

  • http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/aug/01/americans-tax-reform/do-olympic-medalists-owe-9000-irs/ Snyder

    It turns out the whole story is a brouhaha over nothing created by the “Americans for Tax Reform,” anyway.

    According to the Tampa Bay Times PolitiFact, the supposed $9,000 tax hit should be easily avoidable with expense deductions and such as Kurt Nelson pointed out.

    I guess we can all go on with our lives now.