Defining self defense, autism’s blessings and burdens, saving Georgetown, when the sun kills, and the expanding drought.
The Monday Morning Rouser:
1) DEFINING SELF DEFENSE
In Tampa, NPR reports, a judge is considering whether to dismiss a manslaughter charge against 71-year-old Trevor Dooley. He got into an argument with a neighbor, David James, about whether a teenager should be allowed to skateboard on a basketball court across the street from Dooley’s house. Dooley walked from his home with a gun in his pants to the park where James was playing basketball. The argument escalated. Dooley took out the gun and, after a scuffle, shot and killed James.
It was self defense, Dooley claims. And it’s another case that questions whether leaving safety and deliberately seeking confrontation can legitimately be called self defense.
Thousands protested in Florida over the weekend, demanding George Zimmerman be charged in the death of Trayvon Martin. The Dooley case appears to suggest even if that happens, a conviction on a significant criminal charge is unlikely.
Meanwhile, David Carr writes in the New York Times that many in the media are behaving like Zimmerman…
That the public is rendering its verdict immediately and firmly may be routine, but choosing sides takes on a deeper, more dangerous meaning when race is at the heart of the story. Race as an explosive issue is nothing new, but it’s been staggering to see it simmer and boil over in our hyperdivided media environment where nonstop coverage on the Web and cable television creates a rush to judgment every day.
Partisan politics and far-flung conflicts fit nicely into that world — who’s ahead, who’s behind, should we stay or go? — but racial conflict? Not so much.
The Miami Herald separates fact from fiction on the incident.
2) AUTISM’S ‘BLESSINGS AND BURDENS’
It’s world autism awareness day. A rally will be held at the Capitol at noon.
There’s an upside to autism, the Wall St. Journal reports, citing recent research.
A few dozen adults, both with and without autism, were given a difficult perceptual task, in which they had to keep track of letters quickly flashed on a computer screen. At the same time, they also had to watch out for a small gray shape that occasionally appeared on the edge of the monitor.
When only a few letters appeared on the screen, both autistic and normal subjects could handle the task. However, when the number of letters was increased, subjects without autism–so-called neurotypicals–could no longer keep up. They were overwhelmed by the surplus of information.
Those adults with autism didn’t have this problem. Even when the task became maddeningly difficult, their performance never flagged.
What explains this result? According to the scientists, autism confers a perceptual edge, allowing people with the disorder to process more information in a short amount of time. While scientists have long assumed that autistics are more vulnerable to distraction–an errant sound or conversation can steal their attention–that’s not the case. As Prof. Lavie notes, “Our research suggests autism does not involve a distractibility deficit but rather an information-processing advantage.”
The research suggests we should reconsider the notion that there is a single template for human behavior, and that the things we define as a liability “turns out to be a complex mixture of blessings and burdens.”
3) SAVING GEORGETOWN
There’s not much excitement in little Georgetown Minnesota this spring. Last year at this time, the city of a little over 100 people, with rivers on each side of it, seemed to be destroying itself to save itself, even digging up the center of town for clay to stack against the river.
( MPR Photo)
In a profile of the city’s mayor today, the Fargo Forum notes the city has received a pile of flood diversion money, but many of the homes that are left will have to be destroyed. Worth saving? Don’t ask Mayor Traci Goble twice.
“How do you pick up a town?” she says. “How do you leave your home behind and uproot people who have lived here all their lives? You just can’t walk away from it. You’ve got to fight for what you’ve got.”
4) WHEN THE SUN KILLS
A link between indoor tanning beds and cancer isn’t definitively proven in today’s study from the Mayo Clinic showing a big jump in skin cancer rates, but it’s hard to read MPR reporter Elizabeth Dunbar’s story today and not hear the voice in your head asking, “is it worth it?”
State health officials diagnose a case in young people every two or three days. “Considering the youth of that population, how young they are and how much of their lives they have in front of them, I think that’s a pretty staggering figure,” said Carin Perkins, an epidemiologist who works in the Minnesota Department of Health’s cancer surveillance section.
And yet, it’s the pasty, white person who is considered the less “healthy” when compared to the bronzed one.
5) THE EXPANDING DROUGHT
This NPR project being released today focuses on the drought in Texas. But on the visualization, available here, keep an eye on the upper Midwest.
Bonus I: Ten true stories that could’ve been April Fool’s jokes. (BBC)
Bonus II: It was hard for me to drive home Friday night while watching the sunset in the rear-view mirror. Someone else noticed it, too.
Bonus III: We’ve heard this before but a fresh report today says the Cottage View Drive In will close so that another piece of Minnesota can look like anyplace, USA.
The start of this year’s walleye season is scheduled for May 12, but some legislators hope to move it ahead by a week because of the early spring. Today’s Question: Should the fishing opener be held early this year?
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Retiring Minnesota legislators Rep. Nora Slawik (D- Maplewood), Sen. Linda Higgins (D- Minneapolis), and
Sen. Al DeKruif (R Elysian).
Second hour: According to the CDC, autism diagnoses are on the rise. They increased 20% between 2006 and 2008. Researchers aren’t sure if this is due to heightened awareness of the disorder, a broadened definition of the autism spectrum or an actual increase in its occurrence. It could also be a combination of these factors. Regardless of the reason, what does this mean for families with children on the spectrum, and for the kids themselves?
Third hour: After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in April of 1968, a Catholic priest and theology professor at the College of the Holy Cross sought out to find young black men to integrate the all-white school. Among the 20 young men he found were a future Supreme Court justice, a Pulitzer Prize winner and one of the most successful defense attorneys in the country. Author Diane Brady chronicles the stories of five of those young men in her book, “Fraternity.”
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): TBD
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The next steps on Syria. There’s a peace plan for Syria, but little actual peace. A year after civilian protests met with a brutal government crackdown, the U.N. counts 9,000 dead. Residents report military forces go door to door, killing almost at random. Rebels fight back and target government and military leaders.
Second hour: Linguist David Crystal says every language tells its own story, once you come up with the right words. His latest challenge: Come up with 100 words that tell the history of the English language.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – From NPR: Lionel Richie is best known for his hit love songs of the 1980s. But for his album he turns those classics in a new direction — country music. We talk with Lionel Richie about his career and his new album ‘Tuskegee.’