Noticing Duluth’s problem (5×8 – 12/5/12)

To be black in Duluth, snowshoing for the ‘singing wilderness,’ crooks and seniors, how HMOs are stiffing parents of autistic children, and the 86-year-old paperboy.


They may think less of you in Paris now, Duluth.

LeMonde diplomatique tackles racism in the Minnesota city, which launched an anti-racism campaign last year but is still bedeviled by the occasional racist incident.

It was only a matter of time, perhaps, before the outside world noticed. It’s noticed:

Whenever Joseph Moya travels around Duluth, Minnesota, the journey unsettles him. Back in Arizona, where Moya, grew up, he felt he was sometimes in the majority because he is Navajo. But in Duluth where a local foster family took him in four years ago, when he was 16, he feels trapped and exposed when he leaves select parts of town. “It’s like Star Wars, it has a dark side and a light side. Depends on what side you want to see it from,” he says as he fills out a job application for Applebees.

Moya describes Duluth’s lighter side as an upbeat place that draws tourism attracted by the city’s naturally beautiful perch above the lake. But he’s more used to the darker side. Since he moved to town he says he’s felt watched constantly by local police, business owners, and citizens when he enters the light side. “Stop following us in stores and stuff, dude. Stop calling us racist names. I didn’t come up to you and say, what’s up white trash…why would I do that, it’s disrespectful and hurtful.”

(h/t: Katherine Lanpher)

In Duluth yesterday, a forum at the University of Minnesota Duluth concluded more tolerance is needed on the campus. There have been two viral videos in Duluth — one from the campus — with people in blackface lately.



The Boundary Waters wilderness may seem like an odd place to raise awareness and money, but that’s the plan of Josh Borchardt, who is planning a snowshoe walk across the wilderness to raise money for a documentary about Sigurd Olson, the wilderness writer and conservationist.

The Singing Wilderness excerpt from Interstate Films on Vimeo.

Here’s Mr. Borchardt’s Facebook page for the project.

(h/t: Nate Minor)


A few months ago, my elderly mother fell for one of those traps in which someone offshore steals the retirement savings of seniors, leaving the rest of the family to wonder how someone gets sucked into such an obvious scam. But a lot of seniors do and there’s good money in it for people who don’t have a problem looking in the mirror.

And maybe now we know how it happens.

DePaul University has a study it says explains it all. Cognitive decline.

First, they inserted a fraud question into surveys that are conducted annually by the Rush Memory and Aging Project, which questions the elderly about the gamut of their health, neurological, physical and mental developments. “In the past year, were you a victim of financial fraud or have you been told you were a victim of financial fraud?” they asked the Rush Project’s participants.

The researchers then made the link between those who said “yes” and whether they were overconfident of their knowledge about money and investing. Overconfidence in the past has been associated with making poor financial decisions. For example, high-income men tend to be victimized by fraud due to their confidence in their investment knowledge.

Overconfidence in this study was measured in a two-barreled financial literacy survey of 664 seniors. There were nine questions about their financial knowledge. Each of the nine questions was followed by this question: “How confident are you that you answered that question correctly?” The confidence scale attached to each question for each senior was between zero and three, with three being most confident – the highest (albeit unlikely) “confidence” score for all nine questions was 27.

Seniors who got answers wrong but were most confident they got them right had also more often been victimized by fraud. Fraud victims scored, on average, 5.39 on the overconfidence scale, compared with 4.21 for non-fraud victims.

(h/t: Brian Hanf)

More studies: Money buys happiness. (Wired)


No matter what changes are being made, health insurance companies still call the shots when it comes to health care. WCCO, for example, has the story of how the two largest HMOs in the state are refusing to cover behavioral therapy for children with autism. Blue Cross Blue Shield is dropping coverage at the start of the year. One mother has sued.

Apparently, this is not just a Minnesota problem. A change in health care benefits for federal workers allows insurance companies to cover behavioral therapy, but does not require coverage, the Washington Post reports today.

It’s a fight being waged in Ohio, too, where a parents group says providing the coverage would increase insurance rates by 32 cents a month.


In Adams, Minn., Bud Shaefer’s kids bought him a bicycle for Christmas. So he delivers newspapers. He’s 86.

Bonus I: Mike Rowe, the host of Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs” has a lot of respect for the people who do jobs others may not want to do. His show has now been canceled. What was your favorite Minnesota moment on the show? Here’s mine: The leech farmer of Waubun.

Rowe’s show was one of the early “reality shows” that makes up most of cable TV now. Why does it go when others survive? In his essay today, NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says it didn’t make fun of its subjects.

Bonus II: A Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage is inevitable, SCOTUSBlog’s Tom Goldstein writes today. But when? And what case will establish it? Goldstein dissects how lawyers are maneuvering the justices.

Bonus III: The photographer who took the image of a man just before he was killed by a subway train defends himself. (NY Post)


One of the options under consideration by fiscal-cliff negotiators in Washington is to close so-called tax loopholes by ending certain deductions. Today’s Question: Among tax deductions that you use, which would you be willing to give up?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Concierge medicine.

Second hour: Brain training.

Third hour: Vocal Essence and the Christmas carols that didn’t make the cut.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): “Ask the President” with MPR president Jon McTaggart. Hosted by Steven John.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The latest state budget forecast will be released today. That will set the stage for a session-long budget debate at the Capitol. MPR’s Tom Scheck is watching things at the Capitol.

When President Obama moved into the White House four years ago, he carried with him many expectations from the black community. Now that his first term is about to go into the history books, NPR asks some African-Americans what they think of his presidency so far.