5 x 8: The people who change things


Word has reached flyover country that the White House will honor Fatima Said of Winona on Thursday as part of its Constitution Week and Citizenship Day observances of “Champions of Change.” Said is executive director for Project FINE, a nonprofit organization that is focused on integrating newcomers through education.

She knows what it’s like to be a newcomer. She was one just 19 years ago, the Winona Post reported in a profile of her last month:

Project FINE Director Fatima Said was nervous and afraid when she first set foot in America 19 years ago as a refugee of civil war and genocide in Bosnia. A welcoming party of strangers carrying signs, flowers, and bowls of fruit earned her tearful thankfulness. She could not believe strangers would be so kind to her. Now, she feels again the waves of gratitude and emotion she felt on her first moment in America, but for a different reason.

When the Virginia McKnight Binger awards for human service were announced this summer, Said was one of the recipients. She donated her $10,000 award.

The White House ceremony will probably be a quick affair. They’re not even inviting the press. But it’s still an opportunity to consider why some people work hard for change, and some people don’t.

Discussion topic: What change would you like to make in the world and what’s your plan for changing it?


There’s no rule that says America has to have a middle class, economist Daron Acemoglu, of MIT, tells APM’s Marketplace. Median earnings in the U.S. were revealed yesterday: $51,000. They haven’t bounced back to pre-recession levels and maybe they won’t. There will always be a median income, but it may well be that the economic future are simply the people who have and the people who don’t.

So Marketplace turned to sci-fi writer Gennifer Albin and asked her to write a story about what things might look like in, say, 2038:

The two headed back to the room they shared, guided by the precise beam of the small flashlight. Sydney unlocked her drawer and pulled out an overlarge t-shirt to sleep in. Last shift hadn’t made the bed, but she was too tired to care, settling in and hoping sleep came easily tonight.

Maya crawled into the bed on the other side of the room, flashlight still on, and took out an e-reader.

“You aren’t going to sleep?” Sydney asked.

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

“You’ll be dead a lot faster if you don’t rest before you go into the call center.” Sydney liked to worry. It reminded her of her mother.

“Hours got cut,” Maya said. “I talked a friend into letting me crash at his place. He’s got his shift at five. Might as well read now.”

“Okay.” But it wasn’t okay. This was the second time Maya’s hours had been cut this week, the fourth time this month. Sydney knew Maya needed the job if she was going to pay her rent, and Sydney didn’t like to think she might have to welcome a new shift-mate into her room. Maya was the least annoying one she’d had in the last two years.

Sydney shifted onto her side away from the light and tried to turn off the thoughts competing for her attention. She wanted to sleep before the water came back on, before it was time to get back to her first job.

Find the story here.

Related: Having a job doesn’t mean having a home (NY Times)


The last remaining drive-ins in Minnesota are hoping some digital projectors fall from the sky in the next week. The vanishing icons have to convert to digital — film companies are only going to distribute via digital — soon but the cost is prohibitive.

Project Drive-in — from Honda — is allowing people to vote for the drive-ins that will be given free projectors. Voting has been extended to Saturday.

“I’m only half-done paying for the equipment that I have out there, and it’s already obsolete,” a Spirit Lake, Iowa drive-in owner tells the Worthington Daily Globe today. “That’s why it’s very hard to take that we have to purchase new equipment already.”

At the drive-in in Luverne, the owner is using social media to try to spread the word.

More icons: Reunited with the childhood baseball glove.


As the trial of the Duluth head shop owner gets underway, leave it to the anonymous public defender who writes the Not for the Monosyllabic blog to inject some reality in the fight against legal substances that could be used by people to get high.

How many things do people use now to get high or drunk? Alcoholics who are particularly desperate have been known to drink mouthwash because there’s alcohol in mouthwash. There was the girl on Intervention, Allison, who bought cans and cans of computer duster and sucked it straight from the can to get high.

Glue, rubber cement, cough syrup, markers, nail polish, paint, whipped cream canisters…pretty much anything and everything that can be used to get high is used to get high.

So do we start charging every Target store manager for selling these products because people use them to get high? Do we only charge the Target store manager if the product doesn’t work for what it claims it’s for? Where do we draw the line?

And does it make a difference to criminalize these things? I’d argue that no, it doesn’t. It doesn’t do a damn thing. I don’t know a ton of people who are sitting around, thinking to themselves, “Well, if heroin weren’t illegal, I would totes shoot heroin.”

People are either going to do drugs or they aren’t. Illegality isn’t really much of a factor in that decision, so far as I have ever seen. Whether it’s illegal or not, people are going to use drugs.

So, are we accomplishing anything by locking people up? By creating more and more things that are now illegal to own, use, posses, or sell?

(h/t: Brian Shipe)


France is ready to ban child beauty pageants, because of their creepy hypersexualization of kids, the BBC reports today. Under the law that passed a test this week, if you put on a child beauty pageant, you could go to jail for two years.

Related: Pretty babies (Vogue)

Bonus I: Your General Mills moment. Cheerios leverages the death of a grandparent and joins the ranks of undead endorsed cereals like Count Chocula (Stephen Colbert). They’re doing cartwheels in Golden Valley.

Bonus II: Last night’s baseball play of the day.

Bonus III: What Did Barney Rubble Do for a Living? (Neatorama)

Bonus IV: Ohio’s Amish country at harvest time… by air.

Can mass shootings be stopped?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: As with the Republican Party, the Democratic Party also saw fissures within its own party regarding Syria. Other issues from the environment, to gun control to the budget, show even the President’s party is not always a unified one. As the republicans continue to ‘soul search’, will Democrats do the same? Are they prepared for 2014?

Second hour: Money and the war on cancer.

Third hour: Where are we five years after Lehman and the recession’s start?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Intelligence Squared series: Four experts debate the question, “Is the U.S. drone program fatally flawed?”

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The U.S. House is planning to vote this week on a bill that cuts food stamps by $40 billion over 10 years. Food stamp funding used to be part of the farm bill, but House Republicans this summer decided to vote on the issues separately. It’s the first of a series of controversial votes coming up in the next few weeks as Congress begins to grapple with the budget, and the whole process has the potential to lead to s federal government shutdown. Brett Neely will report.

MPR’s Dan Olson profiles Ojibwe artist Mel Losh who works from his small home in Bena and is recognized widely for his bead and quill work. The art form is important to American Indian culture, but Losh cannot find anyone in his community who will carry on the tradition.

What does it mean to join Brazil’s new middle class? For Enilda de Carvalho it means a new TV, microwave, and hopes that her daughters will have an easier life. NPR looks at Brazil’s new middle class.