Five at 8 – 12/24/09: Racing against time

I know. You probably want to talk about the weather. But I just finished shoveling and, for the moment, I’m all “talk about the weathered” out. Let’s see what the rest of the universe is doing.

1) A story in today’s Worthington Daily Globe (registration required) has us asking this question: Why on earth did this country wait so long to build a memorial in Washington to those who served in World War II? Johnny Johnson of Luverne, Minn., has been waiting his turn to get on the Honor Flight, a program to fly WWII vets to see the memorial. Then he found out his trip has been delayed. Now he finds out he’s got lung cancer.


The second born of five sons, and among three who served during World War II, Johnson is the only one in his family who served in World War II who is still living. His oldest brother was drafted, while his younger brother enlisted in the Navy and was stationed on a submarine. Johnson dreams of seeing the World War II memorial that honors all three of them for their war-time efforts.

About a month ago, the day before Thanksgiving in fact, Johnson learned he has lung cancer. This week, he was to return to the VA hospital in Sioux Falls to discuss the course of treatment, which will likely be radiation. Just as he fought to do his part in the war, Johnson will fight this cancer too. After all, he is on a mission — a mission to see his memorial.

Meanwhile, the most highly decorated living soldier, has died.

2) Mind exercise: The subject is Christmas and it’s a quiz from The Economist. Here’s one answer to get you started. Forty percent of Americans will do at least some of their shopping at WalMart. Need more? The BBC has its 52 weeks/52 questions test ready for you. How much do you remember about 2009?

3) The New York Times’ Lens blog asked readers to submit a picture that said “family.” They chose 282 of them:

times_family_dec24.jpg


What’s striking is how frequently the notion of family is expressed through the interaction of generations. Almost every picture in this gallery has that in common with the rest. (So did the slide show on Dec. 14 with which we invited your submissions.) Families embrace difference by their very nature. So it’s not surprising that the most appealing and resonant pictures in this gallery are those composed with complex chords, those in which some fundamental divide has at least briefly been bridged by the people in the frame.

The holidays can be a “trying” time for families. These photos are a good reminder, though, that we’re only going to pass this way once.

4) Christmas is a tough time for life’s lessons for an 11 year old. MPR’s Annie Baxter has the story of Michelle and Allen Peterson of Bloomington. Allen lost his job as a factory manager in August. There’ll be no Christmas presents for their daughter. It’s a “teachable moment,” they say, and they declined a friend’s gift of $200 to buy presents for their daughter, Baxter reports.


They worried about hurting their friend’s feelings but decided to stick to their principles and decline the money. Michelle says they wanted to be consistent in their message to Alex.

“We would never accept it, but even had we accepted it, how would we explain, “Here’s what we’ve been saying and all of a sudden here are some really cool gifts.” So then we’re kind of like, ‘Are we really being grinches?” Kind of second guessing. But I don’t think so. She’s a happy kid, she’s got plenty of things,” Michelle said.

It’s all perspective after all. American Public Media’s The Story offers Paul Ciceri as proof. He’ll enjoy Christmas this year because he’s not in a prison in Abu Dhabi. It’s a dangerous enough place for anyone, but even more so if you’re like Paul: American, Christian and gay in the Middle East. While imprisoned, however, he was able to celebrate Christmas with the help of some Muslim inmates.

5) Every year, NORAD tracks Santa Claus’ flight. How did it start? Someone — a kid — called the phone number used to alert the military of pending Armageddon. The officer at the other end of the phone — Col. Harry Shoup — rolled with it and started a tradition. That was 1958 and this is the first year since without Col. Shoup, who died this year.

Bonus: As a public service, here’s a suggestion of what the cabin-bound can accomplish:

Here’s how it was done.

TODAY’S QUESTION

American consumers were expected to spend more than $430 billion on retail purchases this holiday season. Some of that money went to buy the perfect gift, and some of it didn’t. What’s the best or worst gift you ever received?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: A recent study estimated that Americans waste 50 percent more food than they did 30 years ago. Meanwhile, visits to food banks keep increasing suggesting that more can’t afford to buy groceries. But some are trying to control the food waste problem.

Second hour: The light is gradually returning, but not fast enough for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Midmorning looks at what separates SAD from other forms of depression, and what researchers are learning about the most effective treatments.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: University of Minnesota climatologist and meteorologist Mark Seeley joins Gary Eichten for the latest on the winter storm, and a look back at the year in weather.

Second hour: Stephanie Curtis talks about holiday movie releases.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Ben Yagoda’s biography of the Memoir.

Second hour: A Look at Christmas through the lens of Frank Capra’s It s a Wonderful Life.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - It’s one of the fastest growing industries in the world and the National Science Foundation predicts it’ll need two million nanotech workers in the next five years. A two year training program in Fargo-Moorhead gives students hands on training to prepare them for nanotech jobs. MPR’s Dan Gunderson will have the story.

Besides Santa, the busiest people at Christmas Eve are musicians, and among the musicians, the busiest ones are often church organists. MPR’s Dan Olson profiles two of them.

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