The tragedy that happens every 36 hours, rediscovering a son, making friends in Minnesota, leaving vacation time on the table, and changing University Avenue.
Welcome to the first day in December. Now this message: In 15 days, the sun begins setting later in the day. Carry on.
1) THE EVERY-36-HOUR TRAGEDY
Sean Alexander Dacus, 31, of Grand Forks, walked into the Altru Clinic this week and borrowed a marker at the coffee shop. “He wrote on his arm ‘Do not resuscitate’ and below that, ‘Donate organs please,’ a police source said. To the right of those lines, he wrote ‘A-,’ which police believe was his blood type,” says the Grand Forks Herald.
Then he went outside, sat on a bench, and shot and killed himself.
Dacus served in the Second Brigade Second Battalion’s Alpha Company in Iraq, where a close friend was killed. He also served a tour in Afghanistan.
“For the situations we were in, he was always upbeat,” a colleague said. “The Sean I knew was a fun guy to be around. He was never a depressed person.”
We don’t know what led him to end his life in a parking lot of a medical clinic. We need to find that answer.
A report last month said a member of the military dies by suicide every 36 hours in this country. “Although only 1 percent of Americans have served in the military, former service members represent 20 percent of suicides in the United States,” the report said.
2) TOGETHER AGAIN
Lisa Spinks gave her two-year old son Michael up for adoption 20 years ago. This week, they saw each other for the first time since then at the airport in Fargo. “I feel complete now. Part of me that was missing is back. I got my boy,” she tells WDAZ TV.
Discussion point: If you could pick anybody from your past to spend the holidays with, who would it be?
3) MAKING FRIENDS
The whole “Minnesota’s cold culture” debate has probably worn itself out, but MPR reporter Sasha Aslanian has a story of those who move here and find a cold and unwelcoming native population. In today’s MPR commentary, she tells the story of a friend who refused to take “Minnesotan” for an answer.
Amanda needed no sleep, and was an inexhaustible extrovert. She’d drive to IKEA in Chicago, loading up everyone’s requests. She’d organize a museum gala when I didn’t know rich people came in our age bracket. Everywhere she went, she’d gather up friends and periodically hold parties to introduce everybody.
And then she moved away.
“Out-of-towners, we’re glad you’re here. We just need you to teach us that,” Aslanian writes.
4) WORKING: A DAILY SNAPSHOT
The Minneapolis City Council is pretty ticked off that firefighters in the city are using so much sick time, and that the firefighters tend to get sick on weekends, the Star Tribune says. Nobody would come right out and say the city workers are using sick time for mini-vacations.
Did someone say “vacation?”
The United States workforce will leave $34 billion worth of vacation time on the table this year, NPR’s Two Way blog says today.
Is that a lot? It’s 226 million days of vacation. That’s 619,178 years worth of vacation per year.
In Spain, workers get — and take — 30 days of vacation per year, the blog says.
In Moorhead, meanwhile, locked-out workers and supporters at American Crystal Sugar held a prayer vigil last night, the four-month-anniversary of the beginning of the lockout. While singing “We Shall Overcome,” the group changed the words to “We are a not a cancer,” the Fargo Forum reports. The workers say the company CEO referred to them as a “cancer.” The company says they took CEO Dave Berg’s comment to shareholders out of context.
Sometimes, popular culture does a better job of framing issues in the news than the news. In last night’s episode of Harry’s Law, for example, attorneys made closing arguments in the case of a woman who stuck up a bank because it refused to help her renegotiate her mortgage.
5) CHANGING UNIVERSITY AVE.
Construction crews have finished light-rail work on Saint Paul’s University Avenue, MPR’s Laura Yuen reports. The contractor faced stiff fines if it failed to make yesterday’s deadline to re-open the street. The work has gotten low marks from the members of the community because of its disruption to businesses and pedestians.
Students at a local high school have been documenting the work in a journalism project associated with the Minnesota Historical Society and the University of Minnesota School of Journalism. This video was posted yesterday:
Bonus: The Ikea people. May not be suitable for the workplace.
John Hinckley, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, is asking for more time away from the mental institution where he lives. Doctors say Hinckley’s mental health has greatly improved, and already he is allowed to visit his mother up to 10 days at a time. Today’s Question: What factors should determine whether John Hinckley gets more freedom?
Examining Minnesota finances, as state finance officials release the next budget forecast today.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Europe’s credit crisis and the world economy.
Second hour: Phillip Brunelle and the members of VocalEssence join Kerri Miller in the Maud Moon Weyerhauser studio for a celebration of odd and obscure Christmas carols.
Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Two former speakers of the Minnesota House — DFLer Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Republican Steve Sviggum — discuss the state’s budget situation.
Second hour: Stephen King, speaking recently at the JFK Library about his new novel about President Kennedy, titled “11/22/63.”
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: New NPR boss Gary Knell is spending his first day as company president today. He’ll be on the show at 1:40.
Second hour: TBA