Coming home (5×8 – 12/19/11)

The Iraq war is over. Now what? Also, the SOPA story, the disappearing post office, closing airport control towers, and Roy Babcock’s lousy year.

The Monday Morning Rouser:


Over the weekend, the last U.S. troops left Iraq and now we know who the last serviceperson was to die in the war. It was David Hickman, 23, from North Carolina, the Associated Press reports.

“There’s a lot of people, in my family included, they don’t know what’s going on in this world,” said Wes Needham, who coached linebackers at Northeast when David was a student. “They’re oblivious to it. I just sit and think about it, the courage that it takes to do what they do, especially when they’re all David’s age.”

The average age of a soldier killed in Iraq was 26.

For 265 soldiers, Minneapolis-St. Paul isn’t home; it was just the first stop in U.S. soil on the way home to Texas. But volunteers from the Armed Forces Services Center gave up their Sunday yesterday to make it feel like home.

For those coming home, and assuming the U.S. doesn’t get into another war, the task is finding jobs.

GoFigure today looks at challenges faced by military men and women returning home.

In St. Francis, Minn., the Munoz family is still apart. Freddy, a member of the Minnesota National Guard “Red Bulls” 34th Infantry Division, is stationed in Kuwait assisting with the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Jenny is home with Eszie, 6, and Emma, 8. MPR’s Jeffrey Thompson provided this look at how the family is dealing with a deployment on the home front.

In Frazee, meanwhile, Frankie the dog, found standing in the middle of a highway months ago, is now serving a veteran with PTSD. “They saved this dog, and he’s basically saving me,” Joe Buzay tells the Wadena Pioneer Journal.

But Minnesota owns a statistic not to be proud of. The Minnesota National Guard leads the nation in the number of soldiers who have taken their own lives. Today, the Legislature will pull itself away from a sex scandal long enough to try to figure out if there’s anything the state can do about it.


Though I’ve been on vacation for a week, there’s no topic I’ve gotten more e-mail about of late than SOPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act being considered by Congress. Powerful Hollywood and media interests want a crackdown on copyright infringement. The Silicon Valley crowd says it gives government too much power to shut down websites.

John Bain, in the UK, has this explanation from his perspective.

The Tennessean editorialized yesterday in favor of protecting intellectual property, but not a scorched earth method of doing so:

The average consumer supports the right of movie and music artists, for example, to profit from their own work. But if everything on the Internet becomes a commodity, millions will find their modern-day speech rights abridged and their privacy invaded, and the Internet itself will lose the vibrancy that comes from free expression and instant response.

The solution is a more targeted approach to stop real pirates — those who benefit materially from others’ work. In the case of Hollywood, for example, this means going after foreign websites that sell counterfeit and stolen products to vast audiences in other countries (think China) who neither know nor care that the movie or song download they just purchased is a stolen copy.

A congressional committee will take up the legislation on Wednesday.


Evan Kalish, a 25-year-old graduate student, is trying to visit as many of the thousands of doomed post offices as he can before they’re closed.

“Without the post office,” he tells the BBC, “there’s nothing to bind people together.” See his video here.

Kalish blogs about his post office exploits at the Going Postal blog.


One Twin Cities airport may be losing its control tower. A general aviation lobbying group says the FAA is being pressured to close towers the FAA operates under contract — that would possibly include the Crystal Airport. The Airplane Owners and Pilots Association says the Office of Management and Budget has made the suggestion that funding be pulled from contract towers.

The suggestion comes as the result of Congress’ failure to approve a budget deal last month, and is a good indication of the kind of across-the-board cuts that may be coming.


Roy Babcock, of Denmark Township, is a single father raising four children. In April, he found out he has cancer. In August, a heart problem put him the hospital for 11 days. While he was in the hospital, someone stole his pickup truck. Now, someone drove into his auto mechanic business and stole every tool he had, the Pioneer Press reports.

Bonus: Can classical music cure your golf game?

Bonus II: What has to happen the rest of the way for the Vikings to get a real quarterback?


The last U.S. troops left Iraq on Sunday, ending a war that began more than eight years ago. Today’s Question: What’s likely to be the lasting legacy of the war in Iraq?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Violence against women, and teen drug use.

Second hour: The year in beer .

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman on the future of the Ford plant site.

Second hour: Author Lisa See from Hennepin County Library’s Talk of the Stacks series

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: What to look for at the Supreme Court. Plus, a holiday season of billion-dollar video games.

Second hour: The cycles we live by, and how they affect everything from where we live to how

we eat.