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September 28, 2008

Structure Analysis

Structural differences can be seen when comparing this week’s stories regarding the marine who was awarded the Navy Cross rather than the Medal of Honor.

Two sources were consulted, one article written by the Christian Science Monitor and another article by the Marine Corps Times.

The Christian Science Monitor leads in with the description of heroism, and the family and friends’ surprise that Sgt. Rafael Peralta hasn’t been awarded the Medal of Honor. The format resembles the martini approach, with an inverted pyramid of relevant facts, followed by a series of fact blocks and ending with the kicker quote from a fellow marine saved by Sgt. Peralta's actions, “I have a second chance.?

The Marine Corps Times does not have a standard lead, but rather more of a straight explanation of what will occur. “Navy Secretary… will award the Navy Cross medal.? It then explains why in the nutgraph, and from there reads like the citation written for the award itself. That he was even considered for the Medal of Honor doesn’t get mentioned until several paragraphs into the reading.

However, like the Christian Science Monitor, it too ends with a kicker quotation regarding one veteran’s response to the downgraded award, “That just leaves a hollow pit in my stomach.?

13-Million-Digit Prime Number Discovered

UCLA mathematicians (and their 75 lab computers) discovered a 13-million-digit prime number winning a $100,000 prize.

Prime numbers are only divisible by one and themselves, such as 3, 5 and 7.

The computers were part of a worldwide effort to discover the next largest prime number, through a program called the “Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search?, or “GIMPS.? The program harnesses and runs on unallocated computer power, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Prime numbers are expressed in the equation "2P-1," in which P is to the power of a prime number, the Los Angeles Times explained.

“In the new UCLA prime, P = 43,112,609,? the Los Angeles Times reported.

“We’re delighted. Now we’re looking for the next one, despite the odds,? Edson Smith, the leader of the UCLA winning team, told the Associated Press.

Those odds “are thought to be about one in 150,000 that any number tested will be a Mersenne prime,? according to the Los Angeles Times.

September 27, 2008

Father Flings Dog Over Balcony

A daughter and her two friends watched as her father flung her pet bull-dog from a third floor balcony in St. Paul Friday night, police said.

Her mother’s ex-boyfriend, Donald Dornseif, 44, was charged with felony animal cruelty, according to the Pioneer Press.

A downstairs neighbor, Cynthia Hayes, overheard Dornseif say above her “I hate animals,? while sitting on her balcony. “I told him, ‘You hate animals, because you are an animal,’? Hayes told the Pioneer Press.

“Do you want to see the dog hit the sidewalk?? Dornseif allegedly replied, according to the Pioneer Press.

Moments later Precious, a 3-year-old, 70 pound bull-dog, plummeted past the neighbors balcony and struck the ground, the Pioneer Press reported.

When police arrived at 10 p.m., Dornseif explained that the dog had jumped over the balcony when he tried to pick the dog up.

“It would be impossible for such a heavy, short dog to jump a distance of 8 to 10 feet from that railing without being propelled,? police told the Star Tribune.

Chinese Astronaut Walks in Space

A Chinese astronaut walked in space Saturday, making one large leap for China’s space program.

“Greetings to all the people of the nation and all the people of the world,? Zhai Zhigang,said as he walked in space, according to the Associated Press.

A second crewmember, Liu Boming reached out and handed Zhai a small Chinese flag which he waved, CNN reported.

China has made dramatic progress in its space program in recent history and is fast becoming a strong competitor in the space race.

In the U.S., NASA hopes to return to the moon by 2020. However, China’s progress has cast a pallor on the program. “I admire what they have done, but I am concerned that it will leave the United States in its wake,? Michael D. Griffin, administrator of NASA, told the New York Times.

The space program is highly guarded within both countries. On Wednesday, the day before the Chinese launch into space, “the F.B.I. arrested a Chinese-born physicist in Newport News, Va., on charges of illegally exporting space launching technical data and services to China beginning in 2003,? according to the New York Times.

Shu Quan-Sheng, “was born in China but was a naturalized American citizen,? the New York Times reported.

September 26, 2008

Marine Denied Medal of Honor

A marine, who saved fellow troops by pulling a live grenade underneath his body thereby shielding his comrades from the blast, will not be receiving the Medal of Honor.

Instead, he has been posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, because there is no Medal of Honor for those struck by “friendly fire.?

Sgt. Rafael Peralta died Nov. 15, 2004 in the fighting of the Battle of Fallujah. He was 25 years old.

The troops entered a home with a rifle squad. Insurgents began firing upon them, and Peralta was caught in the crossfire. He was shot in the chest and head, and fell to the floor.

A fragmentation grenade was thrown into the fray and landed near Peralta’s head and “without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety, Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing then brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away,? officials said in an announcement reported by the Marine Corps Times.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates decided to downgrade the award to the Navy Cross, the second highest award for valor, rather than the Medal of Honor he was recommended for by the Marines.

Conflicting forensic information apparently called the award into question, because there was doubt as to whether this deliberate act was possible given the nature of his wounds, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

Peralta’s mother however is refusing to accept the award, saying that the Navy Cross itself is a slight against her son, “who was born in Mexico in 1979 and enlisted in the Marine Corps the same day he received his green card,? the Christian Science Monitor reported.

Local FBI Raid

Federal agents descended upon Petters Group Worldwide headquarters, in Minnetonka, on Wednesday morning, commandeering materials from the offices and sending employees home for the remainder of the day, according to the Pioneer Press.

When employees returned Thursday, Tom Petters, the Chairman and CEO, reassured and encouraged the workers to “remain positive,? according to the Star Tribune.

The company’s statement explained “the investigation pertains to one financial entity that Petters is involved with,? according to the Pioneer Press. The statement went on to explain that the probe “doesn’t involve Sun Country Airlines, Polaroid, uBid, Fingerhut or Great Waters Media? holdings, according to the Pioneer Press coverage.

The FBI, the IRS criminal investigation division, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Attorney’s office entered the building around 9 a.m., Paul McCabe, a special agents with the Minneapolis FBI office told the Pioneer Press.

The FBI agents also searched Petters’ residence. Petters was not home when the searches took place. Both the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune attempted to interview Petters, but he declined invterviews.

September 20, 2008

Attribution Analysis

“He said, she said,? is the preferred form for properly attributing comments in news. Following this guideline can minimize editorializing in news stories. Through transparent references, the speaker is given full credit for their comments, and the reader is allowed to interpret the quotation based solely on the speaker’s comment, and not upon the writer’s interpretation. This also helps to preserve the writer’s credibility. Examples to avoid include the use of verbs such as “chortled? or “scoffed.?

The placement of the preferred term “said? is also important. By including it at the end of the sentence, the comment itself is given a more prominent placement, without being muddled by the attribution process.

Attribution examples from this week’s news stories are found in the stories run by the Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post about North Korea’s nuclear reactor.

The Christian Science Monitor
clearly outlines its sources by prefixing the quotations with simple attribution such as “The BBC reports? or “CNN writes.? Attribution is clearly defined by this approach. However, this method does diverge from the classic convention which prefers placement at the end of the quotation.

However, the Washington Post story adheres to the use of said to close the phrase, or to break up a longer reference into a more manageable read.

Cheney Must Divulge Records

A federal judge’s decision mandates that Vice-President Dick Cheney must preserve and surrender his office’s paperwork at the close of his term in office, CNN reported Saturday.

“The Bush administration’s legal position ‘heightens the courts concern’ that some records may not be preserved’? CNN reported regarding U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s decision.

Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington argued that the office of the vice president was not part of the executive or legislative branches but was instead “attached by the Constitution to Congress.?

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington brought the case forward because the lawsuit “alleges that the Bush administration’s actions over the past 7 ½ years raise questions over whether the White House will turn over records created by Cheney and his staff to the National Archives," CNN reported.

“The goal, proponents say, is to protect a treasure trove of information about national security, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, domestic wiretapping, energy policy, and other major issues that could be hidden from the public,? the Washinngon Post had reported Sept. 8th.

“I’m concerned that they may not be preserved. Whether they’ve been zapped already, we don’t know,? Stanley Kutler, a University of Wisconsin Law School professor and constitutional scholar, told the Washington Post.

September 19, 2008

Church Leader Apologizes to Darwin

The church owes Charles Darwin an apology for the its reaction to his theory of evolution, a public affairs spokesperson for the church said.

The Church of England should apologize, The Rev. Malcolm Brown wrote, for “getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand (Darwin) still,? CNN reported.

His commentary did not constitute a formal apology by the Church of England.

“Brown’s piece was a ‘personal view’ of Darwin’s contribution to science and did not amount to an official apology from the church,? a Church of England spokesman told the Guardian.

Darwin belonged to the Church of England but clashed with other Anglicans with whom he debated his theory of evolution.

His breaks from the Church of England and from his faith were mentioned in the Guardian.

“I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete,? Darwin wrote.

Reinstating North Korea's Nuclear Reactor

North Korea began reinstating its nuclear reactor earlier this month despite a prior disarmament agreement because the United States has not removed the country from its terrorism blacklist.

North Korea claims a treaty agreement has been broken. The treaty - made in 2007 between North and South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan - included provisions for “diplomatic concessions and energy aid equivalent to one million tonnes of oil,? the Guardian reported Friday.

The reactor’s decommissioning process had been about 90 percent complete. Officials believe it may take between one and two years for the reactor to return to full operation.

North Korea has not offered any information about when the reactor will be working.

The Christian Science Monitor compiled information regarding the restoration of the reactor.

“You’ll come to know soon,? Hyan Hak-Bong, North Korean diplomat, told the BBC, according to the Christian Science Monitor's website.

North Korea’s supply of plutonium has increased. Earlier information suggested that North Korea was capable of manufacturing one or two nuclear weapons, the Washington Post reported.

But now “outside analysts and U.S. officials believe North Korea has 53 kilograms of plutonium, enough to produce about 10 or more weapons.?

September 18, 2008

I-35W Bridge Opens

Police, ambulances and fire trucks led traffic in a 10-15 mph procession across the rebuilt I-35W bridge just after 5 a.m. Thursday morning.

Cars, Trucks, motorcycles and emergency responders drove slowly from the north and the south. “Drivers spaced themselves three across, and stopped at the middle,? the Star Tribune reported, and “drivers could be seen waving at each other through windows and sunroofs as they honked horns and snapped photos.?

The reopening of the bridge that collapsed Aug. 1, 2007, occurred “three months ahead of schedule,? thePioneer Press reported Thursday.

A gas station near Washington Avenue that is handing out free gas cards to the first travelers across the bridge who exit the freeway caused some traffic back up Thursday morning, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

September 16, 2008

Up to $150,000 Worth of Delegate's Valuables Missing

According to the Minneapolis police, a woman has allegedly robbed between $50,000 and $150,000 from a Denver delegate attending the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul while visiting his Hotel Ivy room.

The Star Tribune reported that the woman accompanied him to his hotel room and offered to make him a drink. Police said he may have been drugged.

According to the paper, the victim, Gabriel Schwartz, was “very forthright with us, and he has a lot of details,? Minneapolis police Sgt. Bill Palmer said.

The Pioneer Press’ coverage includes information regarding Schwartz’s political views.
“’Less taxes and more war,’ he said, smiling,? on a video referenced by the Pioneer Press.
The Pioneer Press also noted biographical sketches found in the Rocky Mountain News which indicated that his “dream ticket? was John McCain and Mitt Romney.?

According to the Pioneer Press he advocated for aerial bombing of Iran and recommended that protesters outside the RNC “get a job.?

September 13, 2008

Lead Analysis

The Associated Press covered Hurricane Ike with the following lead. ?Howling ashore with 110 mph winds, Hurricane Ike ravaged the Texas coast Saturday, flooding thousands of homes and businesses, shattering windows in Houston's skyscrapers and knocking out power to millions of people.? This lead successfully details who, what, when, where, why and even delves into the how by providing greater imagery through strong verbs.

Succinct phrases address “who, what, when, where and why.? Who? refers only to “millions of people.? “What? addresses the extensive damage. “When? simply states “Saturday.? “Where? refers to the “Texas coast? not specifying directly where within Texas. " Why" explains that Hurrican Ike made landfall. This information expresses only general facts regarding the event.

Interest is peaked by words like “howling,? “ravaged? and “shattering? which vividly demonstrate the “how? of the story by detailing the extent of damage in the reader’s mind. This vivid imagery brings the hard news to life. Capturing the reader’s imagination through strong verb use, the writer presents hard news in an interesting and engaging manner.

Hurricane Ike Hammers Houston

Hurricane Ike’s winds, clocked at 110 mph, battered Galveston, Texas, early Saturday morning while residents who had not evacuated called for aid.

As the category-two hurricane barreled onto shore, Galveston residents were ordered to evacuate, but Houston did not face a mandatory evacuation of all areas. Low lying areas were ordered to evacuate but “Houston officials… told some 2 million others to ‘hunker down,’? The Associated Press story reported wihin the Star Tribune.

Glass windows blew out of Houston’s skyscrapers, fires burned, and concern grew as distressed residents called in for help.

Emergency crews could not immediately respond.

September 12, 2008

Medicaid in Minnesota

State legislature has two weeks from Wednesday to challenge President Bush’s recent veto against continuing medical insurance subsidies for low-income families in Minnesota.

The administration plans to eliminate access to Minnesota Care, used by 18,000 low-income parents in Minnesota, according to the Star Tribune. The administration opposes the parents’ coverage, originally only intended for children, but, the state officials suggest that total family coverage is the most cost effective measure.

“We believe that by covering parents, you improve access for the kids,? State Medicaid Director Christine Bronson told the Star Tribune. “Families that are covered are more likely to bring their kids in,? she said.

September 8, 2008

Cyber Attacks

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the Pentagon is considering shifting from purely defensive cyber systems to more aggressive offensive stances.

Science fiction warfare became reality on Aug. 12 the New York Times reported that a data stream, discovered by Jose Nazario of Lexington, Mass., containing the phrase “win+love+in+Rusia? bombarded Georgia's networks. The attack defaced web sites and denied service. These virtual attacks preceded the ground attack by several weeks. Authorities do not yet know who was behind the attack.

With far more dependence upon online transactions and information, the U.S. is more vulnerable to attack than Georgia.

The Los Angeles Times quoted Michael W. Wynne, a former Air Force secretary, who said "It is about having a soldier with an invasive tool he can fire at an antenna, and put some information into it, and from there do some damage."

The New York Times interviewed research director Bill Woodcock, of the Packet Clearing House, who said “You could fund an entire cyber warfare campaign for the cost of replacing a tank tread, so you would be foolish not to.?

September 7, 2008

Bridge Incentive Speeds Completion

Crews are highly motivated to complete the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis.

If completed by Sept. 15, the Pioneer Press reported contractors can earn up to a $27 million dollar bonus.

The contract awards an additional $200,000 per day that the bridge is completed ahead of schedule . Construction workers believe that the bridge could be completed by Sept. 16 – well ahead of the original Dec. 24 deadline.

The Star Tribune reported that Flatiron, the company in charge of reconstruction, was awarded a $234 million dollar contract to rebuild the bridge.

The projected date for the reopening of the I-35W Bridge is unknown.

September 6, 2008

Paralympics Open In Beijing

The opening ceremony, awash with color and caricature, initiated the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.

Saturday's ceremony centered around "space, time, and life."

According to the BBC, China implemented accomodations to ease access to the subways, buses, sidewalks and the Great Wall. USA Today reports "Beijing has spent $80 million since 2001 to improve access for the city's nearly 1 million people."

The BBC pointed to a flaw however, for grooves etched into sidewalks can guide the blind right into a parked car.

Interestingly the paragraphs addressing these types of inadequacies had been cut from the story when the BBC's webpage was revisited.