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November 23, 2008

Vatican Forgives John Lennon’s Remark

After four decades, the Vatican has released an article forgiving John Lennon for saying that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus, according to Reuters and the BBC Saturday.

In 1966, Lennon mentioned that he “did not know which would die out first, Christianity or rock and roll,? the BBC reported.

At that time the comment met with controversy, particularly in the U.S., where conservative Christians “burned Beatles’ albums in huge pyres,? according to Reuters.

The article in the Vatican paper coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Beatles “White Album,? Reuters and the BBC reported.

Minn. Senate Recount

The battle between Al Franken and incumbent Norm Coleman remains tense and close during a meticulous recount process, according to the Associated Press and the Star Tribune.

“Attorneys on both sides have already armored up for the next pitched battle; over whether to reexamine thousands of rejected absentee ballots,? the Star Tribune reported Sunday.

The last time such a protracted recount occurred was in 1962, that race “wasn’t resolved until the following March, when the candidate who initially appeared to win found his lead reversed and decided not to pursue further legal action,? according to the Associated Press.

Politics as usual back then as today, “There were lots of ugly accusations,? Tom Swain, now 87 told the Associated Press. “Accusations, acrimony – it was all flying, some of it was well-intentioned, and some of it was over the top.?

As of Saturday evening, Coleman’s lead over Franken had dwindled to 180 votes, according to the Star Tribune.

“If the Canvassing Board decides to review rejected absentee ballots, many still unexamined votes could get thrown into the mix, adding far more uncertainty,? the Star Tribune reported.

November 22, 2008

Al-Qaeda Video Slurs Obama

Al-Qaeda’s second in command called President-elect Barack Obama a “house negro,? and warned that a “heavy legacy of failure and crimes awaits,? according to the New York Times and CNN.

The election of Obama only masks a “heart full of hate,? Ayman al-Zawahri said, according to the New York Times.

Because Obama has called for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, Americans have admitted to defeat in Iraq, the leader said, according to the New York Times.

In a video released on the web on Wednesday, Ayman mocked Obama, and said he was the “direct opposite of honorable black Americans,? according to CNN.

He warned that moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan is a “policy which was destined for failure before it was born,? CNN reported.

“And be aware that the dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands to them,? al-Zawahiri said according to CNN.


Hecker Closes 6 Car Lots, Sells 3 others

Six local car lots were closed Friday, and three others sold, from within Denny Hecker’s auto empire in central Minnesota, according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

Four hundred employees are out of a job, according to the Pioneer Press.

Hecker claimed he was “in a perfect storm of economic bad news,? according to the Pioneer Press.

The closings coincided with a law suit filed by General Motors aimed at Hecker to prevent him from selling Hyundai automobiles in his Chevrolet showroom, according to the Star Tribune.

Saudi Riches Revive Rochester's Economy

Rochester’s struggling economic structure received an infusion from Saudi Arabia’s royal family, according to the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.

The royal family “spent enough money during their visit this week to remedy the area’s economic woes for the year,? the Star Tribune reported.

They spent between $1 million to 2.5 million during their eight day stay, the Pioneer Press reported.

Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz arrived in Rochester on Nov. 15, with “at least five Saudi princes and hundreds of others,? the Star Tribune reported.

Although the king left Rochester Wednesday, some of the group remains behind still, according to the Star Tribune.


November 16, 2008

Fridley Football Player Fatally Shot

A Fridley high-school student died Friday night in his home after being shot in the chest by a friend who thought he had unloaded the gun, according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

The high-school football player “was doing everything right,? in school and by his family according to the Star Tribune report.

He was dedicated to football, and to supporting his mother, according to a Fridley High School senior, A.B. Borner told the Star Tribune. “I remember when he was a kid, he made a promise to his mom to support her. That’s why he played his heart out. Everything he did, he did it for her.?

Diversity Analysis

The use of the term “The Dirty 30? indicates a predisposition toward detainees as dirty and dangerous in Guantanamo Bay, as described by the Telegraph.co.uk and the New York Times.

It denigrates the detainees and presumes guilt.

Granted, in the news organizations defense, it was a term adopted by the U.S. government to describe 30 of the roughly 255 prisoners held at the detention center.

The reports are telling, however, indicating the conflict between the U.S. and the prisoners. “I admit to you it is my honor to be an enemy of the United States,? a detainee being held said, according to the New York Times.

The story employs multiple quotes from prisoners to depict the torture and coercion they experience in captivity.
The depictions are somewhat stereotypical of our image of “terrorists? hating the U.S. and the quotes only perpetuate this familiar hatred.

Regrettably, just about anyone detained without recourse would experience similar contempt for their captors. Because of this experience, their hatred is justified, and the stereotypes, though predictable, are understandable.


November 15, 2008

The Dirty 30

President Bush may pardon U.S. spies that have interrogated Guantanamo Bay detainees over the past seven years where allegations of torture have been prolific, according to the Telegraph.co.uk.

Agents interrogated body guards for Osama Bin Laden and other detainees, according to the New York Times.

These body guards, known as “The Dirty 30,? were captured early in the war in Afghanistan, the New York Times reported.

Guantanamo Bay “includes prisoners who the government says were trained in assassination and the use of poisons and disguises,? the New York Times reported.

“One detainee is said to have been schooled in making detonators out of Sega game cartridges,? the New York Times reported.

Roughly 255 prisoners remain in the detention center according to the New York Times and Telegraph.co.uk.

“It’s easy to close the place, but what do you do with the detainees? There are some serious head cases in there,? an ex-CIA official told the Telegraph.co.uk.

“Many fear that Barack Obama, who has pledged to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and put an end to the policy of extraordinary rendition, could launch a legal witch hunt against those who oversaw the policies after his is sworn in,? the Telegraph.co.uk said.

Although little is known regarding these detainees, the New York Times research team developed some indications of who these detainees are by analyzing records of hearings, now made public following a lawsuit put forth by the Associated Press, the New York Times reported.

Interrogation techniques revealed by the research includes “sleep deprivation, isolation and being put on a leash and forced to perform dog tricks,? the New York Times reported.

“I admit to you it is my honor to be an enemy of the United States,? a detainee being held said according to the New York Times.

Regarding a confession made by an Algerian detainee the record states “I was abused mentally and psychologically, by threatening to be raped,? he added “You would say anything,? according to the New York Times.

Forced Abortion Delayed In Remote China

Six months into her pregnancy, a Chinese Muslim woman sits detained in a local hospital awaiting a forced abortion of her third child, according to Radio Free Asia and the Pioneer Press.

Chinese officials warned Arzigul Tursun, now 26 months pregnant, “their house and property would be seized if Arzigul did not undergo an abortion,? the Pioneer Press and Radio Free Asia reported.

The procedure has been delayed following an international outcry, the Radio Free Asia reported. Rep. Chris Smith wrote an appeal calling on the Chinese Ambassador, Zhou Wenshong, to intervene, Radio Free Asia and the Pioneer Press reported.

Smith called the situation a “nightmare of forced abortion,? according to the Pioneer Press.

Rural dwellers are permitted up to three children, while urban dwellers are only permitted two children according to Radio Free Asia and the Pioneer Press.

This third child is called into question because although Tursun is a rural woman, her husband is registered as urban, Radio Free Asia and the Pioneer Press reported.

“The Chinese government is notorious for this barbaric practice, but to forcibly abort a woman while the world watches in full knowledge of what is going on would make a mockery of its claim that the central government disapproves of the practice,? Smith said, according to the Pioneer Press.

November 14, 2008

Auto Industry Failing

A local auto empire filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Chrysler Financial Services, according to the Pioneer Press, and consumers aren’t buying cars, according to the Star Tribune.

Denny Hecker’s lawsuit accuses Chrysler of “acting in bad faith by freezing Hecker’s credit lines and refusing to honor certain lending agreements without just cause or warning,? the Pioneer Press reported.

Hecker’s employs 1,200 people across 18 dealerships mostly in Minnesota, the Pioneer Press reported.
Economic fears have virtually frozen car sales, the Star Tribune reported.

The auto industry is asking Congress for “25 billion in bailout money,? the Star Tribune reported.

Secretary of State Speculations

President – elect Barack Obama’s cabinet may include either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Bill Richardson as secretary of state, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press.

Obama met with Clinton on Thursday to “discuss what role she might play in his administration,? the New York Times reported.

Other possibilities include John Kerry, and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, the New York Times reported.

Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico who also served as an ambassador to the United Nations, may also be a candidate for the secretary of state position according to the Associated Press.

Obama appears to be seeking a “Team of Rivals,? a book depicting the presidency of Abraham Lincoln in which he appointed rival campaigners to political posts, the Associated Press reported.

November 9, 2008

Coleman Campaign Requests Absentee Ballots Held

Norm Coleman’s campaign asked a Ramsey County judge Saturday to delay the counting of 32 absentee ballots until their integrity could be independently confirmed, according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

The judge decided that the Minneapolis ballots should be counted, despite the concern raised by Coleman’s campaign that the ballots may have been compromised, according to the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.

Some polling places had been shut down before the ballots were delivered; Coleman’s campaign contends that the ballots were in a city election official’s car, according to the Pioneer Press.

Al Franken’s campaign called the request a “Saturday sneak attack,? according to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

Bali Bombers Executed

Three bombers were executed Sunday in Bali; six years after their bombs exploded and killed 202 people in two Indonesian bars, the Christian Science Monitor, Reuters and Associated Press reported.

Imam Samudra, 38, Amrozi Nurhasyim, 47, and Ali Ghufron, 48, were “brought before a firing squad near their high-security prison on Nusakambangan island in the middle of the night Sunday,? according to the Associated Press.

Security precautions were high, because authorities feared a retaliatory terrorist attack from the terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah which had been deemed responsible for the attack in 2002, the Chrisitan Science Monitor reported.

Australians reported to have “received reports of possible terrorist attacks in Indonesia,? leading to heightened security at the embassy and the U.S. mission in Jakarta, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

Emotional ceremonies, included “supporters shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ (God is greatest)? Reuters reported. However, Reuters reported that the funerals were “relatively peaceful? despite the fear of hard-line backlash.

President - Elect Obama's Upcoming Challenges

A broad range of issues await new President-elect Barack Obama when he assumes office in January, the BBC reported on their perceived TOP 10 Foreign Challenges, and “how he might tackle them,? the Wednesday morning following the historic election.

Here are a few of the 10 listed.

First on the list, the U.S. role in the world is perceived as shifting with the election of Obama to the presidency. “The change might be characterized as a move from unilateralism to multilateralism – with less talk about the Untied States as the ‘world’s only superpower,? the BBC reported.

Second, Iraq, Obama “says he will tell his commanders to redefine their mission as one of ‘successfully ending the war,’ but that has to be done ‘responsibly,’? the BBC reports. Obama’s plan called for troop withdrawal “’within 16 months,’ which means the end of May 2010,? the BBC reported. However, troops would remain in place to “conduct operations against al-Qaeda? so complete withdrawal is not anticipated.

Afghanistan is listed as “perhaps the biggest challenge on his agenda,? according to the BBC. Obama has stated he would send “two more combat brigades? to support the war effort in Afghanistan, and he “promised to attack al-Qaeda figures wherever they might be, and it seems, whether or not Pakistan agrees,? the BBC reported.

The “War on Terror,? a phrase introduced by President Bush, “might be given less prominence,? the BBC reported. Instead, Obama has focused on “winning what the 9/11 Commission called ‘the battle of ideas’? in which traditional American values are upheld with cooperative “partnering with moderates within the Islamic world to counter al-Qaeda propaganda,? the BBC reports. This may lead to the closure of Guantanamo Bay, and finding a new way of prosecuting the prisoners held there, the BBC reports.

Iran’s behavior will determine in part how the Obama administration responds to the country. While campaigning, Obama discussed opening talks with Iran “without conditions,? the BBC reported, however should Iran begin weapons grade enrichment of uranium, Israel may call for military strikes ‘against Iran’s nuclear facilities.? “The consequences of such a strike would be severe,? the BBC reports.

November 8, 2008

Numbers Analysis

The U.S. economic effects continue to offer opportunity to explore reporting with numbers. This week’s blog articles related to the 14-year high level of unemployment as covered by the New York Times and the L.A. Times incorporate numbers throughout their reporting. The L.A. Times article discussed how “employers slashed jobs from one end of the economy to the other in October, pushing the unemployment rate to 6.5%. That’s the highest level in more than 14 years, making a deep recession a virtual certainty.? The percentage may be perceived as minor, because there is no larger number to refer to for the percentage. However, the article then goes into detail about how many jobs that equates to, listing 240,000 jobs lost in October nationwide. The article also points to the underreported loss from September originally projected at 159,000 when it was actually closer to 284,000. The reporter goes on to explain that “the economy must normally create about 100,000 jobs a month to keep pace with population growth,? but so far “the economy has shrunk by nearly 1.2 million jobs? this year. The L.A. Times does a good job putting the big picture of the unemployment percentage into perspective through a well-constructed graph depicting the jobless rate from Jan. 94 to Oct. 08. The L.A. Times also defined the scope of “unemployment? by telling the reader that it doesn’t reflect people who are not actively looking for work, or people who have taken part time jobs in an effort to remain employed at a lesser level.
The New York Times listed the numbers of manufacturing, construction, retail and financial industry jobs lost while explaining that health care, mining and public schools were showing “modest growth? last month. The New York Times also indicated the short term severity of the situation, demonstrating that. The New York Times eased the figures associated with financial stories by simplifying the numbers a bit. When reporting on the 1.2 million jobs lost in 2008 to date, they wrote “more than half in the last three months alone,? rather than giving the exact figure which makes the story an easier read.
Both newspapers referred to the Labor Department as their source.

Unemployment Rate Hits 14-Year High

Continuing job losses, indicated by a 14-year high of unemployment reporting ending in October, signaled the increasing financial difficulties within the U.S., according to the L.A. Times and the New York Times.

The U.S. lost an additional 240,000 jobs in October, the “10th consecutive month of retrenchment,? according to the New York Times.

The job loss trend has been worse than originally projected. “September was far worse than previously reported – 284,000 up from an initial reading of 159,000,? the L.A. Times reported.

This level of unemployment was last seen in the first quarter of 1994, according to the L.A. Times.

All told 1.2 million jobs have been lost in 2008 across the U.S, and “more than half in the last three months alone,? according to the New York Times.

The unemployment rate only takes into account those people who have lost their jobs and are actively looking for work; “it does not include those who have stopped trying to find work or are working part time because they can’t find a full time job,? the L.A. Times reported.

Food Pantry Demand Up

A Menomonie charity’s financial pool is draining in an effort to keep up with a demand of service from their food pantry, the Pioneer Press reported.

Dunn County’s Interfaith Food Pantry’s “traffic has increased 30 percent this year? when comparing this past 10 months to the first 10 months of 2007, according to the Pioneer Press.

In an effort to keep supplies on the shelf, Interfaith has had to “dip into its financial reserves,? the Pioneer Press reported.

In the face of tough economic times, “monetary donations are down 50 percent,? according to the Pioneer Press.

Interfaith serves 547 households, and the average residence includes three people. “Seventy-five percent of the households have less than $1,500 a month,? Interfaith executive director Katherine Dutton told the Pioneer Press.

The most economical donation is money, not food, because the group can stretch one donated dollar to buy $9 worth of groceries through the Feed My People Food Bank in Eau Claire, the Pioneer Press reported.

November 2, 2008

Security Precautions Prior to Executions in Indonesia

Three men, sentenced to death for the 2002 bombing of Bali, are expected to be executed in early November, causing many nations to warn their citizens to exercise caution in their travels, according to the BBC, Telegraph.co.uk and Reuters news agencies.

Westerners were warned against travel to Indonesia. The U.S. warned its citizens to “maintain a low profile,? “Australia advised against all travel,? and the Foreign Office in London told British citizens to “exercise caution and be vigilant for political protests or any sign of violence,? according to Telegraph.co.uk.

Indonesia will not announce when the execution will take place, but executions were “very close? according to the Attorney General’s office report to Reuters.

The men, Imam Samudra, 38, Mukhlas, 48, and Amrozi, 46, are militant Muslims from the group Jemaah Islamiah are due to be “shot in early November,? according to the BBC, for their part in a 2002 bombing in Bali nightclubs that killed 202 people.

Officials are concerned about the potential for backlash, and details surrounding the planned execution are guarded in an effort to thwart retaliatory attacks, the BBC, Reuters and Telegraph.co.uk reported.

Siblings Arrested in Connection With Missing Andover Man

A brother and sister of a missing Andover man allegedly burnt his body in a bonfire following a dispute over an inheritance, and were arrested Friday, the Star Tribune reported.

Andrew T. Hawes, 36 and Elizabeth M. Hawes, 43, were held in Anoka County jail “on suspicion of second-degree murder,? according to the Star Tribune.

Edwin Charles Hawes, 46, was reported missing Thursday afternoon, by his roommate who had found blood in their driveway, according to the Pioneer Press.

Authorities found the brother and sister standing over a bonfire the following day “burning human remains believed to be those of Hawes,? the Pioneer Press reported. A charred torso found in the pit has not been officially identified yet, according to the Pioneer Press.

Edwin Hawes had been granted protection orders against his brother and sister following an incident on July 19. Andrew Hawes had “rammed his truck into his brother’s car,? and pushed it into oncoming traffic, the Pioneer Press reported.

The feud allegedly revolves around their 97- year- old grandmother’s property; Edwin Hawes had been named as conservator, according to the Star Tribune.

Petters Informant Revealed

After participating for 15 years in Tom Petters’ entrepreneurial Ponzi schemes, a woman who had looked to Petters as a boss and mentor turned to the FBI, according to the Sunday Star Tribune article.

Deanna Coleman, “apparently overwhelmed by the size of the alleged fraud and feeling guilty for her own role in it, walked into the sixth-floor suite of the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Minneapolis federal building and agreed to become an informant against her mentor and employer of 15 years,? the Star Tribune reported.

Petters lured businesses into bogus short term investments, such as electronics, when “in truth, no such merchandise existed,? Coleman told federal investigators. “Until Coleman walked through the door, the government had no clue about the alleged scheme,? which dates back to 1993, the Star Tribune reported.

Coleman and others have entered guilty pleas, but Petters maintains his innocence, according to the Star Tribune.


November 1, 2008

Ex-Convict Guns Down Trick-or-Treater

An ex-convict gunned down a 12-year-old boy who approached his home trick-or-treating in Sumter, S.C., “spraying nearly 30 rounds with an assault rifle from inside his home,? police said Saturday according to the Associated Press.

Quentin Patrick, 22, was charged with “murder, and three counts of assault and battery with intent to kill,? according to the New York Times.

The family had attended a city-sponsored event earlier that Friday evening, and around 8:30 p.m. decided to stop at a few houses on their way home, according to the New York Times.

Patrick unloaded his AK-47, “shooting at least 29 times through his front door, walls and windows after hearing the knock,? Police Chief Patty Patterson told the Associated Press.

A 19-year-old woman who had been in the home, Ericka Patrice Pee, was charged with obstruction of justice. She was caught fleeing the scene with $7,500 in cash, according to the Associated Press.

Obituary Analysis

The Associated Press coverage of Studs Terkel’s death follows the standard obituary guidelines discussed in class. The lead is classic, opening with his name, a brief synopsis of his achievements “the ageless master of listening and speaking, a broadcaster, activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author…,? and when, “Friday.? It also closes the lead paragraph with the standard statement “He was 96.?

The Washington Post’s coverage of Terkel’s death is similarly formatted in the lead paragraph. “Studs Terkel, the preeminent oral historian of the 20th-century America who described the major events of his time through the experiences and observations of the ordinary men and women who lived them, died Friday at his home in Chicago after a fall. He was 96.?

In both instances the lead used a standard approach, however, the Post's coverage does allude to a cause of death, referencing “after a fall,? in its lead. The AP story did not include a cause of death.

The AP story used the family and many of Terkel’s writings as source information within the story. The Washington Post story refers on his own recordings for quotes and his best-selling books to offer insight into his life.

The straight obituary lead works in both instances, because it identifies immediately what contributions Terkel made in his life and how people would remember him.

While the obituaries detail the scope of his life’s work, it is more personably told than a resume listing his accomplishments. For instance, the Washington Post remembers his statement “’who built the pyramids?’ he once asked in his inimitable sweet growl. It wasn’t the goddamn pharaohs who built the pyramids. It was the anonymous slaves.’? The quote supports the assertion that Terkel was interested in the common man.

When the Washington Post outlines his accomplishments, it does read a bit like a resume, because it is a simple listing of his work, but the works are embedded in more information about Terkel and his life in the AP article.

Hoax Anthrax Packages Sent to Media

A suspicious package containing a CD labeled with a photograph of Colin Powell titled “Anthrax Shock and Awe Terror? and a small packet of a white sugary substance labeled both “anthrax? and “biohazard? arrived at the Pioneer Press Saturday, according to the Pioneer Press.

A similar package had arrived Thursday at the Star Tribune. Additional newspaper and television agencies around the U.S. reported receiving similar packages, according to the Star Tribune.

Authorities arrested a California man Wednesday on “suspicion of sending hoax letters labeled ‘anthrax’ to scores of media outlets,? the FBI told the Pioneer Press.

Marc M. Keyser, 66, of Sacramento allegedly mailed at least 120 packages. Keyser was apprehended in his home, at the return address listed on several of the envelopes, the Star Tribune reported.

A federal judge in Calif. set the bail bond at $25,000 on Friday despite objections made by Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner who said Keyser was a flight risk, and would likely return to mailing the packages, the Star Tribune reported.

“He appears to think he has a right to go on a mission to call attention to this issue,? Wagner said, “I think his motivation is to generate traffic to his Web site and sell his book," the Star Tribune reported.