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March 29, 2007

Large storm causes havoc

A massive tornado, reportedly as wide as two football fields, carved through an eastern Colorado town along with numerous others that left four people dead in three states, CNN.com reported.

The large spring storm passed from the Rockies into the Plains. According to the National Weather Service, 65 tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska Wednesday.

One twister killed an Oklahoma couple, one a Texas man and another Colorado woman. The storm stretched from South Dakota to Texas early Thursday, bringing flash flood warnings, winter storm warnings and severe weather all over the country. In Wyoming, 58 inches of snow was reported in the Wind River Mountains.

Holly, Colorado saw some of the worst damage. At least eight people were injured and dozens of homes damaged or destroyed. The storm also killed dozens of cattle.

In western Nebraska 11 tornadoes destroyed three homes and 10-12 miles of power lines. Two other tornadoes in Kansas severely damaged three homes.

Texas saw baseball-sized hail, rain and tornadoes that overturned trucks, injuring at least three people.

Because of the storm, a 250-mile portion of Interstate 80 in Wyoming was closed. Large portions of Interstate 25 and more than 80 miles of I-90 were closed as well.

CNN and MSNBC have much more details on the story, including video and pictures of the storm from the states involved.

March 28, 2007

Minnesotan dies in Iraq

A Minnesota soldier from Rosemount was killed Sunday in Baghdad, Iraq, the Defense Department announced Wednesday.

Army Spc. Sean K. McDonald, 21, died of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

McDonald was assigned to the 9th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Wiesbaden, Germany.

The Department of Defense did not release any more details Wednesday. The Pioneer Press said McDonald is the 48th member of the armed forces to die in Iraq.

The story quickly became top news on both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press websites Wednesday night. For further details, check the papers for more in-depth articles once more details are released and family is spoken with.

Migrants make it to Florida

More than 100 Haitian migrants reached Florida Wednesday after at least three weeks in a dilapidated sailboat, the Associated Press reported.

One of the men died, while another three people were in critical condition due to dehydration. At least two teenagers and one 10-year-old were among the migrants on the boat. The body of the dead man washed up on shore soon after the boat did.

MSNBC.com reported that at least 11 people were taken to a hospital. Migrants told officials that they had been at sea for more than three weeks. The migrants were taken into custody as they approached Florida’s shore.

CNN.com has a clip of the migrants coming ashore.

According to the AP, Haitians who illegally make it to the U.S. are sent back. Most Cubans are allowed to stay if they reach U.S. soil, under policy.

The Coast Guard spotted 6,061 migrants in the waters of South Carolina, Florida and the Caribbean. 769 of them were Haiti.

The articles were both written by the AP, so there were little differences. MSNBC.com had photos of the migrants and CNN.com had a video.

Urbina sentenced

Former MLB pitcher Ugueth Urbina was sentenced to 14 years in prison Wednesday in Venezuela for the attempted murder of five workers on his ranch in 2005.

Urbina was also found guilty of illegal deprivation of liberty and violating a prohibition against taking justice in his own hands during a dispute over a gun in 2005, ESPN.com reported.

Urbina is accused of attacking and injuring workers with machetes and pouring gas on them at his family’s ranch, located near Caracas, Venezuela on Oct. 15 2005. Apparently there were others involved in the incident as well.

According to Urbina’s lawyer, Jose Luis Tamayo, Urbina surprised workers by showing up at his ranch that night while they were bathing in the pool without permission. Urbina spoke sharply to them, but later left and went to sleep, Tamayo said.

Urbina has denied involvement in the attack, stating he was asleep at the time. In 2005, ESPN conducted an interview with Urbina from his jail cell. Here’s a link.

The victims have continued to recover since the incident. MSNBC.com had a smaller article on the sentence than ESPN did.

Urbina last pitched in majors in 2005 with the Phillies. He is currently 30th on the all-time list for saves with 237, and won a World Series with the Marlins in 2003. He has also played for the Red Sox, Rangers and Tigers. ESPN has a complete list of his stats.

Two sentenced for life

Two young men have been sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of 19-year-old Christopher Lynch of Brooklyn Park last May.

According to prosecutors, Lynch knelled and begged for his life in a Minneapolis alley last May before being shot execution style. Cornelius Jackson, 20, and Lamonte Martin, 18, were both charged for the murder in 1st degree, as well as committing a crime for a gang, the Pioneer Press reported.

The Star Tribune reported that Lynch was not a gang member, but Martin and Jackson were members of the 19 Block Dipset gang. Prosecutors said that Lynch was in the wrong place at the wrong time when the murder occurred.

Jackson has a child, as well as Lynch. Lynch has a 6-month-old daughter whom he had never met.

The Star Tribune goes into much more detail about the court proceedings. The reporter gives details on what was said, by all parties including the judge. The article tells a story, while the Pioneer Press reported the ruling strictly as hard news without quotes. I thought the Strib article was much better for readers who have not heard of the murder beforehand.

March 24, 2007

"Niquabs," veils banned

Quebec has decided that Muslim women will have to remove their face coverings if they wish to vote in the upcoming elections, MSNBC.com reported Friday.

Election chief Marcel Blanchet has been criticized by Quebec’s political leaders for allowing voters to wear the niqab, which covers the entire face (except the eyes). Blanchet reversed his decision on Friday.

Blanchet needed two bodyguards after the Quebec elections office received threatening phone calls and e-mails following his first decision to allow the niqabs. According to Blanchet, some residents said that they would protest by wearing masks at polls.

The reversal of the decision was not looked upon positively by Muslim groups. MSNBC.com reported that the decision could turn Muslim members away from voting.

Many other European countries are considering a similar decision in getting the niqabs removed in certain instances. Britian, France, Germany and the Netherlands have all had issues over the coverage of faces the niqabs provide.

March 23, 2007

Underwear heist

Three thieves stole nearly $12,000 in women’s underwear from a New Jersey Victoria Secret store Tuesday.

Surveillance cameras captured two men and one woman stuffing undergarments into bags, during business hours. Police said that the suspects had bags outlined with “sensor-foiling aluminum,? which allowed them to get away without being detected when leaving the store.

Police said that the suspects took more than $6, 900 in panties and more than $4,900 in bras. Bras go for $30 to $50 and panties cost between $5 and $20, CNN.com’s article said.

“That’s a lot of underwear,? Jersey City Police Department Spokesman Lt. Edgar Martinez said.
Martinez also said no arrests have been made in connection with the robbery.

Tubby Smith comes to U

After a forgettable season, the University of Minnesota basketball team took a step forward Thursday when they announced Tubby Smith as their new head basketball coach.

Smith will be officially introduced today at noon during a press conference and prep rally in Williams Arena.

Smith told ESPN radio that he was looking for a challenge when he left Kentucky for Minnesota. Smith still had four years left on his contract with Kentucky. Rumors have been spreading about his job security all year in Kentucky, after failing to reach the Sweet 16 the past two seasons. The Gophers haven’t made the Sweet 16 since 1997.

Smith won the 1998 national title, five SEC championships and went to 10 straight NCAA tournaments during his tenure with Kentucky. He went 263-83 in 10 seasons with Kentucky, a 76 winning percentage. He will be the Gophers 16th basketball coach in its history.

The Star Tribune reported that the new contract with Smith is a seven-year deal worth $1.7 million per season. It also includes incentives for both basketball and academic performance.

The job will indeed be a challenge. The Gophers finished this season 9-22, the most losses in school history. They went 3-13 in the Big Ten Conference. The team has been crippled in recruiting dating back to the Clem Haskins era, when numerous athletes were caught in an academic fraud scandal. The NCAA enforced severe sanctions against the U, and the team hasn’t been a contender since.

Pioneer Press writer Marcus R. Fuller said that in “Smith, they welcome the biggest name to hit Dinkytown since Lou Holtz took over the football program in 1984.?

Smith will not face the high expectations and pressure from a prominent basketball school like Kentucky here in Minnesota. The AP reported that "Smith won’t face the pressure here in Minnesota, where the Gopher fans just want to see their team compete in the Big Ten.?

Man arrested for beheading

A 24-year-old man was arrested Thursday on suspicions of beheading a dog of a 17-year-old, and then sending the head of the dog back to the teenager.

The Star Tribune was quick to point out that they were not naming the name of the suspect, because he has not been charged yet. The suspect could be charged as early as today on charges of terrorist threats and animal cruelty.

The Pioneer Press identified the man as Anthony A. Gomez. For the past three weeks, Crystal Brown and her grandmother Shirley Brown have lived in fear of Gomez. According to Shirley Brown, the suspect and Crystal Brown were friends, but the suspect wanted to be her boyfriend.

The grandmother said she believed Gomez killed the dog since the day Crystal Brown found the box laying on the front steps back in February. Two weeks earlier, the dog had disappeared and couldn’t be found. There were candy hearts in a box along with the dog’s head.

Both papers commented on the national attention the story received. Cards and gifts have poured in from all over the world, from such places as Russia and Canada, and from numerous states in the U.S. America’s Most Wanted even posted the case on its website.

Shirley Brown said she had known Gomez since he was a child. Her grandchildren used to play with him. Gomez only lives two blocks away.

Gomez was convicted of fifth-degree assault in 2001 and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon in 2005. Both cases occurred in St. Paul, the Pioneer Press reported.

The Star Tribune went into more detail on the story. It wasn’t a hard news type of story. It went into a lot of sentimental depth and used a lot of quotes. The Pioneer Press used a similar technique, but it was more of a hard-news story.

3 killed in shooting

Three people were killed in a shooting early Friday morning in St. Paul.

The victims included a 15-year-old girl, a 31-year-old man and a 32-year old woman. The man died at the scene. The other victims were brought to Regions Hospital, where they later died.

The St. Paul Pioneer press released the names of two of the victims, unlike the Star Tribune. Maria Lynn Mclay and Otahl “T.C.? Webb were the elder victims. The teenager was their daughter, a student at Como Park Senior High School.

The deaths bring the number of St. Paul homicides to seven this year, almost half of the 16 that occurred in 2006, the Star Tribune reported.

The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press used an unidentified woman who said she was a cousin of the male victim as a source. She spoke with WCCO radio earlier today.

According to this source, two other children escaped from the house and told her about the incident. She said at least two men entered the home at around 6:20 a.m., demanding money. The man was shot in the head when he responded he didn’t have any. The 32-year-old woman was then shot after telling the assailants to take whatever they wanted.

St. Paul Police Spokesman Tom Walsh said that the people involved likely knew each other. Police also said they do not know how many suspects were involved and how many shots were fired. There were no weapons found at the scene.

The police were tipped by a 17-year-old who was not in the house at the time of the shooting, the Star Tribune reported. Police said she went into the house, saw the bodies and called police. Her relationship to victims or occupants of the house is not known.

Walsh described the neighbourhood as blue collar and quiet.

March 10, 2007

Peacekeepers attacked

An attack on African Union peacekeepers killed at least 10 civilians Wednesday in Somali.

The Ugandan peacekeepers were the first to arrive in Mogadishu, Somali in more than a decade. They were attacked at one the main intersections in the city, “one of the most dangerous and gun-infested cities in the world,? MSNBC. Com reported.

According to reports, there was a rocket-propelled grenade thrown at the peacekeepers, followed by extensive gunfire. It was initially reported that there were three civilians injured on Wednesday night, but the death toll climbed after hospitals starting reporting the deaths.

The police are currently investigating the incident. Peacekeepers won’t be deterred by the offense, Deputy Defence Minister Salad Ali Jelle said.

A total of 800 peacekeepers arrived in the area this week. Another 200 are expected to arrive soon. It was reported that insurgents fired “mortars? at the airport upon the peacekeepers’ arrival on Tuesday.

The peacekeepers are a product of the United Nations, to help the local government with authority against attacking insurgents.

March 8, 2007

Deadly fire

In one of New York City’s deadliest fires, eight children and one adult were killed on Thursday, destroying a large house and causing other injuries.

Two of the children were 7-month-old twins, and the others ranged in age from 4 to 9. The adult who was killed was in her 40s. Another 10 people were hospitalized with injuries, half of them being severe. The injured included four firefighters and an emergency worker.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that the number of deaths might increase. In all, 22 people from different extended families lived in the house, which was only a few blocks from Yankee Stadium. It was the deadliest blaze in NYC since 1990, excluding September 11, 2001.

After the fire, neighbours described how a woman had hurled children from the broken windows amid the blaze.

The fire destroyed the basement and first floor. Investigators are trying to determine the cause, which is right now believed to be traced to a space heater or overloaded power strip. The house did have two smoke alarms, but did not have batteries.

The fire was reported at around 11 p.m., and firefighters had the blaze controlled two hours later.

Man shot dead

A man was shot and killed in St. Paul on Wednesday in what appears to be a drug deal gone bad.

Robert Renville, 20, was shot around 6 p.m., and was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul shortly after. He died there at around 8 p.m.

Renville, along with two others, were fired upon and shot while driving, police said. Police have arrested a 24-year-old from St. Paul in connection with the shooting. Livon Lucket, 19, was shot in the leg and Russell Robinson, 40, was shot in the arm.

The Pioneer Press reported that another person who avoided the bullets drove away, and followed an “erratic? path through the West Side, making stops along the way.

Police said the incident was not gang-related.

March 7, 2007

Kobe suspended, again

Kobe Bryant was suspended one game after “making contact with the face? with Marko Jaric of the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night.

Here is the link to the video.

It was the second suspension for Bryant this season for the same issue. On Jan. 28, Bryant unintentionally hit Manu Ginobili when his shot was blocked while flailing his arms around. What seemed to be déjà vu happened to Jaric.

After hitting Ginobili, Bryant wasn’t called for a foul. However, after hitting Jaric, Bryant was called for a foul. Jaric didn’t believe Bryant had done it intentionally, adding “I don’t think players should be suspended for things that happen unintentionally.?

“I was very surprised to see a similar type of play occur,? NBA vice president Stu Jackson said. Jackson also said that if it happened again, there would be harsher consequences.

The NBA has been trying to “clean-up? the league this year, getting tough on flagrant fouls and unnecessary physical contact. The large Denver Nuggets-New York Knicks brawl earlier this season added to the NBA’s concern.

The suspension marked Bryant’s fifth career suspension, all involving physical contact with other players. He was suspended for an elbow to the throat in 2005 and for throwing punches in 2000 and 2002.

Pawlenty in Iraq

Gov. Tim Pawlenty visited Minnesota troops in Iraq Tuesday.

Pawlenty had lunch with troops in Balad and had town hall meetings in Tallil. This marks the 3rd trip for the governor since 2004.

The arrival and trip to the Middle East was not announced. For security reasons, these kinds of trips are not announced in advance. According to the governor’s office, Pawlenty had no public events scheduled for Tuesday.

Pawlenty also traveled with fellow governors from Arizona and Oklahoma. They met with Gen. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

The Star Tribune reported that Pawlenty also made a stop in Washington, D.C., where the three governors meet with Condoleeza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. Peter Pace (Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staffs).

The Pioneer Press reported that Pawlenty planned to travel to Iraq after learning that 2,600 Minnesotans in the 1st Brigade Combat team had their tours in Iraq extended. The troops were originally supposed to come home this month.

The rest of Pawlenty’s trip hasn’t been disclosed. The trip was also kept secret until this morning. He is expected to return to Minnesota sometime this weekend.

March 3, 2007

6 die in bus crash

Six people, including four university athletes, died Friday in bus crash in Atlanta.

The bus was carrying the Bluffton University baseball team, on its way to Florida for spring-training games that were supposed to start on Saturday.

Scott Harmon, David Betts, Cody Holp and Tyler Williams, freshmen and sophomores, were killed in the accident. The driver, Jerome Niemeyer, and his wife, Jean Niemeyer, were also killed.

Coach James Grandey and 28 other players were taken to a hospital. Grandey and six players were in serious or critical condition Friday evening. Most other players were released relatively quickly.

Investigators said Niemeyer mistook an exit ramp for a lane and went into the curve at full speed. It was dark at the time, but weather is not being considered as an issue. The bus went off the highway overpass and fell 30 feet to another below interstate.

Investigators said there were no visual skid marks at the scene. They hope to look into the bus’ computer system to find out more. Niemeyer had just relieved another driver one hour before the accident.

Jean and Jerome Niemeyer were wearing seatbelts. It was not known if the passengers were wearing any. Charter buses like the one involved typically do not have passenger seatbelts. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, and the results could take up to a year to be released.
The incident hit the Bluffton campus hard. The school, which only has 1,155 students, held a candlelight vigil Friday night. About 500 students and residents gathered to mourn the loss of the students and athletes. Earlier, faculty and other students gathered in the school’s gymnasium, where a table with a baseball and a baseball glove sat on a table surrounded by candles.