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April 26, 2007

Blackout

A nationwide blackout occurred in Colombia on Thursday, with struggles to determine exactly why it happened.

President Alvaro Uribe said the blackout “appears to have affected the entire country.�

MSNBC.com reported that the blackout caused “chaos on urban streets.�

A manager of state-controlled electricity distributor ISA said that the power outage appears to have started with an undetermined technical glitch at a substation in Bogota. The outage quickly spread across the country soon after.

According to CNN.com, work crews had established power back to about 20 percent of the country. The goals are to reconnect the capital and other major cities in a few hours from when the articles were written.

The outage put-out traffic lights, suspended stock exchange trading and left people trapped in elevators, CNN reported.

There is no indication that this outage was a result of a terrorist attack.

According to CNN, leftist rebels have sabotaged transmission lines as part of their campaign to overthrow the government.

Both articles were written by the AP, so the differences were limited. They were basically the same in structure, content and style.

Dog Ordinance passed

The St. Paul City Council approved an ordinance saying pet owners cited more than once for abusing or neglecting an animal cannot legally own another pet.

According to the Star Tribune, the ordinance is aimed at people who train dogs to fight, puppy mill operators and negligent pet owners.

The decision came just two days after a woman was attacked by two dogs on St. Paul’s East Side. On Friday, a 4-year-old girl in Minneapolis was bitten in the head by a pit bull while it was chained to a fence. She needed 13 stitches in her head.

In previous weeks, another woman nearly died after two dogs attacked her, and an 8-year-old boy in Minneapolis was attacked by an Akita that got loose from a local yard.

According to the Pioneer Press, one council member wants the ordinance to go even further to change state law to allow the city to prohibit entire breeds of dogs. Some disagree, saying it’s not the dogs themselves but the owners who cause the problems.

The ordinance, according to the Pioneer Press, is meant to address the problem when the city removes an abused dog or one that has been trained to fight; owners just buy a new one.

Pit Bulls are notoriously known to be the type of dog some owners train to attack. In all recent dog attacks, pit bulls have been involved in all but one.

The Pioneer Press also reported that similar “get-tough� dog laws are becoming more popular as states try to prevent the threat of dangerous dogs. Some states are pursuing criminal charges as well as financial charges, the PP said.

The Pioneer Press has much more detail on the attacks and the people involved in them in their article. They also have numerous quotes from the council, dog owners, shelter affiliates and people who were attacked. They also cited a Supreme Court case in California relating to the issue of dog control and attacks. The Star Tribune article was much shorter and included few quotes. It was more of an informative piece, while the PP took it to another level with detail.

Schilling's famous bloody sock fake?

Baltimore Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne said on the air Wednesday that Curt Schilling painted his famous “bloody sock� as a public relations stunt back in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

Schilling had a right ankle tendon injury during the series, and had stitches placed into his ankle so he could protect a tendon to pitch Game 6 against the Yankees. A red stain, which was previously thought to be blood, could clearly be seen on his sock. He had another bloody sock in Game 2 of the World Series against the Cardinals.

The Red Sox went on the World Series in 2004. The famous bloody sock is now in the Hall of Fame.

Thorne said his source was the Red Sox’s backup catcher Doug Mirabelli. Mirabelli denied Thorne’s claim, and said it was a “straight lie� in an interview with the Boston Globe.

According to ESPN, Thorne said that Mirabelli had told him the story “a couple of years ago.�

Similar charges against Schilling have been made before, according to MSNBC.com. GQ Magazine also claimed the blood was fake and cited an anonymous Red Sox player as its source.

Schilling insists that the blood was real and former teammate Kevin Millar, who currently plays for the Orioles, said it was real as well. In response to the claim, Schilling said, “I got the 9-inch scar for you. You can see it.�

Fight occurs in middle of rush hour

Two women got out of their cars and fought Wednesday in the middle of a local freeway during rush hour.

According to the Star Tribune, the women threw punches and tossed items as they took up the center lane of westbound Interstate Hwy. 694 near the Mississippi River.

Other drivers attempted to drive around the scene until police arrived eight minutes later to stop the fight. The women were arrested by police. The fight caused traffic to be delayed an extra 20 minutes.

The Star Tribune said why the fight started is unknown. The two women were riding in the same vehicle, along with one other man.

The names of the women have not been released. According to the Star Tribune, they are from out of state. As of Thursday morning, the women had posted bail and had not been charged.

Police call this type of altercation a “rolling domestic,� which usually occur on the shoulder of roads, not in the middle.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press did not report on this incident.

April 23, 2007

One week later, back to class

Virginia Tech students and faculty returned to class Monday, just one week after the deadliest school shooting in American history, which left 33 people dead.

At around 7:15 a.m., a moment of silence was observed near the dormitory where the first two victims were killed.

At around 9:45 a.m., a bell located on the center of campus rang every 22 seconds, along with 10 (MSNBC said it was 11 minutes) minutes of silence to honor the victims. 32 white balloons were released as well, representing those who died, and another 1,000 school color balloons were released as well.

It is interesting to note that MSNBC.com said there were 33 balloons, while CNN.com said there were 32.

MSNBC reported that another group of students placed 33 white prayer flags in the school’s War Memorial Chapel, once again honoring the victims of the attack.

MSNBC also said as the students and faculty returned their classes, chants of “Let’s Go Hokies� could be heard on campus.

CNN.com reported that there was an increased police presence on campus, although “not overly dramatic.� CNN also reported that mental health professionals and volunteers wore purple arm bands, along with faculty, staff and students who wore yellow arm bands in honor of the victims.

Family members also held funerals on Monday for some of the victims, CNN.com said.

CNN said that Virginia Tech students have the option of not returning to class for the remainder of the semester. There are no official numbers relating to how many are returning and how many will not return, CNN said. MSNBC emphasized most would stay and do their mourning on campus, highlighting what has been a week of togetherness, unity and community on the VT campus.

Also on Monday, eBay said the gunman did not purchase ammunition used in the attack on the auction site, despite previously published reports, both news wires said.

A statement issued Sunday by VT’s Student Government asked the news media to “respect the privacy of the students and leave by the time classes resume.�

April 21, 2007

Man dies in fire, possible cigarette

A 63-year-old man died in southwest Minneapolis Saturday due to a house fire.

The man, whose name has not been released, tried to flee the fire and was found dead by the time firefighters found him near the back door of the house. The man lived alone.

According to the Star Tribune, indications are that the man had been smoking and an upholstered chair started on fire.

Nearly four years earlier, a woman was critically injured and later died in a house fire that started in a basement bedroom due to smoking. Ironically, this was a home next door to the house that started on fire on Saturday.

The Star Tribune reported that of 55 people who died in fires in Minneapolis between 1996 and 2006, 25 were a result of smoking-related fires.

Sgt. Sean McKenna, who was the source for the Tribune in this article, advises against having an open flame such as a cigarette near any kind of upholstered item.

The Pioneer Press did not report on the death.

Potentially historic Nazi material to be released

A long-closed archive of Nazi concentration camp documents could be unsealed soon. On Thursday, Germany endorsed the exposure of these documents, giving an international agreement a majority among the 11-nations overseeing the historical documents, MSNBC.com reported.

According to the German Embassy in Washington, President Horst Koehler signed the ratification papers on April 13, adopting amendments to the 1955 treaties governing the archive.

The documents, which include 30 million to 50 million pages, are looked-over by the International Tracing Service. The collection of Nazi documents includes death books, transportation lists, camp registrations, forced labor registers and references to over 17.5 million names.

All 11 nations overseeing the documents must ratify the amendments before anything takes effect. Obviously, because of Germany’s place in history and because the documents are on German soil, Germany’s endorsement was crucial.

They are the sixth nation to ratify after the United States, Israel, Poland, the Netherlands and Britain. The remaining countries include Belgium, France, Italy, Greece and Luxembourg.

Survivors would be able to see their own files and historical researchers will be allowed new insights into the Nazi persecution if all 11 countries ratify the amendment.

After the war, the documents were handed to the Red Cross to help find missing persons and reunite families. It later was used to validate compensation claims by survivors or victims' relatives.

The Red Cross has handled more than 11 million requests for information, but has denied most claims due to the previous agreement.

Last week, the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution urging the remaining countries to quickly complete the legal steps.

As of Saturday, there was no other news source that reported on this issue.

Cocaine discovered, 1 tons worth

A truck flipped after taking a curve too fast in Bogota, Colombia Thursday, spilling nearly a ton of cocaine across a Colombian highway, MSNBC.com reported.

Police said the drugs were hidden in the truck’s walls and roof, which were ripped open during the crash.

The driver escaped any injury but was arrested immediately. Police said the drugs were destined for the northern port of Uraba, a major exit point for Colombia’s massive drug smuggling industry.

It was interesting that this story wasn’t reported on until today (Saturday) on MSNBC.com. Yahoo! News reported on the incident on early Friday morning. The article could not be found on CNN.com, interestingly.

Twins minor leaguer suspended

Twins minor league pitcher Anthony Swarzak received a 50-game suspension Friday for violating the league’s drug-of-abuse policy for a second time, the Pioneer Press reported.

This was his second violation under the new rules relating to drug abuse. Swarzak previously violated the policy during spring training in 2006.

He was not suspended for his first offense because the drug was not performance-enhancing. The “drug-of-abuse� list includes cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines and other narcotics. The policy for failing one of these tests puts the player on a “tracking system,� after the first offense, the Pioneer Press reported.

A second offense results in a 50-game suspension, which Swarzak received immediately Friday.

According to ESPN, Swarzak is the fourth minor leaguer suspended under the drug program this year, the second for a drug-of-abuse. There were 37 suspensions under the program last year -- 32 for performance-enhancing drugs and five for drugs of abuse.

Swarzak, 21, pitches for Class AA New Britain. He is been put in touch with the Twins’ employee assistance program for a second time.

"It's disappointing,� Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “Fifty games is a long time in a season, and it's certainly going to hinder his development."

The Star Tribune did not have any reports about the suspension online as of 4 p.m. Saturday.

Credit Card Scam

Thirteen people were indicted Friday on charges stemming from their roles in credit card fraud, which exceeded $3 million.

Waiters from about 40 restaurants, including locations in New York, Florida, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Connecticut, recorded customers’ credit card information and then passed it on to people who used the information to purchase $3 million of illegal purchases, MSNBC.com reported.

In what seems to be a ring of teamwork, according to MSNBC.com, some members stole the customers’ information, some made counterfeit cards and others shopped for the merchandise.

12 of the 13 people indicted are in custody, expected to be arraigned Monday, CNN.com reported. All are being charged with fourth-degree conspiracy and seven are being charged with second-degree grand larceny.

When police found the man behind the scheme Wednesday, they found 296 fake credit cards, $200,000 in cash, Rolex watches and expensive handbags.

According to reports, some of the leaders recruited waiters and provided them with a device that read and recorded information on the magnetic strips of credit cards. The leaders collected the small devices and paid waiters $35 to $50 for information per credit card.

The scam had been apparently going on since November 2005.

The AP wrote this story, so there were no major differences in reporting or writing the story.

April 13, 2007

Vessel down, 3 dead

A Norwegian oil rig support vessel capsized near Scotland Thursday, leaving three people dead and five crew members missing.

The coast guard, along with Navy divers, searched Friday for signs of the missing crew members. The Britain’s Press Association news agency reported that a 15-year-old boy was among the missing.

Another seven crew members were rescued and taken to a local hospital. “The Bourbon Dolphin� reportedly capsized in calm waters off Scotland’s northern shore, while performing routine operations in calm conditions, MSNBC.com reported. According to the Pioneer Press, there were 15 people on board, 10 of who were rescued.

The ship capsized at around 5 p.m., or 11 a.m., ET Thursday. Norwegian authorities said they plan to set up a commission to investigate what went wrong and how the accident occurred. The Bourbon Dolphin was a new vessel which was delivered in October.

Officials said that the vessel did not send a distress signal before it capsized. It is not clear if the missing crew members were wearing life jackets.

The ship is owned By Bourbon Offshore Norway AS.

Crazy Twins

The Twins got an exciting, out-of-the-ordinary win on Thursday night, beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3-2.

Michael Cuddyer hit a two-run homerun in the fourth inning to start the scoring.

Carlos Silva, who struggled all of last year, pitched 6 2/3 innings, leaving the Twins with a 2-0 lead. Juan Rincon pitched 1/3 of the eighth inning and blew the lead, giving up a solo homerun to Ty Wigginton and a run-scoring single to Carlos Pena.

In the top of the ninth, Joe Nathan gave up a single to Ben Zobrist. Carl Crawford followed with a hit down the right field line for what seemed to be for extra bases.

As Zobrist was rounding third base, he was held up by Tom Foley, Tampa Bay’s third base coach. Crawford never looked to see that Foley had stopped Zobrist at third and continued to round second. In a huge base-running error, Zobrist ran home as a relay throw went to Joe Mauer. Mauer then chased down Zobrist and tagged him out, while Crawford ran back to second base. Mauer threw to second base, where Crawford was tagged out by Alexi Casilla.

The base running error left an unusual 9-4-2-6 double play. Ron Gardenhire said that he had never seen anything like it before.

In the bottom of the ninth, with the score still tied, Justin Morneau ended the game with a walk-off homerun, which barely cleared the left field fence.

The Devil Rays have not won a game at the Metrodome in 1,044 days. The last time they beat the Twins in Minnesota was in June 3, 2004. The Twins have now beaten the Devil Rays 10 times in a row at the Dome. They continue the four game series tonight.

Here is a highlight package from ESPN on the game. Box score.

Imus fired, speaks

After making sexual and racist comments earlier this week, Don Imus met with the Rutgers women’s basketball team Thursday night, just hours after being fired from CBS.

Head coach C. Vivian Stringer said on Friday that the team accepted Imus’ apology and are in the process of forgiving, CNN.com reported.

The team had played for the NCAA women’s national championship last week, losing to Tennessee. On Imus’ radio show, he called the players “nappy-headed hoes.� The derogatory language left many people outraged and shocked, which set off a national debate. The story could be seen on television shows from CNN to Sportscenter.

The issue even brought Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson into the mix. Imus apologized on air last week and tried to explain himself on Sharpton’s radio show. Sharpton has become a key player with the issue, and said he will continue to peruse people who make similar comments in the media. Sharpton applauded the firing of Imus, calling it “a victory in the battle against abuse of the airwaves.�

Imus, who was once named one of the 25 Most Influential People in America by Time magazine and a member of the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame, was one of radio’s original “shock jocks.� He’s always been controversial, MSNBC.com reported.

The Rutgers team has spoken of their hurt by the comments frequently throughout the week. They have received some hate e-mails from Imus fans, but have received numerous positive e-mails as well, MSNBC.com reported. The team insisted that it had never called for Imus to be fired.

Another issue for CBS is the financial hit it will take without Imus. Imus’ program earns about $15 million in annual revenue for CBS. Imus’ own show fundraiser also had raised more than $1.3 million up until Thursday, when he was fired.

Both of the articles have numerous video clips realting to the controversy. Videos include comments from Sharpton, Coach Stringer, Imus himself and CBS president Leslie Moonves.

Rollover kills one

Another accident left a person dead Thursday night in Anoka County.

A rollover accident occurred near the intersection of Norris Lake Road Northwest and Cleary Road Northwest in Burns Township. It happened around 7:20 p.m.

The driver’s name has not been released. According to the Star Tribune, the driver was alone and lost control of the vehicle, spilling off the road and rolling over several times.

The driver was ejected from the car soon afterwards, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police are trying to determine the cause of the crash in a current investigation.

Both of these stories in the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune were pretty much identical. These were strict hard-news stories in which there wasn’t a lot of information to report, or until the name is released anyway.

Massive accident

Snowy, icy roads caused a 70-car accident on Hwy. 169 at the Hopkins-Edina border late Wednesday, which sent two people to the hospital with critical injuries.

The large, chain-reaction crash occurred around 10 p.m., the Pioneer Press reported.

The Pioneer Press also reported that the two injured were pedestrians. Several other people involved suffered minor injuries. At the time of the Press article, the state patrol said it was unknown which vehicle or vehicles started the crash, as well as which car struck the pedestrians.

The Star Tribune did a follow-up story, focusing on a couple and other people who were involved in the crash. The Tribune reported that vehicles involved reached more than 60.

According to the Tribune, the two victims had been in a crash on the bridge and had stepped out to flag down passing vehicles, then were hit, the state patrol said. They were then thrown off the overpass, where they were found 20 to 30 feet below in a grassy area by rescue workers.

The two victims were Melanie M. Thompson, 37, of Minneapolis, and Leonard Taylor, 47. On Thursday night, Thompson was listed in satisfactory condition. Taylor was listed in serious condition.

The massive pile-up of vehicles may be the largest multi-vehicles crash in Minnesota in a generation, the Star Tribune reported.

April 6, 2007

Bumper-to-bumper

MnDOT is warning Minnesotans about the upcoming, massive construction of roadways around the state. The Pioneer Press reported that there were more than 150 road projects announced for the 2007 season Thursday.

The headline on the Star Tribune page was, “Consider yourself warned! MnDOT predicts 16 of the 36 metro road projects will cause major traffic delays this summer.� The Pioneer Press reported that 121 projects will be “outstate.�

The summer of construction is projected to cost $1.5 billion. The biggest contract in state history, that of a new junction where Cross-town Hwy. 62 meets Interstate Hwy. 35W will cost a reported $288 million, the Star Tribune reported.

Other projects will close lanes and slow traffic in Eagan (Hwy. 77), Blaine (Hwy. 65) and St. Paul (Hwy. 36).

Although it sounds big, the metro area projects are lower than in previous years. There were a total of 69 projects in 2005 and 41 in 2006. Of the $1.5 billion being spent this year, $1 billion will be spent in the metro area alone, a similar total in the two previous years, the Star Tribune reported.

The Pioneer Press took a different approach to the article. They profiled each of the major spots in the Twin Cities, and gave the 5 W’s for the readers, including where, what, cost and alternate routes. The site also has visual maps of the areas and roads from around Minnesota.

Visit MnDot for more maps and details.

Suicide bombing

A suicide truck bomber ran into an Iraqi police checkpoint in a Ramadi neighborhood Friday, killing and injuring numerous people.

CNN.com reported that the suicide attack killed 20 people and injured another 30. MSNBC.com reported that the attack killed at least 27 and wounded dozens more. MSNBC.com also added more detail, including that the truck was loaded with TNT and toxic chlorine gas.

Two police officers were among those who died, and two others were wounded. Ramadi is the capital of Anbar province and is located 68 miles west of Baghdad.

The bombing in Anbar is the ninth use of suicide chlorine bombs thus far in the terroritroy, an area that has high levels of insurgency, MSNBC.com reported.

Police shot at the suicide bomber as the vehicle approached the checkpoint. Nearby buildings were heavily damaged and police searched through the rubble for more victims.

Both of the websites go into much more detail about other incidents and military action all throughout the Middle East in these articles. MSNBC.com also discusses this new use of the TNT and toxic chlorine gas bomb in its article.

Errors

I took a look at the New York Times for the errors blog.

There were a decent amount of corrections to the paper. They included an article in which, “misstated the context of a response by Paul J. Browne,� a police spokesman. In the article, the writer reported on a question that Browne apparently answered “No comment on anything that may have a bearing on pending litigation.� Browne denies he was asked this question and answered this way.

Other corrections included a misstatement of a law that regulated the wearing of head scarves by Muslim girls and women. Another correction was due to a misstatement of the results of a study.

Another article misstated the timing and number of Ford plant closings under its restructuring plan.

As seen from these examples, there are more than just grammatical errors to worry about when writing a story. The way someone interprets a quote, a study or a law can end up with mistakes. It’s important to be careful, as we have learned throughout the semester.

The Times welcomes corrections and thoughts from readers. They can be reached at: nytimes@nytimes.com or at 1-888-NYT-NEWS.

April 5, 2007

Robinson to be honored

Jackie Robinson, breaker of the color barrier in baseball and Civil Rights leader, will be honored by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Major League Baseball when the entire team will wear his No. 42 jersey on April 15.

The date will mark the 60th anniversary of Robinson becoming the first African-American to play in the big leagues.

Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

According to Buster Olney, a senior writer from ESPN, the idea to honor Robinson came from Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey spoke with Commissioner Bud Selig and asked permission to wear No. 42 on the 60th anniversary. The commissioner agreed and expanded the concept, which resulted in the Dodgers honoring Robinson, as well players like Barry Bonds who will do the same.

Robinson’s 42 was retired from all Major League Teams previous to Griffey’s proposal. Olney said he expects that every April 15 from now on that Major League Baseball will allow its players to wear the number in honor of Robinson.

Golf stores robbed

Within the past week, thieves have broken into two Metro area golf stores, running-off with thousands of dollars worth of golf equipment, the Star Tribune reported today.

KSTP-TV’s website has a video of men carrying clubs out of a Golf Galaxy store in Bloomington. According to reports, the men broke in by smashing a window.

Last week a Richfield shop was robbed of $12,000 worth of equipment. It is not clear if the two robberies are related to one another.