September 2012 Archives

Structure Analysis

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By Sarah Barchus

In an article by the Cable News Network about Julian Assange's planned speech to the United Nations, the reporter followed the martini glass layout for her story.

The reporter began with a lead that concisely revealed the purpose of the story: to discuss Julian Assange's upcoming speech. She described, but did not name, Assange and announced the time of the speech.

She used the next paragraph to add detail such as naming Assange, his location and recipients of his speech, the UN.

The next paragraph is even broader and summarized the context of the speech and topic of its content.

At that point the reporter slid to the very long stem of the martini glass and discussed over the course of many paragraphs Assange's controversial history, including allegations against him and the conditions of his asylum.

Throughout the story's stem, the reporter added quotes from relevant sources such as a noted attorney and a United Nations war crimes expert. The reporter also related Assange's predicament to the similar case of Bradley Manning.

The reporter ended her story with a sentence discussing Assange's potential move to the Ecuadoran Embassy in Sweden.

This was an effective way to compose the story because readers receive the new news right away and can read on if they are curious to know more. In this case, the martini glass is the most effective story structure. The inverted pyramid would lack background and a full chronological report would clutter the story with unnecessary detail at the beginning.

By Sarah Barchus

A Brazilian court ordered the arrest of the country's top Google executive after the company failed to remove YouTube videos criticizing a candidate running for mayor in the upcoming elections, The New York Times reported.

The court from the southwest state of Mato Grosso do Sul said that by not removing the videos, Google's president in Brazil, Fabio Jose Silva Coelho, violated the 1965 Electoral Code, which does not allow campaign ads to "offend the dignity or decorum" of a candidate, The New York Times reported.

The court also ordered Brazilian Internet service provider Embratel to block the YouTube site for 24 hours, the Cable News Network reported.

A Google spokesman said that the company is appealing the decision because it is a platform and isn't responsible for the content on its site, The New York Times reported.

A similar case in the northern state of Paraiba was overturned earlier this month using the platform argument, CNN reported. The court had ordered the arrest of another senior Google executive, Edmundo Luiz Pinto Balthazar, for not taking down a YouTube video attacking a mayoral candidate there, The New York Times reported.

At that time, Google defended its user's political right to express their opinions about political candidates, The New York Times reported.

If the decision is not overturned, Silva could face six months in prison or a fine for not obeying a judge's order, CNN reported

Teen held in connection to St. Cloud student's death

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By Sarah Barchus

Police took a teen into custody on Monday in connection to a 20-year-old student's death, the Star Tribune reported.

Police are holding the 17-year-old man in connection to the punch that caused Colton Gleason to fall and hit his head Thursday, the Star Tribune reported.

Investigators said that Thursday night Gleason and two female friends were walking in an alley when car passed. The car then stopped and person got out and punched Gleason, causing him to fall and hit his head, the Pioneer Press reported.

Gleason was taken to St. Cloud Hospital where he died from head injuries Friday, the Star Tribune reported.

Police said Gleason didn't know the assailant and that police are unsure what prompted the assault, the Star Tribune reported.

Police asked for the public's help to identify the attacker and asked those who were in the car to come forward. In exchange for information leading to an arrest, Crimestoppers offered a $1,000 reward, the Star Tribune reported.

The teen was being held in a juvenile detention center on Monday, the Star Tribune reported.



FBI joins investigation of shooting by officer

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By Sarah Barchus

The FBI said it would help investigate why a Houston police officer shot and killed a disabled man Saturday, The New York Times reported.

Police Chief Charles McClelland said that Brian Claunch, a wheelchair-bound double amputee, was acting aggressively and threatened an officer with a pen, The New York Times reported.

Police went to the Healing Hands group home for the mentally ill on Saturday after receiving a call that Claunch was causing a disturbance, The New York Times reported. Owner John Garcia said Claunch suffered from schizophrenia and a bipolar disorder and had lived at the home for 18 months, the Cable News Network reported.

Police said Claunch cornered an officer with his wheelchair while holding an object, CNN reported.

The officer couldn't get out and Claunch refused to show his hands, a Houston police department representative who declined to be identified said.

Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said officer Matt Marin feared for his partner's and his own safety and shot Claunch in the head, CNN reported.

Investigators said Claunch died at the scene, CNN reported.

According to published reports, in October 2009 Marin also shot and killed an armed man who had stabbed his girlfriend and neighbor, CNN reported.

Police said they are following department policy and Marin has been placed on administrative leave, CNN reported.


Former Israeli Prime Minister sentenced for breech of trust

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By Sarah Barchus

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced on Monday to a one-year suspended prison term and a fine, The New York Times reported.

The Jerusalem District court ordered Olmert to pay about $19,000, but he will not serve jail time unless he commits the same crime within a three-year period, the Cable News Network reported.

Olmert said he respected the court's decision and would learn the lessons, the New York Times reported.

"Today, I leave here with my head held high," Olmert said.

Olmert was the first Israeli prime minister to be convicted of a criminal offense, the New York Times reported. He was found guilty in July of breach of trust but was acquitted on two corruption-related charges, CNN reported.

Olmert is facing another corruption case which charges him with taking bribes while he was mayor of Jerusalem, the New York Times reported.

Olmert resigned from the office of prime minister in August 2008 after the Israeli police recommended he stand trial, CNN reported. However, on Monday the court cleared Olmert to run for political office.


New hastings bridge made the move

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By Sarah Barchus

North America's longest free-standing arch span bridge was hoisted into place in Hastings on Sunday and is expected to last 100 years, the Star Tribune reported.

The original 1898 spiral bridge connecting the Dakota and Washington counties was replaced in 1952 by a steel truss bridge now succeeded by the 98-foot-tall, 545-foot-wide terracotta twin arches, the Star Tribune reported.

Postponed four times, the move drew people to see the new bride and reminisce about the old. One spectator recalled that school buses had to unload the children before crossing the spiral bridge. Molly Hanson of Hastings remembered that crossing "scarred the bejabbers out of us," the Pioneer Press reported.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation said the arch bridge was to replace the safe but functionally obsolete truss bridge, the Pioneer Press reported. Despite the project's delays, it didn't encounter serous budget gaps. Tom Villar, project supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said the project is staying close to the allotted $120 million, the Star Tribune reported.

"It is exciting to see the last link being done," Hastings mayor Paul hicks said. "It changes the landscape and view of our city for the next 100 years," the Star Tribune reported.

The Highway 61 bridge will be partially open in 2013; all four lanes will open, complete with pedestrian and bike path, in 2014, the Pioneer Press reported.

Attribution Analysis

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By Sarah Barchus

In an article by the Central News Network about "Operation Fast and Furious" the reporter uses a variety of sources from both sides of the issue including personal quotes, official's statements, and official reports. Theses attributions are woven throughout the article to strengthen it and maintain the story's thread.

On one side of the issue CNN cited the Justice Department's Inspector General Michael Horowitz whose office produced the investigative report on "Operation Fast and Furious." CNN used both a direct quote from Horowitz as well as content from the report to flesh out the article.

CNN also cited Larry Alt, one of the ATF agents who blew the whistle on the operation. CNN quoted Alt on his opinion on his coworkers' execution of the operation.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who brought ATF whistleblower complaints to the department's attention in early 2011, was also quoted criticizing the government's lack of oversight on the operation.

Rep. Darrell Issa, who pushed for the contempt vote against Holder as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, was quoted toward the article's end criticizing Holder and appealing to Obama to hold the program accountable.

To balance the article CNN included quotes and a statement from Acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones accepting responsibility but also portraying the optimistic view that the organization will continue fighting and tackling hard cases.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer's November apology for not passing along information promptly was referenced.

Furthermore, CNN quoted Attorney General Holder on his position that the Justice Department didn't hide facts and that it suffered baseless accusations, which he thinks the report confirms.

CNN named all of the attributions because they are recognized government members. This adds credibility to CNN's report. CNN effectively highlighted the content of the story by using mostly disappearing attribution words such as said and told and in the case of the report, found and shows. As a general rule said came after the name. To keep long titles from clogging the content they were placed in commas after the name. CNN streamlined the story by using a mixture of paraphrasing and direct quoting, which was sometimes separated by the speaker's name to prevent large, long-winded blocks

129 inmates escape near the Mexican-U.S. border

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By Sarah Barchus

In one of Mexico's largest prison breaks, 129 inmates escaped the minimum-security state facilities near the U.S. boarder on Monday, the Central News Network reported.

Inmates from the Piedras Negras prison fled one by one through a tunnel 10 feet below the ground that stretched 23 feet from the carpentry workshop to the north watchtower, The New York Times reported. Prison administrators said the inmates emerged from the tunnel, tied and gaged three guards, cut through the wire fence, and walked away, The New York Times reported.

For six years the Mexican government has been struggling to fight organized crime, The New York Times reported, and as such state prisons are overflowing with federal offenders. Of the 129 escapees 84 were federal prisoners, officials said.

According to security analyst Javier Oliva the prison break was the latest sign of an intensifying crisis, CNN reported. Alejandro Hope, a security expert with the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness and a former federal security official, said the administration forgets state prisons in its justice reforms, The New York Times reported.

Officials said on Tuesday that more than 50 guards were questioned about their accounts of the breakout, The New York Times reported, and state prosecutors are seeking warrants to hold the prison director, the shift supervisor and the chief corrections officer.

Hope said the Zetas crime network controls Piedras Negras and that it most likely planned the prison break, The New York Times reported.



Pennsylvania voter Id law under further court review

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By Sarah Barchus

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court sent a case on voter identification law back to a lower court on Tuesday to determine if alternative identification is made readily available or if the law inhibits voters, the Central News Network reported.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave Judge Robert Simpson until Oct. 2 to show that the law causes "no voter disenfranchisement." If he is unable, the law will not be in effect for the November elections, The New York Times reported.

Pennsylvania and 10 other states have passed voter Id laws. According to conservatives, the laws maintain the integrity of elections by preventing voter identity fraud. However, liberals said the laws discourage minority groups and the poor who may not have traditional Ids from voting, The New York Times reported.

Advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union said the law is designed to reduce the number of democrats at the polls, CNN reported. However, Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of State Shannon Royer said the law is clearly constitutional, CNN reported.

Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said the court cannot rely on government officials assurances, the New York Times reported.

The law will be reviewed before the presidential election when Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes could be significant, The New York Times reported.

By Sarah Barchus

Three University of Minnesota researchers received a $600,000 federal grant to develop technology that reduces pollution by purifying hydro-fracking wastewater, the Pioneer Press reported.

During hydro-fracking, which accounts for roughly one-third of U.S. natural gas production, highly pressurized water is forced underground to release natural gas and oil from the rock. The grant will fund the researchers' project to decontaminate the wastewater by using natural bacteria, the Star Tribune reported.

The bacteria have been used to remove agricultural pesticides from soil and water, the Pioneer Press reported. According to lead researcher Larry Wackett, the bacteria removed nearly all fracking waste within days in the laboratory. However, transitioning the technology from the lab to the large scale of the real world will be challenging, the Star Tribune reported.

Wackett said the University's Biotechnology institute research team will partner with Tundra Companies of White Bear Lake and Luca Technologies of Boulder, Colo. to take the technology to the next level and then to the market, the Star Tribune reported.

If the researchers accomplish their goal, they could significantly reduce the hydro-fracking industry's water consumption by making the residual water safe for reuse, the Pioneer Press reported.

By Sarah Barchus

A female suicide bomber crashed a car full of explosives into a mini-bus in Kabul early Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported.

The explosion hurled the mini-bus at least 50 yards Kabul police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi said. The mini-bus was taking 12 foreign aviation workers to the airport who were all killed in the explosion. The blast also killed four Afghans and injured 11 Afghan civilians, according to Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi, the Star Tribune reported.

Haroon Zarghoon, a spokesman for the Islamist militant group Hizb-i-Islami, called the Associated Press and claimed responsibility for the attack. He said the bomber was a 22-year-old woman named Fatima who volunteered to carry out the attack, the Star Tribune reported.

Women are not usually allowed to drive in Afghanistan so a female car bomber is out of the ordinary, the Central News Network reported.

The bombing was in response to the anti-Islam film that has been causing protests throughout the Middle East. Zarghoon told the Associated Press that the film "hurt our religious sentiments and cannot be tolerated," the Star Tribune reported.

Clayson Monyela from South Africa's International Relations Department said that all the mini-bus passengers were ethnically white and could have been mistaken for westerners associated with the United States or NATO.

Zarghoon said that the Hizb-i-Islami group lost interest in reconciliation talks since eight women and girls were killed the Laghman province, a Hizb-i-Islami stronghold, during a NATO airstrike against known targets, the Star Tribune reported.

Zarghoon said, "When the Americans show they are serious about talks and a solution, we will talk peace then," the Star Tribune reported.

Father and son shot to death in family photo store

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By Sarah Barchus

A father and his teenage son were shot to death Saturday in their family photography store in La Crosse, Wis., the Star Tribune reported.

Family members identified the victims as May's Photo owner Paul Petras, 56, and his 19-year-old son A.J. Petras, the Star Tribune reported.

Police Captain Robert Lawrence said the men were shot around the store's closing time Saturday, about 2p.m., the Pioneer Press reported. No arrests have been made.

A man dining outside at a restaurant across the street from the store called the police after he saw someone run out of the shop screaming for someone to call 911, the Pioneer Press reported. Erin Almquist, bar manager of Fat Sam's Main Street Bistro, said Police arrived on the scene minutes after they were called, around 5p.m.

Lawrence said in a news release that the area has been blocked off and will remain closed until forensic evidence is completed, the Star Tribune reported.

Paul Petras ran the store his father started. A.J. Petras graduated from Aquinas High School in 2011 where he was a part of the ski team, the Pioneer Press reported.

Steve Rose, owner of the next-door jewelry store, said the event was absolutely bizarre and very tragic, the Star Tribune reported. The family's friends grieved over Facebook and created page to remember the Petrases.

Lawrence said the police are doing everything they can to bring in the perpetrator or perpetrators, the Pioneer Press reported. The police ask anyone with information to call 608-785-5962. Callers may remain anonymous.

By Sarah Barchus

This lead is functional for a hard-news story. It covers the who, what, where, when and why in a concise sentence that gives readers a clear understanding of the story's direction.

The strong, active verbs capture attention and focus the story on the most important element of the lead, in this case the what.

The Central News Network describes the who first in order to create an active voice. The story says "thousands of Chinese protestors." This gives enough detail that the readers can grasp the general idea of the gathering, but doesn't distract them with unnecessarily precise figures.

The what is the action/event (the protest), and the main focus in the lead. CNN says protesters "hurled bottles and eggs." "Hurled" is a fitting verb that has more flavor than "threw." CNN details the types of objects thrown to further enhance the readers' picture of the scene.

CNN provides the where, "outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing," and the when, "Saturday," which allows readers to place the event. These details are clear but not so specific that they slow the story's speed.

Lastly, the lead touches on the why with the segment "amid growing tensions between the two nations over a group of disputed islands." This segment provides context for the protest and allows the writer to add more meat to the article later on by connecting the single event of the protest to the overarching issue of the islands dispute.

Authorities question man behind anti-Muslim film

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By Sarah Barchus

Federal probation officials questioned a man thought to be behind the anti-Muslim film "Innocence of Muslims" on Saturday, The New York Times reported.

A federal law enforcement official said authorities linked Nakoula Basseley Nakoula to the film's writer and director, a man using the pseudonym Sam Bacile, The New York Times reported.

"Innocence of Muslims" is an amateur film first released to YouTube in June. Backed by anti-Islamist groups, the film portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a buffoon, womanizer, child-molester, and a killer, the Central News Network reported.

The New York Times reported that the film helped start the protests at the United States Embassies in Egypt and Libya and at Western embassies throughout the Middle East.

The New York Times identified Nakoula as a self-described Coptic Christian. However, Nakoula said the film is not a religious movie but a political movie, CNN reported.

Nakoula was convicted of bank fraud in 2010 and was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison. Additionally he was placed under a five-year probation period during which he cannot access the Internet without permission, the Central News Network reported.

The interview, which took place at the Los Angeles County sheriff's station in Cerritos, was part of a review to determine whether Nakoula violated his probation, The New York Times reported.

Steve Whitmore of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said that Nakoula cooperated with authorities and was not placed under arrest, CNN reported.

The New York Times reported that since the protests started Nakoula has mostly stayed in his house, which is watched by the media.


By Sarah Barchus

University President Eric Kaler proposed a funding request to the Board of Regents on Friday that promised a tuition freeze and reduced administrative spending if funds are increased by $1.18 billion over two years, Pioneer Press reported.

The proposal requested $14. 2 million over two years to fund the tuition freeze for in-state students, as well as a recurring $18 million fund for four areas of research including robotics and advanced manufacturing, global food supply, industry and environment, and treatments for brain conditions, the Star Tribune reported.

Furthermore, the university asked for an accountability fund that would provide $11.5 million over two years. Richard Pfutzenreuter, the university's chief financial officer, said the proposal is responsible and designed to keep the university accountable. The university must meet three of five goals in order to collect the funds, which include graduating more students and increasing financial and research and development spending, the Star Tribune reported.

In the past the Board of Regents planned to withhold one percent of funding if the goals were not met, which raised concerns about the university's autonomy, the Star Tribune reported. Pfutzernreuter said this time the university is proposing the goals. Daniel Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said the university is showing some proactivity.

The Pioneer Press reported that undergraduate students currently spend around $13,500 in tuition and fees per year. Pfutzenreuter said that the two-year tuition freeze instead of the planned three percent increase would save in-state students around $2,500 over four years, the Star Tribune reported.

University lobbyist, Jason Rohloff, said the state budget's shortfall might make it challenging to sell legislators on the additional investment, reported the Pioneer Press. But Pfutzenreuter said the university plans to do some of its own lifting by cutting administrative spending by $28 million, reported the Star Tribune.

The Board of Regents will vote on the proposal in October and forward it to the state later that month, the Pioneer Press reported.


Fairview's billing practices violated patients' rights

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by Sarah Barchus

The University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview violated federal patient-protection law with billing practices and may be denied participation Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs, Pioneer Press reported.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated in a letter that Fairview violated the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which requires emergency rooms participating in Medicare to provide appropriate screening and treatment for patients, regardless of their ability to pay. Pioneer Press reported investigators also found Fairview failed to prevent patient harassment and properly address patient grievances.

The investigation of Fairview practices began after Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sued Accretive Health for dealing unethically with patients. Although Accretive denied fault, the company agreed to pay $2.5 million into a patient restitution fund and refrain from doing business in Minnesota for two years, the Star Tribune reported.

Fairview hired Accretive Health in 2010 for revenue consultation. Accretive trained Fairview medical staff in methods designed to maximize collection at the "point of service," a Fairview manager and 10 registration staff members told federal investigators.

Staff members said if they didn't stick to the script, they would be punished. This lead to the "abuse and harassment" of patients and relatives during bill collection in the emergency room, labor and delivery room, and other wards, the Star Tribune found in federal investigation documents.

Fairview's president Carolyn Wilson said that the hospital is working with the government to resolve the issues. Pioneer Press reported that Fairview stopped collecting past-due balances, co-insurance payments and co-pays in all emergency departments and re-trained staff on how to address patient concerns and approach billing.

Pioneer Press reported Wilson said in a statement that the hospital is learning from the experience.


Police pursue murder case after fire killed more than 250

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by Sarah Barchus

Pakistani police said they have opened a murder case against the owner of a garment factory in Karachi where 258 people perished in a fire on Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported.

Amir Farooqi, senior official of the Karachi police, said police are investigating the factory owner, Abdul Azziz. Factory managers, shareholders, government officials responsible for the enforcement of safety regulations and Azziz's two sons are also under investigation, according to the Central News Network.

Locked emergency exit doors and bundles of cloth blocked escape paths while the building burned, the Star Tribune reported. Remains from 258 people have been recovered from the building and recovery crews are searching for the missing.

Police are trying to locate Azziz and his sons who are believed to be "hiding," said Farooqi. No arrests have been made. Karachi Fire Department Chief, Ehtesham Salim, said investigators are still determining what caused the fire, CNN reported.


Chicago teachers on strike for third day with no clear out

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by Sarah Barchus

The Chicago school board and the protesting teachers struck out in negotiations Wednesday after failing to settle contract terms and to return 350,000 students to class.

After 10 hours of contract discussion, the teacher's union agreed to six of the school board's 49 proposed points, union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said in a press release cited by the Central News Network. The main issues were teacher evaluations and rehiring process for laid-off teachers, the Star Tribune reported.

Under the proposed evaluations 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs, said union President Karen Lewis. CNN reported that the mayor's office and city and school officials have questioned that number.

Meanwhile, the 350,000 displaced students are offered free breakfast and supervision six hours a day at 147 drop-off centers, the Star Tribune reported.

Juan Jose Gonzalez, Chicago director for the education advocacy group Stand for Children, said parents are "all over the map" in terms of their support. The Star Tribune reported that parents supported teachers by joining the picketing and displaying signs in their yards, but some reform advocates said public opinion could turn against the union if compromise doesn't appear promising.

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