February 2010 Archives

Olympics Close, U.S. win most medals, Canada most gold

The XXI Winter Olympic games came to a close Sunday evening with a touching Closing Ceremony, as seen on NBC.

Unlike the Opening Ceremony, all four of the spires to the cauldron rose for the occasion. The fourth and previously faulty one was helped into place by the playful performance of a mime with a tool belt, much to the audience's delight, reported CNN.

The Games ended with the final match for hockey between Canada and the U.S. that ended in overtime. The Canadian team won three to two for the gold.

The U.S. ended up on top in the medal count. And contrary to their previous performances during home-game Olympics, Canada won the most gold.

Also of note during the XXI Games is how more countries achieved medals this year than in any games past, a fact that the IOC was very proud of. Although satirical coverage from comedian Stephen Colbert during the second week of the Games touted American skill and fierce competition.

Analysis: Press Release to Reported News

There are many differences between the State of Minnesota's press release about Gov. Pawlenty's budget cuts and the story that was released in The Pioneer Press.

Most noticeably is the angle these two accounts take. In The Pioneer Press, the reporter focused on the cuts on social aid programs like welfare and Medicaid that will take benefits away from 40,000 residents. Conversely, the State's press release focused on how certain cuts and programs will create jobs statewide, which the Pioneer Press article doesn't pay much attention to.

The press release also reported its numbers more often in millions of dollars, as in will cut $X million from this and that program. The Pioneer Press, knowing that its readership for the most part cannot picture that much money, often reported its numbers in percentage or thousands of people that would be effected.

The voices are polar opposites, the State seems optimistic and proactive, whereas the Pioneer Press is very critical. The latter also looks outside of the scope of just balancing a budget, looking at consequences for all Minnesota residents and ends with a wish that the national health care debate will be fruitful.

Massive Earthquake Hits Chile, Effects Entire Pacific

An earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 rocked Chile early Saturday morning, reported The Chicago Tribune.

The quake's epicenter was near the Chilean town of Concepcion, about 200 miles from the nation's capital of Santiago. But the BBC reported the quake was felt as far away as Buenos Aires to the east. MPRNewsQ reported that the quake initiated a tsunami wave that is currently traveling across the Pacific and could effect up to 53 countries and territories.

The state of Hawaii is projected to be hit and evacuation and safety measures have been put into effect, said The Chicago Tribune, though the wave should not crest over two meters.

As of 1:30 pm CST, MPRNewsQ reported that the death toll is currently at 147 and rising. Due to many collapsed bridges and communication lines, rescue efforts have been severely hindered in the ravaged country.

UPDATE: As of 11:45 p.m. CST on Sunday, the death toll in Chile has risen to 708 and is still rising as rescuers uncover more bodies. The tsunami initiated by the quake was not nearly as severe as projected, with reports that the wave only rose about three feet in Maui, Hawaii.

Lethal Virus Threatens Fisheries in Lake Superior

The University of Minnesota released this video on Thursday about what researchers at the university are doing to try and stop a deadly virus spreading through the Great Lakes called Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia, or VHS.

According to a report from MPRNewsQ, the virus usually remains in saltwater areas, though it has spread through the St. Lawrence River and into the Great Lakes system.

The virus can kill thousands of fish at a time, which presents a serious issue to the state of Minnesota. With the large revenue that the state receives from fishing and fishing licenses, the Department of Natural Resources worries about the virus effecting muskie and walleye fisheries.

The University of Minnesota said that fish with identifiable hemorrhaging should be sent to the university labs or the DNR for testing.

Obama revives health care debate with his own proposal

In what the New York Times is calling a gamble, President Obama introduced his own health care overhaul plan Monday, thus reviving the heated debate of national health care.

The president's $950 billion proposal is based mostly off of the original bill that appeared in the Senate, according to The Chicago Tribune. But there are still differences between the two documents.

For example, Obama's plan eliminates the special Nebraska Medicaid bargain and also offers less strict language on abortion insurance.

By basing the proposal on the Senate bill, the president would be able to employ a parliamentary tactic known as budget reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority in order to pass legislation. In this way, the Democrats can avoid an obstructive Republican filibuster.

The White House did offer the Republicans a chance to create their own version of a health care plan that could be posted alongside the president's on the Web. But many Republican legislators find the presidents actions subversive, especially only four days before the health care summit, which has been highly-publicized to be bipartisan.

Endeavor shuttle mission a success

The NASA space shuttle Endeavor returned safely to Earth Sunday, despite worries that stormy weather would prevent the landing, according to a blog post from FOX news.

The shuttle began its deorbit burn around 8:15 p.m. CST and landed back in Cape Canaveral near 9:30 p.m. CST.

Endeavor was carrying six astronauts and the node Tranquility destined for the International Space Station. The astronauts installed Tranquility over two weeks time. It is now serving the ISS as a gym, restroom, and base for life support equipment, said an article in The Chicago Tribune.

The mission was a great success with very few incidents. Astronauts like commander George Zamka said that it was great to be home.

Flood kills dozens on Portugal island, country mourns

On Madeira Island in the Atlantic Ocean, flooding that began early Saturday morning has killed 42 people and left 120 injured, reported CNN.

Many of the Portuguese citizens who were residents of the island are still missing as of Sunday, and about 250 have been evacuated to Portuguese military bases on the mainland.

The rain caused massive amounts of damage to the capital, Funchal, and the city of Ribeira Brava, both cities in the southern part of the island.

The BBC reported that Portuguese officials announced Sunday that three days of mourning have been scheduled nationwide to commemorate the fallen citizens.

Infant dies after fatal bite from family dog

A newborn baby died Friday after the Independence family's Siberian husky fatally bit him, according to a report from MPRNewsQ.

The baby, 11-day-old Robert Hocker, was bitten while the infant was in his car seat on a bed, reported KARE 11. When rescue workers arrived, Robert was not breathing and they could not revive him.

Christopher Pachel, a canine behavioral specialist, said that, though rare, such incidents could happen with any breed. Pachel said that all dogs and young children must be supervised at all times.

Plane crashes into Texas IRS building

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A single-engine plane crashed into a seven-story office building that housed both IRS and FBI offices on Thursday, causing a massive fire that left thirteen people injured, two of whom were hospitalized, according to The New York Times. Federal and local officials are calling the event a criminal act.

The pilot was identified by authorities as Joseph A. Stack III. A recent publication on Stack's Website, signed in his name, denotes much animosity toward the federal government, especially the tax system and lack of health care. Authorship has not yet been confirmed as Stack's, though federal officials are still investigating.

But it is this quote that keyed officials in to the author's violent intentions:

"I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different," the note concluded. "I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well."

The web post was signed "Joe Stack (1956-2010)."

Federal officials say that the incident is not linked to an organization or a greater plot. Though as a precaution, the North American Aerospace Defense Command sent two F-16 fighter jets as a part of antiterrorism protocol.

Also Thursday morning, in an event that has not yet been confirmed to be connected to the crash, NPR reported that Stack's home caught fire, causing Stack's wife and daughter to seek safety at a neighbors house.

Stack reportedly had tax problems. Both local and federal officials continue to investigate the incident.

NATO rockets misfire, kills 12 Afghan civilians

CNN and The Guardian reported that two NATO rockets missed their insurgent targets in Halmand, Afghanistan, Sunday, leaving 12 Afghan civilians dead.

The rockets were fired from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and landed 300 meters from their target in the Nad Ali district of the Halmand province. The Guardian reported that a British Ministry of Defense spokeswoman said the rockets were a "U.S. responsibility," specifically the Marine Corps.

The loss of civilian life puts a huge damper on the political ramifications of Operation Moshtarak. The Guardian reported, "High rates of casualties help Taliban recruitment in war-torn areas and stir public anger that has eroded support for the fragile government."

Analysis: Structure by the AP

MPRNewsQ published this story from the Associated Press on Saturday about the Bear Center in Ely, Minn.

This article is more of a feature news story. The lead starts off with a seemingly inconsequential fact about website hits for the Bear Center in 2009 rather than the inverted pyramid style of breaking news.

As the story continues, we learn that just in the past month, the Bear Center's website has had over 3 million visitors due to worldwide interest in the live-feed video of a mother bear and her new cub during hibernation.

The article goes on to relate a narrative about the Bear Center programs, starting with their current successes as a classroom learning tool and trailing to their former vast unpopularity that has driven the nonprofit center into debt. Quotes from bear experts Lynne Rogers and Sue Mansfield pepper the article to give color and to explain their passion about black bears and the importance of studying these native creatures.

For the type of story that is being presented, the structure works well. The stage is set as the Bear Center experiences it's first taste of acclaim and success with their "Den Cam" of Lily the mother black bear. The reporter than draws our attention to the zoological benefits of the Bear Center's study with great quotes from researchers Lynne Rogers and Sue Mansfield, pointing out that the Den Cam has broken a lot of conventional wisdom about bear hibernation.

Readers then learn that the Bear Center is in financial trouble, and although the Center has received much support in light of the new cub birth, they are still far short of paying back the $700,000 mortgage.

The article ends on a lighter note, relating a possible partnership between the Bear Center and Cub Foods grocery stores to promote a "Name Lily's Cub" contest near the end of February.

The structure of this particular article covers many different angles and interests that makes a formerly unpopular topic rather intriguing. Also, by presenting a sort of cause-effect-cure structure in storytelling, the reporter subtly reminds audiences that they too can help the Bear Center.

Two drunk drivers hit two squad cars in the same weekend

U.S. Interstate 35W was the site of two similar car accidents this past Valentine's Day weekend when two separate allegedly drunk drivers hit two separate police vehicles, reported both The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press.

Two Minneapolis police officer were injured when their squad car was struck from behind early Saturday morning by a juvenile male under suspicion of driving while intoxicated, police said. The officers had been responding to a domestic incident when they were struck going southbound on I-35W near 38th St.

The second accident occurred on Sunday when a Minnesota State Trooper ran a red light and was hit by a female driver, also allegedly intoxicated, while crossing the intersection of Stinson Blvd and I-35W, police said. The trooper had been responding to a backup call when he ran the red light with flashing lights and siren activated. The woman who struck him had a green light and police have not given details as to why it had not changed to red.

The two eerily similar incidents have sparked concern in the community. A special project from The Star Tribune Saturday reported that 25% of adult Minnesota drivers admitted to driving drunk.

The new high-speed: Google Buzz

The future is here as evidenced as Internet giant Google announced Wednesday that they will become an Internet Service Provider (ISP) offering download speeds 100 times faster than in the average American home, reported The Washington Post.

The ISP announcement came alongside Google's introduction of its new app Google Buzz, a faster way to share multimedia content through Google's e-mail provider Gmail, said NPR's blogger Wright Bryan.

Google plans to lay their version of Internet fiber optic cables in a few select communities. Google also announced that they will allow other ISPs to use their cable, but for a price, reported MPR.

The Seattle Times
announced that Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has already offered his city as a test community for Googles new higher-speed cable.

These new advancements prove Google's juggernaut status. After the introduction of Googles new smartphones and Google Voice, it seems nothing can stop their progress.

Three dead in University of Alabama shooting

The Chicago Tribune reported Friday that three faculty members were shot and killed when another faculty member opened fire at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

CNN identified the victims as Gopi Podila, chairman of the biological sciences department; Maria Davis, associate professor of biology; and Adriel Johnson, associate professor of biology. Three more faculty were wounded and hospitalized at Huntsville Hospital.

The shooter was identified as Dr. Amy Bishop, a Harvard-educated assistant professor of biology at the university. The university's denial of her tenure may have led to the shooting, although that fact is being denied by authorities said the Chicago Tribune.

This is not the first fatal incident with which Bishop has been involved, in her youth she fatally shot her teenage brother in Massachusetts, though the police officially called it an accident at the time.

Bishop is being charged with three murder charges and attempted murder charges according to the Madison County District Attorney's Office. Such charges make her eligible for the death penalty in the state of Alabama.

Tiptoeing towards bipartisanship: a new jobs bill on Capitol Hill

Senate Democrats introduced an $85 billion jobs bill on Tuesday that offers tax relief to businesses, especially those on Main Street, according to a wire from the AP. The bill will enact many policies that are attractive to both Democrats and Republicans, who are both engaging in a rare act of bipartisanship.

For the most part, the bill expands on already existing policies, like extending current unemployment coverage to May 31 instead of the end of Feb.

The bill is also less radical than the reforms that President Barack Obama originally requested. For example, instead of a $5000 tax credit for each new hire at a small business, the new bill allots $1000 per new hire. And although the bill does not offer a $250 to Social Security recipients, businesses will be exempt from the Social Security payroll tax if their new hires were unemployed for 60+ days.

But despite the deviance from the president's wishes, the L.A. Times reports that Obama encouraged the bipartisanship efforts on the bill, reminding senators to transcend petty politics for the greater good.

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) are trailblazing the way to compromise between the aisles. But the recent snowstorms hitting the East Coast have slowed down the progress.

There are still many wrinkles in the bill to be ironed out, but both parties are optimistic. Both Democrats and Republicans are well aware of their constituents anxieties.

"The sooner we could get the parameters of the final package the better," said Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Analysis: Attribution in The New York Times

Many sources are named in a Sunday New York Times article about Sri Lankan politics.

Writer Lydia Polgreen cites five different men from the Sri Lankan political scene. The article centers around the issue of the Tamil ethnic group based in the northerner penninsula of Jaffna in Sri Lanka. Polgreen's sources are mostly pro-Tamil independence, with two of them straddling the fence between independence and nationalism, and the incumbent Sri Lankan president who is very much a nationalist.

Her sources consist of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who claims responsibility for quelling the 26-year Tamil rebellion, Professor S. K. Sitrampalam, a historian who is also a senior member of one of the largest Tamil political parties, Douglas Devananda, a former Tiger who has become a powerful minister in Rajapaksa's government, S. Arihan, president of the student union at the University of Jaffna, and Ahilan Kadirgamar of the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum, an organization that is trying to reconcile the country's ethnic divides.

More often than not, Polgreen uses direct quotations rather than paraphrasing in her story. Most quotes are also grouped near the end of the article to show contrasting ideas. No institutions or records are directly quoted. Her style and use of attribution is effective in getting the point across.

Xcel Energy to fix gas lines on pain of $1 million fine

MPRNewsQ reported Friday that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has ordered Xcel Energy to detect and repair any gas lines that have broken through sewer lines or else pay a $1 million fine.

The order was issued after an explosion in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul on Monday that was triggered when a plumber was clearing a clogged pipe. MPRNewsQ says the gas line was installed in 1999, but the Pioneer Press says 1991.

State officials called for the order to figure out how widespread the the sewer-gas line convergence is. The department has given Xcel Energy 30 days to comply.

Xcel will begin checking lines on Monday. Xcel Vice President of Operations Bill Kaphing urged Metro Area residents that there "is no threat whatsoever unless they are having work done on their sewer pipe."

Same-sex, binational couples to gain rights under new bill

Katherine Glover of MinnPost.com wrote on Thursday that same-sex couples where one partner is not a U.S. citizen will gain new protection under The Uniting American Families Act.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., will prevent these couples from being split-up in the event that one partner loses his/her legal resident status, according to an article from the Twin Cities' Daily Planet.

Julie Kruse, policy director at Immigration Equality said the bill would "treat a permanent partner as an immediate relative similar to a spouse or child or parent."

Rep. Nadler introduced similar bills in both 2000 and 2003, but it wasn't until this recent draft that attracted so many sponsors. Just upon introduction, the bill inspired 84 House representatives to sponsorship. Two of those sponsors were Minnesota's own Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum.

MinnPost.com reported that Kruse's organization estimates there are 37,000 bi-national same-sex couples in the United States, 46 percent of them with children.

One image reveals the on-going trouble of child trafficking in China

Quirky China News recently released this photo revealing the ever-present dangers of child trafficking in China.

The child, as identified by The Guardian, is two-year-old Jingdan, the first-born son of parents who migrated to Beijing and recently lost their daughter to what they believe was abduction. Jingdan's parents keep him chained for fear that they might lose him like they did his sister in January.

Due to Jingdan's parents' migrant status, they legally do not have access to state-run education or childcare systems. Jingdan's father, Chen Chuanliu, is a motorcycle taxi driver, earning about 50 yuan per day, or $7.32, and cannot afford safe childcare while he is working. Jingdan's mother has learning disabilities, and according to CNN in not capable of minding the boy at all times.

For these reasons, the parents are left with no choice but to lock their son with padlock and chain. Both The Guardian and CNN report that Beijing's streets are rife with kidnapping. Numbers in the tens of thousands have been reported, and Chinese authorities have found the reasons ranging from wealthy families needing an heir to street gangs needing an innocent face for begging.

Because the problem is so rampant, authorities have stepped up the game in keeping these children safe. A nationwide DNA database with an accompanying website of photos and descriptions of the missing have helped recover 2,000 children, authorities say.

In response to young Jingdan's predicament, local Beijing childcare facilities have offered the family free services. But still, the problem continues to be on the rise, as thousands of lost children still roam the streets of Beijing.

As reported by The Chicago Tribune, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael G. Mullen said he believed that openly gay and lesbian soldiers should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military during a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

The statement came with the announcement from Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates that the Pentagon will prepare a review of the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The review will examine the effects that a policy change might incur.

The L.A. Times
reports that a high-level task force led by Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, will spearhead the review process.

The decision to begin repealing the policy was made in response to President Barack Obama's call to lift the ban in Oct. 2009.

Historically, the previous Joint Chiefs of Staff have been against attempts to repeal the policy. Mullen's predecessor, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, was morally opposed to allowing openly gay and lesbian soldiers to serve. In the 1990's, Gen. Colin Powell upheld "don't ask, don't tell" by calling it a "healthy compromise." But as of December 2008, Gen. Powell conceded that the policy needed to undergo review.

The announcement from Sec. Gates was met with mixed views by the Senate panel. Sen. Carl M. Levin supported the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, whereas Sen. John McCain endorsed it, calling the policy "imperfect, but effective."

The Defense Dept. estimates that it will require a 45-day window before making major changes to the policy.

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