Analysis: Computer-assisted reporting

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The story "Towing jumps as plowing records fall" in the Minnesota Daily used computer-assisted reporting to analyze the number of cars towed in the Twin Cities last winter.

According to the article, last winter set the record for the largest number of snow emergencies called in the Twin Cities. The author tracked the number of cars towed and where they were towed from and compared these numbers to previous years.

To write this story, the reporter needed to locate records of the number of cars towed for at least the past two winters for the Twin Cities. He then had to analyze where they were located and how these numbers stacked up to past years.

In addition to the number of cars towed, the author also had to locate records showing how many snow emergencies have been called in past years and what the record amounts of snow are.

These records were located online, so the reporter needed to use the computer to access them. Then he needed to analyze the data to see how how the number of cars towed increased in different areas of the cities. The number increased in each section, but not proportionally--the number of cars towed around the university only increased slightly, where other areas increased much more drastically. Analyzing the data helped him develop and angle for the story and know what questions to ask to figure out why this might be.

The use of computer-assisted reporting helped the author to identify changes in the data showing the number of cars towed, and further analysis of this data revealed a trend: the record number of snow emergencies tied with the increase in cars towed and the large amount of snow last winter.

Arizona will defend its immigration law before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday against charges by the Obama administration. The case is expected to be a landmark decision, determining whether states have the right to enforce federal immigration laws as they see fit, news sources report.

Senate Bill 1070 made it a state crime to be in the country illegally, among other things. The bill allowed police "to check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop and suspect of being in the country illegally. If they were unable to show a driver's license or other 'proof of legal presence,' they would be arrested and held for federal immigration agents. Arizona also would make it a crime to lack immigration papers or for illegal immigrants to seek work," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration says mere "unlawful presence" in this country is not a federal crime, and it opposes state efforts to round up and arrest more illegal immigrants. Instead, the administration has gone after drug traffickers, smugglers, violent felons, security risks and repeat border crossers. Last year, nearly 400,000 people were deported, a record high, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Other states have begun to roll out copycat versions of the bill. The Supreme Court's decision will determine whether Arizona, and therefore, all states, have the right to enforce federal immigration laws the way they see fit. The U.S. Department of Justice in its lawsuit argued that immigration is an issue that only the federal government can address. The state argued that SB 1070 mirrors federal law and assists the federal government in enforcement, USA Today reported.

The debate is especially charged as the presidential election looms around the corner, and illegal immigration remains a key partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats. There is an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"This could be one of the most significant immigration decisions of the last 20 or 30 years," University of California-Davis School of Law Dean Kevin Johnson told the Los Angeles Times. "It raises all kinds of issues that make for great cases: Immigration is an issue of great public importance, it raises issues of state versus federal power and it comes at a time when there is a lot of attention being focused on what's going on on the border."

9-year-old killed in 'freak' dirt biking accident


A 9-year-old Oak Grove boy died in what authorities are calling a "tragic, freak accident" while dirt biking Friday night, despite wearing proper safety equipment, news sources report.

Friends found Nick Engler badly injured and not breathing near his dirt bike and called for help. The first responder to the scene was Rob Engler, Oak Grove's assistant fire chief and Nick's father, the Star Tribune reported.

Engler tried to revive his son, but Nick died at the scene, WCCO reported.

Authorities are unsure of what happened because there were no witnesses who saw Nick crash his bike. An autopsy report has not yet been released, but Anoka County Lt. Paul Lenzmeier said it appeared Engler died of head injuries, the Star Tribune reproted.

Lenzmeier called the tragedy a "freak accident" because Engler was wearing a helmet, chest protector, gloves and motocross boots. "It wasn't the case of negligence on anyone's part," he told the Star Tribune.

The accident occurred on the 19600 block of Dogwood Avenue in Oak Grove. With his parents' permission, Engler went to a homemade dirt track near his family's home around 7 p.m., WCCO reported.

It's "a fluke accident," Fire Chief Curt Hallermann told the Star Tribune. "It's such a shock and tragic loss."

Arizona has passed a law that says pregnancy can begin two weeks before a child has been conceived, news sources report.

The bill changes the system that determines the age of a fetus, using the date of the woman's last period rather than the date of conception. The bill also bans all abortions after 20 weeks, or 18 weeks using the old system, except in the case of medical emergency, the Huffington Post reported.

The mandate will affect a relatively small number of abortions in the state -- only about 2 percent, according to the group behind the bill -- but the measure includes other aspects placing additional requirements on doctors, abortion clinics, and the state's health department, Reuters reported.

Such restrictions include requiring women to have ultrasounds at least 24 hours prior to receiving an abortion, forcing women considering abortion because of fetal abnormalities to undergo counseling, requiring clinics to post signs warning against abortion coercion, requiring doctors and the state's health department to provide additional information about abortion's risks, mandating a state-run website with adoption information and images of developing fetuses, and requiring school districts to promote parenthood or adoption as more acceptable than abortion, according to Reuters.

Those opposed to the bill see the new mandate as another blow to reproductive rights. The Center for Reproductive Rights' state advocacy counsel, Jordan Goldberg said the new law "disregards women's health," according to the Huffington Post.

"The women of Arizona can't access medical treatment that other women can," the Huffington Post quoted her as saying to the Daily Beast.

Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill into law Thursday, saying it would "safeguard our most vulnerable population-the unborn," according to the Huffington Post.

A commercial airliner flying in stormy weather crashed near the Pakistan capital of Islamabad Friday, killing all 127 passengers and crew members on board, news sources report.

The Bohja Air flight had departed from Karachi just after 5 p.m. It had been due to land at the Islamabad airport around 6:40 p.m. Rescuers discovered bodies and debris from the plane, an aged Boeing 737-200, were found scattered three to four miles from the airport, the Miami Herald reported.

Retired Navy pilot Arshad Mehmood witnessed the crash and rushed to the scene. "The pilot lost control and hit the ground," he told television reporters, according to the New York Times. "It tossed up due to the impact and exploded and came down in a fireball."

"We got there within five minutes. There were dead bodies and pieces of bodies everywhere. We could find no survivors," he was quoted in the Miami Herald.

Four nearby homes were damaged in the crash. No one on the ground was killed, but the 121 passengers, including 11 children, and six crew members all perished, Islamabad police chief Bani Yameen told the New York Times.

Air Bhoja took an 11-year hiatus because of financial difficulties in 2000. It was reopened last month, and this flight was the first on the Karachi-Islamabad route since the reopening, the New York Times reported.

This was the second major plane crash near the capital in as many years. In 2010, a flight crashed into hills near the city, killing all 152 people on board. This aircraft was flown by Airblue, another private airline, the New York Times reported.

The number of crashes at this airport have sparked frequent outcry of corruption and poor maintenance of the Pakistani airline industry.

"This is not about bad weather; I don't buy that," said Arif Abbasi, a former chief executive of Pakistan International Airlines, the state carrier. "The state of aviation in this country leaves much to be desired."

The Civil Aviation Authority announced it is launching an investigation of the crash, the New York Times reported.

A bill that would allow alcohol sales at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium is halfway to Gov. Mark Dayton, news sources report.

The Senate voted 55-3 Friday in favor of changing the liquor law. The House is expected to vote soon as well, the Star Tribune reported.

Originally, the University hoped to sell alcohol in premium suite seating areas only, but current law states they must sell to at least one-third of the seats in the stadium's general seating or none at all. The University said this would make it too hard to police underage drinking and denied sales, according to the Star Tribune.

The proposal is part of a larger liquor bill that would require the University to make alcohol available to those of age in the general seating area during events, including any potential Vikings games, MPR reported.

New language in the bill gives the University the control it needs, allowing it to restrict alcohol sales and consumption to one area, likely a beer garden, University spokesman Chuck Tombarge told MPR.

"This new legislation both makes alcohol accessible to those that are of drinking age in the general seating area but does so in a way that allows the university to contain it and do it responsibly," he said.

The measure would allow alcohol sales through halftime, MPR reported.

School bus driver accused of 'sexting' Wisconsin boy

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A 51-year-old school bus driver has been accused of texting nude pictures of himself to an 11-year-old passenger, news sources report.

Bobb Bergman of Schley, Wisconsin, has been charged with stalking and three other felonies. Bergman posted bond and was released from Lincoln County Jail, the Pioneer Press reported.

The criminal complaint does not identify the school district or bus company that employed Bergman, the Pioneer Press reported.

The boy's parents told authorities that the boy received 10 photos from Bergman's cellphone, including some of male genitalia, WCCO reported.

Bergman also allegedly asked the boy to collect other students' cell phone numbers, according to the Pioneer Press.

Prosecutors charged Amy Senser, 45, with a third felony criminal vehicular-homicide offense Thursday, alleging she was talking on her cellphone when she struck and killed a man on an interstate highway exit ramp, news sources report.

The wife of former Minnesota Vikings player Joe Senser is already facing two felony charges for leaving the scene of an accident and failing to alert law enforcement about the incident as quickly as possible, according to the Star Tribune.

The trial was scheduled to begin April 23. It is unclear whether the new charge will cause a delay, the Star Tribune reported.

Senser has acknowledged that she was the driver of the 2009 Mercedes ML350 that struck and killed 38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong of Roseville on Aug. 23, but she has pleaded not guilty to the charges of criminal vehicular-homicide and maintains she was unaware she had hit a person, the Pioneer Press reported.

Phanthavong was filling his car with gas on the Riverside Avenue exit ramp off of Interstate 94 when he was struck around 11:10 p.m. He died at the scene, while Senser drove on, the Pioneer Press reported.

Nearly 24 hours after the crash, Senser's lawyer, Eric Nelson, alerted the Minnesota State Patrol that the SUV involved in the crash belonged to the Sensers, but the driver was not revealed. Nine days later, Nelson informed investigators that Senser was driving the vehicle at the time of the crash, according to the Pioneer Press.

Suspect arrested in Minneapolis shooting death

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A Minneapolis man has been arrested in connection with the north Minneapolis shooting death of Jody Patzner, Jr., news sources report.

Hezekiah Cory Hamilton, 24, was arrested Tuesday night and is currently being held at Hennepin County Jail, Minneapolis Police Sgt. Steven McCarty told WCCO News.

Patzner, 22, was shot Monday while riding a bike a block from his north Minneapolis home with a plate of lasagna for an ill family friend, the Star Tribune reported.

A neighbor told the Star Tribune that three youths confronted Patzner as he biked along Fremont Avenue North. According to the neighbor, the youths yelled that they wanted his bike. Then the neighbor heard two gunshots and saw the assailants run away.

Patzner biked for 30 feet then collapsed on the sidewalk of the 3500 block of Fremont Avenue N., the Star Tribune reported.

Hamilton has a criminal history that includes convictions of assault, terroristic threats and drug possession, according to the Star Tribune.

An Argentine baby was mistakenly pronounced dead after her premature birth and withstood nearly 12 hours in a morgue refrigerator before being found alive, news sources report.

One-week-old Luz Milagros Veron was born on April 3, three months early, and had no vital signs, hospital director Dr. Jose Luis Meirino told CNN.

The baby's body was put in a wooden coffin and placed it in the morgue's freezer. Around 10 p.m., the baby's parents, Fabian Veron and Analia Bouter, visited the morgue to take a photo of their dead daughter's body, CNN reported.

Bouter uncovered the lid and touched her daughter's hand. "That's where I heard a tiny little cry. I told myself I was imagining it -- it was my imagination. And then I stepped back and saw her waking up. It was as if she was saying 'Mama, you came for me!' Bouter told ABC News.

The ice-cold baby was rushed back to the neonatal ward, CNN reported.

"I can't explain what happened. Only that God has performed a miracle," Veron told CNN.

Bouter told ABC News that the family plans to sue the staff at Hospital Perrando in the city of Resistencia for malpractice.

According to Meirino, the hospital followed protocol. After the gynecologist and the neonatal doctor on hand both found no signs of life, they observed the baby before pronouncing her dead, Meirino told CNN.

According to ABC News, the five medical professionals who were in contact with the child have been suspended pending an official investigation, Rafael Sabatinelli, the deputy health minister in the northern province of Chaco, announced in a news conference.

The baby weighed 1 pound 12 ounces and was listed as critical but improving condition Wednesday at the same hospital where she was mistakenly pronounced dead.

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Recent Comments

  • gx084493: Accidents of such type are seriously very distressing. read more
  • Computer- assisted reporting enables jouranlists to reserach not only through read more
  • Bad weather? I dont think so. Just another terrorist attempt, read more
  • This is just awful! Boy's parents must be devastated by read more
  • Gayle Golden: Really nice work, Alysha. Keep it up. read more
  • Gayle Golden: Alysha: You are doing a very nice job on the read more
  • Gayle Golden: Nice work. gg read more
  • Gayle Golden: Very nice work, Alysha. Keep it up. read more


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