March 2012 Archives

Panama teen survives 26 days lost at sea

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By Alysha Bohanon

A Panamanian teen survived nearly a month floating adrift in the Pacific Ocean, news sources report.

In February, Adrian Vasquez, an 18-year-old from Rio Hato, Panama, went on an overnight fishing trip with two friends, Oropeces Betancourt, 24, and Fernando Osorio,16, according to CNN.

The boat's engine died, and currents swept the trio into the Pacific for 26 days. Fishermen spotted the boat on March 21 near the Galapagos Islands, almost 600 miles from where it had launched, Fox News reported.

Vasquez was the only survivor. In a statement, Rear Adm. Freddy Garcia Calle said Vasquez showed "severe signs of dehydration and lack of nutrition," CNN reported.

The trio ate raw fish and drank rainwater, until Betancourt stopped eating and drinking after two weeks. He died on March 10. Osorio died on March 15 of dehydration, sunburn and heat stroke, according to Fox News.

By the time he was rescued, Vasquez had thrown his friends' bodies into the ocean "because they had become badly decomposed," CNN reported.

By Alysha Bohanon

A JetBlue flight from New York to Las Vegas was diverted to Amarillo, Texas, on Tuesday after the captain "exhibited erratic behavior" and was wrestled to the ground by passengers, news sources report.

The captain began to act strangely during the flight, which concerned the plane's co-pilot. The co-pilot locked the captain out of the cockpit during the flight, CNN reported.

"The pilot ran to the cockpit door, began banging on it and said something to the effect of, 'We've gotta pull the throttle back. We've gotta get this plane down,'" passenger Laurie Dhue told CNN.

The pilot began shouting, "'Iraq, al-Qaeda, terrorism, we're all going down.' It seemed like he went crazy," passenger Gabriel Schonzeit told the USA Today.

"At that point, the two flight attendants tried to subdue him, and then seemingly out of nowhere, about six or seven large guys stormed to the front of the plane and wrestled the captain of the plane down to the ground and had him subdued in a matter of moments. It was really like something out of a movie," Dhue told CNN.

The flight had the "burly" men on board because it was taking passengers to Las Vegas for a security convention, according to the USA Today.

The incident happened on Flight 191 to New York, which had 135 passengers on board, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Following the "medical situation" with the captain, another captain who was traveling off-duty helped the co-pilot land the plane, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The captain was removed from the plane and taken to the hospital after landing in Texas. JetBlue sent out a new plan and crew to bring the passengers to Las Vegas, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Analysis: Lincoln Hall Obituary

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By Alysha Bohanon

The obituary for Lincoln Hall in the New York Times used a number of sources. The first was the Australian Himalayan Foundation, which Hall had helped found. The Times attributed Hall's death announcement to this foundation's web site. Another source was the leader of the climbing group Hall participated in when he was left for dead on Mount Everest, Daniel Mazur, who had been quoted in the Associated Press. Finally, the Sydney Morning Herald was attributed to information about Hall's early life.

The story followed a standard obituary lead, giving the deceased's name, claim to fame, date location of death, and age. This was an effective lead, because Hall has an interesting claim to fame but the typical reader would not recognize him by his name alone. Later paragraphs give additional details about his death, but his cause of death is not addressed in the lead.

This obituary differs from a resume because it doesn't extensively discuss his employment or educational history. Instead, it focuses on his main accomplishments, in this case the Mount Everest climb he survived even after being left for dead, and only briefly touches on his chronological history and employment.

By Alysha Bohanon

Six former executives and concert promoters of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum have been accused of a scheme to embezzle millions of dollars from the historic site, news sources report.

The 29-count, grand jury indictment released by Los Angeles County prosecutors charges the six defendants with bribery, embezzlement, conspiracy and conflict of interest, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Prosecutors claim that millions of dollars were stolen from the operations of the stadium, which has been a lankmark since the 1920s and was once the site of Olympics, Super Bowls and other major events. The site fell on hard times in recent years and is now the host of rave concerts, according to the Huffington Post.

The indictment was returned late Tuesday against former Coliseum general manager Patrick Lynch, former events manager Todd DeStefano, former technical manager Leopold Caudillo Jr., music and event promoters Pasquale Rotella and Reza Gerami, and janitorial contractor Tony Estrada, according to the Los Angeles Times.

DeStefano is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement, 15 counts of embezzlement by a public or private officer or agent of public funds, two counts of accepting a bribe, and five counts of conflict of interest. Rotella and Reza are each charged with one count of conspiracy and bribery and multiple counts of embezzlement, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Lynch, who resigned as general manager in February 2011, is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit embezzlement, six counts of embezzlement and one count of conflict of interest. Estrada, 72, is charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit embezzlement and embezzlement. A third Coliseum employee, Caudillo, 41, was charged with one count of conflict-of-interest after he allegedly directed stadium business to a firm he founded, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Mall of America plans $200 million expansion

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By Alysha Bohanon

The Mall of America is advancing plans for a $200 million dollar expansion which could include more retail space, a second hotel and a medical tower, news sources report.

Six years ago, officials unveiled a plan that would have doubled the size of the megamall, but that plan stalled. The new strategy is to complete the expansion in smaller steps, according to KSTP News.

A Radisson Blu hotel is currently being constructed on the south side of the mall. The expansion would take place on the north side, according to the Pioneer Press.

The development is currently scheduled to begin next spring, according to KSTP.

Rochester's Mayo Clinic expressed an interest in joining the project, which could include 150,000 square feet of medical space. Both parties are still exploring what Mayo's involvement would be, according to the Pioneer Press.

In addition to the medical space, the expansion would also include another hotel and retail space. The project would be one or two towers 13 to 15 stories high. Retail would be the lower three floors, with medical and hotel rooms above, according to the Pioneer Press.

"We'd like to take it higher-end retail," Hagen said. "All these pieces kind of tie together - the flag and brand of the hotel, the services that Mayo is offering and the type of retail this wing will cater to."

James Cameron dives to the bottom of the sea

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By Alysha Bohanon

Hollywood director James Cameron plunged nearly seven miles down to the deepest point in the ocean Sunday in a submarine of his own design, news sources report.

Cameron is financing the multimillion dollar expedition himself, along with National Geographic and Rolex. He is the first person to venture that deep in 52 years, according to the New York Times.

Cameron spent seven years secretly planning the expedition with a team in Australia. His submarine is a sleek, 24-foot-long and 43 inch wide craft known as the Challenger Deep, the New York Times reported.

The National Geographic Society said he reached the bottom at 5:52 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, according to the New York Times.

Cameron said that this voyage was a "dream come true," according to BBC News. He said, "I grew up on a steady diet of science fiction at a time when people were living a science fiction reality," he was quoted.

Cameron's craft is equipped with cameras and recording devices. The filmmaker plans to make at least two movies: a 3-D production for wide-screen theaters, and a National Geographic TV special, according to the New York Times.

The craft also has robotic arms, allowing Cameron to collect samples of rocks and soils. A team of researchers will work to identify any new species he encounters, according to BBC News.

U.S. pays families of Afghan massacre victims

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By Alysha Bohanon

The United States gave the families of 16 Afghan villagers killed this month by an American soldier $50,000 for each of their slain relatives, news sources report.

The payments come before the trial of Staff Sgt. Robet Bales, the soldier accused of killing at least 16 people on March 11, including nine children and four women, the New York Times reported.

In addition to the $50,000 for each person killed in the incident, those wounded in the violence were given $11,000, for a total of $916,000 paid to the families of the victims, according to the Washington Post.

The money was given to the villagers on Saturday. On Friday, the U.S. military charged Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 38, with 17 counts of premeditated murder, the Washington Post reported.

According to the New York Times, the official Afghan government death toll for the incident is 16, but Bales was charged with 17 counts. Neither Afghan nor American officials have explained this discrepancy.

Haji Agha Lalai, a member of the Kandahar provincial council, pointed out that the payments were merely "assistance" to the wounded and families of the dead, and Bales was still responsible for the crimes he committed, the New York Times reported.

"We are grateful to the United States government for its help with the grieved families. But this cannot be counted as compensation for the deaths," Lalai told the New York Times.

Man jumps from 35W bridge

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By Alysha Bohanon

A man pulled his car over to the side of the Interstate 35W bridge and jumped into the Mississippi River Tuesday, news sources report.

A witness reported the incident to the Minneapolis Police Department at 5:53 p.m., Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve McCarty told the Minnesota Daily.

According to the Minnesota Daily, the Minnesota State Patrol searched the area wit ha helicopter until it became too dark to continue. The search then continued by boat.

Emergency workers searched the Mississippi using sonar equipment. They were still on the water at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported.

As Wednesday afternoon, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office had not found the man, the Minnesota Daily reported.

By Alysha Bohanon

This week, a movie rental company will debut a dozen vending kiosks at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for the first time anywhere, news sources report.

The company, called Digiboo, is based in Santa Monica, Calif. Bright orange kiosks located throughout the Lindbergh terminal, which look similar to Redbox kiosks, will rent or sell movies by downloading them to a computer flash drive. Customers can watch the movies on a Windows PC, according to the Star Tribune.

Customers can plug in a flash drive and select a movie to buy or rent. The kiosk will download the movie directly on to the flash drive. Kiosk-to-flash-drive downloads take as little as 30 seconds or up to five minutes, depending on the model of the flash drive. Consumers must provide their own flash drive, the Star Tribune reported.

Digiboo offers more than 600 titles from Paramount, Lionsgate, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures. The titles will be updated weekly, according to the Star Tribune.

Movie rentals are about $3 to $4. Film purchases are about $15, according to Pioneer Press.

Rentals are avaiable on the flash drive for 30 days, but must be finished 48 hours after the initial play. Film purchases are watchable on the thumb drive forever, as long as the device isn't reformatted, the Pioneer Press reported.

Digiboo will initially market itself to air travelers, who often don't have access to Internet streaming, according to the Star Tribune.

"It's a convenience," said Blake Thomas, Digiboo's chief marketing officer, in an interview with the Star Tribune. "A customer doesn't have to plan ahead, or to have ever downloaded one of our movies before. He or she can make the decision at the airport, just like buying M&Ms or magazines."

But the service isn't convenient for everyone. Currently, the flash drive downloads are only compatible with Windows software. The service will soon be extended to work with Android devices, but Apple-device compatibility is farther off, according to the Pioneer Press.

In addition, movies are only available in standard-definition, giving it mediocre video quality compared to the high-definition downloads available from Apple's iTunes and other services. Standard-definition is required for faster downloading to flash drives, according to the Pioneer Press.

Minneapolis-St. Paul is the first airport to receive the Digiboo kiosks. Airports in Seattle and Washington State will follow, and if successful, the kiosks will be installed in many public locations, the Pioneer Press reported

Twin sisters, 73, found dead in home together

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By Alysha Bohanon

A pair of identical twin sisters, age 73, were found dead in their California home Feb. 26. Authorities believe the deaths were of natural causes and occurred within a short time of each other, news sources report.

Police found Patricia and Joan Miller in the home they shared in South Lake Tahoe. One sister was in a downstairs bedroom and the other was in the hallway outside, according to ABC News.

"My perception is one died and the other couldn't handle it," Detective Matt Harwood with the El Dorado County sheriff's office told ABC News.

Police have ruled out foul play in the deaths. "It appears purely natural, but we are still trying to piece it all together." Harwood told ABC News.

The twins were former entertainers and appeared on "The Hoffman Hayride," a television show in the 1950s. The sisters also entertained troops at military bases, according to KARE 11.

But as they aged, the twins withdrew into their home and cut themselves off from the world, according to ABC News. They avoided interacting with friends and neighbors, and police were unable to locate the sisters' family members.

Man killed in north Minneapolis shooting

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By Alysha Bohanon

A man was killed in a shooting at a north Minneapolis barbecue Saturday night, news sources report.

Minneapolis police responded to the shooting reported at a three-story house in the 2600 block of Emerson Avenue N. at 10:20 p.m. Saturday, the Star Tribune reported.

An adult male with a gunshot wound to his upper body was taken to North Memorial Medical Center. He died about 2 1/2 hours later, according to KARE 11.

The identity of the victim has not been released. Police had not arrested any suspects by Sunday night, the Star Tribune reported.

Hiker missing for nearly a month found with cat

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By Alysha Bohanon

A hiker lost for three and a half weeks in a New Mexico national forest has been found alongside her cat, news sources report.

Margaret Page, 41, was found in a sleeping bag Wednesday in Gila National Forest, where she had gone hiking with her cat around Feb. 10, KARE 11 reported.

Family members reported Page as missing Feb 14, but crews didn't begin searching for her until this week, according to Fox News.

Page was found emaciated and malnourished but well-hydrated. According to Fox News, she has a history of mental illness. Authorities believe she stayed alive by drinking water from a nearby creek while she fed her cat with cat food she had packed.

"Her cat was in better shape than she was," Marc Levesque, New Mexico State Police Search and Rescue incident commander told Fox News. "Her cat was also hunting. (Page) ran out of food a while back."

Page purposefully left the trail between Feb. 10 and Feb. 12. Temperatures in the area dropped below freezing every night, Fox News reported.

Levesque told Fox News that when Page arrived at Gila Regional Medical Center she was alert and articulate. She checked herself out of the hospital late Wednesday.

Greek investors agree to a bond restructuring deal

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By Alysha Bohanon

Creditors agreed to a deal that would restructure Greek government bonds in the biggest debt write-down in history, a necessary step towards a second bailout to aid the country's economic crisis, news sources report.

The agreement will shave about $138 billion off Greece's $487 billion debt load, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The deal needed to be made for the country to qualify for a €130 billion bailout program from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, according to CNN.

The country said 83.5 percent of private investors agreed to the bond swap, which includes taking a cut of more than half the face value of their investments and accepting softer repayment terms for Greece, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The move is risky for the bondholders: investors could see losses of up to 75 percent. But the agreement was necessary to avoid default, according to CNN.

Investors who did not agree to the deal will be forced into it, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The deal was the final hurdle to cross before Greece's bailout could be approved. European finance officials could approve the bailout as early as Friday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Vikings stadium deal reached

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After weeks of closed-door negotiations, Gov. Mark Dayton announced a deal Thursday to build a new Vikings stadium near the current Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis, news sources report.

Under the proposal, the state would pay $398 million, the city would pay $150 million and the Vikings would add $427 million in upfront costs for the $975 million stadium. The city would also have to contribute $6 million in annual operating expenses and $1.5 million for capital improvements, according to the Minnesota Daily.

The stadium would open for the 2016 season and the Vikings would be required to play 30 years there, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Even with the announced deal, the stadium discussions are far from over. According to the Star Tribune, the skeptical Legislature must pass a stadium bill, the NFL must sign off on the plan, and the Minneapolis City Council must give their approval.

Ted Mondale, a stadium negotiator for Gov. Dayton, told reporters Thursday that the goal is to only have the team play at TCF Bank Stadium for one season, hopefully the 2015 season. It could be less than a year, however, depending on the exact location of the new stadium, according to the Minnesota Daily.

According to the Star Tribune, the $975 million stadium plan includes $828 million for the fixed-roof stadium and $147 million for infrastructure and relocation.

The stadium would have a fixed roof and an option to go retractable, but at no cost to the state or city. The stadium would seat 65,000 but could be expandable to 72,000 for events like the Super Bowl. It would also include 150 premium suites and 7,500 club seats, according to the Star Tribune.

New Mexico Police find child's body in 30-foot hole

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A search for a missing New Mexico boy led authorities to a deep, narrow hole in a neighbor's backyard where a child's body was located Sunday, news sources report.

Authorities believe the child is 4-year-old Samuel Jones, who went missing Saturday. A detective searching for the boy Sunday morning spotted the body when he shined a light into the neighbor's well, according to CNN.

Carlsbad, New Mexico Police Chief Daniel Fierro told a CNN affiliate that rescuers initially began with rescue procedures, but found that the conditions inside the hole were not survivable. Measurements of oxygen and temperature were taken, and the body showed no signs of life.

Because of the location of the body, police believe it is the body of Samuel Jones, but this identity can't be confirmed until the body can be retrieved from the hole.

"We have reports of one missing child, and this child is right next door to the missing child's house," Carlsbad, New Mexico police spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Moyers told the Associated Press.

It could take a day for mining crews to reach the body safely, state police told CNN.

"It's a little tricky in that you have to start to dig kind of away from the hole and dig at a slant until you get down deep enough to go laterally," Moyers told the Associated Press. "They're going to have to put in retaining so that the dirt doesn't cave in on what they've dug out."

Wisconsin legislatures debate a controversial bill proposed by the GOP that would establish single parenthood as a factor contributing to child abuse and neglect, news sources report.

Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman, the Assistant Majority Leader, proposed the bill, which would require the sate to say that "nonmarital parenthood" contributes to child abuse and neglect, and distribute official literature saying as much, according to Think Progress.

Children living with two married, biological parents have the lowest rate of abuse and neglect, according to the United States Department of Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. Children living with a parent and unmarried partner have more than eight times the incidence of maltreatment than those living with two married biological parents, the Badger Herald reported.

Jennifer Jones, associate director of Children's Trust Fund, the board that would be required to distribute the official information, told the Badger Herald that there are other issues that put children at risk for maltreatment, which aren't addressed in the bill. These include parental substance abuse, mental health concerns, domestic violence, teen parenthood, low maternal education, parental history of child maltreatment, poverty and unemployment, according to research complied by the Children's Trust Fund.

Lisa Subeck, program manager, family advocate and Hope House coordinator at Dane County Parent Council Head Start, said she feels the bill was written to dictate personal choices rather than to help prevent child abuse. She said the wording of the bill is "non-marital parenthood," which does not just encompass single parents, according to the Badger Herald.

The bill would also impact two parent families living together and same-sex couples that are not granted marital status, Subeck told the Badger Herald.

Subeck also told the Badger Herald that "Sen. Grothman is inserting government into what should be a very personal decision."

Iran held a parliamentary election Friday, the country's first nationwide poll since 2009, news sources report.

Early election results predict rivals of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will gain strong control over the Iranian parliament, the Guardian reports.

According to the Guardian, this was illustrated with an an embarrassing loss by Ahmadinejad's sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad, to a rival in their hometown.

About 3,400 candidates are vying for 290 seats in the parliamentary election, CNN reports. Friday's election was the first vote since a disputed vote triggered massive protests nearly three years ago.

Security forces used deadly force to crack down on the opposition. Presidential candidates Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karrubi were placed under house arrest, where they remain, according to CNN.

Ahmadinejad openly challenged the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, causing him to lose conservative votes. Of 197 winners declared by midday Saturday, at least 102 were these conservatives, according to the Guardian.

Of the people who did not to vote, one sentiment was the speculation that the results are unfair.

"These elections have been rigged since 1979 and always will be until the mullahs stop running this country into the ground. I am not voting today because my vote does not count and never has counted," an art student from the city of Shiraz told CNN.

Analysis: Kaler's State of the U address

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By Alysha Bohanon

In the Star Tribune's article, "State of the U: Kaler suggests a year-round academic calendar," the author makes deliberate choices to highlight the main points of the University of Minnesota president's State of the University address.

A transcript of President Kaler's speech is available here.

The author organized this story in a way that would accentuate President Eric Kaler's largest (and most notable) suggestions rather than repeating everything he said. She first outlined his general points in a brief introduction. Then, under separate headers, she went into greater detail explaining his main two points: his plans to switch the university to a three-semester schedule and the 2013 budget.

Separating the topics with headers in this way helped the reader understand that these were Kaler's main points, and also gave the author a place to expand on these points with background information to help the reader understand the importance of what Kaler was proposing. In the academic calendar section, the author included excerpts from the 2011 report from the committee who studied the option and quotes from a skeptic assistant professor. This helped readers to see different points of view on the topic, as well as potential challenges it could bring.

Kaler pushes for year-long academic calendar

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By Alysha Bohanon

President Eric Kaler suggested adapting a three-semester academic calendar for the University in this first State of the University address held in Coffman Union Thursday, news sources report.

The potential calendar would include three terms of equal length, which would speed up the time it takes to earn a degree. It would be possible for a full-time student to earn a bachelor's degree in less than three years, the Star Tribune reported.

According to a committee recently studied the idea and noted in their January 2011 report that such a schedule could "enhance the learning experiences of students, allow flexibility for students to accelerate their degree completion and to provide opportunity for increased revenue for colleges," according to the Star Tribune.

Kaler said the year-long calendar would work around religious holidays in December and the 10-day Minnesota State Fair, and would include a longer winter session in January, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Running on a three-semester calendar would increase tuition dollars to the University to hire more faculty, Kaler said. Faculty would still teach two semester a year, but could choose to teach the third semester for extra compensation, according to the Minnesota Daily.

But Kaler the new calendar is not without "big" challenges, such as students' financial aid, the Minnesota Daily reported. Currently, financial aid is given on a two-semester a year basis, meaning students would have used up their yearly allowance by the time the third semester started.

"We'd need a transition time to move to the new model," Kaler said, according to the Star Tribune. "In the balance, I think the benefits outweigh the challenges, and this is an idea well worth driving forward."

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