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April 26, 2009

U.S. journalist jailed in Iran goes on hunger strike

A U.S. journalist who was arrested on charges of espionage in Iran is on her fifth day of a hunger strike, according to the Star Tribune.

Roxana Saberi, a dual American-Iranian citizen who will turn 32 on Sunday, was sentenced to eight years in prison after a swift one day closed trial.

"She said that she has started a hunger strike and this is the fifth day and that she will continue until she is free. I tried to tell her that this can be dangerous, but she didn't give me any time to protest," her father, Reza Saberi, told The Associated Press.

Iran's judiciary said they are investigating how the case was handled, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged prosecutors to make sure she receives a fair appeal.

Man who killed road worker won't get jail time

A driver who struck a road construction worker last year in Chaska on what was then called U.S. Hwy. 212 won't do jail time, reported the Star Tribune Saturday.

"LuAllen H. Kettner told a judge Friday he would trade his life for that of 47-year-old Leo Kuisle of Stewartville."

Kettner was driving a large SUV when he struck Kuisle, who was the foreman on the construction job.

According to a police report, Kuisle had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 and wasn't wearing proper reflection safety gear at the time, and this may have been a contributing factor in the accident.

Fans gather to mourn the loss of 21 prized polo horses

Fans of polo gathered at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Fla., Thursday for a moment of silence to remember the 21 prized polo horses that died last week.

The Star Tribune reported, an incorrect mixture of a supplement was given to them before a championship game, and is likely the cause of death.

One of the ingredients used in a vitamin and mineral supplement was dosed incorrectly at a Florida pharmacy, but it is not yet clear who is exactly responsible.

"Only horses treated with the compound became sick and died within three hours of treatment," Lechuza, a Venezuelan-based polo team, said in a statement. "Other horses that were not treated remain healthy and normal."

Coleman asks the Minnesota Supreme Court to go slow in the appeal

Republican Norm Coleman has asked the state Supreme Court to allow for arguments in the disputed election appeal no sooner than mid-May, two weeks later than the date proposed by his opponent Democrat Al Franken.

According to the Star Tribune, "the Coleman camp said in documents that while it recognizes a need to resolve the case 'as expeditiously as possible,' the two sides and the court 'must be given enough time to fully develop and consider the issues on appeal.'"

If the state Supreme Court recognizes Franken as the winner, he said he believes that Gov. Tim Pawlenty will do the right thing, which is also the law, and sign the election certificate.

Political scientists believe that Franken's request is on the fast end of a normal decision time period, and Coleman's request is on the slow end.

Officials confirm 20 cases of swine flu in U.S.

Health officials in announced Sunday that they have confirmed 20 cases of swine flu across the U.S. and are expecting more cases to be confirmed as they investigate the path of the outbreak.

According to the New York Times, officials have confirmed eight cases in New York, seven in California, two in Kansas, two in Texas, and one in Ohio.

It is believed that this is the same flu that killed 80 people and infected about 1,300 people in Mexico.

Although no cases in the U.S. have resulted in death, one hospitalization was reported, and the government has declared a public health emergency over the swine flu.

"The declaration came as countries around the world raced to contain the outbreak of swine flu amid reports of potential new cases from New Zealand to Hong Kong to Spain, raising concerns about the potential for a global pandemic," the New York Times reported.

Analysis: U.S. citizens caught up in immigration sweeps

This article required analysis of reports by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, as well as the computer skills to find the articles.

It also required the ability to search for certain records and statistics put out by law enforcement about detention of U.S. citizens and about the immigration raids.

The reporter needed the computer skills to navigate government sites, as well as government directories.

April 20, 2009

Woman dies after stolen car collides with her vehicle

The Star Tribune reported a St. Paul woman died Saturday after a suspect driving a stolen car crashed into the woman's vehicle on the Larpenteur Avenue exit off of Interstate 35E.

Shoua Vang was identified as the victim on Sunday. She was pronounced dead at Regions Hospital. A male companion who was in the car with her was listed in serious condition at the Hospital as of Saturday night.

The incident started when Roseville police responded to an assault of the car theft victim around 6:56 p.m. on Saturday.

The suspect fled eastbound on Highway 36 while police pursued. The suspect began driving dangerously around other vehicles on the road and the police discontinued the pursuit.

The suspect was arrested after the crash with Vang and suffered minor injuries and was possibly intoxicated, although no blood alcohol content was available at the time.

3 dead in parking lot shootings

A women was shot to death in an apparent domestic dispute and her suspected killer was later found alongside a nearby freeway dead of a likely self-inflicted gunshot wound outside of a Maple Groove McDonald's.

In an unrelated incident a man was shot to death outside of a White Castle in Hopkins within 12 hours of the Maple Groove shooting, according to the Star Tribune.

Police were called to the Maple Grove McDonald's at Sycamore Lane N. around 2 p.m. were they found a women in her 20s dead of at least two gunshot wounds.

Witnesses were able to give police descriptions of both the man and the vehicle he fled with, and he was later found on the side of Interstate 694 near the border of Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.

It is unknown whether children that were present at the McDonald's actually witnessed the shooting.

Analysis: U.S. citizens caught up in immigration sweeps

This article required analysis of reports by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, as well as the computer skills to find the articles.

It also required the ability to search for certain records and statistics put out by law enforcement about detention of U.S. citizens and about the immigration raids.

The reporter needed the computer skills to navigate government sites, as well as government directories.

U.S. Citizens caught up in immigration sweeps

The Los Angeles Times reported on April 9 that recent immigration sweeps have entangled some U.S. citizens.

Rennison Vern Castillo was arrested and jailed for harassing his girlfriend, and almost done with his prison sentence, when immigration authorities blocked his release.

They claimed that he was in the country illegally, even though Castillo became a citizen seven years ago.

After three months of further detention in a federal facility, an federal immigration panel blocked his deportation and an immigration judge released him from prison.

The unknown status of factory workers by immigration officials has lead to detention of some citizens during questioning of about their status.

Officials at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have downplayed the detention of citizens.

"ICE does not detain United States citizens," said spokesman Richard Rocha, adding that agents thoroughly investigated people's claims of citizenship. "ICE only processes an individual for removal when all available facts indicate that the person is an alien."

DNA database expanding causes privacy concerns

Law enforcement officials are expanding their database of DNA records to include people who have been arrested or detained but not necessarily convicted, the New York Times reported Saturday.

Only convicts were tracked using DNA technology in the past, but this month the FBI will join 15 states in collecting DNA samples of those awaiting trial and detained immigrants.

The growth rate of the DNA database is expected to grow 17-fold by 2012, from 80,000 new entries to 1.2 million.

“Over time more and more crimes of decreasing severity have been added to the database. Cops and prosecutors like it because it gives everybody more information and creates a new suspect pool," said Harry Levine, a professor of sociology at City University of New York who studies policy trends.

Minors are required to provide DNA samples in 35 states upon conviciton. Only some states require minors to provide samples upon arrest.

Three minors have made the only constitutional challenge to taking DNA at the time of arrest.

ETA leader captured in France

French police arrested the leader of the Basque separatist group ETA over the weekend, which Spanish officials said is a huge blow to the organization.

The New York Times reports Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso was arrested in southern French city of Perpignan on Saturday as part of a joint operation with Spanish officials.

Authorities say Martitegi is the fourth ETA leader to be arrested in the last 11 months. Commentators say this is a sign that authorities have deeply infiltrated ETA.

During the raid police also confiscated guns, bomb-making materials, and cars with fake license plates.

April 12, 2009

Analysis: Minneapolis gay couple, sons to attend Easter celebration at White House

This article is about a diverse group in society, and a mile stone in the civil rights movement.

It tells the story about one family in the LGBT community that is breaking a barrier, and representing a milestone.

It uses historical fact to tell the reader about why this story is important, and also to tell the reader something they didn't know.

The story uses quotes from those who fit into this group, as well as an organization that works for the rights of this group.

It moves beyond the issue of marital rights and into the issue of social inclusion.

Minneapolis gay couple, sons to attend Easter celebration at White House

On Monday, a Minneapolis family will become a part of history. Tim Meyer, Mark Funk and their three sons--Rudy, Andres and Pablo--will be one of the first gay families to be officially included in the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House.

Meyer said they use the term "intentionally" invited because the Bush administration had unknowingly invited the first gay and lesbian couple to the event in 2006, according to the Family Equality Council, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) family advocacy group.

The Obama administration called oh the group to encourages it's supporters to apply for tickets, reported theStar Tribune Saturday.

"President Obama specifically sought us out," Meyer said. "We got a call two Sundays ago that said they extended the tickets to 50 more people. We got five of the tickets.

"This is the first time the White House has specifically reached out to gay families. It's a big deal."

Body found in river not missing St. Thomas student

A body recovered from the Mississippi River Saturday morning is not the body of a missing University of St. Thomas.

The Star Tribune reported, the woman's body was recovered after employees from a barge company spotted the body tangled in debris near the intersections of Childs and Shepard Roads.

Peter Panos, a St. Paul police spokesman said the body matches the discription of a woman seen jumping from a nearby bridge a few weeks ago, and isn't the body of Dan Zamlen, a St. Thomas freshman who disappeared one week ago.

Zamlen, who turned 19 on Wednesday, was last heard from last Sunday morning, before his phone abruptly cut out near the intersection of Mississippi River Boulevard S. and St. Clair Avenue.

WIld's Lemaire ends an era

Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire has ended an era in Minnesota on Saturday.

Lemaire, the first coach the Wild has ever had made his resignation as coach official on Saturday after a 6-3 victory over Columbus, ending the Wild's season.

The Star Tribune reports that Lemaire, 63 does not think this is a retirement.

"I think it's time for the players to get a new coach and myself to look for other stuff," Lemaire said. "I always said there'll be a time. There comes a time that you know it's the right time to go, and I know this. I had a great time, man. I had eight great years."

Asked if he would want to stay with the Wild in another capacity, Lemaire said, "I don't think it'll be the case."

Tech recruiting clashes with immigration rules

Top technology company executive claim that "byzantine and increasingly restrictive visa and immigration rules" have squandered their ability to hire the world's best engineers.

In a New York Times article written Saturday, Google and other top technology companies say the Chinese, Indian and Russian technologists have transformed the industry.

According to the Times, over half of the the companies founded from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s were founded by foreign-born people.

Craig Barrett, the chairman of Intel, blames the education system that can't be easily fixed, and says a stopgap would be to let companies hire more foreign engineers.

“With a snap of the fingers, you can say, ‘I’m going to make it such that those smart kids — and as many of them as want to — can stay in the United States.’ They’re here today, they’re graduating today — and they’re going home today.”

There are many opponents of the idea to let more foreign engineers into the country to work.

“There are probably two billion people in the world who would like to live in California and work, but not everyone in the world can live here,” said Kim Berry, an engineer who operates a nonprofit advocacy group for American-born technologists. “There are plenty of Americans to do these jobs.”

Negotiation break down in pirate hostage situation

Negotiation broke down Saturday, according to Somali officials, over the American ship captain taken hostage taken by Somali pirates.

According to the New York Times, American officials demanded that the pirates be arrested, but representatives of the pirates refused.

Richard Phillips and four armed pirates remain in a covered lifeboat floating in the Indian Ocean 30 miles from Gara'ad, a know pirate den.

Pirates in the lifeboat fired on an approaching United States Navy vessel on Saturday morning, resulting in the breakdown of negotiations.

The captain was taken hostage after pirates boarded his cargo vessel, and gave himself up to save his crew.

“He saved our lives!” said Second Mate Ken Quinn, of Bradenton, Fla., as the ship was docking, according to The Associated Press. “He’s a hero.” (NYT)

April 5, 2009

Numbers Analysis

The story I read for analysis was on the Star Tribune Web site. It used numbers to make the story. Without them there would be no story.

The numbers are not overwhelming because the reporter only uses enough to convey the story, and doesn't list numbers that are irrelevant.

Surely this reporter had to dig for some of the numbers, because it is hard to believe that the numbers given in a disaster zone are totally accurate.

Most likely they got the numbers from government data, or a local New Orleans research agency.

Feds pour funds into the Big Easy

A stimulus bill trial-run has been underway in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of its infrastructure in August 2005.

New Orleans has a 5.3 percent unemployment rate compared with the national average of 8.1 percent.

After $51 billions dollars was injected into the local economy, big building projects began the economy in New Orleans is as one resident put it, "normal."

According to the Star Tribune, there is an ongoing demand for renovations as residents move back to the city.

15 more lawsuits filed over I-35W bridge collapse

Fifteen more victims of the Interstate 35W bidge collaps filed suit on Friday against a consulting firm that studied the bridge and a contractor that was resurfacing it.

According to the Pioneer Press, URS Corp. and Progressive Contractors Inc. are named in the suit.

Investigators ruled that the bridge collapse happened because of a flaw in the original design.

The bridge collapsed during rush hour on August 1, 2007 killing 13 people and injuring 145.

Many of the victims gave up their right to sue when they accepted compensation from the state.

Off-duty DWIs do not end transit jobs

Last month was the first time a Metro Transit had a driver arrested on the job for DWI, resulting in the driver's quick firing.

However, the Star Tribune reported Saturday that 14 bus drivers have been charged with DWI since July 2006 and only nine lost their jobs because their licenses were suspended.

In the past Metro Transit has put the burden on drivers to maintain their commercial drivers licenses.

After the March 21 arrest of Alonzo V. Martin for DWI on his bus route, the agency has decided to reevaluate its policy on screening drivers for alcohol and drug abuse as well as how extensive its background checks should be.

Obama to Loosen Restrictions on Cuba

President Obama is expected to loosed restrictions on family travel between Cuba and the United States, according to an administration official who asked to remain anonymous because the policy has not yet been officially announced.

The New York Times reported Saturday that the White House is expected to announce the policy change before Obama's trip to Trinidad and Tobago on April 17 for a meeting with Latin American and Caribbean leaders.

It is not expected that Obama will call to lift the embargo on Cuba, as that would require an act by Congress. An act, however, has been discussed in the House and Senate.

Currently Cuban-Americans are permitted go to Cuba once a year to visit family, a policy Obama plans to change.

April 4, 2009

Iowa Court reverses ban on gay marriage

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that a state law banning gay marriage is unconstitutional and same-sex couples will be allowed to marry by the end of the month, according to the New York Times.

The court's unanimous decision moved the debate over same-sex marriage to the heartland of America. Currently only Massachusetts and Connecticut are the only states that allow same-sex marriage.

Once the ruling becomes final, in about three weeks, couples will be allowed to be married.

Opponents of the ruling believe that backlash and outrage will be strong, and members of the Iowa Family Policy Center, a group that opposes the ruling, were quick to urge lawmakers to start the amendment process. An amendment to the state constitution is the only way to reverse the ruling.

Because of the lengthy amendment process required under Iowa's constitution, the earliest an amendment could revers the ruling would be 2012.