December 2009 Archives

Analysis: Computer Assisted Reporting

by Matt Carlson

Today more than ever there is a reliance on digital technology in order to produce and publish news content.  From blogs to Facebook and back to traditional news websites, computers are essential to modern reporting.

In an article published in the New York Times, famed director Peter Jackson discusses on of his upcoming movies called The Lovely Bones.  The story is nothing spectacular nor necessarily unique, but it definitely demonstrates the benefits of computer assisted reporting.

The story is presented in three parts.  There is a text article, an audio interview with Jackson, and then a slideshow, which is matched with Jackson's audio.

Computers essentially make this entire story possible because not only was it published online, the only place where it could be assembled the way it was, it was also produced using a computer.

I think this is definitely the future in terms of reporting and possibly newspapers.  I think news agencies will always be around, but paper media may not.

Cop kills man in Stillwater mystery shooting

by Matt Carlson

An unnamed Stillwater police officer fatally shot a 62-year-old unnamed man who allegedly shot and killed his wife shortly before.

Neighbors have identified the married couple as Gerald and Gertrude "Trudy" Propps, however police have not released any names as of yet, according to The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Early reports say that Trudy was on the phone with dispatchers calling for medical help for her husband.  Shots rang out over the phone call.  The line was then picked up by who is believed to be Trudy's daughter, who was shot in the arm during the incident, according to KARE 11 news.

When police arrived at the couple's apartment, the officer was confronted and fatally shot a man who is believed to be Gerald Proops.  No details behind the fatal shooting of Proops have yet been released.

Neighbors said there was no history of domestic violence between the couple.

The officer involved is a 15 year veteran of the force and is on standard administrative leave since the shooting.  The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is currently investigating the shooting.

White Castle Complaint Dropped

by  Matt Carlson

A woman scooter-riding former stripper has dropped her complaint against White Castle Restaurant for their refusal to serve her in the drive through when she rolled up in an electric mobility scooter.

According to a Star Tribune article, the woman, Ariel Wade, was "madder than fish grease" over the incident.

Last June Wade was refused service at the Rice Street White Castle restaurant just after midnight when the only part of the store open was the drive through.  According to White Castle, she was not served because her scooter posed a safety threat to other customers using the drive through, according to the City Pages.

The Department of Human Rights agreed with White Castle, saying there was no wrong doing on the part of the fast food chain.  Wade's private law firm, the Minnesota Disability Law Center didn't have the resources for a private claim, according to the Star Tribune.

Wade said that some in the community support her, while others say she's exploiting the system to receive special services due to her disability.  Either way, Wade said in the Star Tribune article, "I can't go anywhere without being called the White Castle lady."

New Execution Method Debuts in Ohio

by Matt Carlson

On Tuesday, Ohio prison officials executed a man with a single drug instead of the three that have been used for lethal injection since the 1970s, according to The Riverfront Times.

The inmate, 51-year-old Kenneth Biros, was executed with a five gram quantity of sodium pentathol and was pronounced dead at 11:47 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the RFT.

The new drug has been previously used euthanize animals and is said to be painless, according to the New York Times.

Proper testing has not yet been completed though, and some opponents argue the execution of Biros ranged into human experimentation, according to the Times.

Biros was found guilty of sexually assaulting and murdering Tami Engstrom, 22, in 1991 in Northeastern Ohio, according to the Times article.

Anti-Drug Leader Slain in Honduras

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by Matt Carlson

Gen. Julian Gonzalez, director of the Office for Combatting Drug Trafficking was killed on Tuesday according to a national spokesman, reported by CNN.

The shooting took place in Honduras' capital, Tegucigalpa.  Gonzalez was traveling alone without a typical entourage of bodyguards to drop off his daughter at school, according to CNN.

He was shot six to nine times and died on the scene.  The shooters rode on one motorcycle and it seems they waited until his daughter was dropped off and took the first opportunity as Gonzalez stopped in traffic.

It's one of the highest murder rates in the region, according to the BBC.  Honduras is tangled in a political mess at the moment, but the shooting has been deemed unrelated to political tension, according to the CNN article.

Although others some say the shaky political situation could create an atmosphere can prosper, according to the CNN.

State's First Winter Storm is a Doozy

by Matt Carlson

We could expect up to eight inches of snow by Wednesday, according to the Star Tribune

That will be joined by heavy wind and temperatures approaching zero degrees. The National Weather Service described it, simply, as "an extremely dangerous winter storm," according to the Star Tribune.

The storm is forecast to be even worse in the south.  With hundreds of schools already closed for Wednesday, the storm hadn't let up. The  Minnesota Department of Transportation warned drivers in 21 counties to stay off the roads, according to the Star Tribune article.

Despite the harsh weather the Minnesota State Patrol reports no fatalities, at least according to the Star Tribune article.  In a similar article about the storm in The St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Minnesota State Patrol said there was indeed one fatality.

A 22-year-old woman from Rogers swerved to avoid a car on the side of the road.  She rolled her car and came to a stop upside down in a pond for 25 minutes.  She died early Wednesday morning, the Pioneer Press reports.

The Pioneer Press article warns the snow will continue to fall through the day on Wednesday with a winter weather advisory in effect all day long. 

The National Weather Service urges motorists to have a winter weather preparedness kit in their cars and exercise caution when driving in winter weather conditions, according to the Pioneer Press.

E. Coli Suit Against Minnesota's Cargill

by Matt Carlson

A 22-year-old woman from Cold Spring, Minnesota is suing, Cargill, the nation's largest private company for $100 million in response to nearly dying, all from eating beef tainted with E. coli.

In 2007, Stephanie Smith and her family ate hambugers at a family barbecue.  The illness she incurred from the beef left her paralyzed.

Smith's medical bills already exceed $2 million, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  Smith was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a condition that can lead to kidney failure, according to the Associated Press.

Cargill officials maintain that the illness of Smith is not their fault, even though they have paid for some of her and others' medical expenses regarded the 2007 E. coli outbreak, which sickened 24 Americans, according to the Pioneer Press.

In a New York Times article published two months ago, it was reported that E. coli was found in trimmings that were processed in Cargill's plants.  Cargill officials suggested to the Times that the trimmings were tainted before reaching Cargill processing facilities, according to the Pioneer Press.

Smith's attorney, Bill Marler, a Seattle-based food-illness attorney, said that regardless of when or where the beef was contaminated, they are responsible as the distributors of the beef.

Smith's story in the Times garnered attention from Washington where a food safety bill is making slow progress.  The Pioneer Press also reports that scientists are now conducting large-scale trials vaccinating cattle against the E. coli bacteria, a venture that Cargill is invested in.

Cooking hamburgers to at least 160 degrees will kill the bacteria, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the Pioneer Press article.

H1N1 Vaccine is Safe

by Matt Carlson

It appears that after two months of widespread availability, the H1N1 vaccine is about as safe as the seasonal flu vaccine, according to comments made in the New York Times by Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Severe reactions to the H1N1 vaccine are said to be rare and not unlike those of the season flu vaccine, according to a CDC report issued Friday and reported on WebMD.

The data was gathered from two monitoring systems, the Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System and the Vaccine Safety Datalink.

The new report said, "no substantial differences between H1N1 and seasonal influenza vaccines were noted in the proportion or types of serious adverse events reported" according to the New York Times.

Only 204 adverse events had been reported as of November 24th, according to the New York Times, of which only 13 resulted in death.  It is also worth mentioning that out of hundreds of thousands of immunizations, some deaths will result out of coincidence.

Dr. Claudia Vellozzi, deputy director of the immunization safety office at the disease centers, said that no patterns have emerged, reinforcing the safety of the H1N1 vaccine.

Vikings Stars Caught Speeding

by Matt Carlson

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian joins running back Adrian Peterson in the speeding ticket club after getting caught traveling 104 mph in a 60 mph zone in Oakdale on Monday, according to Minnesota authorities.

A trooper stopped Berrian heading south according to patrol capt. Matt Langer a day after the Vikings beat the Chicago Bears 36-10, according to Chicago Breaking Sports News.

Vikings all-pro running back Peterson was cited last Saturday for traveling 109 mph in a 55 mph stretch in Edina, according to ESPN.

When the Edina police officer asked Peterson how fast he was going he said, "85."  He was shocked to hear he was in excess of 30  mph over the speed limit.  After issuing the ticket Saturday, the officer said, "Good luck tomorrow," according to ESPN.

U's Light Rail Talks Continue

by Matt Carlson

The University of Minnesota has once again met with the Metropolitan Council to discuss a new 11-mile-long light rail corridor to connect St. Paul and Minneapolis.

A Met Council representative told Minnesota Public Radio that progress has been made, however the University still has concerns about the project.

The $941 million project will run through the U's Minneapolis campus.  School officials are concerned that vibrations and electromagnetic interference would adversely affect research equipment along Washington Avenue, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Met Council chairman Peter Bell said If the two parties do not reach an agreement, the project could lose have of its funding or necessary federal approvals, according to MPR.

The Federal Transit Administration, which is scheduled to fund have of the projects cost, said the project can't go forward with a University lawsuit in place, according to the Star Tribune.

The talks are schedule to continue next Wednesday.

Russian Night Club Fire Claims Over 100

by Matt Carlson

A night club fire in Perm, Russia has killed at least 103 people late Friday, according to MSNBC.

The fire occurred at the popular Lame Horse night club where the club's eighth anniversary was being celebrated.  Besides the 109 dead, as reported by the Sunday Times, an additional 134 people were injured, many were in critical condition.

Fear of terror attacks were put out by Vladimir Markin, a Russian government spokesman, who said there was no suspicion of terrorist involvement.  According to MSNBC, Russia's Federal Security Service had found no evidence of a  bomb in the wreckage.

The terror fears stem from an attack on Russia's Nevsky Express passenger train which was bombed last week, killing 27 and injuring 100.  Chechen rebels have since claimed responsibility for that attack, according to MSNBC.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has declared a day of mourning for the victims.  He also said the people responsible for the club fires should be severely punished.

According to the Times, a criminal investigation has begun in regard to safety violations made by the nightclub's owners.  One of the  owners has been arrested.

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