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January 26, 2007

Legislation Promoting Hmong History in Wisconsin

Lawmakers in Wisconsin are once again proposing making the teaching of Hmong history in Wisconsin schools mandatory. This arises racial tension resulted in the shooting of a Hmong man while he was hunting. Lawmakers hope to increase cultural understanding of Hmong history, including their involvement in the Vietnam War.

The Pioneer Press had two challenges when choosing to report on this story, which appeared on the front page of Friday's edition. They had the challenge of making proposed legislation interesting, though because this deals with cultural issue in the schools, this is made easier. They also had the challenge of making this relevant to Minnesotans, because the legislation, and the shooting that helped to spark it, have been proposed in Wisconsin. The Pioneer Press does a good job with this challenge, but mentioning that Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California have the largest Hmong populations. It even goes so far as to mention Minnesota's requirements for this kind of thing, citing that we already have a version of this standard in place.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette also reported on this story. Their story has more of a local flavor, because they can treat it as such. It also uses quotes from specific representatives for the Assembly, and from Green Bay's school district. It has more reaction from the community, compared to the Pioneer Press article, which is comparing the proposed bill with Minnesota's standards.

Both stories mention the shooting of Cha Vang as part of the motivation for this bill, though it was brought up last legislative session as well. Both also mention, more than once, that the Hmong played a role in the Vietnam War. That role is only explained in the Pioneer Press article, which also provides more background information on the shooting of Cha Vang, probably because its Minnesotan readers are less familiar with that piece of news.

Israeli President Faces Charges of Rape and Misconduct

Israel's president has been accused of rape and of abusing his power. These allegations go back to his time as a tourism minister in 1998.

The challenge with this piece of news is that no charges have yet been brought to court. These are news pieces about allegations of misconduct, and the reaction in Israel to this piece of news. The New York Times covered the story by talking about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's reaction to these allegations. Olmert is said to be calling for President Moshe Katsav's resignation. At the same time, Olmert was trying to deflect attention from this subject, focusing instead on the threat to Israel from Iran in a speech he gave this week. President Katsav is asking for leave while he fights the allegations.

The LA Times' version of this story focuses on President Katsav's asking for leave, and plans to fight. It also directly quotes Katsav more than the New York Times article did. It also discusses the move for impeachment.

Both articles do a good job of summing up Israeli law, which their American readers are not likely to know. What the ramifications of a sex scandal in Israel will be, I don't really know. The tone of the articles seems to portray outrage by both the country and the accused. The President is angry at the allegations. His side, and his anger, come across more in the LA Times article, the one with more direct quotes. The outrage of the public and other public officials comes across more in the New York Times' article, which focuses on the Prime Minister.

Should this be news and should we care? I think so, because, if true, it demonstrates an abuse of power in the Israeli government. And it will be interesting how Israel reacts to this scandal, and how their neighbors perceive it. Also, it is an insight into the male-female dynamic in Israel, depending on how this gets dealt with. I think this is just an introductory story, and it is a story to watch, mostly to see the reactions of various people and states.

January 25, 2007

Arrest in '64 Murder

Recently, an arrest was made in a decades old double murder in Mississippi, one that took place in the middle of Ku Klux Klan country, in the middle of the civil rights era. James Ford Seale, 71, was arrested on Wednesday for the murders of Charles Eddie Moore, 19, and Henry Hezekiah Dee, 19. The two were beaten and then drowned in the Mississippi River, attached to a Jeep motor. Seale was arrested back in 1964, but the FBI was focusing on the murders of three civil rights workers (see Mississippi Civil Rights Workers), and turned over the case to the local authorities, who dropped the case. The case was reopened after Moore's brother Thomas, started looking for justice for his brother, after the killing of James Byrd in 1998 (see James Byrd Jr.)

The challenge with this piece was to make it timely--reporting on the latest development, while still filling in the back story --most people would not have heard of this story before, or if they had, would not remember. The AP did a nice job in summarizing all of the basic information, including how Seale was arrested in 1964 and then released and why. An article from the Jackson (Mississippi) Clarion Ledger had a much longer, more in-depth piece, that would probably be too in depth for the general American audience. The Clarion Ledger gives a detailed description of the crime, and what led up to the arrest on Wednesday. They could do so because of the local interest in the case. Its story was also full of local quotes, opinions, from Thomas Moore, the brother of one of the victims, and also local law enforcement. It was a more in-depth article over-all.

The AP story uses a slightly delayed lead, referring to how Seale was up before a black woman judge, showing just how much the times have changed. The Ku Klux Klan is also mentioned three times in first 3 paragraphs, something that people love to read about (love to hate). The Clarion Ledger also uses a delayed lead, mentioning how Seale scoffed at the idea of being arrested just 6 years before. This teases the in-depth part of the article that is to come (6 years earlier...read the article for more). This lead also mentions the Ku Klux Klan twice in the first two sentences. Both leads do their job of the getting the reader interested, though, despite the seeming wealth of evidence against him, Seale has not even been indicted yet. This fact seems to be lost a little, because of the nature and timing of the crime.

Don't get me wrong, I think that the re-opening of cases from the Civil Rights era is a great thing, very justified, and the victims deserve their day in court. But do the articles go too far in vilifying this arrested man? I don't know, because I can see the justification. The articles do say arrested for, on charges of, but that all gets lost between the words murder, civil rights era, and Ku Klux Klan.