May 3, 2009

Craigslist Founder Donates to Craigslist Victim

The founder of Craigslist joined the effort Sunday to remember a 24-year-old Minnesota woman who died in 2007 after responding to a phony ad for a baby sitter, television news station KSTP TV reported from the Associated Press.

Craig Newmark made a personal contribution at the concert organized to raise money for the Katherine Ann Olson, a scholarship in her name. Olson's family created a scholarship at her alma mater, St. Olaf College in Northfield. Preference for the scholarship will go to Hispanic and Latino students, in memory of Olson's passion for working with Hispanic children in her community

Newmark praised the family's efforts to help their daughter and sister's legacy live on, and reminded the crowd of over 1,200 people to take precautions when using the Internet.

"Despite the billions of times well-meaning people have helped each other through Craigslist, it's been devastating to see that it can also be used by bad people to take cruel advantage of others," Newmark said as he stood with Olson's family on stage at a church in a Minneapolis suburb. (AP/KSTP TV)

Newmark wasn't available for interviews, and a spokeswoman said he wanted to keep the amount of his donation private. Olson's father Rolf described the donation as "substantial," though he declined to specify the amount.

Craigslist made headlines in October 2007 when Olson was found dead after responding to the ad. The Web site received negative attention again last month when a Boston University medical student was arrested and charged in the death of a 25-year-old masseuse he had allegedly contacted through Craigslist.
Olson's memorial concert featured musicians she liked along with a local Latino theater troupe with which she once performed. After Michael Anderson, 20, was convicted in Olson's death, the planning for Sunday's concert began after being in the works for a long time.

"Legally we could not be doing publicity because of pretrial publicity and possibly tainting the jury pool," said Nancy Olson, Katherine's mother. "We were very careful about that."(KSTP TV)

Olson said the family also wanted to focus on one thing at a time.

"Who would want to have a celebration concert if we still had the trial to go?" she said. (KSTP TV)

While Nancy Olson said the conviction "doesn't bring Katherine back," she says the family's new passion is keeping Katherine's memory alive through the scholarship.

Mostly Mild Swine Flu Spreads Across U.S.

With 226 cases in 30 states, the swine flu has spread in the United States with more cases to come, The New York Times reported that federal health officials said Sunday.

"I think it’s circulating all over the U.S.,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the interim deputy director for science and public health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a news conference. “The virus has arrived, I would say, in most of the country now.” (The New York Times)

The good news is that most cases of the swine flu, or H1N1, have been mild, she said. Cases in Mexico seem to be leveling off, health officals there said.

"I don't think we're out of the woods yet," Schuchat said.

However, a concern is that the swine flu has come when the seasonal flu typically ends, so people have little or no resistance to it, she said.

It also appears to have affected young people; the median age is 17. Of 30 people hospitalized in the United States, the higher portion were older children and young adults. It is a big change compared to the seasonal flu, which typically affects the elderly and young children, she said.

Scientists at the C.D.C. were preparing a “seed stock” from virus samples that could be used for a vaccine, she said.

Similar work began several weeks ago to make a vaccine to protect pigs from the H1N1 virus, said Dr. John R. Clifford, the chief veterinary officer for animal health for the Department of Agriculture. The new virus had never been found in pigs in this country, he said, but pigs in Canada have contracted it from a human. This indicates that the animals are susceptible.

“Just like people have flu seasons, so do pigs, normally in fall and winter,” he said.

Missing St. Thomas Student Found in River

The University of St. Thomas freshman missing for nearly four weeks was found dead Friday near the Ford Motor Co. plant, the Star Tribune reported.

The body was identified as Dan Zamlen who disappeared April 5 and would have turned 19 on April 9. St. Thomas spokesman Doug Hennes said people kept hope since he disappeared, but feared the worst as time went on.

"So today does bring some closure," he said.

Zamlen's parents, Dale and Sally Zamlen, of Eveleth, Minn., have been living in the St. Thomas faculty residence since their only son vanished.

St. Paul Police spokesman Pete Panos said he believes Zamlen fell down the bluff and into the river, although an official cause of death is not expected from the medical examiner's office for four or five days.

Panos said Ford workers found the body while cleaning grates that catch debris in the river near the power plant.

Television station KSTP TV said St. Paul police have not said whether there were signs of foul play.

An estimated 1,200 students repeatedly scoured several square miles of Mississippi River bluffs looking for him.

"You hate this to be the end," Panos said. "But if this was always going to be the end, then this actually probably is a good thing. At least the family can go ahead and get through their grieving process and it gives them some closure so they can deal with something more solid than always wondering what happened or where he was." (Star Tribune)

Britta Bloomquist, a high school friend who helped organize Iron Rangers' search efforts, was coming to St. Paul Friday for another weekend of searching. Instead, she attended the prayer service for Zamlen wearing a blue T-shirt that said: Bring Dan Home.

"I'm glad they found him, but I want to know what happened," she said. "Keep praying so we can find an answer." (Star Tribune)

Woman Killed in Richfield Parking Lot

A woman laid slain with a dropped sack of groceries and a shoe in the parking lot, the Star Tribune reported that neighbors near a Richfield complex said Sunday.

The 22-year-old, unidentified woman was killed around 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Buena Vista Apartment Homes at 734 E. 78th St. She was stabbed to death, said the Hennepin County mediacal examiner's office.

Richfield police did not release information about a possible motive. An unidentified 24-year-old man was arrested and is being held at the Hennepin County jail.

Police dogs searched the area. It is not clear where the suspect was arrested, the Star Tribune reported. Television station KSTP TV reported that the man was arrested in Bloomington, and that police said the man and woman knew each other.

The woman's name is being withheld until fingerprint identity examinations are confirmed, the Star Tribune reported.

Neighbors described the scene as blood flowing the length of the parking lot. The woman's throat may have been cut, they said. Diane Soderberg was watching television with her window open when she heard a "blood-curdling" scream.

"I kept the blinds shut. It was a horrific, horrific noise," she told the Star Tribune. "I knew she was in trouble, but by that time the rescue squad was coming. It was just horrific, the scream."

Television station KSTP TV reported that the woman's child was bleeding, who was not hurt and is with his father.

Kenyan Journalists Protest on World Press Day

Every year on May 3, World Press Day seeks to celebrate the role of journalists while demanding for greater journalistic freedom, and this Sunday Kenyan journalists held a protest march to demand respect for their profession and an end to the killing of journalists, the Daily Nation reported.

Led by officials from their unions and associations, journalists marched through the streets of Nairobi Sunday. The Kenya Union of Journalists, Media Institute and International Commission of Jurists also took part in the demonstration Sunday. There was little to celebrate and the government deliberately gagged them, members of the Press said.

Protesters attempted to deliver a petition to the attorney general’s office demanding independent investigations for the death of Francis Nyaruri, a media practitioner who was murdered in Nyamira early this year.

However, they were told that he was out of office, and asked to seek him on Monday.

Nyaruri was one of two journalists who has died in mysterious circumstances since the year began, journalists said. Two weeks after he went missing, his mutilated body was found dumped in Kodeka Forest near Oyugis in Rachuonyo District.

Before he disappeared, Nyaruri received death threats after publishing a story on irregularities and embezzlement of funds by senior police officers.

“It is close to four months since he died, but investigations have unearthed nothing so far,” said Bob Wekesa, a member of the Kenya Journalists Association. (Daily Nation)

Citing the Communications (Amendment) Act, they said they were concerned at MPs’ reluctance to prioritize it.

“It took huge efforts for the government to grudgingly agree to expunge a bad section from the Act, although this has not been done yet,” said KUJ’s secretary-general Eric Orina. (Daily Nation)

April 26, 2009

Man Who Approached 2 Edina Girls Had Tape in Car

The Star Tribune reported that the 21-year-old man arrested last week after allegedly approaching two 8-year-old girls in Edina for directions had a roll of duct tape, condoms and a paintball gun in his car, according to newly released court documents.

Police found the items after arresting the Fairbault, Minn. man on suspicion of attempted kidnapping. He has not yet been charged and was released from jail last Friday.

Authorities said the two girls separately reported a man drove up to them Tuesday around 3:30 p.m., asking them to get in his vehicle and guide him to Concord Elementary School. Both girls refused to give the man directions, and ran home and told their parents, television news station Kare 11 additionally reported.

The man told police he was in the area for an appointment and was lost, the Star Tribune reported.

Kare 11 reported that deputy police chief Jeff Long said the girls were walking home from school when they were approached.

An Edina teenager and another woman saw one of the incidents and called police, whom Kare11 credits with having helped prevent possible child abductions. A teenage boy stopped his car when he spotted one of the girls talking to the man. Edina resident Erica Oberlein called the police after she drove up, learned what happened and followed the vehicle to get a license plate number.

"I'm glad this teen had the foresight to stop and ask the guy what he was doing," Oberlein said. "Had he not, I would not have stopped." (Kare 11)

Minn. Poll Says Coleman Should Concede to Franken

Nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans think Norm Coleman should admit loss to Al Franken in the U.S. Senate race, but just as many believe the voting system that gave the state its longest running election contest needs improvement, according to those surveyed in a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.

The poll has found that 64 percent of those surveyed believe Coleman should accept the recount trial court's April 13 verdict, which showed Franken's win by 312 votes.

Only 28 percent consider last week's appeal by Coleman to the Minnesota Supreme Court "appropriate."

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said Franken should concede if Coleman were to win at the state Supreme Court, while 73 percent said Coleman should concede if Franken were to win.

The random telephone survey of 1,042 Minnesota adult produced a sample consisting of 20 percent Republicans, 36 percent Democrats and 37 percent independents, with 6 percent offering no self-identification. The poll has a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points, plus or minus.

"I voted for Coleman, but this thing has gone on way too long," said Mike McCombs, 50, a Lakeville furnace and air conditioning salesman. "Obviously, the Republican Party is trying to keep Franken's vote out of the United States Senate. We should get another [senator] in there." (Star Tribune)

The 4,400 rejected absentee ballots should be counted because they are identical to the other, already-counted ballots, Coleman said.

"While we understand the frustration that Minnesotans have, it's important to get this right, not only for the 4,400 disenfranchised Minnesotans, but for everyone so that we can all have faith in the accuracy of the final outcome," said Coleman spokesman Tom Erickson.

But the poll numbers speak for themselves, Franken spokesman Andy Barr said.

"Minnesotans understand that this process has been meticulous and fair," he said, "... that our election system in Minnesota is sound and that Al Franken received more votes than Norm Coleman on Election Day."

The same day Coleman confirmed widespread expectations that he would challenge Franken's recount trial victory in the state Supreme Court, the poll was conducted, lasting four days.

April 19, 2009

420 Hints at Change for Marijuana Advocates

David Perleberg sold pro-marijuana T-shirts at the forum for Monday's secretly located and sold-out event for High Times magazine's annual beauty pageant, for which its sponsor says will "turn the Big Apple into the Baked Apple," The New York Times reported.

Advocates of legal marijuana said this year’s “high holiday,” April 20, the unofficial day of celebration for marijuana, carries extra significance. Momentum toward acceptance of the drug, either as medicine or entertainment, seem to be increasing, they said.

“It is the biggest moment yet,” said Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington. “There’s a sense that the notion of legalizing marijuana is starting to cross the fringes into mainstream debate.” (The New York Times)

From the nation’s statehouses, where more than a dozen legislatures have begun to allow some medical use, to its swimming pools, where Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was largely forgiven, the signs of changes are everywhere.

“We’ve been on national cable news more in the first three months than we typically are in an entire year,” said Bruce Mirken, the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, a reform group based in Washington. “And any time you’ve got Glenn Beck and Barney Frank agreeing on something, it’s either a sign that change is impending or that the end times are here.” (The New York Times)

Beneficiaries include Norml, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which advocates legalization. Web traffic and donations, sometimes in $4.20 increments, have surged, according to Norml.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. suggested that federal law enforcement resources would not be used to pursue legitimate medical marijuana users and outlets in California and a dozen other states that allow medical use of the drug.

“The balancing act this year is trying to get our most active, most vocal supporters to be more realistic in their expectations in what the Obama administration is going to do,” said Allen F. St. Pierre, executive director of Norml.

For marijuana fans, perhaps the biggest indicator of changing attitudes is how widespread the observance of April 20 has become, including its use in marketing campaigns for movie openings like “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay,” “Super High Me” and “Half Baked."

April 20 dates to a ritual begun in the early 1970s, in which a group of Northern California teenagers smoked every day at 4:20 p.m. Word of the ritual spread and expanded to a yearly event in various places. “420” became code for smoking and using it as a sign-off on fliers for concerts where it would be plentiful.

Several colleges have urged students to just say "no" to April 20 events. At the University of Colorado, Boulder, administrators sent an e-mail message this month pleading with students not to “participate in unlawful activity that debases the reputation of your university and degree.”

2 Dead after Shooting at Maple Grove McDonald's

Police said a woman in her 20s was shot and killed outside a McDonald's in Maple Grove on Sunday afternoon in what appears to be a murder-suicide, television station FOX 9 news reported.

The woman was shot just outside the door by the drive-up lane. Witnesses said it appears she was shot several times.Police were called to the restaurant at 6255 Sycamore Lane North at about 2 p.m.

McDonald's employees tried unsuccessfully to give the woman CPR, police said.

Brooklyn Park Police spotted a car matching the description of the suspect's vehicle on Interstate 94. The Pioneer Press reported that witnesses described the suspect's vehicle. Police said that as they pulled the car over, the man shot and killed himself, FOX 9 reported.

The woman and the man, who was described to be in his 20s, knew each other, and planned to meet at the restaurant where she was going to break off a year-long relationship, police said. Police said they believe he followed her into the lot, got out of his car and shot her. Police have not identified the woman yet, but said she has a 9-year-old daughter.

There were several people, including children, inside the restaurant at the time. They will be offered counseling.

It is the second shooting in a Twin Cities fast food restaurant's parking lot in about 12 hours time. Early Sunday, a 24-year-old man was shot and killed after an argument in the parking lot of a White Castle in Hopkins, the Pioneer Press additionally reported. Police are looking for two suspects.

Man Pretending to Fall off Bridge, Does

The Star Tribune reported that Bloomington police said a 23-year-old man is in stable condition after pretending to fall of a Minnesota River bridge, and then actually fell.

Just before 5 a.m. Sunday, a 21-year-old man called police, about his friend who fell off the Highway 77 bridge and into a marshy area about 30 feet below. He was driving north when his friend, who had been drinking, told him to pull into the bridge's emergency lane so he could urinate, he said.

The 23-year-old climbed to the ledge of the bridge, then looked at his friend and pretended to fall, and fell.

"He then in fact fell," according to a press release from the Bloomington Police Department.

Bloomington and Eagan police responded, and the Eagan Fire Department used a chair lift to retrieve the man. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center where he is being treated for serious injuries.

Television station FOX 9 news reported that the injuries did not seem to be life threatening. They additionally reported that resue crews were called in around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, which is before the 5 a.m. call as reported by the Star Tribune.

The Lion, the Nanny and the Mermaid

Disney Theatrical Productions has been heavily discounting tickets to its three Broadway shows during the economic crisis, which has decreased weekly revenues since 2008, The New York Times reported.

Although Disney has said “The Lion King” draws more foreign tourists, “Mary Poppins” does better with an older crowd, and “The Little Mermaid” has proved popular with New Yorkers, the three musicals risk contending one another with the commonality of struggling to fill seats on weeknights. They also compete with a growing number of Broadway shows such as “Shrek,” “Hair” and “West Side Story," which appeal to parts of the core Disney audiences.

A comparison of ticket sales for the first 15 weeks of 2009 with the same period of 2008 shows that gross revenues for “The Little Mermaid” have declined 27 percent, “Mary Poppins,” about 17 percent, while “The Lion King” is off about 5 percent.

“Disney faces major questions in this economy. Can it sustain three shows at a time when the cost of going to Broadway is very high for a family of three or four, say, and can it differentiate its shows from ‘Shrek,’ ‘Wicked’ and other competitors?” said Stuart Oken, a theater producer who spent nine years at Disney Theatrical, where he served as executive vice president before leaving in 2003. (The New York Times)

Broadway has 35 shows to choose from, and many are discounting tickets. However, Disney was the first to use this marketing strategy.

“Discounting is always dangerous because once you start, it’s very hard to ever stop,” Oken said. (The New York Times)

In order for each show can pursue its target audiences through its own advertising and marketing strategies, Disney plans to separate the three this spring, said David Schrader, executive vice president of Disney Theatrical in an interview on April 1 with The New York Times.

“Out of efficiency for the past two of three years, when we could, we bundled them together — with two shows buying TV or space in the paper, for instance, or discounting all three,” Schrader said. “Now we’ll try to let each show do what it wants to do to address its needs.” (The New York Times)

Disney Theatrical executives declined to cooperate with The New York Times article.

Iranian-American Journalist Imprisoned in Iran

CNN reported that Roxana Saberi, the American journalist convicted of charges for spying in Iran, has lost weight in prison but is being treated well in her cell with two other prisoners, her father said Sunday.

"She has lost weight and she looks frail and weak," her father Reza Saber told the Associated Press in an exclusive interview. "She says she's not treated harshly. The food is pretty good and they're not hurting her. So it's just the environment of the prison that's very frustrating."

The 31-year-old Iranian-American from Fargo, North Dakota was sentenced Saturday to eight years in prison after a private one-day trial, which prompted denunciation from United States and abroad political and media officials.

Saberi's lawyer has 20 days to file an appeal, and afterward, they must wait for the court of appeals to decide, said her father, who last saw her Tuesday.

"We cannot do anything until they make a decision," he said.

He said he will stay in Iran until his daughter is released, television station FOX 9 news additionally reported from the Associated Press.

Saberi has been living in Iran since 2003, according to the journalist advocacy group Committee to Protect Journalists. She has freelanced for National Public Radio and other news organizations, and was writing a book about Iranian culture.

Saberi continued to file short news items without permission after Iranian authorities revoked her press credentials in 2006, the journalists' group said.

Saberi was detained in January, although no formal charges were disclosed. Officials initially said she was held for buying a bottle of wine. The Foreign Ministry later said she was detained for reporting without proper accreditation.

By April 9, Saberia had ben charged with espionage. She confessed to the charges, authorities said. Her father said he believed she was coerced into making damaging statements.

"Without press credentials and under the name of being a reporter, she was carrying out espionage activities," Hassan Haddad, a deputy public prosecutor, told the Iranian Students News Agency. (CNN)

Her father said tactics used for confessions are the same in security prison as they are for political prisoners, which leads to saying untruthful things in hopes of release from prison.

"Most probably, such tactics were used on our daughter but, again, further investigation is needed," he said.

In addition to Saberi, another Iranian-American student remains detained in Iran.

In addition to Seberi, Estha Momeni, another Iranian-American student, remains detained in Iran after an arrest last October. At a conference on Afghanistan in the Netherlands earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a letter to the Iranian delegation asking for information on her release.

Clinton also inquired about Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in March 2007.

April 12, 2009

Madagascar Cyclone Kills 9

The New York Times reported that at least 9 people have been killed and more than 33,300 homes were destroyed by a tropical cyclone on Madagascar, the authorities said Friday.

The cyclone, Jade, landed Monday in the northeastern region of the vast island and has now moved on, leaving enough rain to heighten fears of serious floods.

CNN additionally reported that Jade's winds of 69 mph cut power, which made it difficult to asses damage levels.

"No one has been able to get there yet. There is no electricity, no telephone. We know nothing about what happened there," said Didier Young, emergency coordinator for the humanitarian group CARE. (CNN)

However, some information has come about the strom, from a man who rode out on his motorcycle. He explained that the roads are impassable by car because of heavy damage, Young said.

Young and other CARE workers hope to take a helicopter over the hardest-hit areas later Monday, because bad weather prevented them to do so earlier, he said.

Young said many people in Madagascar, with about a 19.4 million population, live in huts.

"The huts are not very strong," he said. "The houses are made of local materials." (CNN)

As of noon, the storm had weakened and was moving southwest over land, according to

In January, at least 9 people died and more than 20,000 lost their homes after two cyclones hit the island, the New York Times reported. Cyclone Ivan made landfall on the island's northeastern coast with sustained winds near 70 mph (111 km/h), according to the Typhoon Warning Center, CNN reported.

Flo Rida's Digits Available for Fans

In an attempt to reach his fan base on a more intimate level, the Floridian rapper has made his personal cell phone number public, CNN reported.

Tramar Dillard, more commonly known as Flo Rida, said he responds to about 30 percent of calls and texts he gets. If he does not have time to answer or call back, he will text back.

"If they can go out and buy my albums, I can at least make the sacrifice to holler at the few people who call," he said. "A lot of times I'm busy so they'll get my voice mail. And if I can speak to them and I have time, I always text back. Because I think that's very important." (CNN)

However, most people get flustered when they actually reach the top-selling, in-demand rapper that they hang up. In an interview with CNN, as his phone continued to light up, he answered a call where exactly that happened.

"Most of them hang up," he said in the interview. "They don't think it's really me." (CNN)

Flo Rida's single, "Low," featuring rapper T-Pain, broke digital sales records last year, selling 467,000 downloads in its first week. His new single "Right Round," featuring singer Kesha, sold more than 636,000 downloads in the week after its release. It also hit number one on Billboard's Hot 100 pop chart.

Flo Rida is also scheduled to be a guest on "American Idol."

Having an international fan base is also important to Flo Rida, who wanted to study international business in school. He has a number one record in nearly 12 different countries.

"To me, that's like having nine lives. Most people don't even have an idea that you can really sell music overseas" he said. (CNN)

Sunday School Teacher Arrested in Killing of 8-Year-Old

Police arrested a Sunday school teacher in connection with the killing of an 8-year-old Tracy, Calif., girl whose body was found in a suitcase dumped in an irrigation pond by farmworkers last week, the Star Tribune reported.

Melissa Huckaby, 28, a local minister's granddaughter, was arrested late Friday, police Sgt. Tony Sheneman said. She was being held without bail in connection with the death of Sandra Cantu, who disappeared on March 27.

Huckaby walked into the police station Friday and started a conversation with officers, Sheneman said. She went back and forth from being calm to emotional, eventually becoming "resigned," he said.

FOX News additionally reported that Huckaby voluntarily went to police for questioning and was taken into custody nearly five hours later, at 1 a.m. Saturday.

“She gave enough information to us during the course of the interview that probable cause was there to arrest her,” Tracy Police Sgt. Tony Sheneman said. (FOX News)

The Star Tribune reported that police said Huckaby's daughter was a close friend of Cantu. Cantu's mother was devastated, said Angie Chavez, Cantu's aunt, to the Associated Press. Cantu lived in a mobile home park with her mother.

"It's not over," Chavez said. "This is just the beginning of a horrible nightmare."

$32,000 was the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Cantu's killer, last seen skipping down the street near her mobile home, police announced in a Friday afternoon press conference, FOX News reported.

No autopsy results have yet been released. Police said they do not know the motive for the killing.

"I want to know why she did it, if she did it," Chaves said. (FOX News)