April 19, 2009

Computer-assisted reporting

The reporters had to check police reports and documents about the number of violent crimes reported by Memphis City Schools. I find this article very interesting because it brings to light a good story, but doesn't say how they determined the number of crimes that went unreported. If the crimes are unreported, then there are no police records of them. Perhaps the school keeps records of conflicts brought to their attention by students, teachers and parents. I don't know if these kinds of records are public, because they concern individuals and probably information that would be considered private.

This paragraph is essential in expressing the story:

"This year, the schoold district told the state about 12 violent crimes against students. They should have reported at least 38. Last school year, the district also reported 12 violent crimes, though the real total is at least 84. In the 2006-2007 school year, the state learned about 2 crimes against students, though we found at least 96 cases should have been reported."

However, it does not say where they got the unreported numbers from.

The reporter would have to know how to access and use public documents. Some police reports can be found on the web, so they would need the skills to locate those. Otherwise, they would have to know where and how to get the police records. The reporter also probably found a lot of their contacts via the internet through school websites and the police website. The reporter would have to locate the possible contacts and obtain their contact information.

Story: http://www.wreg.com/news/onyourside/wreg-school-police-story,0,6878320.story

Woman shot in the head, not only survives but makes tea

A mississippi woman who was just shot in the head greeted the deputy that arrived on the scene and offered him something to drink.

Tammy Sexton, 47, was hospitalized for three days after she was shot in the head by her husband, who had killed himself after shooting Sexton.

She is expected to make a full recovery.

Sexton's husband, Donlad Ray Sexton, was going to be given a document ordering him to stay away from his wife by deputies.

He had been convicted of domestic violence and put on probation April 9 for six months.

On Tuesday, Donald Sexton showed up at the Sexton home early in the morning, and confronted his wife. A relative ran to the neighbors to call police.

Tammy Sexton was shot in the head, the slug from a .380-caliber handgun struck her directly in the forehead. The bullet passed through her skull and exited through the back of her head, msnbc.com reported.

After shooting his wife, Donald Sexton went to the back porch where he shot himself.

A deputy arrived within minutes and was greeted by the woman, who had made herself some tea and was holding a rag against her forehead, and offered the deputy something to drink.

The bullet apparently passed through the woman's head without causing major damage.

Cases like this are rare, but medical journals confirm people have been shot in the head with little or no lasting injury.


U.S. journalist sentenced to 8 years in prison by Iranian court

An Iranian-American accused of spying for the U.S. was sentenced Saturday by an Iranian court to eight years in prison.

Roxana Saberi, 31, who had reported for the BBC and National Public Radio, faced espionage charges Monday when she appeared before Iran's Revolutionary Court.

Saberi's lawyer said he will appeal the verdict, the cnn.com reported.

Saberi was arrested about three months ago and is being held in Tehran's Evin Prison.

She was charged with spying on Iran, disguised as a journalist, and passing information and documents to U.S. intelligence agencies, the Pioneer Press reported.

The deputy prosecutor for the Revolutionary Court had told Iran's media that Saberi confessed to the charges.

Saberi grew up in North Dakota and holds duel U.S. and Iranian citizenships.

Reza, Saberi's father, traveled to Iran to visit his daughter and follow the trial. He told the Agence France Presse news agency that Saberi said in court that her previous confessions were not true and that she had been tricked into believing she would be released if she cooperated.

It is likely that Saberi's conviction has political motives, especially considering recent negotiations between the U.S. and Iran.

Pioneer Press - http://www.twincities.com/national/ci_12174349?nclick_check=1

cnn.com - http://www.cnn.com/

Advocates hope new female condom will help fight STDs

A new model of female condom that is less expensive and more user-friendly is being promoted by advocates who hope it will vastly expand its role in the global fight against AIDS and other sexually transmitting diseases.

An early version of the female condom was introduced in 1993, and it remains the only available woman-initiated form of protection against boths STDs and unintended pregnancy, the Minnesota Daily reported.

The new model produced by the Chicago-based Female Health Co., called the FC2, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last month.

About 35 million female condoms were distributed worldwide last year, far less than the 10 billion male condoms that were distributed, which are far cheaper and initially easier to use.

However, in some nations with high HIV rates, many men refuse to wear condoms.

The FC2 is made from synthetic rubber rather than polyurethane, like its predecessor, and costs one-third less.

The FC2 also is less noisy during use, Mary Ann Leeper, the strategic advisor of Female Health Co., said. She said that complaints of squeaky noises were among the factors that slowed acceptance of the original version.

Female condoms require careful instruction to be used properly, and advocates are providing training programs to teach women about the device.

Bidia Deperthes, the U.N. Population Fund's HIV technical advisor for condoms, said that even though the mindset is changing, but accessibility os still minimal. The demand is growing, but the Population Fund is unable to meet it.

MNDaily -http://www.mndaily.com/content/health-advocates-tout-new-model-female-condom

Gas leak on Pleasant Avenue not a threat

A natural gas leak near Smith Hall started on Friday and is expected to continue through the weekend.

Officials on-scene said that the leak is not an immediate safety threat because it is venting into open air, the Minnesota Daily reported.

The leak is coming from a ditch on Pleasant Avenue near the Washington Avenue bridge and was likely caused by the construction of the Science Teaching and Student Services building, multiple officials said.

Two people called the University of Minnesota Police Department Friday night to report the oder, Sgt. Ryan Rivers of the University of Minnesota Police Department said.

Officials from the Minneapolis Fire Department and CenterPoint Energy inspected the area and determined that there was no threat because the gas was venting into open air.

The gas could become a threat if it gets into nearby Smith and Kolthoff halls, the Daily reported.

There is no word if any Monday classes would be affected.

MNDaily -http://www.mndaily.com/2009/04/17/gas-leak-near-smith-hall-active-not-considered-threat

"Plantimal" to star in new Weisman exhibit

Edunia, a transgenic petunia, is an important part of the new exhibit at the Weisman Art Museum.

The plant was implanted with DNA from artist Eduardo Kac, and appears in Eduardo Kac: Natural History of the Enigma exhibit at Weisman.

Kac worked with University of Minnesota plant biology professor Neil Olszewski to create the "plantimal", the Minnesota Daily reoprted.

A gene from Kac's immune system was isolated and implanted into the cells of a petunia. Red veins in Edunia are where Kac's DNA is expressed, the Daily reported.

Olszewski said that the creation has more use in an art gallery than a real-world application.

Kac has been focusing on bio-art for the last ten years, using the creation of life as a medium for his art.

Edunia and the rest of the exhibit took six years from the beginning of the project to its opening debut.

Several other aspects of the exhibit are works that were inspired by Edunia and the process of creating it.

"Singularis", a 14-foot metal and fiberglass sculpture created by Kac was also inspired by Edunia. The sculpture appears in front of the Cargill Center on the St. Paul Campus.

MNDaily - http://www.mndaily.com/2009/04/17/transgenic-petunia-inspires-art

April 12, 2009

US freight captain rescued

The five day standoff between Somali pirates who were holding a U.S. captain hostage and the Navy ended dramatically Easter Sunday when snipers killed the three pirates.

Freighter Capt. Richard Phillips, 53, was taken hostage by pirates who tried to hijack the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama on Wednesday. Phillips was held on a small lifeboat that was making its way to the dangerous Somalian coast.

President Barack Obama personally approved the rescue operation, which helped quell fears that the standoff could drag on for months, even though warships were at th scene.

Navy snipers killed the three pirates when one pointed an AK-47 at the back of Phillips, who was tied up and in danger of being killed, the Star Tribune reported.

The commander of the nearly USS Bainbridge ordered his men to shoot, Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said.

Phillips' crew said that they were saved by his action to offer himself as a hostage, MSNBC.com reported.

The crew waved an American flag and shot flares in celebration when their captain was rescued.

According to MSNBC.com, Jamac Habeb, a self-proclaimed pirate told The Associated Press that this was a good lesson, and that the pirates will now kill foreign hostages if their country tries to attack.

University of Minnesota undergrad admission highest ever

The number of undergraduate applicants for fall 2009 is the highest in the history of the University of Minnesota.

The Minnesota Daily reported that there has been a 16 percent increase in applications to the university, which is both good and bad.

With more applicants, the university will have to turn down more applications. The jump in the percent also makes next year's freshman class size more difficult to predict.

University Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Robert McMaster said that the university uses a formula based on historical trends of how many people reject the university after they have been accepted to determine how many students to accept.

But because the economic crisis, students are applying to more colleges, and that makes it harder to predict acceptance rates, Director of Administrations Wayne Sigler said.

There are only 5,350 spots for students. If the freshman class is less than 5,350, the university will lose money, administrators said, which is already facing economic problems.

However, it is more likely that there will be an influx of students, which could strain the university's resources.

McMaster expects that the university will arrive close to their goal, and will have an accurate estimate of next year's freshman class around May.

This is the sixth straight year the university has broken application records.

Possible program changes for the University of Minnsota

Minnesota is one of three schools that will be considering a new way to evaluate college degrees that is common in other countries.

The program is a process of “tuning” that will put more emphasis on the skills learned rather than on the courses taken, the Minnesota Daily reports.

The program is called Tuning USA, and is an initiative from th Lumina Foundation for Education.

Minnesota will consider re-examining standards in graphic design and biology programs, both programs at the University of Minnesota.

Director of the Lumina Program Kevin Corcoran said th “tuning” can help students know what they can expect to learn before going into a program.

Corcoran also said the tuning would help employers know what skills potential employees should have after their schooling.

No decisions about making changes have been made until Lumina determines how much interest there is in the program.

According to the Luminia Foundation, the tuning is common in other countries across Europe, and at least 145 universities in European countries have tuned their programs over the last year.

April 5, 2009


Religion in decline across America
In “Religion in decline across America”, the reporter uses numbers in the form of percents and years. The reporter also uses a lot of “math crunching” to put the changes in percents into perspective as well as compares the changes and percents to each other. The numbers in the article were easy to grasp, I think mostly thanks to how the reporter used them. He did not overload paragraphs with lots of numbers and used words like significant, shift, jump and dramatic to help put the percents in perspective. He also did his own math to highlight the importance of the numbers: “significantly less”, “almost doubled” and “This dramatic increase slots non-religious Americans third behind Catholics (25.1 percent) and Baptists (15.8 percent).” The reporter said that the numbers came from the latest American Religious Identification Survey.

Communication technology convergence?

Guards at the Danilio Pineiro prison in Brazil have discovered pigeons smuggling in cell phone parts to inmates.

The guards noticed a pigeon sitting on an electrical wire with a small bag tired to of its legs. After luring th bird with some food, th guards grabbed th bird and discovered parts of a cell phone in its pouch.

One day later, another pigeon was seen dragging a bag inside the prison's exercise yard. Once caught, guards discovered the cell phone's charger.

MSNBC.com reported that the pigeons were apparently raised inside the prison, smuggled out, outfitted with the cell phone parts and then released to fly back.

An investigator said that pigeons instinctively fly back home.

Police have not discovered who is sending th pigeons or who was intended to receive them.

Brazilian gang leaders inside prisons have used smuggled cell phones to plan and exicute drug deals, kidnappings and bank robberies.

Two gay men found dead in Iraqi slum

The bodies of two hay men were found in a Shitte slum after a leading cleric repeatedly condemned homosexuality, an Iraqi police official said Saturday.

According to MSNBC.com, Shiite cleric Sattar al-Battat repeatedly condemned homosexuality during recent Friday prayers. He said that Islam prohibits homosexuality.

Homosexual acts are punishable in Iraq, and can result in up to seven years in prison.

Police suspect that the men were killing Thursday by their relatives because no one has claimed the bodies or called for an investigation. Homosexuality is considered shameful to the family.

An anonymous official said that the killings came weeks after police found four bodies buried in late March near Sadr City. The bodies had th words “pervert” and “puppies” written on their chests.

Puppy is a derogatory word used by residents to refer to homosexuals, the official said.

Thanks to the Mahdi Army militia cease fire, homosexuals have become less afraid to declare their tendencies, the official said.

Washington man shoots his children

A Washington man shot and killed his five children and himself after discovering his wife was leaving him for another man, authorities said Sunday.

The bodies James Harrison's children, ages 7 to 16, were found with multiple gunshot wounds Saturday in the family's mobile home, most of them in their beds, MSNBC.com reported.

Harrison's body had been found earlier that day with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in his idling car.

The night before, Harrison and his eldest daughter discovered his wife, Angela Harrison, at a convenience store with another man, said Ed Troyer, spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff.

His wife told Harrison that she was not coming home and was leaving him for the other man.

Authorities did not release the names, but the family's relatives identified the couple and their children.

Authorities suspect that after the children went to bed, Harrison shot them multiple times. Four of the children were found in their beds, while the fifth was found in the bathroom surrounded by evidence of a violent struggle.

Investigators believe that Harrison returned to the store looking for his wife. When he didn't find her, he soon realized what he had done, and shot himself.

Eco-friendly palms have many benefits

Churches around the country will be trying an eco-friendly approach to Palm Sunday this weekend.

According to the Minnesota Daily, the Eco-Palms program is a partnership between the University of Minnesota, private companies, churches and government agencies in Guatemala and Mexico.

Dan Current, director of the University's Center of Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management, said the eco-friendly palms reduce wastes and help benefit the communities where they are grown an harvested.

About 50 percent of non-eco-friendly palms are discarded, but by harvesting only the quality palms lowers the number down to about 10 percent, Current said.

An estimated 30 to 50 churches in the Twin Cities will be using the eco-friendly palms this year.

The eco-friendly palms only make up about 2 percent of the market.

The palms are an important to the communities where they are grown because they are a renewable resource and provide jobs for women and children.

Current hopes that the palms can also be marketed for weddings and funerals because of their benefits and aesthetic value in floral designs.

University mentored team among winners in robotic competition

A University of Minnesota mentored team was among the winners at the robotics competitions that were held at Williams and Mariucci arenas this weekend.

The Washburn High School team was mentored by university engineering students from Theta Tau, and co-ed professional engineering fraternity.

The team will now be traveling to Atlanta to compete nationally in April.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) designs a new game every year and the competing teams must build a robot specifically for the game.

This was the first time the Washburn team, the Washburn Millerbots, competed in the competition.

The Minnesota Daily reported that this is the second regional competition to be held at the university, which hosted 102 competing teams.

The competition included 81 Minnesota teams, a drastic increase from the one Minnesota team that competed in 2005.