March 2010 Archives

Olympic tower unveiled in London

London's mayor unveiled an Olympic tower Wednesday in preparation for the 2012 Olympics that will take place in the city.

The structure is a twisting steel structure that is part sculpture, part observation tower, said BBC News.

The structure will be nearly 400 feet, making it taller than the Statue of Liberty, according to AOL News.

The architect of the design, Anish Kapoor, is famous for many other structures, including Cloud Gate in Chicago, which is commonly call "the Bean", AOL News said.

Reviews have been mixed since the unveiling, with many simply mind-boggled. The Times of London's architecture critic, Tom Dyckhoff, was less than enthusiastic.

"Great. JUST what London needs, a giant squiggle," Dyckhoff said.

Analysis: Obituary about Elinor Smith

The New York Times ran an obituary about Elinor Smith, one of the youngest pioneers of aviation.

Although this article is from the New York Times, it surprisingly does not follow the typical fashion of a New York Times obituary. The style is more creative and fluid.

Sources used include interviews that she did with various people and also with her son following her death.

The lead does work as it really tackles what the article is all about - a woman who loved flying and was one of flight's pioneers.

Unlike a resume, which simply lists accomplishments, this obituary tells the story of a the life of a woman. It doesn't just say that she was born here, grew up there, did this, did that. Instead, it takes a fraction of her life and shows how it can categorically be applied to much of her life.

Obama visits Afghanistan for first time as president

Barack Obama visited Afghanistan for the first time since being sworn into office as President Sunday.

The visit to Afghanistan was a surprise. The president gave a "pep rally" speech to troops and aimed several comments at Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, the New York Times said.

Obama said the troops were in Afghanistan to, "keep America safe and secure". Of President Karzai, he stressed the need to tackle corruption, BBC News said.

The president promised troops a clear mission and said, "I'm confident all of you here are going to get the job done in Afghanistan," to applause and cheers.

Mistrial declared in case of infant's death

A hung jury has caused a judge to declare a mistrial in the death of a 9-week-old infant Saturday night.

Judge M. Michael Monahan decided that after nearly 15 hours of deliberation, the trial needed to come to an end, the Associated Press said.

Louis Jones was on trial for second-degree murder of Rhania Jones, a 9-week-old infant who had the same name but was not biologically related, who died of nonaccidental abusive head trauma, said the Star Tribune.

The defense and prosecution meet Monday with the judge to determine what to do next, the Star Tribune said.

Minnesota company has student loan information stolen

A Minnesota-based company has had 3.3 million college student's information stolen from their headquarters during the weekend.

The theft at Educational Credit Management Corp., is believed by the Department of Education to be the largest student information thefts in history, accounting for about 5 percent of all students with federally-backed loans, the Star Tribune said.

Students' names, addresses, dates of birth, and social security numbers were stolen, but no personal banking information was stolen, said Minnesota Public Radio NewsQ.

"We are doing everything we can to protect the borrowers in this case," Paul Kelash, spokesman for Educational Credit Management Corp. said.

Those who have had their information stolen will receive one year of credit monitoring and identity theft insurance, MPR NewsQ said.

Three die in Norwegian train crash

Three people were killed and at least three injured when 16 railcars broke loose from a cargo train and crashed into a port terminal in Oslo.

The trains ran on the tracks downhill, reaching speeds of over 60 mph before dismounting the tracks and crashing into a building, the Independent said.

The building collapsed and three workers were killed, said BBC News.

Norwegian officials say the trains came loose from at a different cargo terminal, though the cause is unknown pending an investigation, BBC News said.

House passes health care reform

The House of Representatives passed the controversial health care reform bill amid protests Sunday night.

The bill, which passed 219 to 212, saw sweeping opposition from Republicans and several Democrats also defected to vote no, reported BBC News.

The reforms shake up the health care industry, providing coverage to 32 million now-uninsured Americans, allowing young people to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, disallowing denying people for pre-existing conditions, and a whole host of other changes, said the Associated Press.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the reforms honored America's traditions. "We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, healthcare for all Americans," she said, reported BBC News.

Despite the bill being passed, many legislatures are unhappy. Republicans promise to make health care a major issue in the 2010 elections, according to the Associated Press.

A scandal broke out during debate shortly before the vote, said Politico. Representative Randy Neugebauer of Texas broke House decorum when he shouted during pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak's speech, saying, "It's a baby killer!"

The bill has been sent to the President to be signed, though changes are expected to made in the coming days and months, said BBC News.

Woman sets man on fire

A woman has been accused of setting a man on fire Wednesday, according to police.

The man had rubbing alcohol on his shirt when the woman, Tanisha Willis, 38, of Robbinsdale, set him on fire with a lighter, the Star Tribune said.

Police responded to a call on the 4000 block of 37th Avenue, where they found the man lying naked on a bed, badly burned, KARE11 said.

The victim was hospitalized for first-, second-, and third-degree burns, said KARE11, and is expected to spend several weeks in the hospital.

Willis says she was "only joking around" when she held the lighter near the man and flicked it, said the Star Tribune.

Willis has been charged with felony second-degree assault, the Star Tribune said.

School bus crashes with children aboard

A Faribault school bus collision with an sport utility vehicle Friday.

A Minnesota State Patroller said that the bus broadsided the SUV at 3:20 p.m., at the intersection of Highways 60 and 21, reported KARE11.

Three children on the bus sustained minor injuries, but none were taken to the hospital, KARE11 said.

The driver of the SUV, a female who was not named, was airlifted to St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, Minn. Her condition was not immediately available, according to WCCO.

Eagan resident indicted on child porn charges

An Eagan man has been indicted by a federal court for possessing and distributing child pornography.

Yem Nguyen, 35, was found to have over 350 pictures of minors engaging in sexual behaviors, said WCCO.

Authorities say that Nguyen knowingly distributed the images, said Minnesota Local News.

If convicted, Nguyen could face up to 20 years in prison for distributing the images and up to 10 for possessing them, WCCO said.

Democrats to pair loan reform with health care overhaul

Democrats are preparing to piggyback student loan reforms with the health care overhaul currently being debated Thursday.

The move has received more approval recently from members of the Senate, such as Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, which makes it much more likely to happen, Politico said.

If the two bills were piggybacked and passed through reconciliation, it would be a double win for President Obama, said Politico.

Democratic officials familiar with the negotiations say that it is almost for certain the move will go forward, reports The Hill.

"It's going in," said the Democratic source.

The health care bill is still contentiously debated and faces an uphill battle in the reconciliation process. Adding the student loan reforms, which take billions of dollars from private banks and re-allocate them back through federal loan programs, may potentially make it harder to vote for, Politico said.

"There are some who think it complicates the ultimate vote, there are other who think it helps the ultimate vote," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said. "It's an honest difference of opinion."

Chile hit with another quake while new president is sworn in

Chile was hit with earthquake as new a new president was sworn in.

The earthquake was an aftershock of the February 27 earthquake that rocked the nation, reaching 8.8 in magnitude. The aftershock on Thursday was registered at a 6.9, BBC News said.

The new president, Sebastian Pinera, is the first right-wing president in Chile in 52 years and has promised to both fix the economy and help the recovery effort, said the Associated Press.

Dignitaries were walking into the presidential inauguration when the earthquake suddenly struck. The president and his ministers quickly gave their oaths before reassuring the public, said the Associated Press.

Afterwards, the president tried to keep the mood calm and joked with fellow South American leaders, the Associated Press said.

"How was your welcome, president?" Pinera asked Argentina's Cristina Fernandez. "Moving, moving!" she joked.

Analysis: News report about press conference

President Obama gave a speech on clean energy and UPI reported about it.

The reporter was careful when crafting the story to avoid quite a bit of the filler in Obama's speech.

Obama's speech had jokes, stories, and other filler that was there to take up space and persuade those there that clean energy is a good idea for the United States.

The article by UPI on the other hand focuses on presenting the points Obama was trying to make without the persuasion and jokes. Only key points were brought up in the article, mostly those that focused on why the president though clean energy was a good idea, things he would like to see done, and specific incentives he offered through a clean energy bill.

Students protest over high tuition rates

Students at the University of Minnesota and across the nation protested high tuition rates and cuts to public education Thursday.

The protest, called March 4 Day of Action to Defend Public Education, took place in cities across the country with students, teachers, parents, and the general public joining in, the Associated Press said.

At the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities campus, students marched from Morrill Hall over to Coffman Union, holding up signs and chanting things like, "Chop from the top!", said the Minnesota Daily.

Students expressed worry about rising tuition rates, while teachers and low-paying employees gave speeches about the necessity of cutting pay from administration instead of forcing teachers to take furloughs, the Minnesota Daily said.

"I'm one of the lowest paid employees," said Tanisha Jones-Lindsey, a University office specialist. "[Administrators] can actually afford to take pay cuts."

Nationwide, some of the protests ended violently. At the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, 15 students were arrested after throwing ice chunks at police and attempting to enter an administrative office, the Associated Press said.

Lawmakers reach deal on Minnesota health care plan

Democratic lawmakers say they have reached an agreement to keep the health care program that supports the poorest Minnesotans running.

The General Assistance Medical Care program was slated to be cut and those enrolled in it transferred to MinnesotaCare, a similar program, WCCO said.

The news of this came shortly after a judge refused to stop the closing of the program and told those debating the issue to work out an agreement amongst themselves, said the Star Tribune.

Currently around 30,000 people use GAMC services, WCCO said.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty had scheduled the program to be cut in order to help solve the state's budget gap, estimated at over $1 billion, said the Star Tribune.

Although the program will continue running, WCCO said, by June its funding will be down to 23 percent of the current level.

Minnesota's poor-performing schools face overhaul

Minnesota's 34 most under-performing schools will face major changes by next fall.

Under the new federal program initiated by President Obama, the schools would face restructuring or closing before the new school year, the Star Tribune said. All of the schools are in the bottom five percent for performance in graduation and testing rates.

"We have to dramatically and quickly turn around these schools," said Patricia King, director of school improvement at the Minnesota Department of Education.

The identified schools would receive more than $34 million in federal stimulus to improve, MPR NewsQ said.

Schools that receive money face one of four models for improve. The first, called 'turnaround' requires the school to fire the principal and at least half of the teachers, said MPR NewsQ.

Other options include converting the school into a charter school, a plan that focuses on improving the school in four different ways, which includes teacher effectiveness, or closing down the school entirely, MPR NewsQ said.

Nationwide, the goal of the program proposed by President Obama is meant to transform 5,000 in five years to become better performers.

Obama wants 'up-or-down' vote on health care reform

President Obama urged Congress to put the health care reforms that have been debated for several months to an "up-or-down vote" within the next few weeks.

An 'up-or-down' vote would require the use of the Senate procedural rule known as reconciliation now that Democrats not longer have a supermajority and would otherwise face Republican filibuster, the Boston Globe said.

Though Obama did not specifically mention the use of reconciliation, the Boston Globe says, he indicated support. "I do not know how this plays politically, but I know it's right," Obama said.

Many Democrats remain skittish of the proposed changes to the health care system, but the New York Times reports that Obama expects them to support the bill regardless.

"The American people want to know if it's still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future," Obama said. "They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead."

Deadly earthquake hits Chile

Central Chile was hit with a massive earthquake Saturday, causing extensive damage in what is supposed to be the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history.

The earthquake was of a magnitude of 8.8 and struck near the middle of the long South American country, the Guardian said.

A "state of catastrophe" was issued by the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, who said that the country was doing everything it could to provide help to those affected, said the Guardian.

Over two million people are displaced and the current death toll sits at 711 but is expected to continue to rise, the New York Times said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to meet with Bachelet on Tuesday to discuss how the United States can help, said the New York Times.

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