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October 29, 2007

Chessboard killer sentenced

With Halloween right around the corner, I hope no one well be dressed as the "Chessboard Killer." That name sounds like a villian from a move more than a real person. Unfortunately, it isn't a fictional character.

A Russian serial murderer nicknamed the "Chessboard Killer" was given the maximum sentence of life in prison today (Monday) and ordered to undergo psychiatric therapy for commiting at least 48 murders in Moscow.

The criminal, Alexander Pichushkin,was found to have killed 48, prosecutors said, despite Pichushkin's claim of actualy killing 60. Why would anyone claim they killed more than the prosecutors found? Obviously something is wrong with this man mentally.

Pichushkin earned the nickname "Chessboard Killer" for saying he had intended to kill one person for each of the 64 squares on a chessboard, according to CNN.com.

Wildfires rip through Southern California

Without question, the biggest story in the United States this week had to have been the wildfires in Southern California earlier this week that destroyed hundreds of homes.

The fires, which were caused by "fierce" winds, forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes.
At least one person was killed and dozens were injured. When fires first hit Monday, att least 655 homes had already been burned.

The fires covered an estimated 240,000 acres or the equivalent of 374 square miles.

Later in the week, firefighters said the end may be near for the wildfires, but that it would take plenty of time for Southern California to recover, as 20,000 homes were still threatened as of Saturday. Officials said the fires in the region have forcasted to be "tamed" by Nov. 5.

Big Ten Basketball Media Day

New Minnesota men's basketball coach Tubby Smith, along with seniors Spencer Tollackson, Lawrence McKenzie and Dan Coleman, attended Big Ten Basketball Media Day in Chicago Sunday morning.

I also made the trip to the Chicago Marriott Hotel, as I interviewed players and coaches from across the Big Ten throughout the three-hour event. The Gophers, didn't get much love. They were seated in the back corner of the gigantic ballroom, pretty much isolated from everyone else. It was also announced on Sunday that that the Gophers were picked to finish 9th in the Big Ten by the media.'

What I am looking at, is the contrast in coverage between Myron Medcalf of the Startribune and Marcus Fuller of the Pioneer Press on this event. Both, were at the event, roaming the same tables, but focused on different topics in their stories on Monday.

Medcalf started his story by focusing on players losing weight this offseason to improve their performance on the court. He then mentioned how Michigan State has been picked to win the conference and Spartan's star point guard Drew Neitzel has been named Preseason Player of the Year.

Fuller, like myself, decided to lead with the opinion of other coaches around the Big Ten about Tubby Smith's arrival at Minnesota. He then went on to talk about recruiting within the conference, and how Smith will impact that area of the college game. Interestingly, Fuller didn't mention Michigan State as the preseason favorite in his piece, but he did mention it in his blog.

There is really no wrong way to start a story about Big Ten media day. There are so many different angles a writer can take when he or she has every coach in the conference and a few players from each team avaliable to talk to about pretty much anything they want.

Big-time recruit commits to Gophers

Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class as head coach of the Minnesota men’s basketball team continues to get stronger.

On Thursday, Smith nabbed arguably his biggest target, literally and figuratively, when 6-foot-11, 220-pound center Ralph Sampson III from Duluth, GA, gave his oral commitment to the Gophers, according to Rivals.com.

The big man from Northview High School in Duluth, GA., chose Minnesota over Georgia Tech and Clemson. Maryland and Kentucky had also been in strong pursuit of Sampson.

Sampson, who Smith had been heavily recruiting since the moment he took the Minnesota job last March, is rated the 15th best center in the nation by Rivals.

Those who questioned if Smith could recruit are starting to look foolish. Sampson, the son of former college and NBA standout Ralph Sampson, joins 2008-2009 recruits Paul Carter and Devron Bostick (both from junior college) and South Dakota power forward Colton Iverson.

Iverson and Sampson both came to Minneapolis in early September to tour the campus together. At that time, the two big men developed a strong bond, Iverson said.

Iverson said he is thrilled Sampson will be joining him on the Gophers’ frontcourt of the future.

“I’m really excited. I’ve been waiting to hear that for awhile. I knew he had been leaning towards (Minnesota). I’m really looking forward to playing with him,? he said. “Coach Smith gave us a hint that we could play a lot together.?

Many recruiting experts believe the Gophers current four-player recruiting class is ranked within the top-10 in the country. Iverson said he too has heard such rumblings.

“That’s pretty flattering. I’ve heard that too, I’m pretty excited,? Iverson said.

October 22, 2007

Israeli PM was to be assassinated

According to a report on CNN.com, a group of Palestinians planned to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during a recent visit to Jericho.

The Israeli media reported on Sunday that Olmert was supposed to be attacked during a trip to the West Bank city of Jericho back in August.

Fortunately, the plot was "foiled" after the militants were identified by the Palestinian Authority.

What I don't understand is that the alleged plotters, all of whom are from Fatah, have been released from custody despite admitting to the plot. Excuse me? I know there are laws in place against keeping people who aren't convicted, but couldn't this group of people go out and kill the Prime Minister tomorrow? Surely they are on watch, but letting them walk at after admitting to something of this nature, a little suspect, in my opinion.

Some things just don't make sense.

Comparing breaking news coverage

Searching the net Sunday night, I found a story about a suicidal 15-year-old from Hudson, Wisc. who was firing an estimated 100 shots from his home during a standoff with police.

What I found most interesting, was not the story itself, although it is sad that a ninth-grader was thinking about taking his own life. Rather, I thought the coverage was to note. The Pioneer Press had it on their front page Sunday evening. The Star Tribune had virtually no sign of the story at the same time.

I'm not quite sure why the story didn't get coverage from the "Strib." Perhaps they didn't deem it newsworthy. Or perhaps they wanted to focus on stories in Minneapolis, whereas the Pionee Press, located in St. Paul, has an editor that wants to include coverage in close proximity that happen in Wisconsin.

Or...Perhaps the Pioneer Press was just that much better in reporting this incident. After all, I did a quick Google search and went online to one of Wisconsin's top paper's, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, had no coverage of the situation that I could find.

Gophers eating humble pie

Minnesota football coach Tim Brewster made it clear during his midweek press conference that he doesn't want to play North Dakota State anytime in the near future. After Saturday's shocking 27-21 loss to the Bison, a defeat that may go down as the worst in program history, Brewster is eating those words and rightfully so.

The Gophers were dominated in every aspect of the game. They, not North Dakota State, looked like a Division 1-AA team. At 1-7 and a tough schedule to finish the year, it is very likely that Minnesota won't win a single game the rest of the year.

Will Brewster be fired after one season? No. Should Brewster be fired? No. He is stilll learning on the job and at least needs to be give time with his recruits, not former coach Glen Mason's bunch.

Still, Brewster promised an aggressive team when he took over the helm of Gopher Nation. Where are those aggressive players on defense - the worst, statistically, in the country?

The Gophers gave up 394 rushing yards to the Bison. 394 That should never happen against a Big Ten team, let alone a team that recruits all the "leftover" players Minnesota chooses not to recruit from the state.

Clearly, the Tim Brewster Era is not starting off on the right foot.

Time for Tubby's team to fight back

Three weeks ago I wrote a blog supporting Oklahoma State Mike Gundy for his now infamous rant that landed him in the national headlines and secured him a spot in the Youtube Hall of Fame.

Gundy, in short, went off on a reporter who attacked the personal character of one of the Cowboy's quarterbacks in her column. Gundy's claim was wrong for going after a college student who does everything right: goes to class, talks to the media, plays hard in practice and games. At one point during his rant he said "Come after me, I'm a man, I'm 40."

I made the point back then that Gundy had the right to go after the young women who wrote the piece, Jenny Carlson, because college athletes shouldn't be attacked personally. When athletes play collegiate sports, they understand they are going to be in the spotlight. And with that, I fully agree that the media has the right to be critical of them, but only about how they are performing in their respective sport.

A perfect example of what I'm talking about came up in Sunday's Star Tribune. Columnist Patrick Reusse wrote a column expressing his displeasure with how media won't be able to cover the Gopher basketball team much this season because of limitations in availability by new coach Tubby Smith. I, more than anyone, can agree with this portion of the story because I am the beat reporter for the team for the Minnesota Daily, the campus newspaper.

But here is what I can't support. A straight-forward slap in the face to Gopher players:
Then again, it's unlikely that Rick Pitino, the best in the business, could win with this core of established losers"

Yes the Gophers went 9-22 last season. And yes 3-13 in the Big Ten Conference. But calling college kids established losers is a little excessive. After all, they had a poor year last year, but this season hasn't even started! Established? A lot can change with a new coach and a new outlook.

Minnesota men's basketball media day is Wednesday morning. I'm hoping, no, praying, that Tubby brings this article up and pulls a Mike Gundy. Obviously it would be uncharacteristic of Tubby to do such a thing, but it sure would be a great sight to see.

October 15, 2007

Bush vs. Gore

Flipped to page A4 in the main section of the Star Tribune on Sunday and was surprised to see a full-page layout comparing George Bush and Al Gore. It seems like long ago that the two were battling it out for votes. We all know about the controversial selection of Bush, seven years ago.

The article on the Strib, which is actually by Washington Post writer Peter Baker, has the sub-head "Two men, two legacies."

The article goes on two contrast the two men. Going as far to say the former vice president is one of the president's biggest critics and that the current White House regime, has nothing good to say about Gore, either.

To me, this looks like a piece that probably ran seven years ago when voters were deciding between the two candidates. Why was this in the paper now? I just got the feeling that this Washington Post reporter was sick of writing about how Bush has dealt with the war in Iraq and needed a story idea, so he fell back on an easy one.

Don't get me wrong, I think the election seven years ago was one of the most interesting ever to follow. But after seven years, enough already!

India attacked, again

A bomb went off in a movie theater in northern India on Sunday, killing six people and injurying at least 30 others. Even worse, is the fact that this is the second terror attack to hit northern India this week.

A few days earlier, two people were killed when a bomb struck a Muslim shrine.

The first of the attacks occured in Rajasthan. The second, occured in nearby Ludhiana.
From what I gathered on CNN, I believe there is some significance to the dating of the second attack. Sunday, the day of the second attack, was one of the holiest days of the Muslim calendar, Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

More concerning, in my opinion, is that these attacks happened just weeks before two major Hindu festivals, Dussehra and Diwali. After an attack at the end of Ramadan, shouldn't people in Indian be fearing that another terror attack, or two, could happen around these two major events?

With officials unsure of a link between the two incidents, northern India is clearly not a safe place to be at this time.

October 14, 2007

Cheering on the purple...on this day

Born and raised a Packers fan, there are a few rules you are taught at a young age. One, obviously is to cheer for the Green and Gold. Two, is to cheer against the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings. Notice the order: Chicago first, Minnesota second. So when the top-two hated teams by Gren Bay fans faced one another on Sunday, I was cheering for the Vikings, hoping the Bears, who I slightly hate more, would faulter.

All I have to say now is thank you Adrian Peterson. The Vikings' rookie running back carried Minnesota to victory, 34-31 at Solider Field in Chicago on Sunday afternoon. Peterson, the 7th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, carried the ball just 20 times, but walked away with 224 rushing yards. Oh, and the rookie out of Oklahoma had touchdowns of 73,67 and 35 yards.

Peterson did it all on this day. With with score tied at 31 with under a minute remaining in the game, Peterson caught the ball on the kickoff and returned the ball into Chicago territory, setting up kicker Ryan Longwell's career-long 55-yard field goal.

I just talked to a friend about Peterson's performance. A friend, who also works for the Star Tribune (take that for what its worth). He said today's performance by Peterson has to lock up a Pro Bowl appeareance for Peterson, arguably the Viking's best player on their roster.

Gopher basketball team starts season

'An event hyped as "Tubby's Tip-off officially began the 2007-2008 season for the Gophers. While the around 2,000 people who attended were nothing compared to the over 20,000 who attended Tubby Smith's version of Midnight Madness while he was at Kentucky, there was still plenty of good that came away from the event.

This is what happened while I was paying attention when I intended the event Friday night.

Best moment: After trying to "raise the roof" as he walked onto the court, Tubby Smith decided to show off his James Brown dance moves at the start of the event. When Smith was introduced at mid-court he started grooving to the music the best he could His reasoning? He ""felt good.""

And a close second: ESPN commentator Dick Vitale's video message on the scoreboard at the start of the event. Vitale sent fans into a frenzy, projecting that the relationship between Smith and the Gophers "will be awesome, baby." After Smith walked around Williams Arena high-fiving fans he took the microphone and said he is just as interested in seeing how the Gophers fair this season as the fans are.

Gopher 3-Point Champion: Senior guard Lawrence McKenzie. McKenzie hit nine threes to top teammate Dan Coleman, then cruised to victory in his final round matchup against Ryan Saunders, hitting seven threes to Saunder's one made attempt.

Gopher Slam-Dunk Champion: Lawrence McKenzie won his second-straight event of the night after completing a windmill dunk. Unofficially, senior center Spencer Tollackson won the event though by receiving the biggest ovation for his attempt. Tollackson threw the ball off the shot clock above the rim, caught the ball and threw it down with authority to send fans into a craze.

The contest was judged by Gopher greats from the past, including shooting guard Trent Tucker who played at Minnesota from 1978 to 1982. Perhaps his bias to backcourt players is why a shooting guard beat out Minnesota's starting center for the title.

Intrasquad scrimmage: The Gold team, lead by Spencer Tollackson, defeated the Maroon team, headed by Dan Coleman, 22-20. Tollackson looked in mid-season form from the beginning, scoring the first six points for the gold team and finished with 10. Coleman had six points for the maroon.

Biggest celebrities in the stands: Minnesota Timberwolves Al Jefferson and Rashard McCants.

Best sign: "Busch For President," in honor of sophomore guard Travis Busch, who is finally eligible to play for Minnesota after sitting out last season do to NCAA transfer regulations.

Best introductory music: Spencer Tollackson, who was introduced to Hulk Hogan's theme song, "Real American." The only question is why Tollackson didn't do his best Hogan imitation when the music hit.

Best listeners: All Gopher fans. Smith told the maroon and gold faithful before the game how to acknowledge a three - by putting both hands directly up and in the air - and to acknowledge a free throw by extending one arm and yelling "Swoosh." Smith clearly already owns the state of Minnesota as fans followed Smith's instructions all night.

It was the Gophers first time doing this in four years, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, but there is definetly room for improvement. Did anyone see Wisconsin or Michigan State's version of the event? After seeing clips of the Badgers, including coach Bo Ryan dancing to "Soulja Boy" I think they by-far put on the best showing of the night in the Big Ten. Simply, incredible,a Youtube clip, without question.

October 8, 2007

Diana not forgotten

I remember sitting on my parents bed with my mom in August of 2007, as we watched a news report that said Princess Diana had just died in a car crash. I was just 10 years old at the time.

Diana, 36 at the time, was killed with two others when her Mercedes crashed into the Pont d'Alma tunnel shortly after midnight on Aug. 31, 1997. And although there have already been two length investigations into possible reasons for the crash, other than simply it being an accident, the matter still isn't being put to rest.

There are still rumblings that Diana was going to announce her marriage to a man name Fayed, who also died in the crash and that she was possibly pregnant with his baby.

The final investigation of this tragedy, headed by Lord Justice Scott Baker, is to determine when, where and how Diana and Fayed were killed. It opened last Tuesday and was expected to last no more than six months, according to CNN.com.

Having a third investigation 10 years after the fact shows just how much Diana was loved and how big a deal the incident was. I remember hearing about Diana for seemingly hears after her death and now as I enter adulthood, her name continues to appear in the headlines.

Tubby lands another

New Minnesota men's basketball coach Tubby Smith and his staff continue to build a roster for the future. On Sunday, Devron Bostick, a 6-foot-5 small forward from Southwestern Illinois CC verbally committed to play for the Gophers next season.

Bostick is orginally from Milwaukee, Wisc. where he played high school ball at Racine St. Catherine's. Bostick has been playing "Juco" ball in Illinois for the past two seasons and will have two years of elgibility remaining when he dawns the maroon and gold next fall.

With Bostick's commitment, Smith now has now landed three frontcourt recruits - Bostick, power forward Paul Carter and center Colton Iverson. These three signings are vital because the Gophers starting front court for the upcoming season of Dan Coleman and Spencer Tollackson are in their last year of eligibility.

....In other news, Marcus Fuller of the Pioneer Press is reporting that Smith plans on holding open tryouts on campus for a walk-on position with the team. Minnesota has a few extra spots open on its roster and if Smith finds someone who can help the team, he will not be hesitant to give him a shot.

The Gophers' season officially kicks off on Friday when the team holds an open practice at Williams Arena at 9 p.m.

Deputy Kills Six

Apparently a jealous sheriffs deputy thought the best way to satisfy his needs was by going on a shootinghttp://www.startribune.com/484/story/1469746.html rampage. Tyler Peterson, 20, was off-duty when he killed six people and severely injured one other in Crandon, Wisc.
Peterson shot the innocent children while they were watching a movie and eating pizza. It is believed that he was a jealous boyfriend, which lead to the killings of the high school students.

This tragedy has been getting extreme coverage on both the Star Tribune's Web site and the Pioneer Press' - with multiple updates of the story. The Star Tribune has a picture with a tapped off crime scene and police cars as their main image of the event. The Pioneer Press doesn't have a picture to accompany the story.

Interestingly, there is a bit of contrast in the coverage. The Strib starts off with focusing on the killer and his possible motives, while the Pioneer Press focuses more so on the victims and how the killings affect everybody in the small town of Cradon.

More should be discovered about the killer, who was brought down by a snipper, in the coming days. Regardless of the motive, it is an unfortunate story to hear about on what seemed like an otherwise peaceful Sunday.

Troubling day for a marathon

I ran the Milwaukee Lake front Marathon Sunday. It was my first marathon and perhaps my last after what I went through. After running 26.2 miles in about four hours and 43 minutes, I am currently typing this from my couch. I really have no aspirations of leaving my position. That is because I have been struggling to walk since finishing the race. Seriously. I have been walking with cramps in both of my calf muscles since the race ended. Thinking about walking up stairs is making me nauseous.

But as much as I can complain, and believe me, I could complain for hours about the pain I am in, I really am fortunate.
That is because of what happened at the Chicago Marathon on the same day. Because of the scortching heat in the Windy City, 250 of the 40,000 running in Chicago had to be hospitalized and tragically, a 35-year-old man died.

Temperatures both in Milwaukee and Chicago reached between 85 and 90 degrees. To give you an idea of how absurd these temperatures are for an October race, last year in Milwaukee the race started out at 40 degrees and at around 30 degrees in Chicago.

Surprisingly, the heat didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. I didn't train too much in the humidity, so I feel fortunate I was able to cross the finish line on the warm day. Luckily, spectators watching the race were extremely helpful. Following the advice of an article in the Milwaukee Journal, people who had houses on the course handed out water and even set up hoses for the runners to go through. These types of things kept me refreshed throughout the grueling race.

I'm proud of accomplishing my goal of finishing the marathon, but I may be regretting it for the next few weeks as my body tries to recover from the pain.

October 1, 2007

Germany overshadowed during World Cup

Did you hear? Germany beat Brazil 2-0 on Sunday to become the first back-to-back winners of the women's World Cup.

What's that? You didn't? Well, I don't think I would have either if I didn't search ESPN's international soccer page.
Now that I think about it, I didn't even know where to find the game. There was no pre-match hype that I can think of. That is because the United States women's soccer team has been stealing the limelight over the last few days, despite losing to Brazil in the semifinals.

For those of you who don't know what happened, here is a quick recap. Despite playing sensational all tournament, starting goalie Hope Solo was benched for the U.S.'s game against Brazil by coach Greg Ryan in favor of backup Briana Scurry. The top-seeded American team went on to lose that game 4-0 and led Solo to rip Ryan for benching her, and taking a few cheap shots at Scurry in the process.
In the end, Ryan told Solo she was no longer needed, as the team played their third-place game against Norway without her.

My favorite part of the whole story? After saying that she would have made the saves Scurry missed in the team's 4-0 loss to Brazil, Solo later apologized - on her MySpace page.

Couldn't she have held a press conference or something. MySpace? What is this world coming too. Public relations professionals must be cringing when they see players do things of this nature!

While this whole situation has been bizare, looking back, Solo might have a legitimate case, after all, she really didn't do anything to deserve being benched in the first place.

Favre breaks record in Minneapolis

Who would win in a fight, Brett Favre or God? Trick question - Brett Favre is God. The Green Bay Packer quarterback marched into the Metrodome on Sunday, threw a pair of touchdowns and led the Green and Gold to a 23-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

But wait, there's more. Favre is now the NFL's all-time career touchdown king. Favre passed former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino when he throw career TD 421 to Greg Jennings in the first quarter and later added to his career total by finding James Jones in the fourth quarter for career touchdown No. 422.

I'm glad that Favre got the record the way he did. Getting the record in the midst of the Packers 4-0 start (Green Bay has now won eight-straight games dating back to last year) is the ideal situation. After all, throughout this chase, and throughout his entire career, Favre has said he cares much more about wins and losses than he does about individual records.

Favre echoed those same sentiments again on Sunday, after securing arguably the greatest individual record a quarterback can own.

"I'm so glad we won the game," Favre said. "There was so much emphasis on this record and not the game itself," he said. "Everyone's like, 'What are you going to do? Are you going to have a big celebration?' Put yourself in my shoes. I want to help this team win. I do not want us to get blindsided by this record and what we're actually here for."