Tom Petters found guilty on all 20 counts

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      Almost exactly one year after his indictment on 20 counts including conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering, Tom Petters was found guilty by a federal jury in St. Paul on Wednesday, the Pioneer Press said.

      The Minneapolis salesman who engineered a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme from 1995 to 2008 pleaded his innocence until the end, blaming grief over his son's murder five years ago that he said rendered him unable to run his businesses, The Star Tribune said.

      The statutory maximum for Petters' crimes is 350 years, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Dixon, part of the prosecution team. A more realistic estimate is that Petters will receive 30 years to life in prison, Dixon said, according to The Star Tribune

To see the Star Tribune's "Petters Timeline" click here
      A veiled man disguised in woman's clothing and shoes released a bomb on Thursday at the Shamo Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia that killed 15 people and wounded many others.

      The Minister of Somali Information called the attack "a national disaster" and confirmed that the ministers for health, education, and higher education were killed, USA Today said.

      Government officials and many of Somalia's brightest minds were gathered for a graduation ceremony for 43 medical students of Benadir University, USA Today said. Until last year's Class of 2008, nearly two decades had passed without a single person in Somalia obtaining a medical degree.

      A Wall Street Journal reporter who witnessed the event described a gruesome scene in which black smoke filled the hall where the ceremony was being held and body parts littered the floor, trampled by people fleeing.

      This attack is the second in several months to target top figures in the Somali government, adding to a trend of suicide bombings that is relatively recent in the country.  No one has taken responsibility for the attack but officials suspect a militant group called al Shabaab that may have connections to al Qaeda, the Wall Street Journal said.   

     To view a BBC slideshow of the Mogadishu bombing, click here.

Electric cars are in the works

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      "It's not 'if' but 'when' we transfer to an electric vehicle solution," the Better Place website boasts.

      The global leader in creating an infrastructure of services and charging stations for electric vehicle (EV) users is combining with a Danish power company to promote electric cars in Denmark and Israel, The New York Times said.

      Shai Agassi, Better Place's founder, pledged that 100,000 charging stations would be set up by 2010, yet only 55 stations are ready for operation to date, The New York Times said.

      The batteries of EVs last 100 miles and take 5 hours to recharge.  The solution for longer car trips would be a robotic machine that could change the battery in just a few minutes.

      This venture in Europe precedes a conference next week in Copenhagen discussing an agreement to fight global warming.

      In the United States, the mayor of Los Angeles recently announced a plan to dramatically increase infrastructure for electric cars and create incentives for EV owners such as access to HOV lanes, the Los Angeles Times said.

 


Gay marriage bill struck down in New York Senate

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      After hours of emotional debate, the New York Senate voted down a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state. The 38-24 decision follows last month's popular vote in Maine that reversed lawmakers' decision to allow gay marriage.
 
      Gay rights proponents had high hopes that New York would become the sixth state to grant them marriage rights, msnbc.com reported. Before today's vote, the Assembly voted yes and Gov. David Paterson promised his signature on the measure.

      The state's Roman Catholic bishops who have been lobbying hard against passage of the bill released a statement calling the decision "a victory for the basic building block of our society," The New York Times wrote.
     
To see a map of states' current stances on gay rights, click here

Minnesota ranked sixth in nation for high college debt

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Last year, college students in Minnesota graduated with an average of about $25,000 in debt, The Star Tribune said.

This means the state has the sixth highest debt in the nation, according to a report issued by the Institute for College Access and Success in Berkeley, California.

The figures are even worse for graduate students. Over 70 percent of graduate students at the University took out loans, The Star Tribune said.

An ex-student in New York was denied his professional license as a lawyer because of "heavy student debt" in excess of $400,000, said Lynn O' Shaughnessy, author of The College Solution Blog, in an article for CBS's moneywatch.com.

Reasons for skyrocketing debt may include high tuition, demographic spread of a graduating class, and sub-par financial aid programs for lower income students, said the President of the Institute for College Access and Success, Lauren Asher.

To access a pdf of the report on student debt for the class of 2008, click here.


Postal service says no more North Pole correspondence

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      The U.S. Postal Service will stop sending Santa letters to the volunteers in North Pole, Alaska who have answered them for 55 years.

      Children will still be able to send mail to the Postal Service's own massive Operation Santa, but the 150,000 letters each year addressed to Santa's home in the North Pole will go unanswered, USA Today said.

      The change was sparked by security and privacy concerns after an Operation Santa volunteer in Maryland was recognized by a postal worker as a registered sex offender, the Associated Press reported.

      The 2,200 residents of North Pole, Alaska, where Christmas decorations last year-round, think the new policy is a "real shame," according to the Fairbanks Daily News-miner.

      Republican Sen. Lisa J. Murkowski wrote a letter to the postmaster general pleading that the tradition continue in order "to bring joy to these children and their families," the News-miner said.

To see video of some of the activities that North Pole, Alaska hosts, click here.  




Analysis: Diversity

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The case study: Sounds and Culture Come Alive During 'Africa Unwrapped'
Read the story in the University of Tampa's online publication: The Minaret Online

      This article reports on an event held by the University of Tampa last Thursday to educate students about Africa. Participants enjoyed Ethiopian food, drumming, dancing and informative lectures.
 
      The writer talked to students who attended and the president of Diversity Fellowship, one of the group that sponsored the event. Everyone had positive experiences and expanded their knowledge of African culture. This story features the campus event rather than the culture for which it was trying to promote awareness.

     University of Minnesota student Ellen Putzier, 23, works at Anew Dimension Child Enrichment Center, a childcare facility in the Cedar Riverside area of Minneapolis. Most of the children she takes care of there are from East Africa.

     After reading the above article, Putzier commented that the event sounded informative and broad, without stereotypes. She said it is common for the population she works with to be labeled automatically as poor and involved with crime.

    "People from Africa are very cheerful, joyful...they greet you when they see you, they don't leave without saying goodbye," Putzier said. She said, too, that parents from other backgrounds might not engage in conversations or show the same interest in her.

     Putzier explained she has had more positive encounters with African immigrants because of working at the daycare. She said that going to 'Africa Unwrapped' would have been helpful for her to learn more about a people she serves daily.

     "I would have loved to be there," Putzier said of the University of Tampa event.
    

Britain offers $316 million in aid to Ethiopia

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      Britain announced Tuesday that it will be responding to Ethiopia's October call for aid for over 6 million starving people with a package amounting to 4 billion birr, the Ethiopian unit of currency, the Sudan Tribune said.

      The UK Minister of State for International Development, Gareth Thomas MP, said that the massive aid package will provide health and education services plus sustainable water and road construction over the next three years, the Global Times said.

      Among other services, the Global Times said, the aid will help fund an effort to enroll 2.8 million children in school, hire 150,000 more trained teachers and provide safe water to 6 million households.

      With assistance coming from Britain, the United States, and the World Bank, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zanawi told the British minister that the international media have made the nation's food shortages seem larger than they actually are, the Sudan Tribune said.

To see images of the drought in Ethiopia, click here.

       

Twin Cities police search for YouTube attackers

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      Eight young men identified themselves by full name and nickname on a YouTube video they posted publicly, showing themselves attacking passersby of all ages in the Twin Cities.

      The video, which has since been removed, shows twelve instances of the boys pushing children down a hill, knocking over bicyclers, throwing something at a store cashier and other similar pranks. During parts of the clip, the boys hold up gang signs, wear masks and laugh at one another's antics.

      Police in both Minneapolis and St. Paul were alerted to the videos on Tuesday and began investigating.  St. Paul police have arrested a 17-year-old high school senior on suspicion of gross misdemeanor assault, riot and simple robbery, the Pioneer Press said.

      A 19-year-old, Mohamed Abdi, has also been arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting simple robbery.  In the video, Abdi tackles an elderly man walking in a suburban neighborhood and knocks a cyclist over around Grand Avenue, the Pioneer Press said.

      Police are still searching for other suspects. St. Paul police Sgt. Paul Schnell said they want to find and talk to the boys so that no one else gets hurt. "Whether criminal charges are brought will be dependent upon our ability to match the incident with actual reports from the victims," Schnell told a reporter from The Star Tribune.

      

Gophers on trial

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      The day before Thanksgiving, Gopher basketball freshman Royce White will go to court on charges of shoplifting and fifth-degree assault, the Pioneer Press said.

      The incident occurred on Oct. 13 in a Mall of America parking lot, where White was arrested by Bloomington police, The Star Tribune said.

      White joins teammate Trevor Mbakwe on the sidelines. Mbakwe may redshirt for the rest of the season due to repeatedly delayed trial dates for a felony assault charge, The Star Tribune said.

      To complicate matters, White has been identified as a potential suspect in a computer theft at Territorial Hall, although he has not been charged nor arrested, the Pioneer Press said.  Both his lawyer and the police are investigating tapes showing his entry and exit from the residence hall.

      White's attorney, F. Clayton Tyler, says he wants to resolve his client's legal issues quickly. Tyler told the Pioneer Press, "Being away from the sport that he loves is difficult."