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September 28, 2008

Man pleads guilty to Internet sex charges.

A Rochester man pleaded guilty to one count of using the Internet to solicit sex from a child in Ramsey Count District Court, according to the St. Paul pioneer Press

Thirty-two-year-old Michael Chad Zarling was caught in an Internet sting last year when he solicited sex online from an undercover cop posing as a teenager. The charge is a felony.

Judge James Clark sentenced Zarling to 30 days in jail along with three years on probation. During that time Zarling must register as sex offender and remain free of controlled substances as well as legal issues. Zarling will also participate in a sex offender treatment program and is prohibited from Internet capable devices as well as contact with minors and vulnerable adults.

According to police reports, on Nov. 3 of last year Zarling asked the undercover police officer posing as a teenager to tell him about her genitalia.

At the time of his arrest Zarling admitted that he used his computer to talk about sexual issues with minors. A that time Zarling was an employee of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester but his job title remained unknown. A spokesman for the clinic indicated at that time he was not a physician.

Obama edges McCain in debates, according to viewers' poll.

A national poll of those who watched the first presidential debates indicates that Obama came out the winner in the eyes of viewers, CNN reported Saturday.

CNN noted a possible bias in the numbers, citing that only those who watched the debates were polled and more Democrats tuned in than did Republicans. The poll showed 51 percent thought Obama did a better job in Friday night’s debate, while 38 percent felt McCain came out the victor.

Among men McCain held a slight edge of 46 percent to Obama’s 43 percent but among women Obama won significantly, 59 percent to McCain’s 31 percent. Despite personal preferences, 2/3 of viewers agreed both McCain and Obama were capable of running the country.

The candidates’ ratings in the debate also came down to specific issues. Substantially more viewers felt Obama was better equipped to handle the lagging economy and the impending financial crisis than McCain. At the same time, viewers gave McCain a slight edge in matters of national security and defense.

The New York Times reports that both men did not indicate any major changes in their respective policy proposals in light of the country’s recent economic woes.

Throughout the debate, according to the New York Times. Obama did his best to link McCain to President Bush and, in his opinion, the perceived failings of the current president. At the same time, McCain did his best to paint Obama as an inexperienced greenhorn, insinuating that a vote for Obama is a risky one in these trying times

Ship containing 33 tanks seized by pirates.

Pirates off the cost of Somalia seized a Ukrainian ship carrying 33 tanks this Thursday, according to CNN.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Yury Yelhanurov told reporters that the ship, the Faina, also was carrying a large amount of ammunition and spare parts.

It was not initially known where the tanks we’re being transported too but according to the ITAR-Tass news agency the tanks were being sold to Kenya. Larisa Mudrak, a spokeswoman for Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, said the tanks had been sold “in accordance with international law.?

According to CNN, Russia indicated they had sent a patrol ship to the eastern coast of Somalia Friday bud did not mention the situation with the Ukrainian ship specifically.

This attack brought the number of piracy incidents off the coat of Somalia to 61 this year, according to Noel Choong, leader of the Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center. Choong also told CNN the recent situation brings a total of 14 ships and 300 crewmembers under the pirates’ control.

The BBC reported Sunday that the US Navy destroyer, the USS Howard, had come in visual contact with the pirate-seized Ukrainian ship. A spokesman for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet told the BBC the destroyer was within 5 miles of the pirated ship but did not indicate whether the US Navy would intervene.

The BBC also reported that the pirates ransom demands for the safe return of the ship and its 21 crewmembers had fallen from $35 million to $20 million.

September 21, 2008

Thousands of children sick due to tainted milk in China.

Tainted milk has been cited as the cause of a rash of illness found amongst children in China over the past two weeks.

CNN reports that 12,892 children throughout China have fallen ill due to melamine- tainted formula powder. That number is more than double the original 6,200 reported by the Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency. According to CNN, 104 of those affected exhibit serious symptoms while another 1,579 have been cured and discharged from health care facilities.

Cases of the sickness have apparently spread outside of mainland China, worrying officials that the problem may not be as contained as originally thought. The BBC reports that a three-year-old in Hong Kong, who developed a kidney stone after drinking the powder, is the first such case.

CNN reports that four infants are confirmed dead due to the tainted milk, all of which drank formula produced by the Sanlu Group. Traces of melamine were first found in the formula powder of this company but now, the BBC reports, melamine has been found in dairy products produced by 22 different companies.

According to the BBC 18 individuals have been arrested in connection with the tainted milk scandal. Authorities believe suppliers added melamine, a banned chemical usually used in plastic production, to the nutrient-poor milk in order to make it appear like it contained more protein.

Children placed in custody after raid of Evangelical compound.

Six children were placed in temporary custody after an Evangelical compound in Arkansas was raided by authorities on Saturday, CNN reports.

The compound, located near Texarkana, belongs to Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. The children are to be interviewed in an ongoing investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the ministry center. According to CNN, 100 agents from the FBI, Arkansas state police, and officials from the state Department of Human Services took part in the raid. The children are currently in the custody of the DHS.

Church leader Tony Alamo vehemently denied the allegations.

“It’s a hoax,? Alamo told CNN. “ They just want to make our church look evil… by saying I’m a pornographer. Saying that I rape little children…I love children. I don’t abuse them. Never have. Never will.?

State police department spokesman, Bill Sadler, addressed the near future of the children taken into custody.

“ Should there be any long-term separation of the children from the Alamo property, a local court will make the determination as to the status of those children," Sadler said in a statement reported by MSNBC.

According to MSNBC, in an email accidentally sent to media members by the police, 12, 13 and 14-year-old girls were mentioned in the investigation. The raid ended shortly after midnight without resistance and Sadler indicated there were no plans to search the complex again.

The 74-year-old Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 and served four years in prison. MSNBC reports that prosecutors in that case claimed Alamo was a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation.

September 15, 2008

St. Paul mayor draws criticism regarding police action at the RNC

St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman was confronted by 30 protestors last Friday at a fundraiser outside a St. Anthony Park home, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. The protestors were voicing their opposition to tactics used by the St. Paul Police on protestors at the Republican National Convention.

"This is the first time that I've really been ashamed of the city and its leadership," St. Paul resident Nolan Zavoral told the Pioneer Press.

Protestors voiced their disproval of police action at the RNC on a number of grounds, including the appointment of two former prosecutors to lead a city probe into police action taken at the RNC. Zavoral and other prostesters told the Pioneer Press they believed Coleman should have been more visible at the RNC as altercations between protestors and police intensified.

Coleman did stop and talk to protestors while still maintaing his suport of the police force and its actions at the convention. Coleman told the Pioneer Press he believed most residents saw the need for the city's probe. Coleman has also sent a letter to supporters explaining and justifying the actions of police.