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February 24, 2007

St. Paul proposes unveils light rail development plans

Task forces announced Feb. 16 plans for a $1 billion light rail line connecting St. Paul with Minneapolis, which would also create a downtown village and more stores in the Midway.

The proposed light rail system would connect the capitol's historic landmarks and establish a transit hub at Union Depot, according to Tony Bennett, chairman of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners.

Other developments within the plan include a major development at Midway consisting of new stores and city routes in the Midway, which could create up to 2,500 new jobs, according to a task force repor.

Officials are debating over the proposed transit route and the plan's high costs.

Flaming Lips singer to host NPR show

Flaming Lips frontman Layne Coyne will appear Feb. 26 on NPR's "This I Believe" series, a program included in the station's "Morning Edition" broadcast.

"This I Believe" focuses on the keys of happiness in life, as explained by celebrities and everyday people alike, including more noteable appearances by Colin Powell, Bill Gates, Tony Hawk, Gloria Steinem, John Updike.

According to Pitchfork Media, Coyne will discuss how an 11-year long fish frying venture encouraged him to become a musician.

The Flaming Lips will be touring in Southeastern U.S. starting this April, in addition to appearing at this year's Bonnaroo Festival in June.

Egyptian cleric announces torture by officials

An Egyptian cleric announced Thursday that he was sent back to Egypt to be tortured--allegedly by CIA agents--when he was captured in Italy.

According to MSNBC, statements made by Osama Hassan Mustafa Nasr, a 44-year-old bearded Muslim preacher, is the first case among the rendition policy, where U.S. agents send terrorist suspects to third world countries to be tortured.

Nasr was apprehended by Italian officials in Feb. 2003 under suspicion of recruiting fighters for radical Islamic causes.

While the Bush administration has insisted that suspects are not tortured in these countries, Egypt, Syria, Algeria and Saudi Arabia all countries share a history of torturing the imprisoned.

U.S. ally Egypt has chosen to keep silent over the matter.

February 23, 2007

Lawsuits over "light" cigarettes dismissed

Federal appeals courts announced their decision Thursday regarding suits made in New Orleans against Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and Philip Morris USA, Inc., regarding packaging cigarettes as "light."

According to the Associated Press, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came to the decision Feb. 14, who denied the appeals due to the plaintiff's seeking damage for the tobacco companies' false marketing, rather than actually damages suffered as a result of such packaging.

Cases in other states have been thrown out under similar reasoning, since well-defined federal regulations provide tobacco companies heavy protection from such claims.

Farmer found dead in bean bin

Authorities in Worthington, Minn. discovered Thursday a dead farmer inside his own soybean bin.

The body of James Haberman, 80, was discovered by someone working with Haberman that day, after the man returned from running an errand, police said.

The cause of death for Haberman, who was found in a bin 3-feet deep with soybeans, is still under investigation.

February 17, 2007

Britney Spears seen with shaved head outside of tattoo parlor

The pop princess turn tabloid sensation Britney Spears was sighted Friday outside a tattoo parlor with another new look--a shaved head.

Paparazzi and other onlookers gawked at Spears as she attended the Body and Soul tattoo shop in Sherman Oaks for about 90 minutes, according to the Associated Press. Though the celebrity covered her head with a hood, many onlookers witnessed as tattoo artist Derrik Snell confirmed the truth of a freshly shorn Spears.

Spears has been rumored to have briefly entered rehab, for her outrageous partying habits witnessed after her divorce from backup dancer-turn-rapper Kevin Federline.

February 16, 2007

Two men charged with theft of Minneapolis park sculptures

Two Minneapolis men were charged Friday with the theft of two bronze sculptures, which they later tried to hawk as metal scraps.

According to the Pioneer Press, Jeremy Allen Giles, 24, and Brandon James Unruh, 21, each face one count of stolen property for the statues stolen Feb. 9 from Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. The men brought the pieces on Feb. 13 to Great Western Recycling in St. Paul. Employee Bob Brandecker recognized the pieces as stolen from a police fax sent out regarding the incident.

The statues, comprised of two boys, one holding a bat and the other a ball, are valued at $8, 150 each, .

Paris launches free bicycle service to reduce pollution

Paris City Council announced Jan. 30 its plans of a free bicycle service for the capitol in an effort to reduce smog caused from automobile emissions.

According to MSNBC.com, the advertising firm JCDecaux SA to develop the city's bicycle service, which would supply over 20,000 bicycles by the end of the year across Paris. Commuters would drop off their bicycles at one of 1, 450 stations.

Users of the service would pay an annual registration fee of 5 euro. The first 30 minutes of every commute is free, then one euro for every subsequent hour.

City mayor Bertrand Delanoƫ has already increased bus and bicycle lanes to encourage the use of public transit. Amsterdam is among other European countries that provide a comparable bicycle service.

Teenager slays five in mall shooting

An 18-year-old boy went on a shooting spree Monday in a Salt Lake City, Ut., shopping mall, killing five and wounding four others.

Sulejmen Talovic, a Bosnian immigrant who residing in Salt Lake City, entered the Trolley Square Shopping center armed with a .38 pistol and a backpack full of ammunition, and immediately began firing at mall shoppers, police said.

An off-duty police officer, Kenneth K. Hammond, located and subdued Talovic until more officers arrived. Police shot and killed Talovic, although it is unknown which officer administered the fatal shot.

February 10, 2007

South by Southwest announces preliminary lineup

Promoters for the annual South by Southwest music festival announced Jan. 8 the preliminary lineup of this year's performers.

According to Pitchfork Media, the annual festival, held in Austin, Tex., from Mar. 14-18, has a list of scheduled performances which includes Aesop Rock, Architecture in Helsinki, Peaches, Spoon, the Walkmen, Sage Francis, Jello Biafra, Ane Brun, Cloud Cult, the Dears, Dosh, Junior Senior, and I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness.

South by Southfest also features a film festival preceding the music shows. This year's entries include films on the final days of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes of R&B group TLC, as well as musician James Blunt's prior role as a soldier.

February 9, 2007

Minnesota House discusses stem cell bill

The Minnesota House Committee reviewed a bill Jan. 7 that would provide state funding to embryonic stem cell research. Ethical questions immediately surfaced upon the introduction of House Bill 34, introduced by DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn, raising concerns of what constitutes human life.

According to a recent "Minnesota Daily" article, Gov. Tim Pawlenty opposes the bill due ethical concerns involving research on human embryos. The research is already a common practice with embryos donated at fertility clinics, but many guidelines prohibit what the state will fund.

The debate ended without a vote and was sent to the Higher Education and Workforce Development Policy and Finance Division Committee for review.

Taiwan's president requests name change on postage stamps

President Chen Shui-bian said Jan. 8 the name on Taiwan's postage stamps will soon change from 'China' to 'Taiwan,' a decision that follows several similar name changes recently administered by the island's current government.

According to a report by MSNBC.com, the name change is likely to upset Beijing leaders, who claim sovereignty over the land despite Taiwain's self-governance.

Currently called 'The Republic of China,' the president's proposed name featured on new postage include 'Taiwan Post' and 'Taiwan Stamp.' Chen, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, has eliminated several connections to China and to late President Chiang Kai-shek, including the removal of Chiang statues and security guards from the late dictator's gravesite.

Rodriquez receives death penalty for kidnap and murder of North Dakota student

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. was sentenced to death Jan. 8 for the kidnap and killing of Dru Sjodin, a 22 year-old University of North Dakota student. Rodriguez, a 53-year old Pequot Lakes, Minn. native, was convicted of the crime in November 2003.

The case was heard in federal courts due to the crime having been committed across state borders. State courts do not presently allow the death penalty under current Minnesota or North Dakota legislature.

The Associate Press reported a new trial for Rodriguez had been motioned during sentencing under U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson. The defendant's lawyers will appeal the decision as Rodriquez awaits punishment on death row.

Anna Nicole Smith dies at 39

Former Playmate centerfold turn tabloid personality Anna Nicole Smith died Jan.8 at a South Florida Hotel. The cause of death for Smith, 39, is still under investigation, according to Edwina Johnson, chief investigator for the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office.

Smith's fame quickly escalated after being named Playboy's "Playmate of the Year" in 1993, whose career included modeling for Guess? Jeans, in addition playing to minor roles in popular films, including "The Hudsucker Proxy" and "Naked Gun: 33 1/3." More recently the actress starred in her reality TV show, "The Anna Nicole Smith Show," and served as spokesperson for Trimspa diet pills.

Anna Nicole Smith's celebrity status quickly shifted towards the subject of tabloid sensationalism when she married Howard Marshal II, an 89-year-old oil tycoon. Smith's 20-year-old son Daniel died last year in a hospital room where his mother recovered from the birth of her daughter Danielynn, now five months old.

February 2, 2007

Starbucks to co-release compilation with radio station

Starbucks, Co. continues its promotion of under-the-radar artists with "Sounds Eclectic: The Cover Project," a compilation the company will co-release with KCRW, a NPR affiliate in Southern California.

According to Pitchfork Media, the compilation, to be released Mar. 13, features a wide variety of indie rock bands and musicians covering the classics, including the Flaming Lips (Radiohead's "Knives Out"), Rufus Wainwright and Chris Stills (Neil Young's "Harvest"), Damien Rice (Radiohead's "Creep"), Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog"), and Gary Jules (Tears for Fears' "Mad World").

Proceeds from the compilation will support the radio station's digitize their music library, which includes over 60,000 albums.

Tarot card reader tapes teens having sex

A Minneapolis tarot card reader was charged Tuesday for the use of a minor in sexual performance, after taping a teenage couple perform sex at his business, Maestros Espirituales.

According to the victims, tarot card reader Miguel Garro, aka "The Maestro," 40, told the couple their "bad energy" could be remedied by visiting his office twice a week and paid $750. Treatment included cleansing body parts prior to intercourse with "holy water napkins," which Garro wrapped in aluminum foil to examine the couple's energy levels.

The couple visited Garro four additional times before the female discovered a video lens on the wall. A police investigation discovered a TV and VCR in the adjoined room.

Officials to investigate possible link between Missouri and Wetterling kidnappings

At the request of Patty Wetterling, a police taskforce announced today the search for any possible connections between the recent discovery of two missing Missouri boys and the 1989 abduction of Wetterling's son Jacob.

The two boys were found Jan. 12 in the home of 41-year-old Michael Devlin, who resides in a suburb near St. Louis. Ben Ownby had been abducted four days prior, although the second teenager, an identified 15-year-old boy, had been missing for the past four years.

The Jacob Wetterling abduction is one of six cases officials are investigating for connections. Sgt. Al Nothum of the Missouri State Highway Patrol cautions parents to not get their hopes up, as these cases often have no links.

Egypt officials outraged over 7 new wonders contest

Egypt officials are outraged that the Pyramids of Giza may no longer be among the Seven Wonders of the World, due to a contest picking seven new architectural sites.

The Pyramids of Giza is the only ancient site of the original Seven Wonders still standing. In a recent article, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass stated that the pyramids are "living in the hearts of people around the globe, and don't need a vote to be among the world wonders."

Advocates for the New 7 Wonders of the World contest will announce the winners on July 7, 2007 at the officiating ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal. People can place their votes by phone or through the contest's website. In addition to the Pyramids of Giza, the Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, and Great Wall of China are among the contest's 21 selected sites.

Registered sex offender wins the lottery

Florida Lottery officials announced Monday the winner of the state's $14 million drawing, a man known in the state as a registered sex offender.

State records list Edward R. Cowal convicted on a number of offenses from 1993, including burglary, aggravated assault, and lewd and lascivious or indecent assault upon a child.

Cowal's attorney, James Stuckey, picked up the check and is speaking to the press on behalf on his client, whose whereabouts are undisclosed. Cowal's prior documented residence, a one-bedroom mobile home in Jensen Beach, has been up for sale for at least 30 days.

Scientists project impending doom on Friday 13, 2029 with asteroid

Scientists announced Dec. 23 an increase in the likelihood of an asteroid hitting Earth on April 13, 2029.

According to Buzzle.com, scientists project the asteroid Aphophis to travel near Earth at a distance of 18,893 miles, bringing Aphophis within a close enough range to enter Earth's orbit. The most harm is expected to occur if the asteroid hits the Pacific Ocean several thousand miles from the United States, where a crater could result in tsunamis hitting the West Coast of California.

Despite the slight increase, scientists argue against raising public concern just yet, who predict the chances of the asteroid hitting will likely decrease in the next twenty years.