May 6, 2007

Hepatitis A Exposure Scare at Restaurant Spurs Massive Demand for Shots

Over two days after two workers at a Pizza Ranch restaurant in Slayton became ill with hepatitis A, thousands of people received immune globulin shots for hepatitis A, a health official said May 6.

The Star Tribune reported how health officials ran out of hepatitis A shots early May 5, after giving out another 200 injections to people who may have been exposed to the disease at the southwestern Minnesota pizza restaurant, as detailed by the Minnesota Department of Health.

According to the Pioneer Press, public health workers would no longer provide the shots, and those still wanting shots should check with their doctor, said John Schuh, the administrator of Lincoln Lyon Murray Pipestone Public Health, as the agency had announced earlier that the shot clinic would reopen May 8.

Girl, 14, Slashed by Another Teen at MOA

A 14-year-old Bloomington girl was left in critical condition after being slashed at the Mall of America in Bloomington May 5, after an argument with another 14-year-old girl. The incident featured a razorlike weapon, which was used to slash the girl in the stomach more than five times, leaving her in critical condition.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press article featured comments by Bloomington Police Commander James Ryan: "There were two 14-year-old females that got into an altercation in that hallway," Ryan said. "One was armed with a razor-type weapon and repeatedly caused severe lacerations to the victim." Ryan also said the two teenagers knew each other, although police are still investigating the motive for the assault.

The Star Tribune, also reporting using Ryan's comments, described how Ryan said the victim was helped in the seconds after the attack by three women who were walking by, with one of whom being a registered nurse.

9 Dead in Kansas After Second Wave of Tornadoes

Not but a day after a tornado leveled the small town of Greensburg, a wave of tornadoes roared through the southwest Kansas, killing nine, as if adding injury to insult.

The Washington Post, drawing much of its reporting form Associated Press news releases, reported that the Kansas Adjutant General's Department confirmed reports of eight tornadoes touching down. National Weather Service meteorologist Larry Ruthi told the Associated Press that the path of damage was 1.4 miles wide, and estimated that the tornado would be classified as an "upper F4 or an F5," the strongest intensity by the Fujita scale.

The New York Times, in fact using the direct AP article, described how the city administrator, Steve Hewitt, estimated that 95 percent of the town of 1,500 was destroyed, with predicted rescue efforts taking days. Also reported was how, among the only structures that survived, was the Bar H Tavern, the town’s lone bar; it was briefly converted into a morgue.

Lots of Vowing Going on As Sarkozy Elected

In a painful defeat for Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal and as described in a brilliant New York Times lead, "Nicolas Sarkozy, the passionate, pugnacious son of a Hungarian immigrant, was elected president of France on Sunday, promising a break with the past, a new style of leadership, and a renewal of relations with the United States and the rest of Europe."

The Times article, entitled "Sarkozy, Elected in France, Vows Break With Past," detailed how though Royal appealed to the women of France to vote for her in a show of "female solidarity," Sarkozy, the conservative "hard-line" minister of the interior, got the majority of the women’s vote, according to Ipsos, an international polling company.

The Washington Post article, entitled "Sarkozy Vows to Restore Pride in France," described how Sarkozy's election could in fact signal a major transition for French society, as promises were made to spur economic growth and employment through tax cuts and treating the deficit, all while reducing the role of government in the economy a la the United States.

Massive Disappointment Sees Massive Weekend Earnings (or, Crappy Movie Makes Gobs of Money)

The enormously expensive and overall awful "Spider-Man 3" opened with a record 4,252 theater count to $148 million, effectively shattering the record for biggest opening weekend box office draw in North America.

According to the New York Times, “Spider-Man 3? broke records around the world too, as it opened abroad and took in an estimated $227 million in 105 countries before even hitting the United States, underscoring the "rising dominance" of international markets. The film success stripped the title from the previous record-holder, “Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.?

The financial victory has Sony Pictures Entertainment clamouring over the possibility of more milk from the teat of the Marvel cash cow, as co-chair Amy Pascal told the Daily Variety in their article, "There'll be a fourth and a fifth and sixth and a seventh. As many stories as Peter Parker has to tell, we'll do sequels."

And it should have been awesome, too. Screw you, Sam Raimi.

April 29, 2007

Democrats' Debate Spurs Different Decisions as to Discussion

The first televised presidential debate produced eight candidates complete with differing opinions and differing responses to questions of potency.

The New York Times reported how following the debate, none of the eight appeared to have distinguished themselves in any "appreciable" way; that said, none appeared to have made any "campaign-altering mistakes." The article detailed various questions posed, and the varying candidates responses and reactions to the responses of their rivals. All said, the article was essentially broad and without any aim other than simple description.

However, the Washington Post, two days after the Times piece, addressed the Clinton campaign's recent efforts to force Senator Barack Obama's comment during the debate detailing his response to a major terrorist attack, seen as "soft" and lacking in necessary aggresion by many, including his rivals.

Interaction of MPCA with 3M Newest Issue in Developing Pollution Scandal

In the latest wave of the developing story involving major local company 3M and the contamination of the well water in the Oakdale area with manufactured chemicals of unknown toxicity, the MPCA's entrance, involvement, and level of endorsement has become the topic of the week.

The Star Tribune reported on April 25 that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was directed to "negotiate" with 3M over cleaning up three contaminated sites in the east metro, after a state panel refused to grant the agency the level of power and authority necessary to simply order 3M to clean up the sites. The decision was more a natural follow-up to the refusal by the MPCA Citizen's Board to classify the former 3M chemicals as all-out "hazardous."

The Pioneer Press reported 4 days later on the subject from the perspective of one Brad Moore, whom, over the next few weeks, will sit with a team of negotiaters across from 3M officials to try to reach a deal over the cost and scope of cleaning up sites in the east metro, where 3M waste was buried years ago. Moore was selected by Governor Pawlenty and directed by the MPCA Citizens' Board to negotiate with 3M, "putting its faith in the mild-mannered commissioner's ability to get an acceptable deal from one of the state's most well-known and powerful companies."

French Presidential Candidate Debates Defeated Opponent

French presidential contender and Socialist Segolene Royal addressed voters of defeated centrist Francois Bayrou in a televised debate on April 28.

According to the New York Times, the 100-minute "dialogue" between Royal, the candidate of the left, and Bayrou, the centrist candidate who was knocked out of the race in the first round, was a first since presidential debates began in France in the 1974 race, and what is more, never before has a candidate who made it into the runoff debated one of the losers.

The Washington Post reported that Royal sought to use the debate to "flag the values" she shares with Bayrou and draw away moderates "attracted to Sarkozy's energy and drive, but worried by his hardliner image." However, some of Royal's leftist supporters have criticized her move as one bringing her away from her hardline Socialist stance.

Both articles related how opinion polls show Royal's chief opponent Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of Royal, yet with two polls made the day of the debate pointing to the gap narrowing.

Saudi Arabia draws considerably more media attention

Within the past week and perhaps even further, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has seen an increased level of coverage in top-tier American news publications.

The New York Times reported April 29 on how Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, nephew of King Abdullah, previously considered one of the top resources utilized by the Bush Administration in maintaining ties with and forming Middle East strategy beside the Saudi Royal Family. The growing consensus among those in the administration and political analysts is that Prince Bandar has "outlived his usefulness" as King Abdullah has persistently of late ignored the Prince's advice and diplomatic overtures in favor of actions contrary to the aims of the United States and the Bush Administration.

The Washington Post expanded upon this phenomenon in their own piece on April 29, detailing how Saudi King Abdullah refused to receive and meet with Iraqi Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, on "the eve of a critical regional summit on the future of the war-ravaged country." The decision reflects, according to the Post, "the growing tensions between the oil-rich regional giants," in terms of the concern commonly shared among the Saudi Sunni leaders about Iraq's Shiite-dominated government. As the Post put it, "the Saudi snub also indicates that the Maliki government faces a creeping regional isolation unless it takes long-delayed actions."

All of this, in the face of the recent Saudi arrest of 172 men in connection to a terrorist plot purportedly markedly similar to that of September 11, 2001. As detailed in the New York Times piece, “'It is the beginning of jihadi operations leaking out of Iraq,? said Abdul Aziz al-Qassim, a retired Saudi judge and moderate Islamic activist. “It is clear that this is some of the effects of what is happening in Iraq, in terms of training and in terms of learning from the Iraqi experience.'?

Powerball Continues to Serve as News Filler

Both of the two Twin Cities major news publications printed short 50-150 word articles on the Powerball drawings this past week, showing both the draw of articles featuring large dollar amounts and the need for short, easily reported filler pieces.

On April 26, the Pioneer Press reported in under 50 words the fact that no winner had been found for the recent $68 million Powerball jackpot, though two tickets had been purchased and redeemed for $200,000 for successfully including the first five necessary numbers of the jackpot, but missing the final Powerball.

On April 29, the Star Tribune devoted twice as much space to the story of how the genuine winning ticket had been found to have been sold in New Hampshire, for which the reported conducted an interview with the manager of the store where the ticket was purchased. However, the owner of the ticket had yet to come forward and claim his or her prize.

April 22, 2007

French Voters Narrow Field to Two for Decisive Runoff

Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, the candidates of the two leading French political parties, won the first round of the presidential elections April 22, resulting in what looks to be decisive runoff between the French left and right.

According to the New York Times, the election displayed an extremely high voter turnout for France, with 12 candidates to choose from; the outcome was "an affirmation of France’s traditional left-right divide."

The two candidates to face off are Sarkozy,the conservative candidate who "wants the French to work more and pay fewer taxes," and Royal, a Socialist with "a leftist economic program and a declared ambition to modernize her party" and the intention to become France's first female president.

The Washington Post reports that the campaigns have displayed an intense focus on issues such as the stagnant domestic economy and job market, France's waning international financial and diplomatic influence, encroaching globalization, and rising immigration, the last being seen as a threat to both the traditional French way of life and the "cradle-to-grave" benefits of the state's social welfare system.

April 15, 2007

In Wake of Duke Lacross Scandal, U of M Football Players Case Bears Watching

April 12, the New York Times reported how North Carolina’s attorney general declared three former Duke University lacrosse players, accused of sexually assaulting a stripper, innocent of all charges, ending a prosecution that provoked bitter debate over race, class and the tactics of the Durham County district attorney.

The conclusion of the Duke events, which has dragged onwards for years and left both the school and the lacross programs reputation severely marred, sheds a key light on a story which began to unfold a week prior to that, which this blog discussed then as well--the rape accusations leveled against three Gopher football players, as reported in the Pioneer Press.

(UPDATE) Lest the lessons of the Duke case be overlooked, or race begin to play a larger than fair card in the proceedings of the case, the Black Student Union at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities led a rally at Coffman Union, to demonstrate against the media coverage thus far of the event and bring to light the racial complexities of the matter, as reported in the Minnesota Daily.

Before judgments are leveled, one must now remember the fiasco that was the Duke case, and be prepared to critically evaluate the accusations made here in Minnesota before assigning any blame to any person(s) or organizations.

GOP Presidential Hopeful McCain Has Less Money, More Spending than Other Candidates

Senator John McCain's presidential campaign spent more than $8 million during the first three months of 2007, leaving the onetime Republican front-runner with only $5.2 million left in the bank,with the end result being that McCain has less than half of what his current GOP competitors have tucked away.

According to the New York Times, McCain may be struggling to keep up in the race to build a network of so-called "bundlers," who can collect donations from wealthy friends and business associates. The Times preliminary analysis of the donors to the top three Republicans indicated that, so far, McCain has collected checks from roughly the same number of major fund-raisers for President Bush as Mitt Romney, one-term governor of Massachusetts, who is far less well-known across the country.

According to the Washington Post, McCain's money was spent building one of the presidential field's "most sophisticated and complex organizations," featuring about 120 staffers in the Crystal City headquarters and in early-primary states, aides said. McCain has also hired several high-priced campaign consultants who once worked for President Bush. Other large debts include more than $66,000 for motor coach rentals, presumably for use of the "Straight Talk Express" McCain made famous in the 2000 campaign, $152,267 to a Minnesota company that handles fundraising calls, and $16,317 in catering costs for an event at the swank Beverly Hilton hotel.

Banned Protest in Moscow Ends in Mass Arrests, Including Famous Chess Champion

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov and at least 170 other anti-Kremlin activists were "detained" in Moscow April 14 after hundreds of riot police, acting on the ban prohibiting just such opposition protests, sealed off Pushkin Square and clubbed some protesters.

According to the New York Times, due to being essentially barred from access to television air time, members of Other Russia have focused heavily on the use of street protests as the key platform to voicing their opposition ideas before and about parliamentary elections in December and presidential elections next March. The last ditch element of the protests was made all the more true earlier in April, when Other Russia leaders former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Garry Kasparov’s Web sites were blocked, though it is unclear by whom (though suspicions abound).

According to the Washington Post, Kasparov and his supporters say they plan to continue stepping up their protests, charging that Putin has "squeezed the life out of Russian democracy" and plans to "stage-manage" the elections to prevent a free, democratic choice.

One-Year Anniversary of Wisconsin Bus Crash Brings Slow Return to Normalcy

Fifteen months after a bus returning from a band competition crashed into an overturned semi, killing five people, life at Chippewa Falls High has slowly but assuredly fallen back into the security of the old routine.

Jury selection begins today in Hudson for the trial of Michael Kozlowski, 24, the driver of the semi that jackknifed at 2 a.m. Oct. 16 on westbound Interstate 94 near Osseo, Wis. It was here, mere moments later, that a chartered bus filled with band members from Chippewa Falls High School crashed straight into the trailer, killing five people, including the band director, his wife and granddaughter, the bus driver, and a student teacher.

According to the Pioneer Press piece, students can now say Greenhalgh and Atherton's names with comfort, Kathy Brown, former band booster club president, said. What is more, several parents have declined requests for interviews, saying their children "have begun looking forward. They don't want them looking back."

The Star Tribune reports a similar situation, saying fourteen students who rode the bus that crashed remain in the band, as teachers have invested months of work to get all students looking forward instead of back.