May 6, 2007

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

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.'?

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.

April 8, 2007

Hussein Monuments Evoke Questions 4 Years After Fall

Four years after the ousting of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the people of Iraq find themselves with more questions than answers. This was the impetus behind two separate articles in two separate papers this past week. What is more, the two articles both utilized the statues and monuments Hussein built in honor of himself in a symbolic sense, representing the memories of the regime and the lasting impact of both Hussein and the war to oust him.

The New York Times focused on these ideas in a much more methodical manner, utilizing predominantly institutional sources to detail what plans are currently in motion so far as treatment and/or removal of the statues.

The Washington Post, however, decided instead to take the feature piece route, focusing on the life and views of one Iraqi man who had been "immortalized" by a photograph, taken of him, sledgehammer in hand, tearing into one such statue of Hussein.

Though the Times piece was perhaps more informative, the Post piece is, in my opinion, of significantly higher value, for while the Times piece related information that has no bearing on most of their readers and does little to tell of anything most aren't already aware of, the Post piece humanizes the situation, allowing for readers to better relate and even draw something of value from the situation.

April 1, 2007

Truck Bomb Targets Police Station in Iraq

At least 13 people were killed and dozens more injured in back-to-back roadside bombings southwest of Baghdad over the weekend. Six of those dead are U.S. soldiers.

According to the Reuters article, the U.S. military said in a statement on Sunday that two soldiers were killed by an explosion during a patrol on March 31. Four more were killed when another roadside bomb detonated on April 1 near a unit responding to the first attack.

The AP details how the second attacker rammed the truck into the concrete blast barriers protecting the back of the compound, detonating his explosives, which were hidden under bags of flour, as described by police spokesman Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir.

The AP article makes a note of the fact that the attacks occurred shortly after a visit by United States presidential hopeful John McCain, whom led a Republican congressional delegation on a heavily guarded tour of a central Baghdad market and declared that a nearly 7-week-old security crackdown to pacify the capital is working.

Meanwhile, the Reuters piece is substantially briefer, choosing to forego much of the detail in favor of straight-up numerical figures, detailing the 6 U.S. troopers dead and how about half of nearly 30,000 additional U.S. troops being sent to Iraq have now been deployed, as stated by a senior U.S. military official April 1.

March 25, 2007

Giuliani, Wife Each Married Twice Before

Judith Nathan had been married twice, and not once as generally believed, before she wed Rudolph W. Giuliani in 2003, as announced by aides on the Giuliani presidential campaign.

A quick analysis of two of the publications to discuss this announcement, the New York Times and the Washington Post, reveals certain basic similarities, with minor subtle differences. Though both pieces stick closely to the essential facts (as the word count was presumably strict if the short length of both pieces are any judge), the Times piece does use somewhat harsher language, such as how the as-now revealed marriage "unraveled unraveled in the early 1990s, ending in a fiercely bitter divorce as the two traded accusations, she of abuse, he of kidnapping." The Post keeps their piece much tamer in comparison.

Ultimately, though, the Times reveals a certain attitude towards the coverage of the story in the lead, in which they describe how "Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani has been married three times and, as it turns out, so has his wife." The phrase "as it turns out" comes across with a somewhat sarcastic connotation, implying that the writer is somewhat incredulous as to the idea that this even warrants news.

Of course, all of this "analysis" comes down to my own opinions and reactions, but points are raised for consideration, at the very least.

March 4, 2007

Clinton-Obama Competition News Value Prompts Pervasive Inclusions

Of particular interest was the inclusion in the New York Times article "President Is Leaving N.A.A.C.P." of the two primary Democratic candidates for the U.S. presidency in the piece.

The inclusion read as such: "The news shook civil rights advocates and diverted attention from the celebrations in Selma, where Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who are running for president, were among those on hand to pay homage to the leaders of the Bloody Sunday march."

Both the Times and the Washington Post addressed the Selma events in full form articles. The inclusion of said events in an article about the resignation of a private official thus seems strange, considering the information is thusly redundant. Likely, the inclusion does no more than signify the definitive news value to be found in the Obama-Clinton contest, both in terms of reader interest and publisher's cost-driven aims.

February 26, 2007

Early Morning Fire Alarm at St. Paul Dorm Disrupts Blogging

In the early hours of the morning Feb. 26, a fire alarm at Bailey Hall, a University of Minn. dorm located on the St. Paul campus, set hundreds of students into the unpleasant cold of the night. The alarm, the cause of which remains unknown, disrupted both sleep schedules and homework assignments alike.

Matthew Gerber, Bailey Hall resident, expressed considerable consternation. "I've got a blog entry to finish--just please, let me in!"

Forty-five minutes elapsed before the students were allowed back into the building, after the fire truck had finally pulled away, satisfied with the conclusion of the incident. Updates will follow as they become available.

February 18, 2007

U.S. Marine Sentenced to 8 Years for Kidnapping, Murdering Iraqi Man

A United States Marine was sentenced to 8 years in a military prison, for his role in the kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi man Feb. 17.

According to the Associated Press, Lance Corporal Robert B. Pennington, 22, was a part of an eight-member squad whom were responsible for dragging Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, from his home, whereupon he was shot, then placed in a hole with an AK-47 and a shovel, planted to make it appear as though Awad were caught planting a roadside bomb. Pennington testified that he did not shoot Awad, though he did hold him down and cover his mouth.

According to the Reuters article, Pennington's lawyer presented evidence that his client had suffered psychological damage in the assault on Fallujah, where two friends lost their lives.

Both articles featured quotations from Deanna Pennington, the marine's mother. The Reuters article quotation read as such: “I’ve come to understand that Bobby died in Falluja, and I want to help him come back to life and be the good person I know he is,? she said. “I wish he could come home today.? The Associated Press cut the quotation severely, printing it as: "It's been an emotional roller coaster," Pennington's mother, Deanna Pennington, said after the sentencing. "Bobby died in Fallujah. I want to bring him back." Which is a more accurate attribution is uncertain, though the AP quotation certainly lends less emotional credence to the mother's position.

February 4, 2007

Associated Press Releases Two Articles on Global Warming Report

According to two articles provided by the Associated Press, 45 nations responded to a call by Jacque Chirac, president of France, to form an environmental body with an ultimate aim to slow global warming's progress and potentially punish those in violation of that aim. Of note were nations such as the United States and China, who refused to sign.

The formation of the body arose following the release of the report of as-of-now utmost authority which depicts a decidely dark and undeniable truth as to the existence of global warming.

Of particular note is the fact that the Associated Press released two articles at two separate times by two different authors of two different lengths on the same topic. The first is shorter in length and focuses on attributions provided by President Chirac and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore to establish Europe's and the world's feelings as to the United States in terms of their involvement in the global warming dilemma and the authenticity of the dangers of global warming, respectively. This piece was also published later, ruling out the possibility of a mere update.

The second piece is substantially longer in length, and introduces numerous scientific authorities and political representatives to the piece, though said inclusions are brief and frequently paraphrased rather than quoted. Likely, this piece was the one provided to and utilized by papers with a decidely more liberal readership, whom would be more inclined to want a more comprehensive article on this issue.

However, both articles paled in comparison to the comprehensive piece on the report and the political declarations as provided by the New York Times. However, the Times placed a much greater emphasis on the science behind the event rather than the political ramifications, as Chirac's statements were granted no more than a passing reference.