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September 30, 2008

Car Bomb Kills 5 in Lebanon

More deaths occurred Monday in Lebanon. During morning rush hour a car bomb detonated in Tripoli. A bus holding Lebanese military drove by just as the car detonated, and caused the death of four soldiers and one civilian on the bus according to The New York Times and Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the car bomb wounded 25 people total. Of this total, only three were not soldiers. This was second attack on troops in Northern Lebanon in less than two months. No one was named for the attack, but blame was quickly place on Fatah Islam, who was also blamed for the previous attach on the military. Fatah Islam is a militant group who battled the Lebanese military last year at a place not to far from Tripoli. Just last week the United States aided the nation with $400 million of military assistance. Timur Goksel, a professor at the University of Beirut and former senior official with the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, predicts more attacks of the same nature in the near future. But a person from the fundamentalist Salafi Sunni movement in northern Lebanon disagrees and thinks that bomb was a result of people from outside of Lebanon.

The New York Times reports that the bomb wounded 17 people. The car from which the bomb was detonated ended up shriveling and blacked while the bus that drove by as the bomb went off “was badly damaged but not destroyed.?

“This is a direct targeting of the military institution,? said Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a Tripoli politician. (The New York Times)

The New York Times also mentions that this attack was the second of its kind in a little over a month. The targets of the pervious attack were also soldiers of the Lebanon military, on their way to work, while they were riding a packed bus.

This bombing in Lebanon occurred just two days after a bombing in Syria which killed 17 people. The car caring the bomb in Syria was from out of country and suspected to have come from a surrounding Arab nation. Tensions have run high between the two nations since Syria was suspected to have played a part in the assignation of Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, in 2005. (The New York Times)

“Northern Lebanon has become a real base for extremism and constitutes a danger for Syria,? said Syria’s president. (The New York Times)

September 28, 2008

UCLA Finds New Prime Number

Mathematicians at UCLA found a new Mersenne prime number. It is a 13-million digit number, the 46th Mersenne prime number, and the eighth prime number discovered at the school according to the the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the new number was discovered on a network of 75 computers running Windows XP and verified on a different computer. The discovery makes them eligible for a $100,000 prize offered by the Electric Frontier Foundation, which would be awarded once the number is published. The publish time is likely to be next year. The prize money was offered for anyone who found a prime number with 10 million digits or greater. The organization supports individual rights on the internet.

Besides function like a regular prime number – which a number is only divisible by itself and one – Mersenne prime numbers are written as 2P-1. The new P found is 43,112,609.

UCLA’s Edson Smith, leader of the search for the number, says they are already searching for the next number.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the odds of finding the next Merseene prime number are about 1 in 150,000 numbers. But this doesn’t deter a school which has now found a total of eight prime numbers. The discoveries started back in 1952 when Raphael Robinson, a mathematician, found five using a digital computer. The numbers, which were the the 13th through 17th Mersenne prime numbers, were the first prime numbers discovered in over 75 years. Then in 1961 Alexander Hurwitz found two more this time using an IBM 7090 mainframe. This newest prime number was discovered on Aug. 23 on a Dell Optiplex 745 running Windows XP. However, UCLA will not receive all $100,000 of the prize money. They school receives half of it, while a quarter of it will go to charity, and the other quarter go to The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search participants and the organization itself.

The Traveling Ren Fest

A homebound St. Paul man’s dream came true as the Minnesota Renaissance Festival scaled down and took the festivities to his home according to the Pioneer Press.

The 65-year-old had attended the festival every year for over 30 years until bone marrow cancer struck in March 2007.

Frank Tunison has battled the odds of survival with aggressive chemotherapy, drugs, holistic treatment. When his son returned from serving in Iraq in March 2007 the doctors told him his father had about 60 days left. A year and a half later, Tunison has beat science predictions, which means that he has missed the Renaissance Festival for two years in a row, which is very disappointing for man who “went religiously, every year, sometimes a couple times,? Tunison’s son said.

So, his daughter decided to make a phone call. She talked to the entertainment festival manager, Anita Kelling, who said responded to her story of her father with warmth.

“It’s something that really tugged at my heartstrings,? Kelling said. “I've had a number of performers who had family members that passed away from cancer. Those people were the first to volunteer.?

In fact, Anjila Olsen, a historical cook for the festival and who is in remission from ovarian cancer, was the first to respond the email from the festival listserv about Tunison’s situation. She offered to cook a meal.

Other performers jumped on board, too, including jugglers, fire and belly dancers, and musicians. Soon on Thursday evening the group assembled and set up out outside of Tunison’s home on the 500 block of Manomin Avenue. His daughter told him that she was organizing an Avon sales meeting to disguise the commotion outside.

Tunison was soon led outside by his wife. Amazed at what he witnessed he found out what his daughter had really been doing.

The festival bought a smile to his face which is amazing since, “You don’t see him smile very often,? longtime neighbor Richard Sorenson said.

September 21, 2008

Woman's Accident is Suspected as Murder

At first the police simply called it an “unfortunate accident.? It appeared that Natasha Waalen’s motorcycle crash killed her. At least that’s what it appeared like at first according to both the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune.

The 28-year-old’s body was found on Tulip Stree NW, a quiet street, around 12:30am on Friday according to the Star Tribune. The described that scene with her body in the middle of the road and acrashed motorcycle nearby. The article did not mention what time the accident occurred. Then less than 24 after the “accident? police arrested Waalen’s boyfriend. Injuries that the police would not describe led them to believe that Waalen’s death did not happen by mere accident, and that she was actually murdered. The couple had a four-year-old daughter together. But, Waalen’s father does not believe that his daughter’s boyfriend is the criminal in the case, and that “he suspected that a man who had recently threatened to kill his daughter over a potential lawsuit might be the culprit.?

Ryan Boland, 33, was Waalen’s live-in boyfriend reports the Pioneer Press. According to this article he was arrested by Friday night. Saturday night he was awaiting charges as he was held in custody at the Anoka County Jail. Waalen lived only seven miles away from where her body was found. She and Boland lived at 816 Adams St. in Anoka. This article says that her family declined to comment other than confirming that she and Boland were in a relationship and had 4-year-old daughter together. Neighbors said Waalen and Boland were a quite couple who were not home together often. The article reports that Waalen was an acupuncturist who worked with disabled adults, and Boland last worked for a family-owned construction company. While Waalen did own a motorcycle, it is not confirmed that the motorcycle she crashed was her own. No possible motive for murder or exact cause of Waalen’s death has been released.

Israel's Prime Minister Resigns

Change is coming for Isreal. The nation’s Prime Mister, Ehud Olmert, handed in his letter of resignation Sunday in Israel. Olmert reading his letter of resignation to President Shimon Peres was broadcasted via Channel 10 TV in the nation Sunday evening according to the Los Angeles Times.

His choice to step-down was not surprising as he had already informed his Cabinet of his decision which resulted from several corruption cases against him.

Though Olmert has formally resigned, he will stay in office until a new government is approved by parliament The New York Times reports. Female Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni immediately began the task of forming a new government, which she has 42 days to do, once Olmert resigned. She is thought to be the next prime minister as every other politician who has needed to select a new government has succeeded the position. She will be only the second female prime minister if she gets the position. Livni’s popularity resides in her support of peace deals with the Palestinians and Syria. However, Olmert also vowed to work on peace as he holds the office in the interim. But, as a politician with little support, his approval ratings are in the single digits, no one wants him to be the one to set out peace agreements. These peace agreements are important because back in November, at a U.S.-sponsored peace conference, a target date of January had been set for establishing a peace treaty with the Palestinians. The problem is that Livni wants to deal with peace agreements though negotiations and making concessions. Peace talks could be halted altogether if she can’t form a coalition which would result in needing elections, and not have a new government until spring.

Livni won the election on Thursday to succeed Olmert as the Kadima Party head leader. But she only won her Kadima primary by a slim margin, and her party only hold 29 of the 120 seats in Parliament, making it ever important that her party stay together so as to not affect her efforts of forming a majority coalition.

Up in Flames

A plane crash left four dead, including the pilot and co-pilot, but sparred Travis Barker and “DJ AM.?
In fact, the two celebrities were the only people who did not die in the crash according to the Chicago Tribune. They both remain in critical condition at a burn center in Augusta, Ga.

The drummer, Barker, best known as the drummer for the defunct Blink-182, and Adam Goldstein, known to the general public as DJ AM, had performed together Friday night at free concert near the University of South Carolina under the name TRVSDJ-AM. Team Mobile sponsored the event which also included musicians Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction and Gavin DeGraw.

The plane was set to depart just before midnight with passengers Barker, DJ AM, Chris Baker, assistant to Barker, and Charles Still, security guard to Barker, onboard heading to Van Nuys, California. But the plane didn’t even make it off the ground. Air traffic controllers saw sparks spitting from the plane followed by the aircraft plunging off the runway and though antennas and fences. The plane finally rested on an embankment across a five-lane highway before starting ablaze according to Debbie Hersman, of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Upon inspection of the crash site on Saturday the smell of jet fuel still hung in the air, a trail of black jet soot lead across the runway, the nose of the aircraft was gone, and the roof was missing from two-thirds of the plane.

Columbia Mayor Bob Coble called the crash, “Absolutely terrible and tragic.?

September 14, 2008

Plane Crash in Russia Kills All Onboard

A plane crash on Sunday in Russia left all 88 onboard the fight dead. The plane lost contact with ground control at about 3,600 feet. The plane hit the ground at a 30 to 40 degree angle.

The crash occurred in the small city of Perm, where it hit a section of the railroad in the city.

According to The New York Times the plane carried 20 foreigners, seven children, and six crew members. The reason of the crash is yet to be identified. The pilot of the plane did not have a clean record. Arrested about a month prior, he was to be charged with violation of the safety regulations.

Yahoo! News reported six children under the age of 10 onboard the flight. It listed citizens from the countries of Azerbaijan, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine all among the dead foreigners. According to the article, the engine of the plane caught on fire and fell to ground as it burned. It also mentions engine failure as the most likely of reason for the crash, and also notes that the plane experienced “‘difficult weather conditions’ — including low cloud cover and rain? around 3,600 feet where it lost connection with the ground dispatchers. The site showed the crash “apparently was connected to technical failure and a fire in the right engine,? the ITAR-Tass said. Someone found the recorders of the plane, but it will take weeks to analyze them. The crash of the plane occurred very near some homes, but no one who lived by was hurt, though some could feel the ground shake when the crash happened. “I felt an explosion, it threw me off the bed,? a woman from the city of Perm said. To help indentify the dead, relatives are asked to provide DNA samples.

This is the second former Soviet Union plane crash in the last month. The other crash also involved a Boeing 737 in which 68 of the 90 passengers died. That plane, which was headed to Iran, crashed just after lift off in Kyrgyzstan. The Russian airlines are not well regarded by the International Air Transport Association, The New York Times reports. This is attributed to cost-cutting and poor regulation and training of the nation’s airlines.

Start Your Morning with Obama Waffles

Sick of Bisquick waffle mix? Try Obama waffle mix. The creators of the mix, Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, sold the item for $10 a box starting Thursday at the Value Voters summit, a conservative political forum, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The summit drew about 2,100 activists including Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Attendees snapped up boxes of the mix like hot cakes.

But why were conservative activists spending $10 on a box a waffle mix that displayed their presidential nominee revival? They shelled out the green because the waffle mix box was a political satire which poked fun at Obama’s political stances and remarks. The front of the box contained a cartoon picture of Obama with thick lips, a huge smile, and eyes popping out as he stared at the waffles. This image recalled stereotypes of black people similar, and similar to Aunt Jemina, the pancake-mix symbol.

But that was the not the only racial image contained on the box. The top of the box pictured another cartoon of Obama this time wearing an Arab-like headdress, and the back of the box shows Obama in Mexican dress and an accompanying recipe for “Open Boarder Fiesta Waffles.?

The box took shots at Obama’s wife, his former pastor, and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry as well.

Did Whitlock consider the images of Obama racial stereotypes? “We had some people mention that to us, but you think of Newman's Own or Emeril's - there are tons and tons of personality-branded food products on the market. So we've taken that model and, using political satire, have highlighted his policies, his position changes,? Whitlock said.

Organizers of the Value Voters Summits expressed that they did not realize the box contained “offensive material,? and ended sales of the mix on Saturday.

September 12, 2008

St. Kate's to Get a Namelift

Currently, the name of the biggest catholic woman’s college in the country is the College of St. Catherine. But that name will only be effective until the end of spring because starting in June 2009 the name changes to St. Catherine University, according to the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press.

The President of the college, Sister Andrea Lee, announced the news of the name change on Thursday morning at convocation according to the Pioneer Press.

The change reflects the growing population of the school, and that the school offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. Renaming the school was no easy matter, and according to the Star Tribune it took about a year to come to the conclusion.

The Star Tribune reports of just under 3,000 undergraduates, about 1,400 graduate students enrolled currently, and that enrollment has been increasing annually for the last 10 years. The Pioneer Press gives exact statistics of the enrollement for Fall 2007 at St. Kate's: 5,238 total students of which 1,427 were graduates.