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October 27, 2008

Fatal Flooding in Yemen

In Yemen tens of people died due to massive floods caused by heavy rains on Thursday and Friday. The New York Times reports that the president of Yemen said on Saturday that 41 people died and 31 were missing. China View reports that as of Saturday 58 people were dead according to the interior ministry of the official SABA news agency.

The President also said that 1,700 houses were destroyed according to the New York Times. The publication noted that the president toured the badly affected areas including the southeast part of the country, which was hit the hardest, on Saturday.

China View said that the 58 dead all hailed from the east – namely the providences of Hadramout, Mahra and Taiz. It also mentioned that the floods, besides ruining houses, also damaged other infrastructure including electricity and telephone networks.

“The damages... are great and the catastrophe is also great,? the president said. (China View)

He said that the death toll will likely continue to rise as the damage assessment is ongoing in many areas according to the China View.

Twins Survive Thanks to New Procedure

Identical twins survive birth after a relatively new operation performed at a Minneapolis hospital saved their life reports the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio.

The twins of parents Jeana and Jeff Cassellius of Wisconsin suffered form something called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. It is a condition where twins share the placenta unevenly – one twin gets too much blood while the other twin does not receive enough. This eventually leads to the starvation of one twin and heart damage for the other says the Star Tribune. The syndrome also affects the mother as it can cause bleeding and early contractions due to the creation of too much amniotic fluid.

This condition occurs in about 40 to 50 pregnancies in Minnesota reports the Star Tribune while Minnesota Public Radio says it affects only about 40 pregnancies in the state.

Untreated, this syndrome can be fatal for one or both of the twins. But, a relatively new pre-natal surgery ups the chances of survival. According to the Star Tribune the surgery gives an 80 percent chance of at least one of the twins surviving. The Minnesota Public Radio reports the chance of survival of at least one of the twins at 90 percent. They also mention that there is still a less than 50-50 chance that both twins will survive even with the procedure, but that number is hopeful compared to the 90 percent rate of fatality of the twins if the syndrome is left untreated. The Star Tribune says that the complication occurs in about 10 to 15 percent of all identical twins.

A fiber optic laser procedure, performed by doctors at the Abott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, allowed the doctors to fix the shared blood vessels reports both publications. The Minnesota Public Radio reports that blood vessel, which they severed with the laser, were no thicker than human hair.

The success of the procedure is great news for families in the Midwest because prior to the closest place to get the procedure was in Ohio reports Minnesota Public Radio. The Star Tribune said that “doctors at Children’s Hospital and Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis are the first in Minnesota to offer the still experimental surgery.?

October 25, 2008

Jennifer Hudson's Mother and Brother Dead

American Idol alum and Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Hudson family was struck with tragedy. Both her brother and mother were discovered dead by gun shot at their home in her native Chicago on Friday according to the .

The Chicago Tribune says Jennifer’s mother, Darnell Hudson Donerson, 57, was found shot dead in the living. Jason Hudson, 29, Jennifer’s brother was found dead in a bedroom. A relative discovered Donerson and called the officials upon the discovery. It was the officials who then found Jason Hudson. Law-enforcement officials said the deaths resulted from a domestic disturbance.

Her nephew, 7-year-old Julian King, is still missing. The Chicago Tribune describes the boy as 4-foot-11, 130 pounds, with brown eyes, black hair, and last seen wearing a striped polo and khakis pants.

The New York Times reports that late Friday William Balfour was arrested according to The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Balfour resided at the address of Donerson for the last year according to records says TMZ.

The Chicago Tribune says that Balfour, 27, a convicted criminal, was listed as a suspect in the abduction of King. He plead guilty of attempted murder 1999.

Jennifer’s mother lived on the south side of Chicago. Though her daughter has made millions of dollars since leaving Chicago and entering Hollywood, and she could have moved, she decided to stay in the south side. This is an area where gunshots are commonplace which is a reason why when neighbors of Jennifer’s mother heard gunshots Friday morning they did not call the police notes that Chicago Tribune.

October 19, 2008

Many McDonald's in Venezuela Temporarily Closed

The Venezuelan Government shutdown most of the McDonald’s in the country for two days last week due to discrepancies in the chain’s financial books reports CNN and the New York Times.

It was the government’s tax agency which ordered the shutdown due to “inconsistencies? found in sales and purchases books and taxes collected. (New York Times)

CNN reports that 115 McDonald’s were closed down while the New York Times says that 118 of the fast-food restaurants closed down. More specifically the New York Times says there are 132 McDonald’s in the country and that of the 118 closed down, all 80 of the Alimentos Arcos Dorados de Venezuela, a Caracas-based franchise, were closed.

The move to shutdown all the fast-food restaurants began on Thursday and continued on Friday reports CNN. Those closed remain so until Saturday.

“The company asserts its customary and thorough respect for and compliance with all Venezuelan laws, regulations and standards,? said Alimentos Arcos Dorados. (CNN)

New York Times mentioned that McDonald’s was subjected to a similar situation in the country three years ago. That time 80 of the restaurants were closed for three days as a penalty of failing to follow tax rules.

Powell Endorses Obama

Barack Obama received the support and backing of a well-known and respect American political figure – Mr. Colin Powell. This endorsement occurred Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press? television program according to The New York Times and the Pioneer Press.

Powell, also a Republican, didn’t endorse Obama without some feeling of letting fellow Republican presidential nominee and friend John McCain down.

“It isn’t easy for me to disappoint Sen. McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that,? Powell said. (Pioneer Press)

Powell spoke of Obama’s leadership as something that bridges the ages of people.

“I think we need a transformational figure. I think we need a president who is a generational change and that's why I'm supporting Barack Obama, not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Sen. John McCain,? Powell said. (Pioneer Press)

Powell also mentioned his distaste for McCain’s increasing negative attacks on Obama in the recent months. He especially disproved of McCain’s attacks on Obama’s link, weak link though it be, to William Ayers, a 1960s radical.

“I thought that was over the top,? Mr. Powell told reporters. “It was beyond just good political fighting back and forth.? (The New York Times)

The New York Times reported that it unsure whether or not Powell would help campaign with Obama. But the Pioneer Press said Powell would not be campaigning for him.

Powell, also a black man, said race had nothing to do with his decision. (Pioneer Press).

McCain did not appear to be upset by Powell’s endorsement saying he was “endorsed by four other former secretaries of state, all veterans of Republican administrations: Henry Kissinger, James A. Baker III, Lawrence Eagleburger and Alexander Haig.? (Pioneer Press).

Obama told Powell in a call Sunday morning after the endorsement that he was honored for his support and looked forward to his advise is coming two weeks and hopefully next four years said Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama the New York Times reports.

October 14, 2008

Sex and Politics

Another sex sandal is rocking politics. The New York Times and Washington Post both report that Rep. Tim Mahoney (D) for Florida, is alleged of paying a mistress off so that she would not sue him.

The ironic part is that Mahoney gained his seat because the prior congressman, Republican Mark Foley, was also part of a sex sandal - involved inappropriate and lewd text messages with congressional pages - and resigned.

The New York Times claims that Mahoney paid his mistress a $121,000 settlement not to sue him for the conduct.

The Washington Post reports at settlement at more than $100,000.

ABC News broke the story and they also broke the story of Foley’s sex sandal reports the Washington Post.

Mahoney has asked that the House Ethics Committee investigate the matter.

“I am confident that when the facts are presented that I will be vindicated,? said Mahoney. (Washington Post).

The New York Times says that Mahoney’s wife was aware of his affair with a mistress that worked for him. The money was not a settlement, but a supposed legal agreement for her dismissal. This package also included “promise to Ms. Allen of a job at Fletcher Rowley Chao Riddle, a Nashville firm that handled Mr. Mahoney’s advertising.? But, the company is denying that is true and ended affiliation with Mahoney.

Chinese Milk Companies Apologize

The top three dairy companies in China issued a formal apology for their involvement in the contaminated milk scandal that has rocked China on Sunday reports Reuters and China Daily.

The three companies all had used melamine in their baby milk formula, a toxin, which sickened tens of thousands of Chinese babies.

Reuters reports that the scandal has killed four babies, while 10,700 infants are still being treated, and 36,000 have already left the hospital after being treated.

China Daily says that 53,000 babies have been diagnosed with problems similar to kidney stones. That is how the contaminated milk was discovered – when 14 babies all had kidney stones a little over a month ago and the common link was the same brand of milk formula they had been drinking: Sanlu. This sparked on inspection of other brands, a number of which were also found to have melamine in them.

The three companies that apologized were Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, Mengniu Dairy, and Bright Dairy Group.

China Daily reports that the apology came from the executives of the companies while they were television talk show program called “Dialogue.? The damage of the scandal is estimated at have cost each of the companies 200 million yuan ($29 million).

Reuters also mentioned that the Ministry of Agriculture will continue “sending quality teams across the country to monitor the clean-up of milk stations and animal feed producers.?

October 13, 2008

Body found in car near Harriet Island

On Friday construction workers found a dead body in a car retrieved from the Mississippi River near Harriet Island according to both the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune.

The car was discovered in the river on Thursday while the construction crew was dredging the river. The Pioneer Press reports that a worker with a large backhoe struck the sunken car. The backhoe was located on a barge west of Wigington Pavilion.

The Star Tribune mentions that the car was retrieved from the water around 9 a.m. Friday. It was only then that the dead person inside the car was noticed.

The Pioneer Press reports that the police investigator said it took the construction crew about a day to pull the car out of the water.

“I looked in the car. It looked like an airbag, and then I saw the legs,? said a source refusing to give their name (Pioneer Press).

The Pioneer Press also reports that the car was a badly damaged white sedan. Although the investigator did not know what caused the damaged. He said it could have been pre-existing, caused by the backhoe, or even from river barges.

The police are still trying to identify the body both newspapers report. Once they have, no information will be released until the family of the victim has been contacted. The area where the construction workers were working and where the car was found was formerly a parking lot.

October 6, 2008

Russia Begins Withdrawing from Georgia

With the war conflict between Russia and Georgia over, Russians began dismantling their checkpoints in Georgia according to the New York Times and Australian Broadcasting Cooperation.

This is in fulfillment of the peace treaty which the French President help broker. According to this plan Russia must withdraw from security or buffer zones by Oct. 10.

The withdrawal began in South Ossetia, a breakaway part of Georgia, where a checkpoint was dismantled on Sunday.

The ABC reports that the dismantled checkpoint was located near the northwest city of Gori.

The New York Times mention that the withdrawal comes two days after eight Russian soldiers were killed in South Ossetia. Their deaths were caused by an explosion which was the result of a car exploding that the soldiers had confiscated from a buffer zone and brought to their headquarters. The Times said that they it was the Nabarkhevi checkpoint which was dismantled on Sunday. They other two other checkpoints being dismantled were located by South Ossetia and near Zugdidi, outside Abkhazia.

Hansjörg Haber, head of the European Union which is overseeing the mission says he is “confident that the Russian side will respect its commitment to withdraw forces? by the Oct.10 date.

October 5, 2008

High School Could Start Later

According to the the schools in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan and Farmington school districts are considering changing the start of the high school school day.

This change is in consideration to the research over the years that proves teenagers naturally get tired later and wakeup later. Studies have also suggested that teenagers need more sleep than when they were younger. So, having school start early in the morning is difficult on teenager’s bodies. Tired teenagers in the morning can lead to low performance in morning classes and mood and behavior changes.

This is a not a new change. Schools in the metro-area of Minneapolis and in Edina have implemented the change in the last 15 years themselves.

Currently schools in the Farmington school districts start at 7:35 a.m. and end at 2:20 p.m., and schools in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. Farmington is considering moving the start time of school to 8 a.m. or even 8:20a.m. This possible change would change the end time of class to 3 p.m. or 3:15 p.m. The Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district anticipates that a time change would result in students getting dismissed by 3 p.m.

The problem in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district is that due to bus routes a delay in the start time of the high school may result in needing to start middle school 15-20 minutes earlier. Farmington says they have found a way they could start the high school earlier without it affecting the elementary or middle schools.

Overall the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district is receiving positive feedback about the start time idea from both parents and students. A decision could be made by November or December after it is bought to the school board in November. Farmington school district hopes to make the decision sometime during the fall but no month in which the proposal would be presented to the school board was given.

American Boy Invited to Prestigious Ballet Academy

Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, one of the best ballet schools in the world, recently invited a 14-year-old American boy to their academy.

The boy, Matthew Leonardi of San Bernardino, CA, would like to get to the school as soon as possible, but is finding the money to pay for the high annual tuition hindering him according to the Los Angeles Times and The Sun.

The Los Angeles Times reports the annual tuition at $18,400. This is a huge financial burden on Leonardi’s mom, a single mother of four and kindergarten teacher. But she is working hard to try and find financial support for son because she realizes what a huge opportunity this is. To put it in perspective, Leonardi is the only American male dancer invited to the Academy this year, and the youngest male invited. The Academy spotted Leonardi when he attended Bolshoi Academy’s Summer Intensive Program in Connecticut this past summer.

“The academy needs a combination of physical features, talent and training, and Matthew has all three,? said Rina Kirshner, the vice president of the Russian American Foundation, which organizes auditions for the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

While Leonardi will focus on ballet training while at the Academy, the program does include academics as well. Leodardi is expected to be there for about four years, and upon graduation he would receive something similar to a Bachelor of Fine Arts his mother said.

The Sun reports that only three Americans were invited to Bolshoi this year, a school with yearly tuition averaging over $18,000. They report that Leonardi would be at the school for up to eight years. A few of the organizations that his mother has contacted looking for funding include San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, Stater Bros. Markets and Arrowhead Credit Union. She says she is having a difficult time finding funding because no one wants to fund individuals. She also says that Leonardi’s age is hindering getting scholarships and student loans. Furthermore she reports unspecified problems in obtaining Leonardi’s passport.