November 2011 Archives

by Sarah Harper

The New York Daily News published a story Saturday called "Jews vow to fight back as Brooklyn bias crimes spur a Jewish Power movement."

I discussed this story with two University of Minnesota students, Julia and Charlotte. They did not want their last names to be included. They both live in Minneapolis. They're familiar with the cultural group because they are part of it -- Julia and Charlotte are Jewish and are active in the religious groups on campus. Talking to them helped me understand the article from their perspective.

The story does not exploit any stereotypes. Rather, it starts off substantive and stays that way. The writer, Simone Weichselbaum, informs the story by including information about the history of Jewish people in Brooklyn.

Weichselbaum uses observation as a main source, but that doesn't mean that she observes the Jewish people in a judging way. She does not tell a story about who they are, she tells a story about what is happening with them.

Julia, Charlotte and I appreciated that the reporter used quotes to color the story, but we wished she had used even more.

The only problem is in the first paragraph, where Weichselbaum wrote, "The recent hate crimes against Jews across Brooklyn has ignited a movement pushing them to toughen up and learn how to fight back." This sentence presents a problem only to the most careful of eyes, because writing that Jewish people have been pushed to toughen up implies that they weren't tough in the first place.

Besides that small detail, the writer truly is fair to the cultural group.

Conservatives win in Spain

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by Sarah Harper

Spaniards showed their support for the conservative Popular Party in Sunday's elections, ending eight years of Socialist government.

The New York Times reported that according to the official results, the Socialists lost 59 seats to the Popular Party, which appeared to have won a governing majority. The Popular party won 186 seats of the 350-seat lower house of Parliament.

Spaniards hope that the Popular Party, led by Mariano Rajoy, will help them face problems caused by Europe's debt crisis. These problems include falling property values, unbearable debt and the collapse of the construction sector, according to the New York Times.

Reuters reported that Spain is experiencing the European Union's highest unemployment rate, with 5 million people out of work.

The Popular Party won the biggest majority of any party in 30 years, according to Reuters.

Iran news agency chief sentenced to a year in prison

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by Sarah Harper

The press adviser to the president of Iran was sentenced to a year in prison on the charge of "publishing materials contrary to Islamic norms," the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported Sunday.

Ali-Akbar Javanfekr, who is also the chief of the IRNA, was banned from doing any journalistic activity for three years, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Associated Press
reported that Javanfekr wrote that the practice of women wearing the head-to-toe black garment known as the chador was an imported practice, not an originally Iranian one.

Javanfekr has 20 days to appeal the sentence -- and his lawyer, Abdollah Nakhaei, said he will definitely appeal the verdict.

According to the Associated Press, Javanfekr is one of many of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's political backers who have been targeted by hard-line opponents recently.

by Sarah Harper

Top school officials in St. Paul will not experience increases in their health benefits or salaries for the next two years as a result of a compensation plan approved Tuesday.

The school board approved the contract for administrators, which will last until June 2013, according to the Star Tribune.

Administrators will be able to cash in five earned vacation days to get a $2,350 increase in their professional development allowances, which the district says will ease the pain of the pay freeze, reported the Pioneer Press.

The district and teachers are now in negotiations for a contract, which the district expects to approve in the spring, according to the Star Tribune.

The Star Tribune also reports that the board approved a budget that resulted in the loss of 345 jobs, the consolidation of programs and the reorganization of the administration.

St. Paul rape and robbery results in 27 years of jail time

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by Sarah Harper

A man was sentenced Thursday to more than 27 years in prison after he was convicted of raping and robbing a transgender person in St. Paul.

Demetrius Jermaine Miller, 33, was given a 23-year sentence for the rape charge and four years for aggravated robbery, reported KSTP-TV.

The Star Tribune reported that Miller decided to represent himself before Ramsey County District Judge Rosanne Nathanson.

The victim, a 27-year-old woman transitioning to become a man, testified about being beaten, robbed and raped in an alley behind a gas station in the 1300 block of W. University Avenue, reported the Star Tribune.

"As God is my witness: I am innocent. There is no way I would rape a girl who looks like a man," Miller said to Nathanson in court, according to the Star Tribune.

Police officers suspended over UC Davis pepper spraying

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by Sarah Harper

Two campus police officers at the University of California, Davis, have gone on administrative leave after they were caught on video using pepper spray on Occupy protesters, the school announced Sunday.

Students began calling for the resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi after the incident on Friday, after which two students were sent to the hospital and ten were sent to jail, according to ABC News.

Katehi, who initially supported the police, said she takes full responsibility for the incident, in which police sprayed protesters sitting on the quad with pepper spray.

Outrage over the incident exploded after video of the incident went viral Saturday, according to the International Business Times.

Students sat in silence as Katehi walked from a school building to her car to go home Saturday evening, in what has been described as a public shaming of Katehi, according to the International Business Times.

Analysis: Numbers in a USA Today article

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by Sarah Harper

Steven Reinberg, who wrote the USA Today article "Most smokers want to quit, CDC report finds", used numbers to tell the story.

However, the numbers are overwhelming in this story. Reinberg puts two numbers in the lead. He did not digest numbers for greater reader understanding -- no math was done to crunch the numbers.

Reinberg could have done several things to make this easier for the reader. He could have used less numbers, he could have rounded the numbers instead of using figures like "48.3 percent," and he could have used numbers in terms of their relations to each other.

Reinberg got his numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not only does he mention this in the headline, he includes a link to the study and informs the reader of which issue the numbers were in.

Australians bust cocaine operation

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by Sarah Harper

After a nine month investigation, the Australian Federal Police have seized 660 pounds of cocaine from a yacht in Bundaberg, Australis and upward of $3.5 million in cash in Sydney on Friday.

Police arrested four Spanish nationals on the charge of running the drug operation, reported the Washington Post.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the cocaine seized would have sold for more than $78 million.

This was the fifth-largest cocaine seizure in Australian history, according to the Washington Post.

Kevin Zuccato, AFP's assistant commissioner, said one of the people arrested may be a kingpin in the international crime operation.

Minneapolis police investigate 17 fires

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by Sarah Harper

Seventeen fires were set in a south Minneapolis neighborhood over four hours Friday night, authorities said.

Garages, vehicles and bags of leaves were set ablaze between 8:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. in the area whose borders are West River Parkway, Snelling Avenue South, 32nd Street East and 45th Street East, reported KSTP-TV.

Most of the fires were sparked with leaves, according to the Star Tribune.

No arrests had been made late Saturday, reported the Star Tribune. KSTP reported that the Minneapolis Arson Squad is investigating the fires.

Police suspect arsonists were responsible for the Longfellow neighborhood fires. Forty Minneapolis police officers in 20 squad cars came to the area to search for suspects, according to the Star Tribune.

University of Minnesota lion research

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by Sarah Harper

An ecology professor at the University of Minnesota who wants to share millions of images of lions in Tanzania turned to "crowdfunding."

Craig Packer has been funded mostly by the National Science Foundation. To get the rest of the money, Packer relies on the public to make small donations through the SciFund Challenge online, reported the Minnesota Daily.

Packer set up more than 200 cameras in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. He wants to send the lion pictures back to the University, but can't because of a lack of internet access at the research station, according to the Star Tribune.

Researchers at the University have been doing research on lions for more than 45 years.

The images of the lions at Serengeti National Park will help scientists understand more about how they behave with each other, according to the Minnesota Daily.

Packer hopes that the public becomes excited about the project.


(Note: the Star Tribune story and the Minnesota Daily were written slightly differently, but the Star Tribune's did not contain any original reporting.)

by Sarah Harper

The mayor of Utah's second largest city revealed this week that he wrote positive articles about his town under an alias.

Mike Winder said that he needed to balance the negative crime coverage of West Valley City, Utah, reported the Associated Press.

Winder used the name Richard Burwash. He used a picture of a Peter Burwash, the president of a tennis management company who lives in Carmel, Calif., according to ABC 4 News of Salt Lake City.

ABC 4 News reported that Burwash is disturbed by Winder's unethical behavior. Winder apologized to Burwash Saturday and donated to a charity in India that the Burwash family runs.

According to the AP, Winder quoted himself in his freelance articles for Deseret News, KSL-TV's website and a community weekly.

"I was an easy source," Winder said.

Mario Monti named Italian prime minister in crisis

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by Sarah Harper

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi resigned Saturday, and economist Mario Monti was named prime minister Sunday in Rome.

The Washington Post reported that Monti, 68, is a former university president and European commissioner. He now has the task of uniting Italy's feuding political parties.

The president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, chose Monti after meeting with political leaders, according to the New York Times.

Monti told reporters in Rome that he would form a new government.

Berlusconi hinted that he would eventually attempt to come back to the position in a video message to the nation, reported the Washington Post.

Analysis: New York Times Obituary of Jimmy Savile

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by Sarah Harper

The New York Times' obituary for TV personality Jimmy Savile follows the tradition of the standard obituary lead. However, the reporter added flavor to the lead's description of Savile, writing that he was "an acclaimed English television host whose dress, hair and verbal flummery made all other comers in a nation renowned for eccentrics look like Puritans."

The lead's description went beyond simplicity, but it maintained the same standard style. It worked because it matched Savile's personality - as a TV host, Savile's personality was the cornerstone of his personal brand.

After the lead, the writer strayed from standard style. The writer described the cause of death in three paragraphs instead of the traditional single paragraph. Again, this served to inject anecdotal evidence of Savile's sense of humor into the obituary.

No paragraph begins in the traditional, "(Full name) was born on (date of birth,)" style, but a section on the chronology of his life follows a section outlining his various claims to fame.

The obit differs from a resume in that the writer injects quotes and anecdotes that are not necessarily related to Savile's work life. Rather than be a rote account of Savile's accomplishments and personal history, this obituary is a colorful character sketch. The result is an obituary that pays tribute to Savile's unique life and personality in an in-depth way.

Maplewood police warn residents after abduction attempt

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by Sarah Harper

A 12-year-old girl walking home from school Wednesday was asked to get in an unknown man's large, white van in Maplewood, Minn., police said.

Maplewood police are warning residents to look out for the man who got out of the van on Manton Street near Robinhood Park at around 2:30 p.m. and asked the girl to get in, reported the Pioneer Press.

The Star Tribune reported that the girl ran to the Gladstone Community Center about a block away. The man drove after her but turned around.

The man was described as a thin white man with light-colored hair who is about 6 feet tall, according to the Star Tribune.

The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press provided the following instructions for anyone with information: call Maplewood police during business hours at 651-249-2600 and after hours, call the Ramsey County Emergency Communications Center at 651-767-0640.

Tibetan nun dies by self-immolation

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by Sarah Harper

In the 11th case of self-immolation in recent months, a Bhuddist nun set herself on fire and died Thursday in China's southwest Sichuan province, Chinese state media reported.

Qui Xiang, 35, was the second nun in the ethnically Tibetan region to die from self-immolation, according to the New York Times.

Xiang, whose Tibetan name is Palden Choetso, was protesting Chinese restrictions when she set herself on fire in Ganzi Prefecture.

Also known as Kardze to Tibetans, the Ganzi Prefecture is the site of several important monasteries that have come under strict Chinese rule in recent months, according to the New York Times.

The Associated Press reported that the official Xinhua News Agency said the reason for Xiang's death is unclear. Xinhua reported that local government is investigating the case.

Tibetan people have been illegally demonstrating against Chinese policy since June, according to the New York Times.

Texas judge will not face charges

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by Sarah Harper

A Texas judge who was filmed beating his daughter may not face charges because too much time has elapsed, police said Thursday; however, the U.S. Attorney's Office is investigating.

A videotape shows Texas judge William Adams lashing his teenage daughter with a belt in 2004, reported NPR.

Hillary Adams, now 23, posted the video online. She secretly taped the beating when she was 16 years old.

The Associated Press reported that the family law judge regularly presides over child abuse hearings. For the next two weeks, he will not hear cases about Child Protective Services, confirmed county officials.

Occupy MN restricted by winterization

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by Sarah Harper

In light of winter's approach, officials put new restrictions on protesters at the government plaza in downtown Minneapolis Friday.

Hennepin County Officials announced Wednesday that crews will begin winterizing the plaza, where protesters have been camping out for 26 days as part of the national Occupy Wall Street movement, reported KSTP.

Protesters will not be allowed to sleep overnight once temperatures fall below 25 degrees or significant amount of snow falls, according to Fox 9 News.

The number of portable toilets in the plaza will be reduced from seven to three and the signs that protesters have put up will have to be taken down.

KSTP reported that the water in the plaza will be shut off.

Fox 9 News reported that protesters said their rights are being violated by the county's restrictions.


Graduation rates fall in Illinois

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by Sarah Harper

Graduation rates have fallen in Illinois, according to annual report cards released Monday.

This is due to a change in how Illinois calculates its graduation rate. The new formula follows federal guidelines, according to WBEZ.

The Annual School Report Card data showed that about 75 percent of high schools in the state experienced drops in graduation rates, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Where almost 100 high schools experienced graduation rates of 100 percent last year, only 18 high schools - including Chicago's Northside College Preparatory High School - experienced graduation rates of 100 percent this year.

The new testing formula is more honest, said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. WBEZ reported that last year some high schools had let low-performing juniors skip testing. The state has closed that loophole.

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