March 2012 Archives

Cats Really Do Always Land on Their Feet

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A Boston cat named Sugar fell 19 stories last Wednesday and walked right back to her building.

Owner Brittany Kirk, 32, told the Associated Press that Sugar used up "one or two or maybe eight" of her nine lives.

Sugar survived by splaying her limbs out like a flying squirrel.

"Instead of, you know, being scared and just running out into traffic, she somehow hit the best spot and stayed near the building," Mike Brammer, an assistant manager at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, told MSNBC. "So it was very fortuitous on many different levels."

"I was definitely relieved and kind of in disbelief," Kirk told MSNBC, "if there were a cat to fall 19 stories and to be fine, I think it would definitely be Sugar, because she's a pretty special cat."

The Gophers men's basketball team lacked energy in the second half of the NIT championship game and lost to Stanford 75-51 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, the Minnesota Daily reported.

"Those guys, they just had it going out there tonight," Rodney Williams, Minnesota forward, told the Minnesota Daily. "We definitely had some lapses on defense but we were right there in their face and they made some tough shots."

This loss ended the Gophers' 23-15 season. They were the sixth seed for the NIT, and they came into the championship winning six of their last seven games, according to The New York Times.

The Gophers won't let this loss get them down, though.

"We would be foolish just to go into next season thinking about this one game," Andre Hollins, freshman point guard, told the Minnesota Daily. "We have come along as a team throughout this year ... I think this tournament helped us a lot."

World leaders are skeptical whether the Syrian government will adhere to the U.N.'s six-point plan, but it at least agreed to it on Tuesday, The Guardian reported.

The U.N. released its estimates that the death toll in Syria had reached 9,000 in the past year on Monday, according to The Guardian.

"This cannot be allowed to drag on indefinitely," CNN reported United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan said on Monday. "As I have told the parties on the ground, they cannot resist the transformational winds that are blowing. They have to accept that reforms have to come, change has to come, and that is the only way to deal with the situation."

Annan is the author of the U.N.'s plan, which will mainly require the Syrian government to "commit to stop the fighting," "ensure timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting," "ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists," and "respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed," according to the U.N. Security Council document.

Will the Syrian government follow these provisions? "We will continue to judge the Syrian regime by its practical actions not by its often empty words," Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague told The Guardian.

Supreme Court Hears Second Day of Health Care Case

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The Supreme Court extended the arguments for the health care case to be the longest in 45 years, ABC News reported. Twenty-six states are part of the lawsuit against the health care law.

The law itself is over 1,000 pages long, and the justices will hear three days of oral arguments on it. The second day of arguments featured the more conservative justices dominating the arguments.

"Could you define the market -- everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli," Justice Antonin Scalia said, according to Tuesday's transcript.

The proponents of the law have their main argument as follows: "For most Americans, for more than 80 percent of Americans, the insurance system does provide effective access," Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. said, according to Tuesday's transcript.

They will have one more day of oral arguments on Wednesday, and then the justices will release their decision sometime in late June, The Atlantic Wire reported.

University of Minnesota graduate student workers voted against forming a union under the Graduate Student Workers United/United Auto Workers Union for the fourth time since 1990, the Star Tribune reported.

The Bureau of Mediation Services released the results Monday, which showed 62 percent voted no, according to the Minnesota Daily.

"We were pretty confident going into the election and during the election that we'd come out on top," GSWU/UAW spokesman Scott Thaller told the Minnesota Daily. The turnout for the election was comparatively speaking a good one, with 68 percent of the graduate student workers voting.

"I hope that the people who are unhappy and perhaps feel that they are being taken advantage of can figure out a way to change internal policies of their department or graduate program," associate professor of microbiology Jeffrey Gralnick told the Star Tribune, "rather than try to change the entire graduate student body."

Gee Willikers, Batman!

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Holy helpful, Batman, what are you doing in Brazil?

He's not really Batman, though the kids believe he is. Retired police officer Andre Luiz Pinheiro, 50, dressed up in a full Batman costume to teach schoolchildren about the dangers of drug trafficking in Taubate, Brazil, The Telegraph reported.

"I will not actually battle crime," Pinheiro told BBC News. "But I do think I am fighting crime in a preventive way, by helping these children to avoid becoming criminals. This is my job, this is my battle."

The Taubate police applaud his effort. "Police act in favor of good and the state works in favor of good through the police," The Telegraph reported police captain Warley Takeo said, "and since Batman is also a character who works in favor of good, we decided to join efforts to prevent children from becoming criminals."

Lawrence Brown co-founded the Minneapolis Ronald McDonald House, fought in a segregated unit in World War II and donated his body to science after he died March 14, the Star Tribune reported.

Brown held many different jobs over the years, the Star Tribune reported, from assistant football coach at Minneapolis North High School to establishing a tax-withholding system in Uganda.

His most loved role, however, was "Papa," according to the Star Tribune.

Among 89 other descriptions in a list that Brown's children and grandchildren gave him on his 90th birthday, No. 78 read, "Believer in people."

Brown is survived by his wife, Jo, and his two children, Kevin and Janine.

French authorities still had Mohammed Merah, 23, under siege at his apartment in Toulouse late Wednesday night. He allegedly killed seven people, including a Rabbi, three Jewish children and three French soldiers, in the name of jihad.

Merah told news channel France 24 that he was fighting against France's involvement in the war in Afghanistan, France's niqab (Muslim veil that covers everything but the eyes) ban, and for the "deaths of Palestinian children," The Guardian reported.

Born and raised in Toulouse, Merah was arrested over 10 times for petty crimes and travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan three times since 2007, according to The Washington Post. Upon his return from these trips, the Interior Ministry's Central Directorate for Domestic Intelligence put him under surveillance.

"His mother said she did not wish to speak to him because she did not believe she could convince him and he would be deaf to her appeals," The Irish Times reported French interior minister Claude Guéant said.

"I never had the impression that he was an individual radically different from the one I knew in the beginning," CNN reported Merah's former lawyer Christian Etelin said. "I always knew him as being someone very flexible in his behavior, courteous, polite, soft and certainly not rigid to the point of being led by a certain fanaticism."

What made Merah change? The answer to come when French authorities finally capture him, which they hope will be alive.

Showing a "little extra" is a Lot More

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Ryan Langston, 6 years old and a child model who has Down syndrome, brought his style to the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress' 28th annual conference on Saturday, which had the theme "Style Down Syndrome."

The theme came from a story written in GQ by John B. Thompson in 2011 that named Boston as the worst dressed city in the United States. "Boston suffers from a kind of Style Down Syndrome, where a little extra ends up ruining everything," Thompson wrote, which GQ has since changed.

The MDSC commented on inviting Langston as a Special Guest in a press release. "At our conference, we will officially take back what Style Down Syndrome really means: determination, integrity, hope, humor, and yes, style."

Langston has nationally starred in ads by Target and Nordstrom, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported.

When NBC Nightly News asked Langston in an interview at his home in Garwood, N.J. if he was a star, he replied, "Oh yeah!"

"We all want to see who's like us, and I think that they're no different than anybody else," Ryan's mom, Amanda Langston, told NBC Nightly News. "They want to see themselves included in the landscape that is, you know, our life."

The Guthrie Theater, the Metrodome and the Star Tribune are cultural staples of Minneapolis, and John Cowles Jr. had a hand in shaping all of them.

Cowles died of lung cancer on Saturday at the age of 82, the Star Tribune reported. The Cowles family owned a media empire that included the now Star Tribune for most of the 20th century, with Cowles becoming the editor of the morning Tribune and the evening Star in 1961, The New York Times reported.

During his time as editor of the Star Tribune, Cowles took strong editorial stances on supporting the arts, sports and civil rights. "He was always a person who fought for civility and reason and a sense of progress and caring in the community," former Vice President Walter Mondale told the Star Tribune. "He was never a person who wanted credit."

"Strengthening the cultural organization and life of the Twin Cities was not only going to make life more interesting and attractive for our families," Cowles told The New York Times in 2010, "but was going to attract business and keep business here in town, and it was going to be just plain good business."

After the Star Tribune's parent company, Cowles Media, ousted Cowles in 1983, the McClatchy Co. bought Cowles Media for $1.4 billion in 1998, according to the Star Tribune.

Cowles is survived by his wife of 60 years, Sage Fuller Cowles, two sons, one daughter, one stepdaughter, one sister, one brother, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, according to The New York Times. "His courage, deliberate style, wisdom and love of community were some of the special qualities that gave us all joy and will continue to be an influence in our lives," his family said in a statement.

A local professor of social work at Bemidji State University got the recognition she deserved as the 2012 inductee into the Northwest Minnesota Women's Hall of Fame at the BSU Beaux Arts Ballroom on Saturday.

Mary Ann Reitmeir, 63, has taught at BSU for three decades where she helped develop the woman's studies program, the criminal justice degree and the social work program. She was also a leader in the feminist movement of the 70s and 80s and has served as a community organizer or consultant for countless volunteer and social work organizations, according to the Northwest Minnesota Foundation's news release.

"Her mentorship was invaluable," Rosalie Weaver, a fellow professor of Reitmeir, told The Bemidji Pioneer. "She is the spark who has lit the aspirations for countless people."

Reitmeir also inspired her students to be all that they could be. "Mary Ann has this ability to believe in her students in a way that makes them believe in themselves," Rebecca Hoffman, a former student of Reitmeir, said as The Bemidji Pioneer reported.

A humble woman, when Reitmeir took the stage to give her acceptance speech, she had little to say but thank you to others.

"There were so many people who contributed," she said, but as another professor put it, Reitmeir was always the leader.

While shootings and riots erupted at other cities' festivities, the St. Paul St. Patrick's Day parade was more of a family affair that was violence-free in the unusually warm weather.

The St. Patrick's Association hosted the event that started at noon where thousands packed the streets and vuvuzela horns filled the air along Fifth Street between Seventh and Washington, the Pioneer Press reported.

The 2012 Miss Shamrock Alissa Kurke followed the grand marshals in the parade. "From my grandfather who was once suspended from De La Salle high school for dying his hair green on St. Patrick's Day, to my parents who would enthusiastically drink green beer any day of the week if we would let them, I was born to celebrate this holiday," Kurke said in her bio on the St. Patrick's Association website.

There were also two hockey games in St. Paul in addition to the parade, but free shuttle rides from local restaurants and Metro Transit reduced congestion and provided safe transportation for those who had a little too much green beer, Fox 9 reported.

The large crowd also produced more trash than in previous years, which workers were still cleaning up Sunday morning, according to KSTP.

But the cleanup was worth it, as the large crowd was a boost for local businesses that benefitted from the extra green.

Michelle Obama held a roundtable discussion with military families and heads of local military organizations that help military families on Friday to promote her Joining Forces initiative.

Nine people took part in the discussion with Obama that lasted 45 minutes, only part of which the media attended so that they could speak freely, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

"It is so important to shine a spotlight on the work that you all are doing and that's really what Joining Forces is all about," Obama said as she opened the discussion. "We know that we live in a grateful nation and that people, when asked, will step up on behalf of our families. But I know that you guys don't always do the asking, because first of all you're just trying to get through it, you're proud, you're brave."

The organizations in attendance, according to the Star Tribune, were Defending the Blue Line, which helps military kids afford to play hockey; Serving Our Troops, which brings families together for meals during deployments; the Armed Forces Service Center, which is an oasis for military families and personnel passing through the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport; and GreenCare for Troops, which offers free plowing and lawn care to military families.

Alex Homme, 13 years old and a star student from Crystal, was in attendance and his father, Erik Homme, is being deployed to Afghanistan on Sunday, the Pioneer Press reported.

"It's not easy doing what you do--keeping grades up, being on sports, and changing schools every few years and having a dad that's deploying," Obama told Alex. "That is not an easy thing to go through. And you should be proud of what you do for your family and what you do just to get through."

Free Speech or Hate Speech?

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The Afrikan Black Coalition invited controversial Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, 78, to their annual conference held at the University of California, Berkley on Saturday.

With over 300 students in attendance and more watching the speech via webcast, there were mixed reactions from the students and the UC administration because of his racist and radical comments made both in the past and in his speech.

"I believe the (Black Student Union) had every right to bring Farrakhan," ASUC Senator Noah Ickowitz told San Francisco Bay Area FOX affiliate KTVU as he passed out petitions against Farrakhan's appearance, "but we are hurt by Farrakhan's words."

Other students in attendance, including UC junior Mariah Cochran, were inspired by the speech. "In my opinion, (it) was mainly about black empowerment - focused on black students," she told The Daily Californian.

"A provocative, divisive figure with a long history of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic speech," is how UC President Mark Yudof described Farrakhan in a statement released Saturday. "But, as I have said before, we cannot, as a society or as a university community, be provoked by hurtful speech to retreat from the cherished value of free speech."

Farrakhan's initial message was not to be particularly racist, however. "All of you are being deceived by what you call education," he said. Whether black students are being deceived by educators with a hidden agenda or Farrakhan is deceiving them with radical statements is ultimately for the students to decide.

At 2:46 p.m. Sunday, the Japanese people paused for a moment of silence to honor the memories of those dead and still missing from the earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit at that same time a year ago.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, 54, and Emperor Akihito, 78, led an audience of around 1,200 people at the National Theater in Chiyoda Ward, according to The Japan Times. "We will stand by the disaster victims during these difficult times and work together to fulfill the historic mission of reinvigorating Japan through reconstruction," Noda said at the ceremony.
Over 15,000 people have died and over 3,000 are missing from the quake, according to BBC News Asia.
One of the people still missing is the sister of Toshiko Murakami, 70, whose seaside town of Rikuzentaka suffered great losses. "I can't find peace within myself," Murakami told the Associated Press.
Although it has been a year, there is still a lot to rebuild. In his address at the ceremony covered by the Wall Street Journal, Akihito said, "It's important that we don't forget the memories of this big earthquake and pass them on to our descendants so that readiness for natural disasters is fostered and we can make progress towards building a safer country."

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