December 10, 2007

A Story I Reported... Light Rail Coming Through the 'U'

This is a story I reported for my news writing and reporting class at the University of Minnesota. The story focuses on the central corridor light-rail line that will be built between Minneapolis and St. Paul, running through the university along its way.

The issue is concerning the exact path the trains will take through the university: above ground or below ground in a tunnel.

Both options have their pros and cons, and I learned a lot about each while reporting the story.

Along with financial issues (the tunnel would cost a significant amount of the total cost of the project), the safety of students moving around campus, as well as traffic concerns, were also raised while doing the reporting.

I contacted the projects communications director as well as the director for the Center for Transportation Studies at the university, as well as using information available on the project's web site.

While the university's official position is for the train to run below ground, interesting points were brought up by the people I interviewed as to why it might actually be beneficial for the train to run above ground on Washington Avenue. Below is the article.

Continue reading "A Story I Reported... Light Rail Coming Through the 'U'" »

NWA to Offer MSP to Heathrow Service

This one from the business world:

The Star Tribune is reporting that Northwest Airlines has announced that it will begin nonstop service between Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and London's Heathrow Airport in late March.

Currently, the only non-stop service to London that NWA offers is to Gatwick Airport, but Heathrow is preferred as it is closer to central London.

Along with non-stop service from MSP, it will also add daily service to Heatrow from both Detroit and Seattle.

The article says all of this is possible because the European Union has lifted restrictions that used to limit the number of planes that could fly between Europe and the United States.

The flight to Heathrow from MSP will replace the current flight to Gatwick, and the flights are already available for sale.

The article also reports that in NWA will also be adding non-stop service between MSP and Paris in April.

NWA to Offer MSP to Heathrow Service

This one from the business world:

The Star Tribune is reporting that Northwest Airlines has announced that it will begin nonstop service between Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and London's Heathrow Airport in late March.

Currently, the only non-stop service to London that NWA offers is to Gatwick Airport, but Heathrow is preferred as it is closer to central London.

Along with non-stop service from MSP, it will also add daily service to Heatrow from both Detroit and Seattle.

The article says all of this is possible because the European Union has lifted restrictions that used to limit the number of planes that could fly between Europe and the United States.

The flight to Heathrow from MSP will replace the current flight to Gatwick, and the flights are already available for sale.

The article also reports that in NWA will also be adding non-stop service between MSP and Paris in April.

Five Charged in Mortgage Fraud Scheme

The Star Tribune is reporting that the owner of a mortgage brokerage and four other employees have been charged with swindling and theft in "an alleged mortgage fraud scheme."

The article cites the Hennepin County Attorney's Office as saying that the employees at Universal Mortgage Inc., which is based in Brooklyn Park, were performing an act called "mortgage flipping," which, according to the article, involves buying and selling residential property at rigged prices.

The article also shows how the reporter tried to contact people at Universal Mortgage, getting hung up on and leaving messages that were never returned.

The article also uses the criminal complaint which states that employee's lured in people who they called "straw buyers" to buy homes owned by the mortgage company at inflated prices.

Edina Man Gets 25 1/2 Years In Prison

The Pioneer Press is reporting that an Edina man charged with the rape of a Lakeville woman will get 25 1/2 years in prison.

The man, Chad Grampre, 23, was ordered to serve an additional 10 years on conditional release after his prison term and to also be registered as a sex offender.

The article says that Grampre entered the woman's house on April 4th and raped her while holding a knife to her throat. The Pioneer Press states that it got this information from the criminal complaint.

The article also says that Grampre's family casually knew the family of the victim.

iPod Use Cause of Fatal Car Accident

The Star Tribune is reporting that the State Patrol has concluded that a car crash on Sept. 21 that killed two Minnetonka High School seniors was caused by "the driver's distracting iPod use," as well as the fact that rear seat belts were not used.

The only survivor of the crash, Mitchell Grengs, the cousin of the driver, Kylie Grayden, said that Grayden had been on her cell phone and was playing around with her iPod music moments before the crash. The car went off the road and rolled, killing Grayden and her friend Kelly Phillips, both 17-years-old.

Grengs, who was seriously injured, said that Grayden had been wearing her seatbelt, but the shoulder strap was behind her body at the time of the crash.

Even though Grayden's shoulder strap was behind her, the article states that authorities believe even with proper seat belt use, she still would have been killed from her injuries.

November 18, 2007

Wisconsin Officials Accused of Violating Open Meetings Law

Five members of the Polk County Board of Supervisors' finance committee were charged Friday for violating Wisconsin's open meetings law, according to the Pioneer Press.

The committee was accused to holding a meeting about the sale of a nursing home, Golden Age Manor, without notifying the residents.

The county nursing home is a topic of great interest in the county, and the dispute comes from an Aug. 16 meeting of the committee when a citizen complained about the discussion and turned the findings over to special prosecutor Tim Laux.

The committee's head said that "we didn't do anything wrong," claiming that it was a matter of the budget and they had the right to discuss it.

Two Sorority Women Hit By Car, One Dead

Two students at Minnesota State University Mankato were hit by a car early Sunday in Mankato, killing one of them, according to the Star Tribune.

According to the article, one of the women was lying in the road with the other woman trying to help her when the car, driven by a 17-year-old who's identity has not been released, hit them.

Both women were transported to Immanuel St. Joseph Hospital in Mankato where one was pronounced dead on the scene. The other woman was injured.

The students were leaving a sorority gathering and were walking down the street when the car struck them

The identities of the two women has not been released at this point.

November 12, 2007

Sex Abuse Court Cases Staggering

According to the Pioneer Press, the Ramsey County attorney's office charged 35 cases of criminal sexual conduct which involved juvenile victims and adult defendants who were wither relatives or had relationships with family members last year.

The article goes on to break down the numbers, saying that 23 of the defendants pleaded guilty and four were convicted by juries.

What is also interesting is that three defendants had disappeared in such cases.

58 percent of the child-sex cases filed by Hennepin County involved victims who were 16 -years-old or younger.

November 11, 2007

Motorcycle Accident kills St. Paul Man

According to the Star Tribune, a motorcycle accident in Pierce County, Wis has killed a St. Paul resident and left another man from St. Paul injured Sunday.

Michael Bartel, 34. was near Prescott. Wis., when his motorcycle hit a guardrail, throwing him off of the bike.

He died in the ambulance according to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

The other man, Ronald Espinoza, 32, was riding behind Bartel and lost control of his motorcycle. He was also thrown from his bike, but survived the trip to a River Falls Area Hospital.

According to the Sheriff's Department, the two men were not wearing helmets.

November 5, 2007

Bicyclist Killed over $40

The Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune are both reporting that a 23-year-old man has been arrested in the death of Mark Loesch.

Donald Eugene Jackson was arrested on Friday for the crime, in which only $40 dollars was taken from Loesch. Jackson contends that he was with another man selling drugs when Loesch approached them on his bike, and that the man that Jackson was with was the one that killed Loesch.

According to the Star Tribune, police say the crime was not random.

Jackson is being held in Hennepin County Jail instead of offering him a $1 million bail.

Machete-Armed Man Chases Two at Gas Station

An article on the Pioneer Press online says that a man chased two people at a gas station on Saturday in St. Paul's Payne-Phalen neighborhood.

According to St. Pau, police spokesman Tom Walsh, a man got out of his car at a SuperAmerica station in the St. Paul neighborhood and asked two people "What are you looking at?"

After that, the man took a machete out of his trunk and chased the two people. What is not known is if there was provocation by the two people who were chased, according to Walsh.

One of the men being chased locked himself in the bathroom of the gas station. The other man who was the suspect ran away before police arrived. There have been no arrests made.

October 30, 2007

Craigslist Killer Bail Set

The Pioneer Press is reporting that a 19-year-old man from Savage has been charged in the murder of Katherine Ann Olson, whom he lured to his home using a baby-sitting ad on Craigslist.

The bail has been set at $1 million for Michael John Anderson, with the first court apperance set for Nov. 16

According to the article, police are saying that Olson went to the home of Anderson where he lives with his parents expecting a married couple who had just moved to the Twin Cities which is what the ad said.

Police say Anderson shot Olson in the back, put her in the trunk of her own car and left it parked at a nature preserve in Burnsville. Police also discovered a shell casing matching the bullet found in Olson in Anderson's room.

The current charge is 40 years in prison.

October 28, 2007

Meat Plant Sues Church for E. Coli

The Star Tribune is reporting that the Nebraska Beef Ltd. slaughterhouse is suing Salem Lutheran church in Longville, MN after a woman who ate the meat at the church died in 2006. The suit says that the cooks at the church were responsible for the state of the meet while preparing meatballs in the kitchen.

The article says that there is no public record available that names Nebraska Beef as the source of the contamination, and the reason for such is that the USDA does not name the source of contamination in such cases.

The only reason the USDA would name a specific meat plant is if the plant has issued a recall or if the agency itself found violations in the way the meat is processed.

This will still be a hard case to prove, as a federal inspector found E. coli at a Nebraska Beef plant and took samples to send to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Samples of E. coli were also taken from the meat and the victims from the church, which matched the bacteria found at the beef plant.

October 21, 2007

Woman Arrested on Suspicion of Drunk Driving in Inver Grove Heights

According to the police calls reported by The Pioneer Press, a 36-year-old woman was pulled over after reports of her vehicle passing cars on the median of highway 52 and 494 were received. Police later found the car stuck on railroad tracks in Inver Grove Heights, and as police approached, the woman tried to reverse the car off of the tracks.

Instead, she ended up in a ditch, and when police questioned her as to her driving, she told them she thought she could park on the tracks. The woman was arrested after police found a nearly empty bottle of vodka in the car.