March 6, 2008

'Merchant of Death' arrested in Thailand

The arms dealer that is thought to have supplied Al Qaeda and current African civil wars with ammunitions was arrested in Bangkok on Thursday, reported the New York Times.

U.S. D.E.A. agents concluded a years-long investigation that spanned the globe on with Victor Bout's arrest. Agents posed as FARC rebels looking to buy weapons in order to secure enough information for Bout's arrest.

Bout, 41, is a Russian arms dealer who formerly served in the Soviet Air Force. His notorious reputation is based on United Nations intelligence citing him as the leader of the largest arms-smuggling operations in the world.

"Today’s arrest marks the culmination of a long term D.E.A. undercover investigation that spanned the globe," Michael J. Garcia, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York said. "It marks the end of the reign of one of the world’s most wanted arms traffickers."

The BBC reported Thursday that Bout was dubbed the "merchant of death" for allegedly supplying warring parties in Angola and Sierra Leone, and is believed to have inspired Nicolas Cage's character in the 2005 film Lord of War.

March 3, 2008

Ford to close St. Paul plant

Ford will close it's St. Paul auto plant in Sept. 2009 union officials announced Monday.

The plant was originally scheduled to close this year, but demand for the Ranger went up. The Ranger is the only vehicle made at the St. Paul plant and much of the demand for the small trucks was coming from Canada because of the decreasing value of the U.S. dollar, the Star Tribune reported Monday.

In contrast with most other automakers, Ford actually had a rise in sales in February. The Ranger was selling 27 percent more than a year ago, but Ford's overall sales slipped 6.9 percent in February. GM's light-vehicle sales dropped 12.9 percent and Chrysler was down 14 percent.

"Primarily it's driven by the weak economy,'' said Mirko Mikelic, who helps manage $22 billion at Fifth Third Asset Management in Grand Rapids, Mich. "It's been difficult for people to refinance and get credit.''

March 2, 2008

Tense relations in South America after FARC rebel's death

The death of a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia commander this week has escalated regional discord.

Columbia's Defense Ministry announced Saturday that Raúl Reyes, a senior commander of the rebel group FARC, was killed in combat on the Columbia-Ecuador borderreported the New York Times.

Venezuela has closed it's Columbian embassy and President Hugo Chavez is sending tanks and troops to the border with Columbia. Ecuador has called it's ambassador back from Coumbia's capital city Bogotá.

“This is the most important strike yet delivered against this terrorist group,? Columbian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said to reporters at a news conference in Bogotá.

Three Twin Cities shooting deaths in 24 hours

Four people were shot and three were killed in three separate incidents this weekend, the Star Tribune reported Sunday.

One woman was killed and another hospitalized early Sunday morning in Minneapolis reported the Pioneer Press. A 28-year-old man was arrested in connection with the incident and is being held at the Hennepin County Jail, the police told the Star Tribune. None of these people were identified by Sunday night.

Around 6 p.m. on Saturday Gustavo Ortega, 18, of Bloomington, was killed in a drive by shooting in Richfield. The Star Tribune reported that police were investigating leads in the case.

A juvenile whose identity was not released was also killed Saturday around 2 p.m. in Minneapolis. There have been no arrests in the case and police are investigating whether the shooting is connected with the Richfield drive by.

February 25, 2008

Teen raises thousands for refugees

A 17-year-old 17,Central High School senior has donated more than $13,000 to an organization that cares for refugees in Lebanon, the Pioneer Press reported Sunday.

Daniel Chahla of Merriam Park runs an online computer repair service called First-VM (accessible at firstvm.com) in the time he has in between homework and college applications.

During a 2006 trip to Lebanon, where his parents were born, Chahla saw the poverty and chaos of the war-torn nation. According to the Pioneer Press, Hezbollah attacks flared while the St. Paul high school student and his sister were there, and they had to be evacuated by a U.S. military helicopter to a battleship in the Mediterranean Sea.

"It hit home," he said. "I wanted to do something."

Chahla was awarded $20,000 recently as a Horatio Alger national scholar for his commitment to serving others. He was also named a distinguished finalist for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, which salutes volunteers.

Kenya talks stall

Opposition leader Raila Odinga walked out of talks on Thursday meant to reach a power-sharing agreement with new president Mwai Kibaki, the BBC reported Monday.

Kofi Annan stepped in to mediate talks between the new government and the opposition party but Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement Party are threatening to instigate mass protests if a deal is not reached.

"On many of the issues that are outstanding, we are unable to agree," a spokesman for the ODM told the BBC. Odinga and the ODM insist that the presidency was stolen from him in December elections by rival Kibaki.

The proposed agreement introduces a new position of prime minister for Odinga but the specifics are not know.

Since the political upheaval began, the BBC reports that "police have increased their estimate of the death toll... and now say at least 1,500 have died. Another 300,000 others were displaced in the violence following the 27 December poll."

Did Molnau benefit from helping Hwy. 212?

in 2000, Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau authored and helped pass a bill that put Hwy. 212 within a mile of real estate she then sold for $3.3 million, the Star Tribune reported on Saturday.

Molnau, the then-chairwoman of the House Transportation Finance Committee, did not share the proximity of her land to anyone while the bill was in passage. Eight days after the bill was passed, she and her husband sold the property for "six times its estimated market value" to developer Pulte Homes of Minnesota, according to the Star Tribune.

She did not reveal her dealings with develpers because she "believed the legislation would have no effect on her property value or benefit her financially. She said ongoing development surrounding her property was the driving force behind the increasing value of her land."

On Follow Stories

The Star Tribune's Sunday follow to their Saturday article on Kosovo is a lot more in-depth and has quite a bit of human interest, telling the stories of some of Kosovo's residents. The Saturday article, titled 'Kosovo is ours!' Serbs attack U.N. police was a matter-of-fact story on events that occurred on Friday.

The lead in the Sunday story, titled Kosovo: The real problem of independence may be unrealistic expectations, is the story of a Kosovar woman living off charity and thinking that the region's problems will be relieved by independence. This leads to a rather in-depth story and discussion of the Kosovar people and the attitude they have towards independence.

So, the main news in Saturday's article was simply what had happened the previous day; angry Serbs denouncing Kosovo's independence, and the main news for Sunday's article was what people have come to believe in Kosovo regarding the independence and how that is effecting current events.

The second story advances the news by providing the world a view into the lives of Kosovars, and how that is affecting the move towards independence. The two articles provide information about the two main parties involved, the Serbs and the Kosovars and the stances either party has.

The fact that the follow up is from the Washington Post is a reason for the departure in reporting styles and issues covered. The Saturday article was from the AP, and reflects the organization's devotion to straight-forward news. The Sunday article is longer and more eloquent. I believe the news coming from both articles is equally relevant.

Clinton slams Obama's mail

Hillary Clinton accused rival Barack Obama of "deliberately misrepresenting her positions" to voters in recent mailings, according to USA TODAY.

One mass mailing puts a negative light on Clinton's purported support for NAFTA and the other criticizes her health care plan. The two were sent out over the past several days and have outraged Clinton's advisers.

According to the New York Times blog "The Caucus" on Sunday, Clinton seemed angry and then sarcastic at a rally in Providence, R.I. when denouncing Obama.

"Meet me in Ohio," [Clinton] said. "Let's have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign." The two are scheduled to debate next Tuesday in Cleveland
, reported USA TODAY.

February 18, 2008

Study shows less Minnesotans interested in nature

According to a study connected with the Minnesota DNR, fewer people are spending time outdoors the Pioneer Press reported Sunday.

The Star Tribune also reported on the issue Feb. 10, attributing the cause of the dwindling numbers of outdoors-people to "people -- especially kids -- may be spending more leisure time with computers, televisions and other electronics."

The study, which the Star Tribune accredited to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that the percentage of people recreating outdoors has gone down in the past then years. "From 1996 to 2006, per capita angling was down 16 percent, hunting was down 9 percent and park visitation was down 10 percent."

This trend could mean trouble for parks and wildlife and the people who make their living conserving natural settings, but compared with the rest of the nation, in Minnesota the outdoors are used more frequently.

On Structure

On Sunday, the BBC published the article "Kosovo MPs proclaim independence."

The article is a long and complicated one; the situation in Kosovo is not a simple thing and the events that followed the proclamation of independence varied from heartwarming to frightening. Nonetheless, I think that the article could've been organized a little differently.

The story starts off with the politicking that was involved, moves to the celebrations after the official announcement and then goes to the subsequent violence and protest. While I do think that the celebrations were very important, I believe that the riots and violence should have been placed first. They illustrate the political climate in Kosovo- if the reader would've stopped reading after the festivities, they would not know the seriousness of the situation, and therefore the most essential facts would not have been conveyed.

I think the story is organized more by chronology than by importance. This could be because it is an online, on-going article that receives new information each day. Overall it is effective, because it goes into some depth about the conflicts involved and the incidents that occurred. But I think that the most serious information should have been reflected first in the priority of the news placement and second in the treatment of the subject matter.

February 9, 2008

On Attribution

In the Star Tribune's Feb. 8 article U's tuition expected to surpass 10-grand, there appear to be six sources that come into play.

The first one seems to be the reporter, assuming that he did, in fact, attend University President Robert Bruininks's presentation Friday to the Board of Regents. The second and third sources are Anthony West and David Holt, two biomedical engineering students from somewhere on campus. The fourth is written as "University officials," but the quote directly below attributes only one person, Regent Anthony Baraga. I'm not sure if this is two sources or one. The last source is Bruininks himself, although I'm not sure whether or not he said these things in the presentation or in a separate interview.

The sources are scattered throughout the article, with characters disappearing and appearing again (Bruininks, West). It appears that the reporter is perhaps treating Bruininks's presentation differently from his direct quotes, since they are so split up (at the opposite ends of the article) and because they seem to have almost a different attitude.

Most or all of the information seems to come directly from people, as no documents are listed. I'm not sure whether or not a "presentation" is a source directly from the person speaking or from the institution they are speaking on behalf of.

Overall, the distribution of sources is pretty effective but doesn't make one hundred percent sense. The tuition hike is a relatively complex issue so the quotes and explanations make sense in the order they're in, for the reader's sake of understanding the issue. But the fact the "University officials largely attribute" is not really attributed to anyone and also the that Bruininks appears several times in different roles split up over the whole article making it seem slightly jumbled.

Hollywood and writers may be reconciled

Writers and union leaders are rumored to have reached an agreement that will end the strike and discord with studio executives and TV producers, the LA Times reported Friday.

The writers, members of the Writers Guild of America, have been on strike for the past three months, refusing to write and produce. The absence of the workers has brought Hollywood to a halt, from the absence of comedy writers on shows like "The Daily Show with John Stewart" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" to the cancellation of the Golden Globes last month.

The New York Times reported that "a breakthrough was reached last Friday on key issues of paying film and TV writers for work distributed over the Internet, and the two sides have been busy since then fine-tuning contract language."

This could mean that America's favorite shows- "The Office," "CSI," "Grey's Anatomy," "House" could return with new shows as early as April. The agreement would also resume a number of film projects that have been on hold for months.

Hate crime may be behind Blaine arson

A fire at a dairy store in Blaine on last month was an arson and a possible hate crime, the Star Tribune reported Friday.

At around 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 27, three men entered the store and set it on fire. The owner suffered minor burns and cuts. None of the men have been identified or apprehended so far.

A police report said that "an expletive directed to an "Arab" was found spray-painted on the west wall of the building" after the fire. The Star Tribune reported that the police believe the store owner is "Muslim or of Arab descent."

The Blaine police department and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are investigating whether the incident will be considered a hate crime. The classification of the crime will determine how the suspects, once apprehended, will be tried.

February 8, 2008

Chadians under curfew after violence

Chad was placed under a curfew Thursday after rebel attacks that killed at least 100, reported the BBC.

The government-imposed curfew is for the capital, Ndjamena, and six provinces in the east and south.

Despite fears of more rebel attacks, life began to return to normal on Thursday, reported the New York Times, after an attempted coup and subsequent violence last weekend.

Tens of thousands of Darfur refugees and Chadians displaced by the violence remain in need of supplies and medicine.