November 2011 Archives

Duluth diffuser

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A Duluth News Tribune article describes what Tech. Sgt. Bill Williams does for the Wisconsin Air National Guard, as well as a few of his exploits in bomb diffusing in Afghanistan.
"The mortar was lying smack-dab in the middle of he dusty road," the story begins.
From there, back story on Williams is given before getting to the action of exploding the mortar with C-4 and a blasting cap, as well as taking enemy fire-and returning it.
Told from a third-person, past-tense perspective, the story effectively gives a snapshot of what Williams has done in his work in Explosive Ordinance Disposal.

An anecdote

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"The first thing you notice upon entering Mitigia Airport in Tripoli is a series of signs with the word "No" in capital letters next to illustrations of automatic weapons," begins a NY Times Magazine article by Daoud Kuttab.
The story, and indeed it is literally an anecdote, continues from there in a first-person narrative in which guns do not actually figure greatly.
The story is deficient in context, as well as in analysis.
There is no exploration of the whys or hows of what happens, just a simple recounting. There are no insights as to the functioning of the airport, or the larger context of the Libyan revolution.
The elements of scenery could be used to greater effect were they applied to a news story, but as they exist, they just set up the last line in what would be better suited for a cocktail party.

The penitent prisoner

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This story, from the LA Times, follows the trajectory of John Paul Madrona, a convicted murderer and devoted penitent at the California Medical facility, a prison near Sacramento, Calif.
The story weaves together bits of narrative about Madrona's life leading up his incarceration, his introduction into the hospice system of the prison where he has now worked for a couple of years and a recent inmate, 24-year-old Freddy Garcia.
The author, Kurt Streeter, paints Garcia for the reader: "The tattoos on his head glistened with sweat, but he puffed out his chest, trying to act tough," as well as describing, second hand, the account of the shooting that landed Madrona and a co-shooter in prison back in 1991: "Without pause, Madron and DeGuzman rasied handguns and fired rapidly. One bullet plowed into Takahashi's forehead."
Using bits of witnessed interaction, historical recreation and direct interview material allows Streeter to form a narrative arc sufficient to engage the reader to check back for the second part of the story, which will be printed Monday morning.
This is quality writing.

At the baby factory

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"Nearby were unpainted heads with staring eyeless sockets. And down on the desk beside them were their missing multicolored eyes."
This is how Edit International describes the workstation of Marco and Anna Valente, a Brazilian couple who live in South Florida producing what are known as reborn dolls-lifelike dolls for which a cult following exists.
The realistic qualities of the dolls draw couples that have lost or cannot have children, and even empty nesters. Many owners treat the dolls as if they were alive.
"'These dolls are a great substitute,'" Valente told Edit International.
The dolls are so lifelike, writes, that "they have resulted in passers-by breaking car windows on hot days amid fears they are real and could be in danger."

Romney, Gingrich gain ground

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Mitt Romney emerged as the frontrunner in the GOP primary races, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday.
Romney's rate rose from 27 percent to 32 percent, while Newt Gingrich also gained five points, moving from 17 percent to 22 percent, NY Daily News reports.
Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry's rate dropped from eight percent to four percent.
The Wall Street Journal reports that feelings for Perry from Republican interviewees shifted from 38 percent positive and 24 percent negative last week to 28 percent positive and 33 percent negative.
The results are derived from follow-up interviews with 102 of the 248 Republican voters surveyed last month by NBC/WSJ.

Poverty in the Philippines

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Rates of poverty amongst Filipino families rising, says Social Weather Stations survey released in late Oct.
Business World Online reports that 52 percent of households consider themselves poor, a jump from a reported 49 percent in June.
The 52 percent represent an estimated 10.4 million households, Business World Online said.
Hunger numbers have increased as well, the Manila Times writes, with about 4.3 million families nationwide--21.5 percent--experiencing having no food at some point in the last three months.
The hunger numbers come as a 6.4 percent increase, Business World Online reports--a rise of over 1.25 million families.
The results are projected from face-to-face interviews with 1,200 respondents nationally, with an error margin of +/-3 percent.

Closings for Christopher & Banks

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Women's clothing retailer Christopher & Banks Corp. is slated to close 100 of its retail outlets, they announced in a press release Friday.
The company currently operates 761 stores, CBS News reports. The 100 closures will mark a 13 percent reduction in their retail store presence.
The Star Tribune reports that in 2010, "Christopher & Banks said it lost $22.2 million, its largest ever annual loss."
According to the Star Tribune, these losses came from what executives described as a miscalculation of what their customers would accept in pricing.
In addition to their retail closures, about 7 percent of their corporate employees were laid off, said CBS News.

Same-sex stalemate

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In Minnesota, the debate over same-sex marriage continues to be deeply divisive, according to St. Cloud State University's annual statewide survey.
The Republic reports that 47 percent of the 626 randomly selected pollsters (294 people) do not support a state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, while 44 percent (275 people) do support it.
The results of the St. Cloud survey, which was conducted Oct. 16-27, transpose almost exactly the results of Star Tribune poll conducted Nov. 2-3.
The Star Tribune survey, which polled 807 Minnesotans, found 48 percent favor an amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman, while 43 percent oppose it--387 for, 347 against.
Both polls were conducted via telephone, with a margin of error of +/-5 percent in the St. Cloud survey and +/-4.4 percent in the Star Tribune's.

Bachman falling behind

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Michelle Bachman fell to 8 percent in the October Iowa Poll, USA Today reports, down from her 22 percent in the June survey. This means that she received 32 votes out of 400, as per the Des Moines Register's poll results.
This dramatic drop occurred as Herman Cain jumped up 13 percentage points from the June poll, putting him in the lead with 23 percent, or 92 of 400 votes.
Mitt Romney meanwhile maintained an even keel, dropping just one point since the June poll, from 23 to 22 percent.
Huffington Post reports the Register's results are consistent "with four other surveys of Iowa voters conducted in October."
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent, the Register reports.

Obituary: Andy Rooney

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Andy Rooney, long running commentator of CBS's "60 Minutes," died on Friday in New York City.
The New York Times cites a CBS News statement that said Rooney died from complications that followed a minor surgery. He was 92.
Rooney made his mark in television by opining on subjects from airlines to inaugurations, and earned three Emmys along the way, writes
In addition to his television work for CBS, reports the New York Times, he worked for PBS, wrote a syndicated newspaper column for 30 years and numerous books.
"Andy Rooney is among the finest storytellers of our generation," writes Gayle Lynn Falkenthal in the Washington Times.
He is survived by his four children; his wife, Marguerite, died in 2004.

Obituary: Swami Bhaktipada

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Swami Bhaktipada, who once led the American Hare Krishna movement, died in Thane, India, on Monday at the age of 74.
Bhaktipada, born Keith Ham in Peekskill, N.Y., in 1937, writes the Los Angeles Times, was the son of a Baptist preacher.
An early American disciple of Hare Krishna, he founded one of the largest Hare Krishna communities, West Virginia's New Vrindaban.
Later, convictions for racketeering and mail fraud would mar his name, and Bhaktipada spent eight years in prison. He was released in 2004, reports CBS News, and relocated to India in 2008.
According to the New York Times, Bhaktipada's brother, Gerald Ham, and sisters Joan Aughinbaugh and Shirley Rogers survive him.

Obituary: Ed Pauls of NordicTrack

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The inventor of the NordicTrack exercise system, Ed Pauls, died Sunday at his home in Montrose, Colo., at the age of 80.
He was born in Sheboygan, Wis., in 1931. In 1959, he and his wife Florence were married, and they moved to Excelsior, Minn.
An avid skier of all forms, Pauls invented the NordicTrack in his basement over an especially rough winter cross-country training season in the late 1970s, writes the Star Tribune.
After the company, headquartered in Chaska, Minn., grew to employ about 400 people, the Chaska Herald writes, the Pauls family sold it to the CML Group in 1986.
His wife, Florence; Son, Glen; daughter, Terri; and two grandchildren survive him.
The Star Tribune reports a celebration of Pauls' life will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, Minn. For those in Colorado, the Telluride Daily Planet reports the funeral is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Crippin Funeral Home at 802 East Main Street in Montrose.

Obituary: Dr. David Utz of Rochester.

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Dr. David C. Utz, distinguished urologist who for years worked at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., died last Sunday in his Scottsdale, Ariz. winter home. He was 87.
Born in 1923 in Rochester, Utz became a trailblazer in the field of urology, pioneering numerous techniques and creating the largest surgical prostate cancer database, according to
Some of Utz's more famous patients, the Star Tribune reports, included Billy Graham, former Chief Justice Warren Burger, and President Ronald Reagan.
Dr. Utz is survived by his three sons and one daughter; 15 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Services were held at noon, Saturday, at the Church of the Evangelist in Rochester.

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