November 11, 2007

Reporting Diversity

(I will analyze this story by the Star Tribune)

This story is a pretty strange one - it covers the fact that the President of Indonesia had recently released an album of so-called "schmaltzy pop songs." This story cover lots of ground as far as diversity goes - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is a muslim, a foreign leader, and, apparently, an eccentric.

The article is, as expected, pretty strange. While it seems to maintain a safe distance and separation from the suject matter, it also subtly brings out the "freak factor." Calling the tunes "schmaltzy" and highlighting the indifference of the public all serve to bring out the fact that the reader is definitely supposed to laugh at the singing president who longs for "the queen of my heart."

I'm not sure how to feel about this story. it doesn't really overstep any REALLY taboo boundaries and is respectful to religion and race, but it definitely has a kind of "Onion" feel to it, as if it is lampooning the subject. We're not supposed to do that, right?

One Killed in Barbecue Shooting

An 18-year-old man was killed when a back-yard barbecue was interrupted by a "flurry" of 11 gun shots Saturday. According to the Star Tribune, the party was a 21st birthday celebration held in a house in the 3000 block of James Avenue N.

Another man, who had attempted to help the deceased, was wounded in the shooting. Two unnamed witnesses claim to have seen both white and black sedans fleeing the scene.

A friend of the deceased denies that the attack was gang related, citing that his friend was never involved with gangs. Accordingly, police have no suspects at this time.

Fortunately, though, a nieghtbor's recently installed security camera may have captured the event.

MnDOT's handling of 35W collapse comes under fire

Although months have passed since the collapse of the 35W bridge, new details are still emerging regarding MnDOt's handling of the catastrophe. Both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press have released reports criticizing the department’s handling of bridge-related matters, specifically its relationship with independent contractors.

According to the Star Tribune, an engineering firm hired to evaluate the structural integrity of the bridge (URS Inc.) played a “diminishing role? in decisions about the bridge. “The records also show that URS was puzzled when MnDOT suddenly cast doubt on the consultant's $2 million plan to strengthen the bridge with steel plates,? the report continues.

The report also claims that the management of URS changed their position on whether or not labor-intensive measures were necessary to renovate the bridge. While URS generally pushed for steel-plate replacement, e-mail exchanges provided puzzlingly contradictory views on the matter. “Three weeks after a top URS official had reiterated that the chance of a bridge truss failure ‘should be significantly reduced’ by the replating, the same official suddenly e-mailed a colleague that he no longer thought the replating was necessary.?

The Pioneer Press have also found fault with MnDOT’s conduct. Their article explores the relationship between Wiss Janney, a firm hired to assist in investigating the collapse, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and MnDOT. The article explores the possible conflict of interest between the parties, as Wiss Janney is also providing technical assistance to the NTSB, one of the parties that Wiss Janney would be expected to investigate. "The NTSB is having to rely on experts hired by the likely responsible party," said Chris Messerly, a Minneapolis attorney representing victims of the collapse.

The Pioneer Press criticizes the NTSB’s “party system? which determines how contracts are given out, but also gives a more pragmatic perspective on the system, which stresses its necessity.

"There is no other realistic alternative," NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said in an e-mail to the Pioneer Press. "... Even if the Board had the fiscal wherewithal to employ sufficient subject matter specialists, there would be no way for the Board to have available at any point in time the specific expertise with a particular product, industry process, or regulatory framework to adequately support the in-depth investigation the agency must conduct for significant accidents."

Obama Pushes For Higher Soc. Sec. Tax

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama said that he would increase the amount of income taxed for Social Security in an appearance on Meet the Press sunday. According to Yahoo news, the Illinois senator has "objected to benefit cuts or a higher retirement age" while supporting a "doughnut hole" to shield middle-income earners from paying more.

"I think the best way to approach this is to adjust the cap on the payroll tax so that people like myself are paying a little bit more and people who are in need are protected," he said.

According to USA today, "Clinton has said growing the economy will pump more money into Social Security's coffers. She also has said she would create a bipartisan commission to recommend solutions." Obama has decried this solution as avoidant.

"It's not sufficient for us to just finesse the issue because we're worried that, well, we might be attacked for the various options we present," he said.

Malaysian Manufacturer Unveils "Muslim Car"

Malaysian car manufacturer Proton has unveiled its new "Muslim Car," a vehicle made for Muslim drivers. The car will be manufactured with the coperation of companies in Turkey and Iran, according to the BBC.

While the idea originated from a visit to the Middle East by a Malaysian delegation, AFP reports that the car is mostly a move to grow Proton's export market. From AFP:

"'We will identify a car that we can develop to be produced in Malaysia, Iran or Turkey,' he told the Bernama agency in a weekend report.

'The car will have all the Islamic features and should be meant for export purposes,' he said, adding that it would feature a compartment for keeping the Muslim holy book the Koran, and prayer scarves."

Proton is also in talks with VW about a possible take-over.

November 4, 2007

Numbers

I will be reviewing this article on job growth from the Star Tribune.

This article, which addresses the slowing rate of job growth in Minnesota, is absolutely packed with numbers. It frequently references percentages, yearly gaps, and dates without pause. In order to understand and appreciate the article, it is necessary to carefully read, internalize, and consider these facts and figures.

That said, the writer does a good job with them. No figure is presented as a solitary, unexplained fact; context is alwys given. For example, when he tells you that he jobless rate rose to 4.9 percent, he also tells you that it was 4.7 nation-wide. Contextual descriptors like "half of the previous year" also help the reader get a holistic picture of Minnesota's job growth.

The presence of numerous analysts' quotes also break up the monotony and make the article more palatable. It also allows the less mathematically inclined to understand the rhetorical point that the article is making. To wit: it doesn't get more direct or non-numerical than "It's tough to grow faster than the nation."

Mondale Endoreses Clinton

Former Vice President Walter Mondale has given his support to HIllary Clinton's presidential bid, Clinton's campaign officials announced Sunday, TwinCities.com reports.

"America is ready for change, and Hillary Clinton has the strength and experience to deliver it," Mondale said. "Hillary is uniquely qualified to rebuild America's standing in the world and lead this nation from her first day in the White House."


MSNBC
reports that Mondale, who was the first presidential candidate to choose a woman as his running mate, feels that Clinton's life experiences make her uniquely qualified for the job. "One thing I like about her campaign is that she's stayed focused on her positive vision for change. She knows this is not the time to tear down our fellow Democrats with personal attacks," he said.

Mondale, who served as VP under Jimmy Carter, is currently a senior counsel at the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney in Minneapolis.

Sewer Systems divide Golden Valley citizens

A new sewer maintenance plan in Golden Valley has defined mayoral and council races, the Star Tribune reports. The plan, which requires all citizens to have their sewer systems assessed before a property can be sold, has cost some citizens up to $13,000.

The program is intended to stop the flow of clear water and storm water into the city's sewer system. While some have suggested cheaper fixes, such as sump pump repair/disconnection, officials claim that the unusually old Golden Valley sewer systems require more maintenance.

The rising price of has become a central and divisive issue in the upcoming mayoral election. "Why don't the residents of Minnetonka get assessed?" Jeffrey Beck said in an interview with the Minnesota Sun. "Golden Valley is the only city with a program like this. It doesn't help out homeowners."

Of course, he also admitted that he boils his own water before drinking it.

Zing.

Bizarre Cross-Border search ends

A 13-year-old student and his 25-year-old teacher were taken into police custody after fleeing to mexico in order to "create a romantic life," CNN reports. Nebraska residents Kelsey Peterson, 25, and Fernando Rodriguez, 13, were traced to the Mexican border town of Mexicali after Rodriguez called home to ask for money.

"'They didn't have a very well-defined plan, it was basically to continue driving into Mexico to hide," said Alfredo Arenas, the Baja California state police official who detained Peterson. "This was a mutual agreement to flee after the story came out that they were having sex.'

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who may be victims of sex crimes, but the boy's name had been widely publicized as police searched for him." (CNN)

Peterson was taken into FBI custody Saturday. She faces charges of kidnapping, child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor in Nebraska as well as federal charges of transporting a minor across state lines or a foreign border for sexual activity, U.S. Attorney Joe Stecher said. Rodriguez, on the other hand, was turned over to relatives in the southern state of Guanajuato. Because of his illegal immigration status, he will most likely be required to stay there.

"Anytime you have an adult taking advantage of a child, this is a child 13 years old, it becomes priority," Stecher said via Miami's Local 10 news. "It's a manipulative crime. You talk about a 13-year-old. How much influence has been put on them for this and you don't know what direction it will turn."

One more for the folks:

"In letters, the boy called Peterson his "Baby Gurl" and said their relationship was "just not about the sex but that it was pretty good," according to the court documents." (CNN)

Pakistan enters State of Emergency

CNN reports that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has declared a state of emergency that will last "as long as it is necessary," according to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. CNN:

"The state of emergency had been imposed to 'bring more harmony to the pillars of state' and to protect against extremism in the country, Aziz said."

The AFP reports that Musharraf "suspended the constitution, sacked the chief justice and imposed strict media curbs" when the state of emergency was declared on Saturday. Up to 500 people have been detained across the country in an attempt to curb "terrorism" and "extremism." "Inaction at this moment is suicide for Pakistan, and I cannot allow this country to commit suicide," Musharraf said.

US officials have been watching the situation closely and plan to "review" the current aid package to Pakistan. The Economic Times reports:

"US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday that Washington would 'review' its financial aid to Pakistan after President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule in his country."

'Obviously we are going to have to review the situation with aid, in part because we have to see what may be triggered by certain statutes,' Rice told reporters in Jerusalem."

King Tut, in repose

The face of King Tutankhamen, ancient Egypt's "Boy King," was revealed to the modern world for the first time. The BBC reports that "Archaeologists took the mummy from its stone sarcophagus and placed it in a climate-controlled case inside his tomb in Luxor's Valley of the Kings. Until now, only about 50 living people have seen the face of the boy king, who died more than 3,000 years ago."

The move was part of a plan to protect the shrivelled, black body, whic faces further decomposition from overly humid conditions.

The discovery has also led to further speculation on the cause of Tut's death. National Geographic reports that famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass postulated that a chariot accident led to the king's death. While other theories have been tossed around, most experts agree that the age-old murder-myth surrounding Tut's death is false.

October 28, 2007

Obituaries

I will analyze this obituary in the Star Tribune.

This obituary follows the NY Times format almost exactly, with only slight, sentence-long detours at the beginning and end. It is a very interesting obituary as it takes a subject that most readers would not recognize and weaves a very interesting narrative.

The narrative concept is very important in this obit, as the focal point here is the father-son relationship in the deceased's life. The input from the son here is crucial, as it allows the reader to gain a multi-faceted picture of Myron Jensen's life.

Now that I think about it, I think that this obit has a lot more sophistication and heart than a stock NYT article because it really explores the people involved as people and not as facts. It explores a narrative and draws the reader into a life and legacy that is nostalgic and uncommon yet surprisingly relatable.

Craigslist posting ends in Death

A local woman was found dead in the trunk of her car after responding to a job posting on craigslist. 24-year-old Katherine Ann Olson was last seen heading to Savage in response to the posting; her body was found in the trunk of her car at a Burnsville park late Friday, according to the Star Tribune. Savage Police Capt. David Muelken says that police responded to a park employee finding Olson's purse in a trash can, followed by the discovery of a bloody towel and, ultimately, Olson's car.

Police have taken the 19-year-old Savage man who posted the ad into custody. "We're confident we have the suspect in custody," Muelken said. Police are unsure of a motive or of any connection between the suspect and the victim.

The Guardian reports that "Olson's family told the newspaper she had taken nanny jobs at least twice before, including a job in Turkey, after answering online ads."

Society hits new low.

With the release of Saw IV, Society hit a new low this weekend. CNN reports that Saw IV was number one at the box office this weekend, earning $32.1 million and beating out the closest competition by $20 million. The surprising figures prove that Americans have no taste at all, a notion long suggested by hipsters and elitists the world over. "There's just something inherently gruesome and compelling about these movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "I don't know what that says about society in general, but it certainly works at the box office." While Dergarabedian may be referring to society's penchant for violence, more disturbing is the fact that people still watch the films, described as "crap," "trash" and "bourgeoisie capitalist hog-wash" by reputable sources.

While society has yet to announce further plans for self-effacement, the American public remains cautously aware.

Scientists find 400-year-old clam. Yes, clam.

A team of scientists from Bangor University's School of Ocean Sciences have dredged up a clam believed to be around 400 years old. Science Daily reports that the clam, which has been living off the coast of Iceland, is possibly the oldest living animal on Earth, eclipsing both the official and unofficial records (a 220-year-old American clam and a 374-year-old Icelandic clam, respectively). A sample of noted peers:

"When this animal was a juvenile, King James I replaced Queen Elizabeth I as English monarch, Shakespeare was writing his greatest plays Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth and Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for espousing the view that the Sun rather than the Earth was the centre of the universe."

The BBC reports that scientists hope that the clam, nicknamed Ming, will shed light on the mechanics of such long-living creatures.