December 8, 2008

Obama's Large-Scale Public Works Plan

President-elect Barack Obama promised Saturday to create the largest public works program since the construction of the interstate highway system in the 1950s to provide 2.5 million jobs and resuscitate the suffering economy.

With unemployment numbers climbing and the recession deepening, Obama highlighted elements of the economic recovery program he and Congressional leaders are trying to form in hopes of being able to enact the plan - which could cost up to $700 billion - shortly after being sworn in on Jan. 20, according to the New York Times. The address followed a report on Friday saying that the country lost 533,000 jobs in November alone, bringing the total number of jobs lost over the past year to nearly 2 million.

The plan showcased Obama's determination to expand the definition of traditional work programs for the middle class, and includes massive investments in roads and other infrastructure programs reminiscent of President Eisenhower's highway program, according to the Los Angeles Times. That program ended up employing millions of people and costing tens of billions of dollars.

If enacted, Obama’s plan would cover a range of programs to expand broadband Internet access, to make government buildings more energy efficient, to improve information technology at hospitals and doctors’ offices, and to upgrade computers in schools.

Passangers Saved from Antarctic Cruise

Passengers of a Antarctic cruise have been rescued after the ship they were on ran aground.

"The cruise ship became stuck on Thursday in Wilhelmina Bay, a peninsula that reaches towards the southern tip of South America" BBC News reported.

The ship was carrying over 80 passengers from around the world. They were all rescued by the Chilean Navy "that was to take them to Chile's Frei Base in Antarctica, which has an airstrip from which they can be flown out of the area" MSNBC reported.

Most of the crew, and the captain stayed on board the ship to try and salvage it. No one was hurt.

Elk River Man Still Missing

An Elk River man missing since Thursday has still not been found despite police search.

Steve Hanson, 52, was last seen by his wife Paulette at breakfast Thursday morning. Hanson's wife called police after she was unable to reach him the Star Tribune reported.

Hanson's wife said that he had a history of depression although he had not shown symptoms in over 10 years.

Hanson's car was found early Friday morning at a park. The car was locked and it contained his cell phone, laptop and gloves.

Footprints and a police tracking dog lead investigators to the river where a search was conducted with divers, a hovercraft and a helicopter Friday.

"Crews searched the park on foot while authorities searched the water using a hovercraft. During the search, the hovercraft hit an ice chunk, throwing a Sherburne County Sheriff's deputy into the water. The deputy was rescued, however, the hovercraft's air bladder was ruptured" Kare 11 reported.

December 6, 2008

Mars Rover Launch Delayed

NASA has pushed back the launching of its next Mars mission, which was already over budget, by two years due to lengthening delays and lingering technical issues, agency officials announced Thursday.

The Mars Science Laboratory, a S.U.V.-size rover that is to explore the Martian surface for two years, is now set to be launched in 2011, adding $400 million to the project's cost. It had been scheduled to lift off in fall 2009, but unsolved issues with some of the spacecraft’s electrical motors forced the postponement, Mars exploration chief Doug McCuistion told reporters at Los Angeles Times.

Because the Earth and Mars come close to each other only once every 26 months, the next chance for launching is not until fall 2011, according to the New York Times.

The originally approved cost for the missions was $1.63 billion in August 2006, but the Mars Science Laboratory’s budget has already swelled to $1.88 billion. NASA officials said in October that they anticipated the mission needed another $200 million next year to meet the delayed 2009 launch date.

The delay, as well as additional testing, will add $400 million, spread over several years, to the mission’s cost, bringing the total to about $2.3 billion.

December 5, 2008

Denny Hecker Hospitalized

Twin Cities’ car dealer Denny Hecker was hospitalized Wednesday after his car hit a utility poke, according to a Jon Auston, a Hecker spokesman, reported

Hecker, 56, was taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and is listed in fair condition, a hospital official said, reported Kare11.

"He got banged up pretty good, but I think he's going to be OK," Austin said. "None of the injuries are described as life-threatening."

The accident occurred near his home. He was on his way home from his business located near interstate 394 and U.S. 169.

Police are investigating the cause of the accident.
Austin said Hecker will remain hospitalized for a short time, but was uncertain about the length of the stay.

Analysis: Computer Assited Reporting

The Star Tribune's coverage of the Minnesota Senate race used computer aided reporting extensively. Links to stories containing interactive maps were available.
The software used was similar to the Atlas program we worked with. Readers can click on counties and cities to find detailed data about local election results.

Two additional links went to data tables that were spread sheets-probably excel products. Recount results by city and county are available. Gains and losses are in a spreadsheet format. There is an immense amount of data that was probably not done by hand. This clearly shows the power of computer aided reporting when dealing with large amounts of data.

November 23, 2008

N. Korea to close border with S. Korea

The Washington Post reported Sunday that North Korean media say its military has informed South Korea that effective December 1 overland passage through a past military warzone will be banned.

The report says the border shutdown will mean a total suspension of tourism to the North Korean city of Kaesong.

A blog linked to the WA Post article said North and South Korea technically are still at war with the North holding a majority of the power.

South Korean Unification Ministry Spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said if North Korea follows through, there will be a negative impact on inter-Korean relations.

Texas Pastor Encourages "More Sex, More Often" to Congregation

A week after Rev. Ed Young challenged husbands and wives to strengthen their union through seven days of sex, he gives advice to keep it going, reported the New York Times.

Rev. Young of evangelical Fellowhip Church in Grapevine, Tex., called his congregation of 20,000 to get closer to their spouses and engage in his sexperiment, "Seven Days of Sex."

The Times reporter quoted Young saying, "if you make the time to have sex, it will bring you closer to your spouse and to God, he has said. You will perform better at work, leave a loving legacy for your children to follow and may even prevent an extramarital affair."

His two book focus on the issue and are far from a publicity stunt. Young is looking into verses from the bible such as Genesis: “two shall become one flesh,? and Corinthians: “do not deprive each other of sexual relations.?

There is no shame in marital sex he told his crowd Sunday morning, God invented it.

Wisconsin Man Shoots Himself After Pulled Over

A Wisconsin man shot himself in the head Sunday morning after a state trooper pulled him over for speeding, reported the Star Tribune.

James Milliman,38, was pulled over for speeding on Hwy. 48 near Cumberland, Wis., traveling 70 miles an hour in a 55-mile zone. He was stopped about 8:35 this morning.

The trooper spoke with Milliman and returnde to his car where he then heard a gunshot. The trooper said the glass of the driver side door broke and he called for back up.

When authorities approached the vehicle, they founf Milliman had shot himself with a handgun and it was unclear as to his motive. Milliman was taken into custody and released Friday night after he was involved in a driving accident.

Denny Hecker closes 6 Metro Dealerships, Sells 3

Automotive entrepeneur Denny Hecker announced Friday he closed six dealerships and is selling three others in the metro area due to the current economic recession, reported the Pioneer Press.

One-third of Hecker's workforce, 400 employees, will be without a job after the dealerships are closed and others still standing struggle keep up with a current decline in consumer demand for vehicles.

The Pioneer Press reported many workers who were laid off found out early from media reports, others didn't find out until they showed up to barred doors and a sign on the door declaring the dealsership closed.

The dealerships that closed are the Blaine Bargain Lot, Forest Lake Chrysler Jeep Dodge Mitsubishi, Monticello Dodge Ford and Mercury Suzuki Kia, Rosedale Hyundai, Shakopee Chrysler Jeep Dodge and Stillwater Ford Lincoln Mercury.

The Star Tribune reported the day Hecker closed his lots, GM filed suit in the U.S. District Court seeking to ban Hecker from selling vehicles at the Inner Grove Heights showroom. A spokesman for Hecker said the two events are unrelated.

U.S. Gay Marriage Ban Spurs Protests

Tthousands of people in cities across the United States gathered Saturday to show support for same-sex marraige, giving voice to an issue many gay men and lesbians consider crucial for equality.

The New York Times reports rallies occurred in cities including San Francisco and Minneapolis only 11 days after California voters narrowly based a ballot revoking a previous law making same-sex ceremonies legal in the state.

Protestors across the country carried handmade signs with slogans like “No More Mr. Nice Gay? and “Straights Against Hate.? In New York, some 4,000 people gathered at City Hall, where speakers repeatedly called same-sex marriage “the greatest civil rights battle of our generation.? (New York Times)

“We are not going to rest at night until every citizen in every state in this country can say, ‘This is the person I love,’ and take their hand in marriage,? Representative Anthony D. Weiner of Brooklyn told the New York Times.

More than 700 people gathered on the plaza of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis on Saturday to protest constitutional amendments in California, Florida and Arizona prohibiting gay marriage, according to the Star Tribune.

Analysis: Diversity

In Mourning an Immigrant, a Call for Unity on Long Island from the New York Times

This story, which ran in the New York Times, uses the funeral of an Ecuadorean immigrant who was taunted in Patchogue, N.Y. to focus on the issue of relations between Latinos and white residents in an ethnically diverse village in Suffolk County, N.Y.

Through observation and quotes, the reporter describes the emotions and the crowd who gathered together to mourn the loss of Marcelo Lucero, 37, a serious-minded man who had lived in the United States for 16 years, who was stabbed to death a week earlier as a part of hate crime.

By using this specific incident of violence, the reporter was able to profile a part of the city that clearly is struggling with a racial divide and by looking deeper into this act of violence, the reporter is able to provide the reader with the bigger picture of what is going on in this area of the city.

The story goes behind the issue of illegal immigration and the race of the deceased man to humanize a problem many are aware of in this area.

November 16, 2008

Girl Charged with Stabbing Classmate

A 13-year-old girl is charged with second degree assault after stabbing a junior high peer in St.Paul Wednesday, the Star Tribune reported. of the girl's age, no further detail were provided. She remains in custody at the juvenile detention center in Ramsey County.

The girl cut a boy, also 13, in the chest and arm with a small knife while in the hallway during school hours Wednesday. The boy suffered no major injuries and was released Wednesday evening.

The motive behind the attack was not released.

Ecuador Continues Oil Cleanup Fight Against Chevron

Reporter Chris Kraul for the LA Times spoke to an Ecuadorian peasant farmer who has nothing to gain from an oil-polluted farm where oil giant Chevron has been cleaning up their mess in the Amazon region.

After 30 of the farmers cows have died and medical bills to pay for his children's skin cancer from the oil resting in his backyard, a verdict has yet to be reached in a controversial, long-running lawsuit where peasant farmers alike are battling Chevron and its subparts in the Ecuador Amazon.

In 2001, Chevron acquired Texaco who had been drilling oil from 1972 to 1990 and subsequently polluted a vast area of the Amazon. Chevron claims Texaco cleaned their spills and blames Petroecuador for any further mess in the area. At the time, Texaco owned 37.5 percent of the oil in the region and Petroecuador owned rights to the rest.

Residents and farmers of the area say their groundwater and soil is contaminated and causing issues out of their control to solve. If they win, the LA Times reported,"the case could set a worldwide precedent: Foreign plaintiffs have never collected for alleged offshore environmental damage caused by a U.S. company".

A report filed in a New York Court has thus far estimated that Chevron was liable for up to $8 billion in health and cleanup costs.,0,7299994.story

Obama's choice of Clinton includes look at Mr. Clinton

Advisers to Barack Obama are looking into former president Bill Clinton's finances and activities to see if they indicate any reason to hesitate to appoint Hilary as secretary of state, the New York Times reported.

This in-depth look at Mr. Clinton's history shows how serious Obama is in considering his pre-election rival to his cabinet. He met with Mrs. Clinton in Chicago Thursday to discuss the possibility.

Obama advisers are looking into how Mr. Clinton's role if Hilary is chosen as a cabinet member as he has many interactions with foreign governments and ties to pharmaceutical companies. His philanthropic organization has been working to help fight AIDS, poverty and climate change across the globe, taking money from interested businesses and foreign officials along the way.

The Washington Post writes, "If Hillary Clinton is secretary of state, she will oversee many of the U.S. government's foreign aid programs, potentially turning the couple into an overwhelming force in global aid as said by some leaders in the philanthropic community."

Some foreign policy experts said exploiting Bill Clinton's reach and experience could prove a mistake and his presence could encourage some world leaders to question the authority of the new president.