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February 25, 2007

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow

The winter storm that swept through Minnesota this weekend left as many as 18 inches in some parts of the state, the Star Tribune reported Sunday. Minnesota State Patrol said there have been no traffic fatalities in the state by press time. The Star Tribune also wrote that 490 car accidents had been reported by print time. Some flights were canceled or delayed out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and both cities declared a snow emergency.

Nationally, eight deaths were attributed to the storm, according to the Houston Chronicle. Seven of those deaths were reported in Wisconsin. The storm stretched across Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinios, Kansas, Nebraska and Ohio.

Virginia says sorry for slavery

Virginia's General Assembly voted Saturday to express "profound regret" for the state's role in slavery, the Miami Herald reported. In a unanimous measure, the former Confederate capital appoligized not only for the state's role in slavery but also for their role in exploiting Native Americans. The measure doesn't hold as much weight as a law, but the Virginia resolution is an unprecented step in that direction, according to Al Jazeera.

February 18, 2007

New Mexico uses urinals to stop drunks

New Mexico has purchased about 500 talking urinal cakes in an effort to prevent drunk men from driving, the Pioneer Press reports in an AP piece.

The plastic, motion-sensitive urinal-deoderizer cakes cost $21 each and will be placed in men's restrooms in bars and restaurants around the state.

The cake says, in a female's voice that is fun and flirty at first but grows increasingly stern, "Hey, big guy. Having a few drinks? Think you had one too many? Then it's time to call a cab or call a sober friend for a ride home. Remember, your future is in your hands."

New Mexico authorities hope the unusual tactic will grab the attention of bar and restaurant patrons who may have had one too many drinks. Authorities said the men's restroom was a good place for the message because, unlike women, men don't tend to chat while taking care of business. So they are a captive audience for the 10 to 30 seconds it takes to relieve themselves.

New Mexico has the eighth highest DUI conviction rate in the nation, with men making up 78 percent of those convictions.

February 17, 2007

Missing Wirth Park Statues Found

Two missing statues stolen from Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis turned up Tuesday at a scrap yard in St. Paul, according to the Pioneer Press. The bronze statues were taken from the park Feb. 9. Two men and a woman were charged in connection with the crime on Friday in Carver and Ramsey counties. The scrap yard called the police when two men showed up trying to sell pieces of the missing statues for cash. The article reports that the statues would have garnered the pair about $300 to $400. The statues are estimated to be worth over $8,000 each and will be restored by the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Foundation, which was the original donator of the statues.

This story does not start with a hard news lede. Instead, the reporter chose to start with a description of the delight of stumbling upon the statues when walking through Wirth Park. Then, in the second sentance, the allegations against the three and the "who" of the story are addressed. The story then goes into more detail about the crime and the charges. It separates the Ramsey charges into one fact block and the Carver County charges into another. It also gives a description of the stolen statues and detail about how the alleged thiefs stole the statues from the park. The story then goes into chronological order about how the statues turned up and the response by scrap yard workers. It also gives interesting information near the end about the value of the scrap metal compared to the real value of the statues. The story ends with a projection into the future as to how the statues will be repaired.

Senate blocks effort to renew Iraq debate

The US Senate narrowly defeated an effort to renew debate over the troop build-up in Iraq Saturday. The minority Republicans successfully formed a block against Democrats' efforts to formulate an official opposition to the Bush administration's war policy. This decision came just a day after the House successfully passed a resolution stating their opposition to the troop build-up plan, according to the New York Times.

However, the outcome (56-34) fell short of the neccessary 60 votes to break a procedural stalemate on the issue. The vote also suggests, according to the New York Times, that Senate Republicans are beginning to defect from party lines in joining the Democrats on the administration's Iraq policy. Among the defects, the New York Times reported, was Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), along with six other Senate Republicans.

This is the second time the Senate Republicans have successfully blocked an Iraq resolution. According to the Houston Chronical, Bush said that Congressional opposition to his war policies will not change his decided course of action.

The Pioneer Press picked up The Associated Press's version of the story, which also reported that Democrat leaders would no longer focus their attention on non-binding resolutions like the one that failed Saturday.

February 14, 2007

US and Britain rank low for kids' well being

According to a UNICEF report released Wednesday, the United States and Great Britain rank lowest in a study of children's well being in 21 industrialized countries. The Neatherlands ranked highest overall in the study, with other Scandinavian countries also ranking high on the list. One major emphasis of the results was that there is no apparent link between the wealth of a country and the well-being of that nation's youngsters. For example, the Czech Republic ranked relatively high overall but its wealth pales in comparison to the US.

The study results were picked up by numerous news services Wednesday, including Spiegel online, the International Herald Tribune, and Reuters. While the focus of these reports varied slightly depending on the audience (for example, Spanish news service Expatica focused on Spain's ranking in the list), all of the stories emphasized the low rankings of the two most wealthy nations in the world, the US and Britain.

The report focused on 40 variables that UNICEF deemed to be important in the well-being of children. The US ranked worst for health and safety, and only Britain ranked lower in the relationships/ risky or bad behavior category. The US's highest ranking was in the education category, where it came in 12 out of 21. The happiest children are in northern Europe, according to the report, but all of the nations have areas to improve upon. Analysists blame the low rankings of the US and Britain on the large inequality between the haves and the have-nots in each society, also pointing to lack of government and societal support of the family unit as another factor in the nations dismal study results.

February 13, 2007

Dinos on parade

Well, looks like each Minnesota summer brings more than mosquitos and road construction, based on articles published in both the strib and ppress Tuesday. According to the articles, the Science Museum of Minnesota plans to celebrate its impending 100 birthday with 100 dinosaurs spread throughout the Twin Cities during the summer.

Each article included artist renderings of what the dinos may look like. Much in the vein of the Charlie Brown statues that graced downtown St. Paul for four summers, artists will decorate the dinosaurs.

While the majority of the dinosaurs will stay in St. Paul, 20 will venture across the river and into Minneapolis's parks and sidewalks.

When the summer of dinos is over, each art work will be auctioned off. The proceeds will go to the Science Museum.

Fun Fact: According to the strib article, the statues are modeled after the Rebbachisaurus, which looks kind of like Little Foot from the "Land Before Time" series (very scientific explanation, I know). Each statue will be 4.5 feet tall and almost 9 feet long!