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May 30, 2007

Candy and Pot found in bust

Authorities seized a ton of marijuana in a bust Tuesday. Seriously, one ton hidden inside a 21-ton shipment of jawbreaker candies, the Pioneer Press reported Wednesday. Authorities said the bust may be the biggest in Minnesota history and worry that their focus on methamphetamines may be causing a resurgence in pot and other street drugs. The shipment had a street value of about $3 million, authorities estimate. The semi-truck was pulled over in Minneapolis.

Stillwater staple to close doors

This story is not really that interesting to most people, let me start with that. But when I read in the local briefs section of the Pioneer Press the Stillwater Drug was closing its doors for good this summer, it was with heavy heart. The drug store has been a downtown staple for me since I can remember. I grew up in Stillwater and would go down there for prescriptions, candy and trinkets. The corner of Main Street and Chestnut Street has housed a drug store since 1881, so I'm sure I wasn't the only one who felt as if a staple of our town's history was being taken away. The owner, who is 79, wants to retire and will be selling the spot. This is the third historic local business to close down this year. The Minnesota Zepher and the Stillwater Hardware Store already announced their departure from the main drag earlier this year.

As far as briefs go, this one is pretty standard. It is short, it is to-the-point and it is basic. The author does a good job of getting quotes from two different sources into the brief, which can be hard sometimes with such a limited space. The author also deviated from the standard cut-and-dry approach to briefs, which is basically just a summary of the who, what, where, when and sometimes the why. I appreciated this personally because this is a sad story for long-time residents or visitors of Stillwater. The author's reference to "Main and Chestnut" shows that she is intimate with the area and understands how this piece of news will effect some readers. She also did a good job of explaining the historical significance of this store, which is sometimes difficult in briefs because the "why should I care?" is usually complex and hard to sum up neatly.

May 27, 2007

Terror suspect extradited to US

An American student arrested last year in London on suspicions of aiding terrorists was extradited to the United States Saturday, the New York Daily News reported Saturday. The Brooklyn College graduate from New York was born in Pakistan and raised in the United States. He was arrested in 2003 in a London airport while alledgedly trying to meet up with a terrorist group. He is also charged with sending money and military equipment to terrorists, specifically to Al Qaeda. The 27-year-old has begged the British government not to extradite him back to the United States, according to the New York Post.

Russian police arrest gay activists

Russian police detained gay rights activists Sunday as they tried to present a letter to Moscow's mayor, the Seattle Post Intelligencer reported Sunday. Those arrested included some of the 40 European lawmakers who signed the letter appealing the city's ban on a march that would have taken place Sunday to mark the fourteenth anniversary of Russia decriminalizing homosexuality.

Police arrested Russia's gay rights leader Nikolai Alexeyev and about a dozen others during the standoff. Also among those arrested was German parilment member Volker Beck. Gay rights opponents also showed up to the event, protesting the march by throwing eggs and punching the activists.

This article was interesting because it appeared to rely on the first hand experiences of the Associated Press journalist. In fact, it was not until the sixth paragraph that the article noted any attribution at all. The first five paragraphs were not presented in a personal observation manner, but rather laden with information on the incident, including estimates of crowd size and police force. Every quote is pulled indirectly from an interview the source had with another media organization. The only direct attribution seems to be from the Moscow police department. Considering the chaotic nature of the event and the multiple nations the activists came from and returned to, it is understandable that the article would be a little light on direct attribution. However, it is questionable that the reporter relies on and relates only his impressions and estimates until the sixth paragraph of the article.

May 26, 2007

Second imposter exposed at Stanford

Stanford University officials are grappling with the discovery of a second imposter among their student body in less than a week, the San Fransisco Gate reported Saturday. The interloper, Elizabeth Okazaki, passed herself off as a member of the Stanford community for months, according to the article. Okazaki reportedly made herself at home in the campus' Varian Physics Laboratory, spending some nights there, using the computers and attending seminars. Students in her graduate-level classes apparently suspected that Okazaki really didn't belong in their classes after having conversations with her about physics and realizing she may not know much about the subject. While questions still abound in the case, University workers said they would not comment on whether she was once an employee at the University, one of the popular rumors among students.

The discovery comes on the heels of the expose of another imposter earlier this week, an 18-year-old Orange County woman who had passed herself off as a freshman for most of the school year. She convinced students to let her room with them for about eight months, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Son kills father after domestic dispute

A ten-year-old St. Paul boy stabbed his father to death early Friday after the father and the boy's mother argued, the Pioneer Press reported Saturday. This story is the follow-up to a story published Friday on the incident. As an interesting reminder of the mistakes that can happen when deadline pressure is fierce, the story begins with a correction to Friday's story, explaining that the boy and his mother were not involved in a neglect case in Carver County as stated in Friday's piece. The father, Thomas Christopher Simmons, 34, had another ten-year-old son by a different woman, who was involved in the neglect case.

This story starts to get at the motive the boy had to stab his father, who lived in the apartment above the one the boy shared with his mother and siblings. Simmons returned to the building intoxicated, according to witnesses, and began arguing with the mother. The mother said in Saturday's article that the boy just wanted to scare his father, who was making verbal threats to his mother. The boy picked up a knife and stabbed his father in the chest. The mother said she decided to speak out on the case to let the public know her son is not an evil child and that Simmons was not a horrible man who deserved being killed.

Turkish Leader Vetoes Election Changes

Turkey's president vetoed a constitutional amendment Friday that would have allowed the people to elect the president. Under Turkey's current constitution, Parliment elects the president, the Washington Post reported. The veto ended a dramatic week in Turkish politics, highlighted by an all out brawl between two factions of Parliment earlier in the week.

Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said the country's democratic system was not designed for the public to elect the president and cited his worries about political instability following the amendment as the reason for his veto.

The veto was a setback for Turkish leaders pushing for a more liberal democratic system, but is not the end of the movement all together. If parliment were to pass the bill again, the president is not allowed to veto the same bill twice.

The military in this Islamic-ruled country threatened to intervene to protect the secular government system currently in place and secular Turks held rallies in multiple cities in the weeks leading up to the veto.

May 25, 2007

Bobcat suspect in camper attack

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials now think a bobcat may be responsible for the attack on a camper in northern Minnesota earlier this week, the Star Tribune reported Friday. The bobcat, the most common yet most elusive of Minnesota's wild cats, is being blamed for a middle-of-the-night mauling that left a college professor with multiple deep scratches on his head and face.

Jon Kenning, 28, is a visiting assistant professor at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, who was leading a group of students on a trip to Itasca State Park when the attack happened. Kenning was sleeping in a tent away from the other students when the attack occured, the Pioneer Press reported Friday, when he awoke to something batting at his head. Local authorities first thought Kenning was attacked by a small black bear but, after studying Kenning's injuries, now believe the marks are those of a confused bobcat and not a curious bear. DNR officials said this is the first bobcat attack in a state park they have heard of.

May 20, 2007

Phototherapy offers hope to Amish

This article, by the Associate Press, explains how blue lights are used in Mennonite and Amish communities in Pennsylvania to treat a rare genetic disease. These small and isolated religious groups are forbidden to marry outside of their religion, which severly limits their gene pool. These limitiations have caused a number of extremely rare diseases to occur more frequently than normal in the communities. One of these disease, Crigler-Najjar syndrom, occurs when the body fails to produce an enzyme that breaks down bilirubin, a naturally occuring waste product produced by worn-out red blood cells. The waste builds up in the body and can lead to brain damage and death. There are 110 known cases of this disease in the world and about 35 of them are in the United States. Over 20 are within the Amish and Mennonite communities in Pennsylvania. The article highlights the struggle for these traditional families to chose between traditional, simple living and saving their children's lives. It also discusses the dillema families face to pay for medical treatment because their beliefs forbid them from accepting government assisstance. The article explains the disease in an informative but easy-to-understand, relatable manner.

I chose to highlight this article for my extended blog for two reasons: first, I liked the way the author used the lede to set up the rest of the story; second, the lede is written is such as way that it draws the reader into the piece. The author uses the lede not only to set up the rest of the story factually, laying out what the article will discuss and who the article involves, but it also sets up the tone of the article. The lede is longer than a traditional lede would be, but this is because the author picked a narrative voice to draw the reader into the story. Through description and using a real life example to humanize what could be a rather dry story, the author shows in the lede that this article will be informative but interesting at the same time. The lede also draws the reader into the story by setting up the scene for the article and identifying some of the basic people involved in the story. However, the best device used to draw the reader into the story in the lede is the author's choice to leave the source and purpose of the blue lights a mystery for the reader. The reader does not find out where the blue light is coming from and why these people are using a blue light until they read further into the story.

May 18, 2007

Dems drop timetable

Democratic congressional leaders cut out a schedule for troop pull-out in Iraq from a spending bill Friday, the USA Today reported. This is the first concession the new congressional majority has made to the White House over the war in Iraq. However, in a closed meeting with top White House aides, Democrats said they would strip billions of dollars in domestic spending if President Bush would accept a timetable for troop withdrawal in Iraq. They even offered Bush the opportunity to waive his compliance with the timetable if he would accept the spending bill.

The White House declined to accept the conditions laid out in the closed meeting, leaving Democrat leaders still scrambling to complete their agenda before the session ends.

May 14, 2007

Ham Lake fire still a threat

Although the North Shore received some much needed rain Sunday night, the Pioneer Press reported that the Ham Lake wildfire only received about one-tenth of an inch of rain, which will quickly be evaporated by the sun on Monday. The fire is currently the fourth largest in Minnesota history, beating out 2006's Cavity Lake fire in number of acres destroyed. The Ham Lake fire, which started May 5, has consumed an estimated 60,000 acres of Minnesotan and Canadian land. Winds from the south Sunday pushed the fire into Canada, where an unspecified number of residents were forced to evacuate. The Star Tribune added that the fire is 93.1 square miles and only about 20 percent of the fire is under control. However, more firefighting resources flooded into the area over the weekend, including an upsurge in fire fighters. There are now about 930 fire fighters on the Minnesota side of the blaze, which almost doubles the town of Grand Marais, which has a population of about 1500.

Minnesota man and Wisconsin finace die in crash

A Minnesota man and his Wisconsin finace were among the five dead after a small airplane crashed in Montana, the Associated Press reported Monday. The Star Tribune picked up the story, identified Kyle Mills and Jennifer Sengpiel as the Midwestern couple who were planning on tandeem skydiving from the plane. The pilot, a 28-year-old Wisconsin man, had been working at Skydive Lost Prairie for about 10 days, according to his father. The Pioneer Press also picked up the wire story, which said it was too early to determine what caused the small Cessna to crash. It appeared that shortly after take off, the plane did a 180 degree turn and fell from about 500 feet high into a forested area. Also killed in the crash were Mills's and Sengpiel's instructors, two men from Montana.

Al-Qaida captures 3 US troops

United States military officials confirmed Monday that an Al-Qaida linked group may be responsible for three missing U.S. soliders, the Associated Press reported Monday morning. On an Islamic extremist website, the group posted a message to US military officials telling them to call off the search for the missing soliders and suggested the abduction was a retaliation for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in the area last year. Five U.S. soliders have been convicted in that case. Over 4,000 troops searched the area about 20 miles south of Baghdad over the weekend and made multiple arrests but have not found the soliders.

Reuters also said that, from the message the terrorist group posted on the website, it appeared that the three solidiers were still alive. They have not been identified yet but were part of a group on patrol when a roadside bomb exploded and killed four US solidiers and an Iraqi soldier acting as a translator.