October 2009 Archives

Stimulus created jobs, White House says

by Greta Kaul

            The federal stimulus package has created or saved nearly 650,000 jobs so far this year, the White House said Friday, according to the New York Times.

            The reports come from the records recipient agencies of stimulus money.  The numbers confirm that the stimulus is on track with its goal of creating 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year, the New York Times said.

            If jobs linked to $288 billion in tax cuts were added, estimates say over 1 million jobs would have been saved or created by the stimulus, the Associated Press reported.

            Many of the jobs created were in the fields of education and construction, the New York Times said.

            The figures released by the White House represent the most extensive effort by any administration to calculate the effects of spending in real time, the AP said.

Medvedev breaks from Putin

by Greta Kaul

            Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev called for the construction of museums and monuments to the victims of Josef Stalin's purges Friday, the New York Times said.

            The comments were made on Medvedev's video blog on Oct. 30, a day of remembrance of victims of political repression in Russia, Bloomberg said.

            Medvedev is distancing himself from his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, Bloomberg said.  Under Putin, Russian opinion of Stalin balanced atrocities with achievements, such as the Stalin's defeat of Hitler.

            Medvedev condemned the revisionist history that glosses over national atrocities, the New York Times said.

            Last month, Medvedev published an online manifesto promoting the modernization of Russia by uprooting corruption.  In it, he advocated fighting alcoholism, and reducing Russia's dependence on natural resources, Bloomberg said.


Legislature compromises on Great Lakes ship pollution

by Greta Kaul

            The U.S. Legislature compromised on a bill Tuesday that would force Great Lakes ships to burn cleaner fuel, the Washington Post said.

            The bill is aimed at reducing air pollution by Great Lakes ships in U.S. waters, the Washington Post said.  The rule would apply within 200 miles of the U.S. coast.

            Thirteen ships would be exempt from the requirement, and the industry is asking the EPA to grant 52 more to request a waiver if cleaner fuel is unavailable or too expensive, the Associated Press said.           

            Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc. said the compromise would clean up the air without posing an end to the Great Lakes fleet and all of the regional jobs it creates, the Associated Press said.

            The environmental impact of the marine fuel used by Great Lakes ships allegedly contributes to smog, acid rain, respiratory health problems, and cancer, the Washington Post said.

            The EPA estimates that 33,000 premature deaths could be prevented over the next two decades if the air were cleaned up, according to the Associated Press.


Senate health care bill to include public option

by Greta Kaul

            Senate majority leader Harry Reid said Monday that he would include a contentious government-run plan in the health care legislation that is expected to reach the Senate floor within a few weeks, according to the New York Times.

            Currently, the bill gives states the freedom to adopt laws to opt out of the reform, the New York Times said.

            Democrats argue that a public health care option will lower costs and create competition in the health insurance market, according to Reuters.  Republicans call it a government takeover that will hurt private insurance companies, Reuters said.

            Senate Republicans are united in opposition to any bill that includes a public option, according to the New York Times.  Democrats will need all 58 Democratic votes in the Senate and at least two Independent or Republican votes to reach 60 votes to pass the legislation, the New York Times said.

            Democrats appear to be short of these numbers, as several caucus members have not committed to a vote yet, the New York Times said.

            President Obama is pleased that a public option will be included in the bill, Reuters said, though he does not consider it a mandatory part of health care reform.

The Louvre at the MIA

by Greta Kaul

            The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is hosting an exhibit of masterworks from the Louvre Museum in Paris, MinnPost said.

            The exhibit contains 62 items from the Louvre's eight areas of collection, according to the Associated Press.  Together, the works span 4,000 years of history, the AP said.

            The exhibit was designed to explore the changing definition of a masterpiece, authenticity and conniseurship, and the evolution of taste, the AP said.

             A collaboration between Atlanta's High Museum of Art and the Louvre Museum, the exhibit was designed to call into question the idea of a masterpiece, MinnPost said.

            The works will be on display at the MIA until Jan. 10, 2010.  Though general admission is free to the MIA, the Louvre exhibit requires a ticket, according to MinnPost.

Analysis: Speeches

by Greta Kaul

            On October 13th, Governor Pawlenty held a press conference in which he proposed changes to Minnesota's health care system  The reporter who about the press conference for the Star Tribune used the facts, parts of the proposal that Pawlenty outlined from the press release, and quotes.  After establishing what the tenants of Pawlenty's plan were by (presumably) using the facts from the release, the writer of the article used quotes from supporters and opponents in order to give a better-rounded picture of how the proposal would be received by other Minnesota lawmakers.   The facts from the release, however, seemed to be the groundwork for the story.

H1N1 declared national emergency

by Greta Kaul

            President Barack Obama declared the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak a national emergency Friday night, Reuters said.

            The declaration will allow some federal health care insurance programs to waive requirements, Reuters said. 

            It will also allow hospitals to move emergency rooms off-site in order to more effectively treat H1N1 patients and protect those who are not infected, the Associated Press said.

            The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the H1N1 flu is widespread in 46 states, the AP said.

            The declaration is a precaution, the White House said, so that health care resources don't get overburdened and not a response to any new developments in the flu situation, Reuters said.


Deadly train crash in Egypt

by Greta Kaul

            At least 25 were killed when two trains collided Saturday outside of Cairo, Egypt, Sky News said.

            A passenger train headed from Cairo to Aswan, a popular tourist destination for its ruins, collided with a near-empty train that had stopped unexpectedly en route from Giza to Fayyoum, CNN said.

            Around 55 were injured, according to Sky News.  No foreigners were among the casualties, Sky News said.

            The location of the wreck posed an issue in recovering bodies of the dead and injured because its proximity to a canal made it hard to reach them, CNN said.

            Egypt has many train accidents annually, which are usually blamed on poor maintenance of equipment, Sky News said.  The Transportation Ministry has ordered an investigation of the incident, CNN said.

Minnesota girl bags a moose

by Greta Kaul

            A 12-year-old girl became the youngest Minnesotan to kill a bull moose in the modern era last Tuesday, the Pioneer Press said.

            The moose was 1,200 pounds, according to the Pioneer Press, and had a 58-inch antler spread, according to Fox Mankato News.

            Kelly Holmin of Nicollet and her father had spent a cold week hunting on the Gunflint Trail when Kelly dropped the moose with a single shot, the Pioneer Press said.

            Kelly is a self-proclaimed "girly-girl," but looks forward to more hunting in the future, according to Fox Mankato News .  In the past, she has hunted turkey, grouse, and whitetail deer, Fox Mankato News said.

by Greta Kaul

            House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that the Democrat-drafted health care overhaul would reduce the budget deficit over 10 years and cost less than the target price tag of $900 billion, Reuters said.

            Three separate health care reform bills were analyzed for cost-effectiveness by the Congressional Budget Office and are now in the process of being merged, Reuters said.  According to Nancy Pelosi, all three cost less than $900 billion.

            As of now, a core component of all three bills is the "individual mandate," which requires all Americans to have health insurance, according to CBS News.  Many Republicans are opposed to the individual mandate, CBS said.

            Pelosi said that the final bill would include a government-run insurance option, Reuters said.

            The challenge for Democrats, according to CBS, will be to facilitate the expansion of health care insurance without going over $900 billion, however, Pelosi said that Democrats would not bring forward a bill that didn't meet President Obama's target cost.

H1N1 found in Minnesota pig

           The H1N1 virus has been confirmed in a sample from a pig displayed at the Minnesota State Fair, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday.  This is the first time the virus has been found in a U.S. pig, according to CNN.

            The Department of Agriculture assured the public that pork is still safe to eat in a statement, according to the Associated Press.  Since H1N1 does not affect muscle tissue, it poses no threat to the public, CNN said.

            The pig that tested positive showed no signs of illness, CNN said.  The samples were taken to determine whether animals at the event had H1N1 as part of a joint research project between the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota, CNN said.

             David Priesler, the executive director of the Minnesota Pork Board, insisted that pork is still safe to eat and expressed hope that the discovery of the infected pig won't have a negative impact on the pork market, according to the AP.


Multimedia Analysis: The New York Times vs. Salon

by Greta Kaul

            It is immediately clear on the New York Times' website that they put an emphasis on using multimedia to complement their news stories.  Many of the stories on the main page are complemented by either audio or video.  There is also many slideshows that accompany stories, and a tab for video at the top of the main page.  These features show readers (watchers, listeners), what's happening as well as telling them in the traditional text/visual way of a newspaper.   The kind of writing you see on the slideshows and with the videos are shorter, more summarizing captions.

            Salon, on the other hand, emphasizes the textual aspect of stories.  The only prominent multimedia feature is a podcast section, apart from the pictures that accompany news stories.  I find this interesting because I think that the New York Times and Salon have a lot of reader overlap.  Both tend to have longer, more in-depth stories, however, the New York Times' stories are often complemented by multimedia feature that tells or adds to the story in visual or audio terms.

U.S. reaffirms commitment to fight growing world hunger

by Greta Kaul           

            The United States reaffirmed its commitment to reduce world hunger through sustainable agricultural development on World Food Day (Friday), according to Xinhua.

            According to U.N. figures, more than one billion, or one in every six people worldwide, are estimated to suffer from chronic hunger, Xinhua said.

            In a statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that making sure enough food is available is a big part of the Obama Administration's foreign policy program, Xinhua said.

            The current economic crisis has had a major effect on a recent increase in the number of hungry people, as wages and access to food decrease, VOA News said.

            Nine years ago, world leaders set a goal to cut the number of hungry people worldwide in half by 2015, but the numbers continue to rise, according to VOA News.

Aspirin may have caused 1918 flu deaths

by Greta Kaul

            A new study says that aspirin overdose may have significantly contributed to the mortality rate in the 1918 flu pandemic, sify said.

            The proper dosing of aspirin was not well understood in 1918, but a dosage of twice what is considered safe today was often prescribed, according to Digital Journal.

            High doses of aspirin cause toxicity and build-up of fluid in the lungs, according to sify.  Autopsy reports from 1918 are consistent with these symptoms, sify said.

            It may have been difficult for physicians of the time to tell the difference between aspirin overdose and the flu, Digital Journal said.

Couple teaches son to make pipe bombs

            A Prior Lake couple allegedly taught their son and his friends make pipe bombs, which the teens used to blow up six area mailboxes, the Star Tribune said.

            Robert and Roberta Masters will make their first court appearance Nov. 2., the Pioneer Press said.   They have been charged with felony counts of aiding an offender and possession or manufacture of explosive devices, the Star Tribune said.

            One of the teens said that the mailboxes targeted were random at first, but later became those of people they knew, the Star Tribune said.

            The Masters plan to plead not guilty, according to the Star Tribune.  According to charges filed in Scott County, the Masters claim they didn't know the teens would use the bombs to blow up mailboxes, the Pioneer Press said.

            Seven teens face charges, from criminal property damage to possession or manufacture of explosive devices.  An eighth is still under investigation, the Star Tribune said.

Pawlenty proposes health care changes

by Greta Kaul

            Governor Tim Pawlenty made proposals to change Minnesota's health care system Tuesday, according to the Pioneer Press.

            Pawlenty wants to reward poor residents who choose state-subsidized health programs MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance with higher deductibles on their electronic benefits cards, the Pioneer Press said.

            Pawlenty also wants Minnesota to be the first state to allow residents to buy health coverage from out-of-state, according to the Star Tribune.

            The proposals would allow for-profit insurers into the Minnesota health care market, the Star Tribune said.

            According to Pawlenty, proposals could cut Minnesota's health care costs by $100 million a year, the Star Tribune said.

Limbaugh bids on St. Louis Rams

by Greta Kaul           

            Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh has made a bid on the St. Louis Rams, Salon said Wednesday.

            Limbaugh lost his job as a sports commentator on ESPN after making racially charged comments about a Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, Salon said.

            NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said it would be inappropriate for the owner of an NFL franchise to make the sort of controversial statements Limbaugh does, according to the Washington Post.

            The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have publicly opposed the idea of Limbaugh owning the team, according to Salon.  In addition, several NFL players have said they would not play for a team owned by Limbaugh, the Washington Post said.

            The current team owners have not yet made a decision to sell control of the team, Salon said.  

Analysis: Spot and Follows

            The Associated Press ran a breaking news story about a crash between a school bus carrying the Ely High School football team and a car at 6:38 p.m. Friday, about three hours after the crash took place.  The story was very bare-bones, lacking identification of the girl who died in the crash, as well as those of other passengers.  At the end, the AP notes, "Details on how the accident happened weren't immediately available."
             At 11:55 p.m., the AP ran the story again, updated with how the crash happened and identification and conditions of the girls in the car, including the one who died.  This advances the story by giving the community the details that they were probably clamoring for after reading the first issue of the story, especially because Ely is a small town, and the accident is likely to have a big effect on the community.  The only changes to the lead were the addition of the word "fatal" to crash, and a fairly insignificant change from the world "led" to "forced" in regard to officials canceling Ely High School's  homecoming.  The story was not a response to a report from a competing news organization.

Painting may save Survivor Resources

by Greta Kaul

"13 Flowers," a painting that commemorates the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, could save non-profit Survivor Resources at an organization fundraiser this month, the Star Tribune said.
A survivor in its own right, the painting, by Marni Tobin, was donated by the Uptown Association, after it was the only painting that survived a flood in the association's headquarters, the Pioneer Press said.
Due to state budget cuts, Survivor Resources, which works with homicide victims' families, suicide, and accidental death has lost $100,000 in funding, according to the Pioneer Press.  Survivor Resources also runs a support group for I-35 collapse survivors, the Pioneer Press said.
        "13 Flowers" could make up for much of the loss funding, according to the Pioneer Press.
The painting depicts figures that honor the survivors and rescuers in the 35W collapse, as well as a flower that symbolizes the cultural heritage of each person who died in the collapse, the Star Tribune said.

Herta Mueller wins Nobel in Literature

            Herta Mueller, a Romanian-born German novelist, won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature Thursday.

            Mueller, a political exile in her native country of Romania, immigrated to Germany in 1987 after facing persecution and censorship in Romania, according to the New York Times.

            Her novels focus on themes of oppression, dictatorship, and exile that factored into her own life, the Christian Science Monitor said.

            Mueller is relatively unknown outside of German literary circles, the New York Times said.

            According to the Christian Science Monitor, Mueller's novels' denouncement of the Soviet regime is important, as the current economic situation causes some Germans to favor Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Twin Cities mayors may become gubernatorial opponents

by Greta Kaul

            Speculation that St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak will run for governor is mounting, according to the Star Tribune.

            Both Coleman and Rybak, up for re-election in November, have confirmed that they are seriously considering bids for governor on the Democratic ticket in 2010, the Star Tribune said.

            Both have been making appearances in greater Minnesota, which is uncommon for Twin Cities mayors, according to the Pioneer Press.

            If either Coleman or Rybak were elected mayor in November and then governor in 2010, he would only serve one of four years in the mayoral term before becoming governor, the Star Tribune said.

            Historically, big city politicians have struggled statewide in Minnesota elections, the Pioneer Press said.

            A Coleman-Rybak endorsement contest could strain a good working relationship between Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Pioneer Press said.

Baltimore gives Poe a proper funeral

by Greta Kaul

            Two hundred years after Edgar Allan Poe's birth, Baltimore is determined to give him a proper funeral, the Associated Press reported via the Washington Post.

            Sunday, two services with a combined capacity of 700 will be held to commemorate Poe, whose real-life funeral was attended by less than 10, according to the AP.

            Actors dressed as Poe contemporaries and authors influenced by Poe will deliver eulogies based on his work, the AP said.

            Poe died at the age of 40 after he was found delirious outside of a Baltimore tavern.  He was never coherent enough to say what happened to him, according to the AP.

            The circumstances of Poe's life were tragic, according to the Baltimore Sun.  He was orphaned at the age of three and struggled to earn a living, never achieving the success he thought he deserved, the Baltimore Sun said.

            Though other East Coast cities have claims to Poe's legacy, Baltimore can boast of being Poe's final resting place.  Much of Poe's family lived in Baltimore during his life, the Baltimore Sun said.


Obama rallies doctors for health care in Rose Garden

by Greta Kaul

            President Obama outlined his health care plan to an audience of doctors from across the country in a televised event at the White House Monday, according to the Associated Press.

            Obama made his address to the 150 doctors in the White House Rose Garden.  He said that his overhaul plan would benefit medical professionals as much as it would benefit patients, according to the New York Times.

            Many of the doctors were members of Doctors for America, an outgrowth of Doctors for Obama, a group that worked to elect the president, said the New York Times.

            The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on the legislation later this week, according to the New York Times.

            Amendments to the legislation have reduced penalties for not carrying insurance, The AP reported.  It is now expected to grant coverage to 92 percent to 93 percent of Americans, down from 95 percent in earlier versions, the AP said.

Analysis: Structure in a National Parks piece

by Greta Kaul

            The USA Today's story about climate change in the National Parks began with the frank statement, "Human disruption of the climate is the greatest threat ever to the USA's national parks."  From there, it continued to pummel the reader, martini glass-style, with shocking facts about the severity of the climate change situation in the parks.  The most compelling facts sit near the top, and once they ran out, the reporter bolstered them with quotes, examples, and lesser facts.

            The martini glass approach was effective for this article because it gave the reader reason for concern, then brought in examples and quotes from experts and people in close contact with the situation to make more of an emotional appeal for the parks.  The USA Today article had a very different approach than the feature story in the Christian Science Monitor on the same topic, which had most of the same information but used more storytelling.  The USA today article could have done it this way if it had more space or was looking for more of a feature story.  As a news piece, I think it was well-written as it was.

Senate to approve health care bill

by Greta Kaul


            The Senate Finance Committee is expected to approve its health care bill later this week.           

            Under the plan, supported by President Obama, millions of uninsured Americans would receive subsidized health care benefits, and the government would regulate the growth of health spending, according to the New York Times.

            Obama stressed that, when passed, the health care reform will help small businesses and create jobs, according to the New York Times.

            At $900 billion over 10 years, the reform would meet Obama's requirement for offsetting spending increases by taxing those who refuse to buy insurance and limiting fees payable to doctors and hospitals under Medicare, the Los Angeles Times said.

            Democrats need 60 votes to bypass a possible filibuster by Republicans in the Senate, the New York Times said, and Republicans intend to fight the reform.

            After the bill is approved, full debate is expected to begin mid-October, and last for two weeks, in which Republicans are expected to propose amendments, the Los Angeles Times said. 


Minneapolis man exploits mother

by Greta Kaul

            A Minneapolis man was charged with financial exploitation of his 95-year-old mother, who has dementia.

            Joel Allen Berntsen, 58, told police he borrowed $290,000 from his mother in 2006 to buy a house.  The house foreclosed in 2008.  Berntsen's mother's account was frozen when the IRS her that she owed $12,928 in back taxes on the home, according to the Pioneer Press.

            Berntsen admitted to using his mother's credit card to pay his bills, and told police that he hoped to pay his mother back, according to the Star Tribune.

            Berntsen's use of her account caused his mother to fall behind on rent.  She told an adult protection worker that Berntsen sees the money as "family money," She said he can't have any more because she needs it, according to the Star Tribune.

            Berntsen was convicted with second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2004, and driving over the legal limit in 1997, the Pioneer Press said.

by Greta Kaul

            Twelve Minnesota cities will install wind turbines in the upcoming weeks as part of the federal Hometown WindPower program, the Minnesota Daily said.

            The energy from the small turbines will go directly into the power distribution systems of the cities, to power about 110 homes, the Pioneer Press said.  Residents will not see an increase in their monthly energy bills.   

            The turbines are financed by Clean Renewable Energy Bonds that are sold to investors, the Minnesota Daily said. 

            Most of the cities are members of the Minnesota Municipal Power Association, which aims to meet the state mandate that 25% of Minnesota's energy is renewable by 2025, according to the Pioneer Press.

            Citizens of the twelve cities have expressed concern about the noise generated by the turbines, and whether the turbines will change the migration patterns of birds, the Pioneer Press said.

            No viable plan has been developed to install turbines in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Daily said.

Hamas makes video for prisoner release

by Greta Kaul


            Palestinian Islamist group Hamas released a proof-of-life video of a captive Israeli soldier Friday.

            In the video, Gilad Shalit, 23, smiled briefly, and looked calm and healthy, according to Reuters.  Shalit held a newspaper dated September 14, 2009, proof of his being alive, Reuters said.  The Shalit video is Hamas' first proof-of-life video, according to CNN.

            Hamas released the video in exchange for Israel's release of 20 female Palestinian prisoners, Reuters said.            

            Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh expressed hope that the swap would be a step on the way to reconciliation, according to Reuters.

            In return for the release of Shalit, Hamas seeks release of hundreds of prisoners held by Israel.  The United Nations has called for the release of Shalit on humanitarian grounds, according to CNN.

National Parks face climate and funding turmoil

by Greta Kaul           

            Ken Burns' 12-hour series on America's National Parks is expected to create publicity for the challenges facing America's National Park System.

            In recent years, the national budget deficit has left the parks with an estimated $8 billion to $9 billion in back-logged maintenance, as well as being short of staff, the Christian Science Monitor said.

            In addition, climate change could create major hazards in 25 of 351 of the National Park Service's properties, USA Today said.  The glaciers in Glacier National Park, for example, are expected to melt in as few as twelve years.

            Rising sea levels, loss of water, extreme weather, loss of plants and wildlife, ocean acidification, and air pollution are expected to be the biggest problems for the parks by the end of the century, as the average national temperature rises, USA Today reported.

            The Second Century Commission, a 28-member bipartisan board, will issue a report on the problems facing America's National Park System later this year, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

            Mark Wenzler, a clean air expert at the National Parks Conservation Association told the Christian Science Monitor that this year is a crossroads for the parks in terms of fixing them before they get worse.  "What are we going to do?" he asked.

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