December 10, 2007

University of Minnesota 4-year graduation rates rising

According to the Star Tribune:

980 College of Liberal Arts students graduated Sunday during the middle-of-the-academic year graduation ceremony at Northrop Auditorium.

In 2006, more than 40 percent of the university’s students graduated in four years.

Getting through a 5-year college in 4 years saves students over 18,000 in tuition and fees alone.

Minnesota is tied for 71st among the top 130 national universities.

The universities goal is that 60 percent of the next fall’s freshman class will graduate in four years.

The average credit load for freshman is currently 15.3 according to Craig Swan, the vice provost for undergraduate education.

Pig farmer convicted of serial killings

According to Reuters:

A Canadian pig farmer was convicted Sunday of killing six women in New Westminister, British Columbia.

Robert Pickton, 58, lured the women to his farm’s slaughterhouse before killing them, cutting up their bodies and feeding them to his pigs.

He is accused of killing 26 Vancouver prostitutes. Prosecutors say that they are preparing to mount a second trial that will deal with the remaining 20 murder charges.

Investigators found human remains on Pickton’s farm, including skulls and feet.

A woman testified to the court that she witnessed Pickton cutting up the bodies of the women he had killed during the middle of the night.

Oprah supports Obama for president

According to CNN:

Talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey said Sunday that Barack Obama was her “favorite? candidate in the presidential race to a crowd of more than 30,000 people in Columbia, South Carolina.

Winfrey spoke to the largest crowd gathered at any event so far in the ’08 political campaign.

Winfrey said that Obama would bring “a sense of statesmanship? to the White House.

Before delivering his campaign speech, Obama acknowledged that the crowd was probably there to see Winfrey, and not him.

“I am running because of what Dr. King called ‘the fierce urgency of now,’ ? he said.

Charter school for autistic students to open 2008

According to the Star Tribune:

A group of parents with autistic children is opening up a first-of-its-kind charter school that is specifically dedicated to serving older students with the disorder.

The Lionsgate Academy is scheduled to open in the fall of 2008. It will be the only public school in Minnesota that is specially designed for autistic children.

Students in sixth through 10th grade will be eligible for enrollment, eventually the school will serve students up to the age of 21.

The school was formed to support parents who were frustrated with the poor quality of education that their autistic children were getting, and those who felt as if they weren’t getting enough support.

Lionsgate has gained the support of the Autism Society of Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas and the Autism Spectrum Disorders Clinic at the University of Minnesota.

Twin City malls tighten security due to Omaha shootings

According to the Pioneer Press:

Security measures are being adjusted at shopping malls around the Twin Cities in response to the Omaha shootings.

The shootings at the Westroads Mall in Omaha prompted mall owners across the country to take appropriate security measures.

19-year-old Robert Hawkins gunned down 11 people in the Von Maur store at the Westroads Mall on Wednesday, killing eight and wounding three, before killing himself.

Local malls and the Mall of America have custom security plans, basing their security force on estimated crowd size.

A big tip-off that something is amiss is the shopper’s behavior, said Malachy Kavanagh, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers.

December 2, 2007

Picketers let Liz Taylor through their line

According to

Actress Liz Taylor persuaded striking TV and film writers to briefly put down their picket signs Saturday night in Los Angeles.

The Writers Guild of America agreed not to picket the Paramount Pictures lot, where AIDS activist Taylor gave a benefit performance.

Taylor, 75, said she would not cross picket lines on Dec. 1, which was World AIDS day. She said she asked the writers union to put down their signs for one day so that she and her guests could enter the studio with a clear conscience.

Writers have been on strike since Nov. 5.

The goal of the benefit performance of A.R. Gurney’s play “Love Letters? with James Earl Jones was to raise $1 million for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Fidel Castro nominated for parliament seat

According to the Guardian Unlimited:

City council officials in Havana have nominated Fidel Castro for a parliament seat Sunday.

Castro, 81, must hold a position on the Cuban parliament if he wants to remain president of the communist-run country after the countries elections in January.

Castro has not been seen in public since his emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006.

His younger brother, 76, has been running Cuba since his older brother ceded power of provisional government to him as vice president.

Previously Cuba’s prime minister, Castro has been the (unchallenged) president since 1976

6-hour hostage situation within Clinton campaign office ends

According to the Star Tribune:

A man entered into Hilary Rodham Clinton’s campaign office around 1 p.m. Friday in Rochester, New Hampshire wearing what appeared to be a bomb.

Leeland Eisenberg, 47, demanded to speak to the Democratic candidate about access to mental health care.

He took at least five hostages, but let a woman with an infant leave the scene.

The hostage situation lasted for almost six hours until he released five hostages unharmed, walked out of the office and put down what turned out to be road flares, peacefully surrendered, and was arrested shortly thereafter.

Demotion of a black detective sparks questions of racist motives

According to the Star Tribune:
The Minneapolis Police Department demoted black homicide detective Charlie Adams for alleged insubordination.

Activists Spike Moss and Ron Edwards, who spoke at a news conference at the Minneapolis Urban League, used a racial epithet to describe how the police department dealt with Adams.

Detective Adam’s supervisor, Chief Tim Dolan said that he transferred Adams to a less prominent unit after a series of insubordination incidents, one of which was the “last straw.?

Edwards and other activists at the new conference Friday cited examples of Dolan demoting three other high-ranking black officers during his first year as chief.

Council Member Ralph Remington who has publicly questioned Dolan’s decision, had a meeting with the police chief and he “…came away [from the meeting] with the feeling that there might be a window [for Adam’s possible return to the homicide unit].?

Robbinsdale writer of “Candy Girl? in the running for an Oscar

According to the Pioneer Press:

Brook Busey Hunt (“Diablo Cody?), is a 29-year-old Robbinsdale resident who wrote her memoir, “Juno,? that was eventually turned into a movie “Candy Girl,? a comedy stars Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner.

“Candy Girl? opens Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles. The film will open Dec/ 14 in Minneapolis.

“Juno? has won best film in the Rome Film Festival. Breakthrough actress (Ellen Page) and breakthrough screenwriter (Diablo Cody) in the Hollywood Film Festival. And it has been nominated for best picture, best actress (Ellen Page) and best first screenplay (Diablo Cody) from the Independent Spirit Awards.

The former City Pages columnist wrote her screenplay at a Starbucks outlet in a Target store in Crystal.

Lucinda Winter, executive director of the Minnesota Film and Television Board said, “Last year, there were something like 3,600 films made that were submitted to the Sundance alone. One hundred of them actually got into Sundance, and of those, 14 got distributed in theaters.?

November 18, 2007

Maryland parents forced to vaccinate children…or else

According to CNN:

Judge C. Philip Nichols signed letters threatening parents with jail time or fines if they didn’t immunize their children.

Nichols ordered parents to come to court Saturday morning and either immunize their children on the spot, or to prove that they had already been immunized for diseases such as mumps, measles and polio.

Families who failed to comply could face 10 to 30 days in jail.

All states require school-age children to be immunized, but Maryland parents said that they objected to the heavy-handed way the situation was handled.

Public health officials said the benefits of vaccinations against childhood disease outweighs the risks.

Parents protesting the policy argued that there is the risk of serious adverse reactions, which in their minds does not outweigh the benefits of getting their child vaccinated.

Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey sent out 1,700 letters to parents whose children had not been immunized.

101 vaccinations were administered Saturday and 71 records were updated, Ivey said.

Memories of My Melancholy…Whore?

According to CNN:

The Iranian government has made the decision to forbid the second printing of a Farsi translation of Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel.

The novel by the famed Latin American writer, which was translated into Farsi, received many complaints from conservatives who believed the novel was promoting prostitution.

The ban has provoked a greater interested in the novel, and on Saturday, the black market was selling copies of the book at more than twice their list price.

The novel, actually titled “Memories of My Melancholy Whores? was translated into Farsi as “Memories of My Melancholy Sweethearts,? tells the story of an elderly man who decides to forgo his habit of using prostitutes on his 90th birthday by sleeping with a 14-year-old virgin, and ends up falling in love with the young girl.

Officials at Niloofar Publications, which published the first edition of the novel, confirmed Saturday that they have been forbidden to put out the second edition.

Since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, Iran has tightened censorshop of books, films and music.

Protestors march on Washington DC

According to the Guardian Unlimited:

Thousands of people marched into the Justice Department headquarters in Washington DC on Friday.

Protestors were demanding federal intervention in the “Jenna Six? case, the ruling of which they found to be overly harsh and unfair against the six black teens accused of jumping a white high school student in Jena, La.

More than 100 busloads of people came to participate in the march, that was organized by Rev. Al Sharpton. Protestors came as far away as Florida, Michigan, and Washington.

“There are so many nooses being hung around America,? said Martin Luther King III. “Anytime there’s a hate crime, the Justice Department should prosecute, and a noose is certainly a hate crime.?

Five of the six Jena teens were initially charged with attempted second-degree murder.

Mychal Bell, 17, who is the sixth teen, was booked as a juvenile and his charge was sealed.

“Power hour? deemed dangerous to new 21-year-olds

According to the Star Tribune:

In 2005, Minnesota became the second state to outlaw the midnight-to 2am birthday celebrations, known to many as “power hour,? in hopes of discouraging dangerous drinking binges.

A 2006 study at Virginia Tech University found that the average male consumes 13 drinks on his 21st birthday, while the average woman, seven and a half.

The surveyed also showed that 32 percent of men and 26 percent of women ended up vomiting on their 21st birthday because they drank so much.

A third of all students experienced a blackout on their 21st birthday and 30 percent consumed enough alcoholic drinks to give them an estimated blood alcohol level of 0.28 or higher – which puts them at risk for alcohol poisoning.

University of Minnesota Prof. Toben Nelson has studied college student drinking trend for the past decade, both here in Minneapolis and at Harvard.

“It’s cheaper to binge drink than it is to go to a first-run movie in many college towns,? Nelson said. “It’s cheap, highly social entertainment and there’s an industry around supplying alcohol to college students.?

MOA channels Fifth Avenue in new upscale luxury boutiques

According to the Pioneer Press:

New boutiques such as Burberry, Chanel and Gucci have opened up at the Mall of America.

For most luxury goods and services firms, 20 percent of the shoppers will deliver 80 percent of the profits, according to the Luxury Institute, which is based in New York.

International tourists from Europe and Japan are more likely to shop in trendy luxury stores, and may be more interested in trips to the Mall of America for economic steals because to the weak exchange rate of the U.S. dollar.

"My belief is that the high-end consumer is still going to spend. That's going to be the one hiding place," said Patricia Edwards, an analyst with Wentworth Hauser & Violich in Seattle. "But the high-end consumer isn't the affordable luxury customer, and that's the catch."

Some new luxury goods, often thought of as affordable luxury, are now selling for 1.5 times the middle-market price goods.

Luxury spending has doubled since 2003 to $600 billion, with many analysts crediting celebrities and fashion designers for the increase.

Stores such as Burberry, which once was in downtown Minneapolis, are often destinations by themselves. "That's a good way to reinforce a shopping center," said David Brennan, co-director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence at the University of St. Thomas. "The more stores you have as destinations, the more insulated you'll be."