May 6, 2007

Top Speller in Family Quest

Kunal Sah, 13, is a great speller on a mission to win the upcoming Scripps National Spelling Bee later this month to bring attention to his family’s political asylum case. Ever since last year when his parents were sent back to India, Sah turned his frustration to training himself to win the nationals and grab President Bush’s attention and eventually bring back his parents to Utah and reunite the family. The Sah’s immigration lawyer concedes their plight is a complex case and doesn’t forsee a quick resolution. The New York Times gives a complete picture of the situation through words, photos and video.

Saturday’s Star Tribune picked up the New York Times story, minus the visuals.

Bush defectors switch to Obama camp

Disillusioned former supporters of President Bush are switching allegiance to Barack Obama as their choice for the White House candidate with the best chance of uniting a divided nation.

The Sunday Times UK online with a Washington byline mentions three unlikely converts: Tom Bernstein who not only attended Yale with Bush but also co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team with him and was up until recently a staunch supporter of Bush and the Republican party yet admires Obama’s call for action on Darfur; Matthew Dowd, Bush’s chief campaign strategist in 2004 and a member of his inner circle, who sites Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq and his style of leadership as his reasons for the change; and Robert Kagan, a neoconservative and informal foreign policy adviser to Republican senator John McCain who admires Obama’s global affairs policy.The article adds that Hillary Clinton has her own Bush defectors, too.

On that note, in a related story in the Washington Post, steps up her appeals to female donors to keep up with Obama’s successful fundraising. She is rolling out several events tailored to politically active women such as a waterfront concert in NYC headlined by singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton, and a recent push by the nation’s largest political action committee, Emily’s List, which supports female candidates.

To counter Clinton’s efforts for the female vote, Obama’s wife has launched a “Women for Obama? initiative and John Edwards’ wife has stepped up her efforts to gain support of female donors through published interviews.

Queen Elizabeth and her hat attend the Kentucky Derby

Friday’s Newsday told of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Saturday’s Kentucky Derby in Louisville. The royal monarch is a fan of both hats and horses. Many of the nearly 155,000 racing fans attending the Derby will be wearing the kind of fancy hats the queen favors. Anne Sawyer, the official milliner to the Derby, created a special sky-blue hat to be presented to the queen at the Derby, although according to the odds on internet gambling website, bettors wagered 2 – 1 that Her Majesty would wear a white chapeau to the race.

Newsday’s online article included a video related the queen’s visit to Jamestown.

Saturday’s Yahoo UK news said, although the queen had visited horses she owns in Kentucky on four previous visits, attending the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is the fulfillment of her lifelong dream.

USA Today online shows a full-color picture of the hat the queen chose to wear to the race on Derby Day: lime green straw brim with fuchsia ribbon trim.

Girl gang slash fest by megamall shrimp shop

As a result of a possible gang related attack at the Mall of America, one 14-year-old girl from Bloomington was in critical condition Saturday at Hennepin County Medical Center after being slashed in the stomach and abdomen with the razor blade from a utility knife. Another 14-year-old girl is in custody for the attack and will probably be charged with felony assault. Three women helped the victim within seconds of the attack. A nearby kiosk worker told the Star Tribune that despite it being a busy afternoon crowded with shoppers outside the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant at the Mall of America, the incident drew little attention from passers-by.

The Pioneer Press refers to the Mall of America as the “megamall? in its headline, and its subhead relates the important information that the victim, though hospitalized, is expected to survive and also that the suspect has been arrested. The Pioneer Press also places the incident as happening on the food court side hall of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. rather than the wider, carpeted store hall side.

Both papers state that the attack was not random and emphasize the malls safety statistics. The Star Tribune also details all past high-profile incidents occurring at the mall since its inception and refers to the Mall of America as "MOA" in its front-page headline.

Norm Coleman considered vulnerable in 2008 Senate reelection bid

Sunday’s Star Tribune’s page 16 headline, “Why is Coleman considered at risk in ‘08? and subhead, “It’s official. Norm Coleman is one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents up for reelection in 2008,? an exclusive to the Star Tribune, gives details for the many reasons of his vulnerability: geography, timing, his relationship with President Bush, the Iraq war, etc., but it counters that Coleman shouldn’t be considered “political dead meat? yet. Some positives are then included starting with the fact that Coleman is a proven winner, and that his two likeliest Democratic opponents – Al Franken and Mike Ciresi, aren’t.

Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, DSCC partisan website, gives its opinion that Coleman’s reelection bid is at risk because after his visit to Iraq last month, Coleman said there is a lessening in sectarian violence, despite statistics to the contrary.

May 5, 2007

Riots predicted if Sarkozy wins in France

A repeat of the 2005 violence in working-class suburbs is predicted if frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy wins Sunday’s election in France. As the French interior minister, Sarkozy has alienated second-generation minority immigrants using an American-inspired combative style to deal with crime. His opponent, Segolene Royal of the Socialist Party is warning the population of the danger of violence and brutality that is sure to occur if they make the mistake of choosing Sarkozy. Sarkozy is himself a son of an immigrant, a Hungarian refugee, and has done much to improve the status of minorities, albeit with a zero-tolerance style ala Rudy Giuliani that does not agree with some. He supports affirmative action and promises to find jobs for 250,000 disadvantaged youths before the end of the year. Saturday's New York Times focuses on Sarkozy in this article, detailing his strengths and weaknesses and only slightly mentioning his opponent, Royal, and then only to refer to Sarkozy and his campaign, not what her platform is.

The Washington Post carried an AP account, byline of La Defense, of the election. This article focuses on the bottom line from this modern, business district city that embraces capitalism. We discover that both candidates want France to reclaim its role as a world leader and the country’s enticing social benefits are listed, such as a minimum wage that is among Europe’s highest, guaranteed low-cost health care, long vacations and generous unemployment compensation.
* U P D A T E *

According to BBC News, Sarkozy has taken the presidency. After a turnout of about 85%, Sarkozy is estimated to have won 53% of the vote. In his acceptance speech, Sarkozy said he would be the president of all the French, he believed deeply in European integration, and US could count on France’s friendship. Ms. Royal was gracious in her concession speech, expressing hope that “the next president of the Republic? would accomplish his mission at the service of all the French people.

May 2, 2007

Premature facelift for local hall

A $90 million major renovation is slated for the 1970’s design icon, Orchestra Hall, in Minneapolis. The orchestra recorded a financial deficit in its most recent fiscal year; the funds are expected to come from private donations. The two-year project is expected to begin in 2009 with only minor concert schedule interruptions expected. The Star Tribune’s front-page story ran minus a photograph, yet offered a more complete picture of its plans and history than the Pioneer Press’ front-page, below the fold sound-bite glimpse of the project that included a color photograph of Orchestra Hall’s exterior.

Cycling Armed Robbers in Northeast Minneapolis

A on-duty, plainclothes cop, Sgt. Bill Blake, who was out at Legends Bar & Grill in Northeast Minneapolis Monday afternoon, came to the rescue reacting to two armed robbers by firing several shots at two ski-masked gunmen in the populated eatery. The fleeing suspects rode bicycles to the establishment but fled on foot. Blake wounded one suspect who was later located; the other suspect is still at large as of Tuesday. The Pioneer Press has a picture of the police-tape-wrapped restaurant parking lot in its local news section and refers to the incident as occuring during lunch at the eatery and not naming the officer. The Star Tribune puts the story on the front page, below the fold and mentions the establishment as being a bar, and names the officer.

Charitable Swindler

A former director of finance and 13-year veteran of Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota, Raymond Weeks, was charged with stealing nearly $162,000 from the nonprofit organization over 2 ½ years. According to the Pioneer Press, who called it “looting,? Weeks told investigators just how easy it was to take the cash that came in through monthly car auctions and hide it with accounting tricks.

The Pioneer Press put this story on its front page, above the fold, yet the Star Tribune buried it in the middle of page four of its regional section.

May 1, 2007

DDR in the schools; the video game, not the country

The New York Times front page shows a gym class in Morgantown, W.Va. crowded with middle school legs dancing on mats, eyes staring off screen. What they’re staring at is a computer screen playing the video game Dance Dance Revolution. Hundreds of schools have taken notice of this Japanese arcade game that has gotten normally sedentary youth active again by including this video game in their physical education programs. The San Francisco Chronicle (in January 2006) said West Virginia’s plan is to incorporate the video game in all of its 765 public schools by the end of 2007 to attack the states youth obesity problem.

Diana Memorial Concert

The UK Evening Standard tells of Prince Harry having been given permission by senior officers to return to England for two weeks from the Iraqi frontline in July to attend a memorial concert for his mother at the new Wembley stadium. He and his brother, Prince William, planned this concert to honor Diana when she would have celebrated her 46th birthday. Elton John, Duran Duran, Kanye West and Rod Stewart will headline the concert. Many related stories accompany this online account, including a video of the brothers discussing the plans for the concert. The video includes footage of Diana. The New York Times mentions that Prince Charles and Camilla will not attend the concert, but will attend the memorial service for Diana on Aug. 31 that will commemorate the 10th anniversary of her death.

April 22, 2007

U of M dropout heads to St. Louis

After one season with the Gophers, men’s hockey defenseman Erik Johnson jumped to the NHL to join the St. Louis Blues next season, Friday’s Minnesota Daily reported. Johnson said his three-year contract will be in the neighborhood of $765,000 each season, plus a signing bonus. Thursday’s Star Tribune puts his salary at $850,000 with the potential of earning $2 million a year with incentives. Johnson was the first Minnesotan ever to be a first overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft. He turned down the chance to join the Blues for the remainder of this season.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch shows a color picture of Johnson putting on a Blues jersey last summer after being chosen first overall draft pick in Canada. This related article is from March 27, 2007, speculating whether Johnson would join the Blues to finish out their season and help them during the playoffs. It refers to his current team as being the Minnesota “Golden? Gophers.

April 21, 2007

Plagerism Fine for British Fashion Designer John Galliano

British Fashion Designer John Galliano was fined $271,800 for unauthorized use of atmospheric imagery of renowned U.S. photographer William Klein in Galliano’s recent advertising campaign, Reuters reported Thursday on Yahoo news with a Paris dateline. Galliano’s lawyer will appeal the ruling on the grounds that Klein’s images were not reproduced, therefore it doesn’t constitute counterfeiting.

Galliano’s ads appeared in French and international fashion magazines, reported IOL Independent Online, featuring black and white photos displayed like a contact sheet, in the manner of a recent Klein exhibition in Paris.

Southwest High School National Chess Champs

The Southwest High School chess team of Minneapolis just returned from winning its second straight national championship at the 2007 National High School Chess Championships in Kansas City, MO. Southwest’s coach Alex Adams said the games are extremely challenging, lasting from three to four hours each and the teens typically play 15-30 hours of chess during the three-day tournament. The Star Tribune listed by name each of the nine chess team members.

In a related story, the only corresponding coverage I found was a KCTV5 story that a 15-year old chess competitor was attacked in his hotel lobby at the Hyatt Crown Center. Four older teens jumped him, punched him, demanded his sneakers and ran off with the North Carolina boy’s neck chain and ball cap. The victim said he didn’t recognize any of the attackers from the chess competition. The attack was caught on surveillance video. The robbers are still at large.

Stanford University Student Hunger Strike

In Friday's San Francisco Chronicle, a group of 4 Stanford University students are 8 days into a hunger strike for low-wage workers. Although one of the 5 other protesters sought relief at the student health clinic and was given intravenous fluids Thursday, the hunger strikers said they are prepared to go as long as it takes for the university to revise its living-wage policy for low-end workers such as janitors and groundskeepers. University President John L. Hennessy met with the protest group, Student Labor Action Coalition Monday, and university officials plan to meet with them again soon.

In the San Jose Mercury News, Stanford spokeswoman Kate Chesley said the protesters needn’t fast to meet with the university president or other university officials. Chesley said, while the university is backing its current wage policy, every policy can be improved. The hunger strikers’ tents pitched on White Plaza are in full view of hundreds of high school students and their parents making college visits.

Mother Jones online includes a video link of the protest.