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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.

Gun controversy in Virginia Tech massacre

Saturday’s New York Times said federal law should have prevented Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho from purchasing his guns after a state court declared him to be a danger to himself and he was sent for psychiatric treatment in 2005. Because of technical wording discrepancies between state and federal laws in the matter of reporting mental health records to the federal background check system, Cho was able to guy two guns and kill 32 people at the University on Monday before turning one of those guns on himself.

Friday's UK Telegraph , dateline Roanoke, carried an interview of John Markell, owner of Roanoke Firearms, the gun shop where Cho bought his weapons 5 weeks in advance of the massacre. Markell implied that the killings happened not because guns are too easy to get, but because not enough people have guns to protect themselves.

Cho produced a Virginia drivers’ license, his alien residency card and a checkbook printed with his address for the instant background check. After ten minutes, Cho’s credit card was charged $571 for a chunky black Glock.

April 15, 2007

Prince William back on the market

A glamorous royal wedding like Prince William’s parents’ Charles and Diana's is alas not in sight. Sunday’s New York Post said the second in line to the throne in Great Britain, Prince William, 24, has ended his four-year relationship with Kate Middleton, 25. They met as students at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland in 2001.

The Sun broke the story of the amicable split, citing William’s devotion to Army life now that he is a full-fledged officer in the Blues and Royals as being a major factor in the breakup.

Torii Hunter balks on Jackie Robinson Day

Sixty years after Jackie Robinson entered the clubhouse at Ebbets Field to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke the color barrier, Major League Baseball honors him. The .311 career hitter and Hall of Famer who helped Brooklyn win six pennants and one World Series endured vicious taunts and insults from fans and players throughout his career. In tribute to him, select players from every team will wear Robinson’s No. 42 and in some cases, the entire roster will wear his number which has been retired in all of baseball for the past ten years.

The Star Tribune said Twins centerfielder Torii Hunter was originally set to be the only player on the Twins to wear No. 42 for the game, but as more than 200 players throughout baseball will honor Robinson by wearing his number, Hunter has been quoted as saying the tribute has been diluted now that anyone can join in.

The New York Daily News told the story that might explain to Torii Hunter why the more players who wear No. 42, the more meaning there would be in the tribute:

Robinson’s teammate, Gene Hermanski, remembered the day in 1948 when Robinson received yet another death threat if he dared take the field. In the locker room Dodgers manager Burt Shotten asked the players what they wanted to do. Hermanski said maybe they should all wear No. 42, then he won’t know who to shoot.

In my opinion, Hunter selfish attitude misses the point of Jackie Robinson Day. The Star Tribune article said Hunter helped his sixth-grade son write a paper on Jackie Robinson that earned 110%. As much as Hunter declares he’s an expert on Robinson, Hermanski’s bold offer of solidarity isn’t included on Wikipedia, so Hunter doesn’t know about it. I hope that Hunter father and son soon realize there is even more to learn about their hero and more to learn from him.

April 14, 2007

Anti-Putin marches in Russia

Sunday’s UK Guardian Unlimited said the largest-ever anti-Putin rally in the Russian capital occurred as opposition leader Garry Kasparov was arrested. Kasparov, Russia’s former world chess champion was to have led the march, but he was detained as soon as he emerged from a taxi and driven off to a Moscow court in a police van. The defiant leader was later fined 1,000 rubles ($38.73) and freed.

Two thousand protesters chanting “Russia without Putin: Russia without Putin? were kept in check by 9,000 riot police. The Kremlin is facing the problem of who will lead Russia after Putin is constitutionally obliged to leave office in March 2008, after serving his two terms. Although Kasparov leads his own opposition party, United Civil Front, he doesn’t stand a chance against the Kremlin’s election machine that will effectively place Putin’s preferred successor, either Sergei Ivanov or Dmitry Medvedev, both Putin loyalists.

The BBC online news shows a picture of anti-Putin protesters being detained by Russian riot police and a link to vivid news video. In a major discrepancy, BBC's headline describes this rare opposition march as happening in St. Petersburg, not Moscow. This BBC report lists another opposition leader involved in the protest, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov along with Kasparov. Conflicting figures of protesters are reported: Mr. Kasparov claimed the successful march included 5,000 people, while officials said between 2,000 and 3,000 took part, both comments contradict the Guardian Unlimited's count.

UPDATE: The Yahoo AP news account cleared up the discrepancies. There seem to have been two marches: Saturday in Moscow and Sunday in St. Petersburg, which at the time of writing, was banned and didn't happen yet. The time discrepancies among the articles should eventually catch up with each other and bring the news into focus.

April 12, 2007

Slavery Question on YouTube

Thursday’s Star Tribune said St. Louis county commissioner Keith Nelson’s board meeting remarks landed him on YouTube and in hot water. Nelson has said many times that he’s there to represent the majority wishes of his constituents, but in February he elaborated that he’d support slavery if his constituents wanted it. When the video of that meeting hit YouTube last week prompted complaints, Nelson apologized in the manner of “if I offended anyone in any way? response. He has amended how he would now respond if it turned out his constituency favored slavery: he would resign, saying, “I could no longer represent them.? Nelson’s original remarks were said during a board debate over a proposed county smoking ban where he explained his opposition to the ban because most of his constituents wanted him to.

The Duluth News Tribune published Monday headlines a Nelson quote that his slavery comment was taken out of context and includes a link to the YouTube video. At the Feb. 27 board meeting, board chairman Bill Kron asked Nelson the slavery question to make the point that there are principles where you don’t always go by the majority. Kron’s question is not on the YouTube tape; only Nelson’s response is.

April 10, 2007

Classical music experiment fails in D.C.

Rush hour subway riders in the Metro, Washington D.C. early this year ignored a special treat: Joshua Bell, America’s greatest violinist busking for change and going unnoticed. The Washington Post conducted this musical experiment to see if beauty would transcend preoccupied commuters. The answer was no, beauty lost. Speaking of beauty, not only did Joshua Bell flawlessly play six classic classical masterpieces on his priceless Stradivari, but his famous, heartthrob-handsome face wasn’t even obscured for the experiment. His talents usually command $1,000 a minute; this January morning his empty violin case netted less than thirty-three dollars for 45 minutes of incognito musical gift.

Since the Washington Post sponsored this experiment, its article reflects the importance of the event with complete coverage, and background, including how the stunt was proposed to Bell over coffee one morning late last year. An online video link is included as is a full-length audio link.

Monday’s Star Tribune broadsheet covered the story on page two, including two photos and reference to the video link, and filled its story with an interview of a local street musician and Bell fan. Monday’s Star Tribune online version also included a short version of the Washington Post story along with a link to its original, complete article and video.

April 8, 2007

Latino WWII veterans protest Ken Burns upcoming PBS documentary

Ken Burns’ new documentary, The War, is set to premiere on PBS stations this September 2007. Sunday’s online edition of USA Today said this film, six years in the making, includes no Hispanic presence, causing a political problem for PBS and Burns.

Latino leaders and Congress’ Hispanic caucus are angry that what is being touted as Burns greatest work has left out any Latino recognition.

Burns told AP that he didn’t intentionally exclude Latinos or any other group. PBS and Burns’ dilemma is whether to satisfy an important political constituency or be forced to change his vision due to a protest, setting a dangerous artistic precedent.

A PBS president Paula Kerger has promised solution suggestions within a week.

MSNBC said in an AP article that Latino leaders met in Washington this week with PBS president Paula Kerger to tell her they will not tolerate the omission of Latinos in this documentary. Burns and his co-producer said to the group in a statement that they are “dismayed and saddened? and the implication that they intentionally omitted reference to their group.

Sharpton calls Imus’ remark “racist?

Rev. Al Sharpton told the New York Post in a Sunday top story that if Don Imus, radio’s original shock-jock, is still working by Friday then he and other black leaders will picket his New York City studio. Although Friday, Imus issued an apology calling his recent remark about the Rutgers basketball team “insensitive? and “ill-conceived,? Sharpton said his apology will only be accepted if he resigns. Imus has a history of saying racially charged remarks, but Sharpton said Imus’ “ugly, graphic terms? to describe the mostly black basketball squad are his worst offense.

Although Sunday’s New York Post didn’t specify Imus’ remarks, Saturday’s New York Times did, which I’ll print in full context:
“That’s some rough girls from Rutgers,? Mr. Imus said on Wednesday. “Man, they got tattoos ...? The program’s executive producer, Bernard McGuirk, agreed: “Some hardcore ho’s,? he said. Imus continued, “That’s some nappy-headed ho’s there, I’m going to tell you that.?
Later in the show, Mr. McGuirk characterized the women’s collegiate basketball championship Tuesday night, between Rutgers and the University of Tennessee, as “the Jigaboos versus the Wannabes.?

The New York Times said networks, journalists and the president of Rutgers University are lining up to condemn these remarks by Imus. The article said not everyone is upset by his remarks; it said his defenders say Imus is an equal-opportunity offender, listing other groups targeted by Imus.

British captives gave more than classic “name, rank, serial number?

The 15 British sailors and marines returned home from the Iranian hostage crisis to face scrutiny concerning just how much information they gave during their 13 days of captivity. The (UK) Sunday Times said the British Ministry of Defence is happy with the way the returning crewmembers handled themselves. He pointed out that since they were not technically prisoners of war, then the weren’t limited to respond to interrogation to simply reply with their “name, rank, serial number and date of birth? – the “big four? as Britain knows them and as made famous in war movies.

Instead the crewmembers were considered to be merely “captured? and therefore under British rules they would follow the “conduct in capture? where they can tell their captors anything they want to hear as long as they don’t give away classified information or put anyone’s life in danger or breach operational security.

This article highlights the media debate that the crewmembers may have been “too cooperative? with the Iranians, hinting that Britain has been humiliated by their actions.

Thursday’s New York Times said in a London byline the freed Britons’ safe return has been tarnished as they face questions about their capture and behavior. This article references, Stephen Glover, a columnist in The (UK) Daily Mail who compared negatively the British captives with those from previous conflicts. Glover said in no previous era would British servicemen taken hostage have been so willing to confess and apologize.

Sunday’s New York Times:

Sunday Business
1. An article last Sunday about a class-action lawsuit over mortgage lending practices referred incorrectly to the loan-to-value ratio that is considered prudent for mortgages. It is a maximum of 80 percent, not a minimum of 80 percent. (The loan-to-value ratio is a measure of risk that compares the size of the total loan on a property to the underlying collateral.)

MY COMMENT: I’m surprised this “maximum/minimum? mistake wasn’t caught. If carefully read then each choice would be a big difference from each other, completely changing the story’s meaning.

2. A brief report in the Suits column on March 25, about the inaugural flight of the super jumbo A380 to Kennedy International Airport, misstated the plane’s maximum weight on takeoff. It is more than 1.2 million pounds, not 1.3 million tons.

MY COMMENT: I suppose that it would be difficult to know the difference between how heavy a plane weighing 1.2 million pounds or 1.3 million tons is, so this mistake might not be so obvious. But I also suppose that the writer should have double-checked with his/her source and asked for clarification for anything that isn’t obvious to him/her and not taken the information as it stood, unclear and unverified.


The New York Times article spells the Daily Mail writer's name differently, as "Steven" instead of "Stephen."

April 7, 2007

Metro area teen hangout couldn’t stay afloat

Thursday’s Star Tribune said the Twin Cities Underground closed its doors amid financial woes. Since the Uptown area club opened in June 2003 more that 12,000 teens flocked to the alcohol-free, no-frills live music venue open on weekend nights. Wendy Wilde Pareene and her husband founded the center with the goal to make young people feel accepted. The TC Underground was located on West Lake St. yet drew teens from all over the metro areas, not just the Uptown neighborhood. A volunteer board of parents and teens ran the center. Its funding relied on grants, donations, and admission fees for musical events and found difficulty competing with homeless shelters and emergency-care centers for funding.

The City Pages reported the demise of the under-22 teen music club and listed several alternatives for teens visit all-ages music venues.

Pigeon War in St. Paul

The front page of Thursday’s Pioneer Press said St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman has given the OK to wage war against the city’s population of pigeons. Coleman plans to have the pigeon problem under control by its own D-Day, that is, before the Republican National Convention comes to town in September 2008. The mayor has ordered Bob Kessler, the city’s director of licensing, inspections and environmental protection to come up with a battle plan. Kessler’s 3-point plan starts with a way to destroy the pigeons’ homes by putting a slant on their nesting areas. Step two is to create pigeon condos to entice pigeons to relocate to specific rooftop structures so that step three can be implemented: steal their eggs. After the pigeons lay their eggs in these controlled condos, the building’s maintenance staff would snatch the eggs. “We’ll keep taking their eggs, and they won’t have little ones,? Bill Stephenson, the city’s animal control supervisor said.
A sidebar explained that pigeon droppings are more than an aesthetic nuisance: they can transmit potentially deadly fungal diseases to humans if the material is inhaled. Val Cunningham, a member of the St. Paul Audubon Society said these sound like humane ways to deal with the problem.

AP ran their own take on the topic, focusing on the dramatic concepts of “stealing pigeon eggs? and “egg-stealing scheme? as the way the city plans to make a good impression for the Republican National Convention.

April 1, 2007

Blind reject free rides

The Star Tribune said that to counteract the misunderstanding that Muslim cab drivers turn away blind riders who have guide dogs because of their Islamic faith, the Minnesota chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations announced last week that 300 Muslim taxi drivers will offer free rides to blind passengers with guide dogs on April 21 when the Minnesota Guide Dog Users Inc. holds its semiannual convention in Minneapolis. The president of the Minnesota Guide Dog Users Inc. said her group hopes the drivers are trying to make reparations for past refusals rather than offering free rides just because they feel sorry for them.

On April 16, the Metropolitan Airports Commission will announce its ruling on whether to institute stiffer penalties for fare refusals based on drivers’ Islamic faith.

The Pioneer Press said the president of the Minnesota branch of the National Federation of the Blind, the group that is organizing the upcoming convention, is uncomfortable with the idea of free rides and would rather the Muslim taxi drivers just do their jobs.

Herb Carneal, Voice of the Twins, died

On the eve of the season opener, the voice of the Twins, Herb Carneal, died Sunday of congestive heart failure. He was 83. The Pioneer Press said that for the past 45 years Twins fans counted connecting with their club listening on WCCO-AM to his voice bring play-by-play to their cars, porches, kitchens or cubicles. In a 2003 AP interview, Carneal said his favorite call came in 1987, when the Twins won their first World Series. In 1996 Carneal won a spot in the broadcaster’s Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

In the Star Tribune Twins great Harmon Killebrew said Carneal was not only a great announcer, but also a real professional and a wonderful human being. At Monday’s season opener the Twins will likely wear black armbands and a uniform patch will be designed to honor Carneal.

Howard Stern plays with Sanjaya

The New York Times reported that Howard Stern has a big say in who wins "American Idol." Stern has been promoting on his Sirius satellite radio show, a Web site that encourages people to vote for the worst singer on "Idol," not the best. This sixth season that singer is Sanjaya Malakar. The creator of the Web site, votefortheworst.com, said his intention is to make sure the “cheesiest? contestant stays on as long as possible to keep the competition interesting. In contrast, Stern wants to subvert the show, bring it down by exposing the talent competition as a farce and to ultimately destroy its popularity. A spokeswoman for "American Idol" said efforts like these have no effect on the final results. The New York Times said the 24-year-old Sanjaya might be the most talked-about “American Idol? contestant ever.

The New York Post described the power of critics of "American Idol" to skew voting and keep “misfit? Sanjaya Malakar on the hit talent show for another round. It said it's the first time on the show that a contestant so thoroughly disliked by so many has become more popular than any of the favored frontrunners. Howard Stern vowed to ruin the show that he said is ruining the music industry. Idol fans are upset because keeping Sanjaya in the competition keeps other more talented singers out of the running.

Jesse Jackson backs Obama

Friday’s Pioneer Press ran the AP story that civil rights leader Jesse Jackson gave his support to Democrat Barack Obama’s presidential bid. Obama responded by crediting people like Jackson, a black politician from the civil rights era who ran for president twice, as the reason he has this opportunity to run for president today. Even though he has a long-standing history with Obama’s chief political rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, Jackson said he doesn’t owe any debt to them and it isn’t awkward for him to support his home-state senator.

ABCnews.com ran the similar AP story about Jackson backing Obama, including the information that Jackson talked to AP in a telephone interview. Jackson said Obama represents a new generation of black politicians. The article said Jackson could help Obama to secure the support of black voters, a critical bloc in the Democratic primaries.

DIVERSITY: This story represents diversity because it involves a black politician, Jackson, supporting a biracial presidential candidate, Obama, even though Jackson has a long history with the Clintons. This story explains how Jackson’s failed bids for the white house helped break down barriers for not only blacks, but women and other minorities to run for higher office.