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 1, 2007

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 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.

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 8, 2007

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."

March 26, 2007

British Arrests Refocus Glare on Muslim Area

Last week British police arrested three Muslim men from Beeston, an enclave of Leeds, England. Two of the men were stopped at Manchester airport before boarding a plane to Pakistan; the third was arrested at his home. The men of Pakistani descent were arrested on suspicion of having been accomplices of the London suicide bombers from July 2005.

Mohammed Miah, the owner of a “Hot “n? Krispy? shop, said he has no sympathy for the suicide bombers and feels they give everybody a bad name.

A white resident, Cliff Heard, described one of the arrested men, Mohammed Shakil, his next-door neighbor, in glowing terms. The nephew of one of the 2005 suicide bombers said he was convinced his nephew was inspired to act due to British participation in the Iraq war.

A criminal lawyer, Tariq Rehman said Muslims understand certain violent actions because they see American troops involved in an illegal war in Iraq killing Muslims illegally.

The New York Times article tells of DIVERSITY explaining that the British neighborhood of Beeston is a working class section of the more prosperous city, Leeds. It is a mixed-race neighborhood of whites, Asians and Africans. Bad feelings are back in the city that originated after the July 2005 suicide bombings in London. That’s because 3 of the 4 bombers came from Beeston and now 3 more people from the neighborhood have been arrested.

March 10, 2007

New Afghan heroin chief sold heroin in Vegas in 1987

Afghanistan’s new anticorruption chief in charge of rooting out graft in the world’s opium capital spent 4 years in a Nevada prison for selling heroin to an undercover cop. Mr. E, or Izzatullah Wasifi, as he is known today, admits to the New York Times that he served a prison sentence for a drug offense in 1987 but downplayed the reason for his conviction. Washifi’s account puts the blame on his wife’s personal cocaine use celebrating their honeymoon in Vegas. Court records said Wasifi exchanged a pound-and-a-half bag of heroin with a street value of $2 million for $65,000 cash in an undercover sting. The President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, a childhood friend of Wasifi, appointed him to head the anticorruption bureau in Kabul two months ago. Antinarcotics officials in Afghanistan, speaking on condition of anonymity, say there is no evidence to prove that Wasifi is involved in Afghanistan’s current heroin trade.

MSNBC’s online AP version includes more background information than does the New York Times newspaper version. We learn that accusations of corruption and immorality swirl around Wasifi despite his vow to tackle graft “from the top down.? MSNBC also provides details of his family’s exile in 1979 after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

March 3, 2007

Picasso works stolen

Two important paintings by Picasso were stolen from the home of his granddaughter in Paris. The New York Times Thursday front-page Arts section dateline Paris includes photos of each painting; New York Times online shows them in color. The police estimate the stolen paintings to be worth $66 million. The family lawyer provides a chronology of the theft starting in paragraph four.

The Pioneer Press uses an AP wire and shows one painting in color. The story is written in conversational style. One of the paintings was cut out of its frame; the other taken in tact. Information is given about the difficulty of trying to fence well-known art such as these pieces on the black market.

February 24, 2007

Internet addiction is "a grave social problem" in China

The Star Tribune ran a Washington Post story explaining the Chinese government has expanded on its broader effort to control what its citizens can see on the Internet by helping to fund eight inpatient rehabilitation clinics across the country. The Communist government already runs an extensive program that limits Web access, censors sites and seeks to control online political dissent. Now citizens, usually concerned parents whose child might play online games for 15 hours nonstop, pay upward of $1,300 a month for treatment, which is about 10 times the average salary in China. Tao Ran, who leads the largest clinic in China, feels that Internet addiction is usually an expression of deeper psychological problems and uses a tough-love approach for treatment that includes counseling, military discipline, drugs, hypnosis and mild electric shocks.

The Toronto Star ran a similar story highlighting the connection in terms of withdrawal treating Internet addicts as if they were heroin addicts, so Tao Ran treats them similarly at his clinic in Beijing.

February 17, 2007

Prince Harry to Iraq

The London Daily Mirror is reporting that Prince Harry, the third in line for the British throne, will be serving on the front line in Iraq within days, according to an unnamed senior military source. The 22-year-old prince graduated from Sandhurst Military Academy last year. Second Lieutenant Harry has been quoted as saying he doesn’t want any special treatment; he just wants to serve. Troop Commander Wales, as he will be known among his military colleagues, was groomed to lead a troop of 12 men in light armored vehicles on missions to gather intelligence. as an AP report has picked up the story from the Daily Mirror, with the only difference in reports stating he’ll be leading 11 men and 4 tanks.

February 11, 2007

Mistrial for Officer Who Refused to Go to Iraq

By William Yardley in Seattle
The New York Times, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007

A military judge on Wednesday declared a mistrial in the court-martial of the Army officer who called the war in Iraq illegal and refused to join his unit when it deployed there last June. Lieutenant Watada’s lawyer, Eric Seitz said that the circumstances surrounding the mistrial could allow his client to avoid prosecution altogether although a spokesman for the base said Watada could be retried in March.

Judge declares mistrial in case of Iraq refusenik

By Ewen MacAskill in Fort Lewis, Washington
The Guardian, London, Friday, February 9, 2007

Looking for the international perspective I found the Guardian’s cynical take on Watada’s mistrial, starting with choosing “refusenik? to label Watada in the headline. In my opinion the Guardian is showing its bias against Watada by using that negative term, as well as by describing him as “refuses to serve in Iraq? and being “morally opposed to the war.?

The Star Tribune's blurb about the mistrial development showed no bias in my opinion, although it did use the phrase “refused to deploy.? This short story included the exact date set for the retrial – March 12, a detail I didn’t learn from my reading 5 or 6 various other renditions.

February 10, 2007

Copter Crashes Suggest Change in Iraqi Tactics

By Richard A. Oppel Jr. and James Glanz
The New York Times, Thursday, February 8, 2007

This front-page top story leads with details of the most recent US copter crash in Iraq and also refers to the crash toll update of US helicopters in Baghdad – six in three weeks. This report is heavy on detail beginning with individual crash descriptions, followed by speculation as to why there has been such an increase in the success of these deadly attacks. The challenges these reporters faced were to not only report the latest copter crash but to fill in the blanks of all of the recent crashes which involved a lot of detail, and also to answer the question, “Why the sudden increase??

Fifth U.S. copter crash in a month kills 7 troops

By Tina Susman
Los Angeles Times, February 7 ,2007

In contrast to the first article, this related article syndicated in the Star Tribune used the “set the scene? lead approach, describing a first person account of the latest copter crash, before settling into the traditional lead in the 2nd paragraph, which links this crash to the bigger picture of the increase of copter crashes mentioned in its headline. The article uses many eyewitness accounts, touches on explanations for the crash increase, continues with a fact block on general helicopter details and winds up with general related Iraqi war news.

In my opinion the New York Times lead approach is more appropriate to this story and satisfyingly gives the reader the important information right away.

February 4, 2007

In crowded market, officer throws himself on bomber

By Louise Roug
Los Angeles Times, Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mohammed Raad of Baghdad, Iraq described a dramatic eyewitness account of the heroic gesture of an Iraqi policeman. Raad heard the policeman shout: “suicide bomber? and then saw him run toward the man who turned out to be a suicide bomber. The policeman shielded others from the force of the blast and died. The bombing occurred in a crowded market killing at least 45 people and wounding 150, police said.

The article goes on to describe the scene at the local hospital dealing with the victims. Then it describes other related attacks in Baghdad.

Policeman dies a hero smothering bomb blast

By Louise Roug in Baghdad
The Sydney Morning Herald, Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Sydney Morning Herald, Sunday, February 04, 2007

The other stories I found in other papers are based on the account by Louise Roug.

January 27, 2007

Blair Aide Arrested in Honors Probe

By Mary Jordan
The Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 20, 2007

Another aide of Prime Minister Tony Blair was arrested in connection to the ongoing criminal investigation that the Labor Party traded seats in the House of Lords and other government honors for cash. Representatives for Scotland Yard explained that although Blair is the first sitting prime minister to be questioned in a criminal inquiry, that it is in the capacity as a witness rather than a suspect.

Later in the story it is made clear that both the Labor Party and the Conservative Party are being investigated in this scandal.

The London Telegraph said that Scotland Yard has uncovered a “paper trail? leading right to the prime minister in the “cash-for-honours? investigation. Detectives believe that a hand-written note by Tony Blair shows that Downing Street intended to give peerages to major lenders to the Labor party’s 2005 election.

It is my opinion that the media in London take consider this ongoing scandal to be more important than our papers in America do. Although this might make sense since the United Kingdom is a distant proximity to us here in Minnesota, I believe the prominence of Prime Minister Tony Blair being so closely related to a scandal tied to Downing Street should be covered in America’s news.