May 6, 2007

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.

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.

April 21, 2007

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 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

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.

April 1, 2007

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. 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.

March 24, 2007

Blurry Shriner Finances

The New York Times front-page story on Monday was an investigative report about Shriners Hospitals for Children financial controversy. The 135-year-old fraternal organization founded and controls the Shriners hospitals. Only 2 percent of the Shrine hospitals’ operating income comes from money raised by Shrine temples and member’s dues. The hospitals are really financially run by a $9 billion endowment.

This in-depth article detailed several whistle-blowers and their findings and retributions. John C. Goline was helped as a child with polio at a Shriners hospital and became a leader with the Shriners who discovered inconsistencies with the internal accounting procedures. When he reported his findings he was pushed out of the leadership.

The only other article that wasn’t a wire story of the original New York Times version was a type of watchdog Web site citing an AP article, Orlando byline, although on closer examination I found that this article was from 1986, not this week or this century. This article began with a clear statistic, that only 1 percent of Shrine circus profits in 1984 went to care for injured children in hospitals.


The New York Times did a good job explaining the complex accounting details, starting with paragraph bullet points carefully not using more than 2 numbers in each point.

A graphic depicting 2005 operating expenses by source, millions of dollars and percentage told the story meaningfully.

March 8, 2007

Obama involved in political donor investment speculation

Wednesday’s front page of the New York Times reported that in 2005 Sen. Obama invested in two companies whose backers happened to include generous contributors to his political committees. One of those donors, Jared Abbruzzeses is being investigated by the F.B.I. Obama has since sold his shares in the two companies involved in speculative investing. One company was a biotech concern involved with avian flu drug research; the other was a satellite communications business. Obama not only invested in these two obscure companies, he lobbied the Senate to increase federal financing to fight the avian flu only weeks after he invested in the biotech stocks. Despite this connection, Obama said he didn’t know that he had invested in either company and that his broker bought the stocks without consulting him, so there was no conflict of interest. The article said these stock purchases raise ethical questions for the presidential candidate.

Wednesday’s Washington Post headline stated Obama faces questions on his blind trust. Obama said he did nothing to aid his political donors’ businesses with the government. The article said Senate ethics rules don’t prohibit lawmakers from owning stock in companies that do business with the government. After holding stock in these two companies for 8 months Obama sold these stocks at a loss and decided not to hold individual stocks because it raises ethical questions.

March 2, 2007

Walter Reed scandal fallout

On Friday Yahoo News reports that Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey resigned as the latest fallout of the Walter Reed army hospital scandal first reported by the Washington Post. Although Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Harvey’s abrupt resignation, senior defense officials speaking on condition of anonymity said Gates had privately demanded he leave. On Thursday, Harvey fired Maj. Gen. George Weightman for, as the Washington Post reported it, squalid living conditions for outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed.

Last week’s Washington Post series documented tattered conditions at the military hospital including mold, rot, mice and cockroaches. It also brought to light bureaucratic indifference causing the wounded to wait too long for help. President Bush said he first learned about these troubling issues at Walter Reed through these same articles in the Washington Post. Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow, said that Bush is deeply concerned and would like any problems identified and fixed.

February 24, 2007

Rats dine in NYC restaurants

Dramatic video of rats having a field day in a NYC KFC-Taco Bell led to the city Department of Health to close the restaurant until the vermin problem is resolved. Yum Brands Inc., the parent company of the restaurants suffered its second public relations nightmare only a few months after enduring an E. coli outbreak.

The Star Tribune mentioned the worldwide dissemination of the restaurant rats video. Here’s some NBC-TV footage of the rats.

The New York Daily News front page has fun with the story, its headline reading “Some rats with that?? and shows a great photo of a rat hanging from a chair, described as “It’s swing time for Village rat pack.?

I notice with the New York Daily News article the point/support writing style is evident.

Point that this is nothing new for this particular restaurant:

Those familiar with the location said the rat pack was not a surprise.

Support in form of a Quote from neighbor:

"It's the dirtiest place in the neighborhood," said Joel Cohen, whose apartment overlooks the restaurant. "It's a blight."

Point from a fired whistleblower:

Marcus Bonner, 19, who had just finished his night shift at the McDonald's across the street, said he had been fired by Taco Bell because he complained about sanitary conditions at the eatery.

Support in form of Quote describing unsanitary conditions:

"There's a hole in the wall behind the grill," he said. "The rats come through the back of the building where the trash is kept."

February 18, 2007

Obama trying to quit

According to the Chicago Tribune last week, Sen. Barack Obama is trying to quit smoking just as he’s facing another big stress in his life – running for president. Americans haven’t elected a smoking president since FDR brandished his trademark cigarette holder during his 12-year presidential tenure into the 1940s. Attitudes towards smoking have changed since that era during which smoking was glamorized. A communications studies professor from Northwestern University, Irving Rein, said that Obama’s image would suffer until he quits smoking. The social, environmental message he’d like to project doesn’t gibe with him being a smoker.

Maureen Dowd’s OpEd piece in the New York Times seems to use Obama’s stressful decision to quit as an explanation of his “testy? “huffy? style on the recent campaign trail.

On a personal note, I was frustrated trying to get a link to this Dowd column that I read in Saturday’s Star Tribune because apparently the Strib doesn’t pay for her syndicated columns to appear on, only in print. I also couldn’t pull it up with my U of M library access nor could I through my Hennepin County ProQuest access, nor could I thorough my New York email subscription because I wouldn’t pay extra for it. Rats. I eventually pulled a reprint of the column from that ran in After reading that version and a few other online reprints I realize that the Star Tribune version is different. In my personal opinion I prefer the original version that is titled, “Obama, Legally Blonde?? and refers to his bathing suit attire. Too bad it’s so hard to get the full story here in Minneapolis unless you subscribe to the actual print version of the New York Times (or I guess go read it in the library every day or pay a buck for it which I often do.)

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

TV Official Quits Over Ad Stunt

By Richard Siklos
The New York Times, Saturday, February 10, 2007

This follow-up to the Cartoon Network “Aqua Teen Hunger Force? marketing campaign that was misinterpreted as a bomb threat in Boston explains that the network president accepted responsibility and resigned.

The following is an example of the “paraphrase followed by direct quote? style:

*In an e-mail message to Cartoon Network employees yesterday, Mr. Samples said he regretted the panic the campaign had caused.

“I feel compelled to step down, effective immediately, in recognition of the gravity of the situation that occurred under my watch,? he said.*

Toon Network boss decides: That’s all folks!

By Michele McPhee and Laura Crimaldi
Boston Herald , Saturday, February 10, 2007

I looked for a local angle of this national topic and found the Boston paper having fun with the cartoon connection in its headline. This article includes more details specifically pertaining to Samples and more story background in general, and further updates about the two suspects charged in the hoax.

February 3, 2007

Bomb alert in Boston a ‘toon hoax

From staff and wire reports
Newsday, Thursday, February 1, 2007

A promotion for the cartoon “Aqua Force? featuring the characters of a talking milk shake, a box of fries and a meatball, resulted in a bomb alert in Boston. Turner Broadcasting, a parent of Cartoon Network regrets that the light boxes depicting a character giving the finger were mistakenly thought to pose a danger. Although the illuminated electronic devices were planted on bridges and other public areas among 10 cities in the past few weeks, it was only this week that 4 complaints were lodged in Boston, resulting in the city closing bridges, subways, highways and part of the Charles River until the boxes were deemed harmless. New York City officials stated that they were aware of the boxes but received no complaints.

Boston Scare Case Could Be Hard to Prove
By Mark Jewell
Associated Press, Friday, February 2, 2007

The AP account of this story focuses on the two men, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens, who were arrested on felony charges of intent to scare. They face up to five years in prison if convicted. The men were paid to plant the lighted devices to promote “Aqua Force? in a guerilla marketing tactic.

January 28, 2007

Thousands Protest Bush Policy

By Michael Ruane and Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post
Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tens of thousands of protestors led by some celebrities (Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda, Rev. Jesse Jackson) marched on the Capital in Washington, D.C. to push Congress to take action against the war and to urge senators to oppose the Bush administration’s plan to send additional troops to Iraq.

Fonda leads army of celebs at anti-war rally
By Adam Nichols
Daily News
Sunday, January 28, 2007

The New York Daily News chose to lead this story by mentioning “Hanoi Jane? Fonda as attending her first anti-war demonstration since her controversial anti-Vietnam protests 34 years ago. The rest of the article highlighted quotes from three Academy Award winners, previously mentioned Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, along with Tim Robbins.

This tabloid-style newspaper seemed to be more celebrity-oriented with its war protest coverage as opposed to the Washington Post’s more thorough news coverage on this topic.