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.

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.

April 21, 2007

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.

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.

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.

April 1, 2007

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,, 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.

March 25, 2007

Wal-Mart fired its 2 top ad stars for improper behavior

A front-page business section New York Times article Tuesday stated two top ad executives from Wal-Mart were fired and are being sued by Wal-Mart. Mr. Sean Womack and Ms. Julie Roehm joined the agency in 2005 and worked together to select a new ad agency for the Arkansas company. Wal-Mart accused them of having a sexual relationship and with engaging in improper dealings with DraftFCB, the ad agency they eventually chose as their new $580 million account and which Wal-Mart also eventually fired. Each executive is married and are self-described East Coast urbanites who quickly bonded in the foreign world of Arkansas. Both executives deny the accusations and contend the incriminating email Womack’s wife provided Wal-Mart has been misinterpreted.

A New York Magazine profile about the situation provided this update with Roehm saying the email in evidence proves she and Womack are really good friends. Here we learn that Womack was Roehm’s subordinate and we learn the nature of the ethics violations: they are accused of showing favoritism by accepting gifts from and discussing potential jobs from their ultimate ad agency choice, DraftFCB.

March 11, 2007

Gopher Spot nabs interior design award

The newly redesigned Gopher Spot bowling alley on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus won the prestigious 2007 Interiors Award in the Sports and Entertainment category from the interior design national magazine, Contract. Studio Hive, the interior architecture design firm responsible for the refurbishment, will next tackle the premium level seats and suites for the new Gopher football stadium.

Sunday’s Star Tribune “artcetera? section highlighted the successful redesign, including several striking photos. A February article in the Minnesota Daily also featured the Gopher Spot redesign. Goldy’s Gameroom in Coffman Union sees more activity from students, and the St. Paul campus bowling alley attracts more non-university members. The U of M said it hopes that the Gopher Spot bowling alley redesign will attract more students to the St. Paul campus.

March 2, 2007

Scared silent due to witness intimidation

Three specific cases of witness intimidation in Newark, N.J. begin this front-page New York Times article from Thursday. All three “slam-dunk? cases featured witnesses who positively identified murder suspects yet none of the suspects have been arrested. A new un-written rule forces Essex County prosecutors not to pursue so-called “single witness? cases because so many of these cases fall through when the witnesses become “scared silent.? A lot of statistics are included in this story proving that the situation of witnesses receiving overt threats not to testify is a serious, nationwide problem.

In an archived article from the New Jersey Star Ledger online edition I found a complementary story that starts out similarly to the New York Times article, listing the same victims as above. The focus of this article though is the despair and hopelessness that surviving classmates feel in the violent city of Newark. This article ends with a hopeful story about Sharita Williams, 16, who is trying to raise awareness of the devastation and stupidity of violence in their city by organizing a student group “Enough is Enough.? The murders of two of her childhood friends spurred her into action.

February 24, 2007

College bans Wikipedia

The New York Times reports a Japanese history professor at Middlebury College in Vermont decided to ban students from citing Wikipedia after incorrect information was appearing too frequently on exams. His research determined that these errors originated from Wikipedia. The same error that turned up on a recent test (that the Jesuits supported the Shimabara Rebellion in 17th-century Japan) is still incorrectly stated on Wikipedia.

A student majoring in economics at the college, Keith Williams, said students understand Wikipedia is not a reliable source but they’ll still continue to use it as a research tool.

Middlebury College itself talks about the history department making news by banning Wikipedia, but offers little more information.

In this article, more detail about the ban is given. History Professor Neil Waters gives said Wikipedia can be used to point a researcher in the right direction, but it can't be used in a footnote and further, Professor Waters admits to using Wikipedia himself, but only as a beginning point.

February 18, 2007

Billionaire gives it away

Billionaire T. Denny Sanford, a St. Paul native and University of Minnesota alumnus, is busy giving away millions to Midwest medical groups, according to Saturday’s Star Tribune. A few years ago he tried to pay for the new U of M football stadium. This failure led to his present sweep of philanthropy, including a $400 million gift to create “a Mayo clinic for kids? in South Dakota. His wealth is estimated at $2.5 billion and he’s on his way to his goal to “die broke.?

A few weeks ago reported this South Dakota gift crediting Sanford as being 117th on Forbes magazine's 400 richest Americans list last year.

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 4, 2007

Fletcher aide under FBI probe had wide reach

By Paul McEnroe, Mary Lynn Smith and Howie Padilla
Star Tribune, Sunday, February 04, 2007

This important local story about an aide, Mark Naylon, to the Ramsey
County Sheriff Bob Fletcher being investigated by the FBI seems to be just the beginning of a deeper web of corruption touching not only the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office, but the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office, St. Paul Police Department, and even the St. Paul Mayor’s office, if not the United States Senate, since Sen. Norm Coleman’s name has also come up in connection with Naylon.

The FBI is investigating Naylon concerning allegations that he stole money, tampered with evidence and tipped off suspects and informants. Unidentified sources have told the Star Tribune that the FBI is particularly interested in his connection with the Hell’s Outcasts motorcycle gang.

This attention on Naylon has brought up questions on the qualifications of Naylon’s employment as the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office public information officer despite Naylon’s lack of formal training for the post. He has neither a college degree, nor any experience or education in law enforcement or in communications yet Fletcher lauds him for his work.

Naylon’s close association with Mike Ogren, who was convicted in 2003 of illegal gambling, is also questioned. Ogren owns the nightclub Myth in Maplewood where Naylon provides security for the club through his private security business using moonlighting Ramsey County deputies.

FBI investigates high-level aide to sheriff
By Mara H. Gottfried
Pioneer Press, Saturday, February 3, 2007

This newspaper’s version of the investigation of Naylon details more closely the friendship connection between Naylon and Ramsey County Sheriff Fletcher, mentioning the fact that Naylon served as best man at Fletcher’s wedding in 2004. Fletcher also said that although the sheriff’s office will conduct an internal affairs investigation, that Naylon’s job status won’t change because he takes the approach that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Fletcher said that although when he hired Naylon to be his public information officer in 1998 Naylon didn’t have a background in law enforcement or media relations, but now Naylon hopes to get a part-time peace officer’s licence and start a career in law enforcement. Naylon’s salary is listed as $64,660 and he also moonlights as security director for the Myth nightclub.

This article highlights the relationship between Naylon and the owner of Myth, Michael Ogren. When Naylon was deposed in 2005 about gambling at the Rock, formerly owned by Ogren, Naylon said, “I don’t think gambling is a crime.?

January 28, 2007

This Marine’s death came after he served in Iraq

By Kevin Giles
Star Tribune, Saturday, January 27, 2007

Although the headline hints at the outcome, the lead of this top story takes the tone of foreshadowing, since it isn’t until the fourth paragraph that the reader discovers the Marine committed suicide. The story concentrates on Jonathan Schulze’s struggle to live a normal life after returning from serving in Iraq. His inability to be admitted to the VA hospital is explained bye his surviving family members and told in pictures.

Death Of Traumatized Minn. Marine Came After Iraq
(AP) Stewart, Minn.,, Jan. 27, 2007

The AP version of the Marine’s story that was covered on WCCO-TV Friday night included details of a particularly distressing combat event Schulze suffered in Iraq, and also included the personal detail that the Marine left behind a young daughter, Kaley Marie. This version also includes his family’s claim that Schulze didn’t get the help he needed to survive, whereby the Star Tribune article only seems to imply that statement.