December 2010 Archives

CAR analysis of Washington Post article

by Shannon Lee
Reporters of a Washington Post article about frequent power outages in the Washington, D.C. area used computer-assisted reporting to help tell the story.
The reporters would have had to review monthly reports from Pepco, the districts utility provider. They needed to examine how often Pepco customers experienced power outages and when, where and for how long the outages occured. They also would have needed to compare those records with past reports from the company and with reports from other service providers in nearby cities.
The article includes an interactive map to illustrate where and for how long the district residents experienced power outages in 2010. It also shows a line graph that compares the average number of power outages in the area to other big cities.
To create the map and the graph, reporters would have needed to know how to use mapping software and spreadsheet programs.

US life expectancy dropped, health experts say

by Shannon Lee
Life expectancy in the United States fell in 2008 according to a report released by the National Center for Health.
The life expectancy in 2008 dropped to 77.8 years old from 77.9 years old in 2007, or the equivalency of one month.
The decline corresponded with the first full year of the recession and health experts told MSNBC it was a cause for concern.
Although life expectancy was lower, the report also showed that serious illness such as heart disease and cancer did not kill as many people as in 2007, reported MSNBC.
The number of people who died in motor vehicle crashes also fell significantly. Christopher J. Ruhm, an economist and professor at the University of North Carolina, attributed it to the economy as well, reported MSNBC. People do not drive as often during a recession, so there are less vehicles on the road and less accidents, Ruhm said.
Arialdi Minino, a statistician who worked on the report, told the Washington Post the life expectancy drop was too small to indicate a larger trend.
"You can't tell until you have more data points," Minino said.

Police arrest suspected metro area armed robber

by Shannon Lee
Dane Robert Nelson, 20, was arrested Thursday night in Albert Lea on suspicion of seven armed robberies in the metro area.
Several people notified police agencies and named Nelson after a surveillance video was broadcast, reported the Star Tribune.
A Bloomington convenience store clerk that was robbed while working on Dec. 4 later identified Nelson in a photo lineup.
Nelson is charged with one count of aggravated robbery. Police suspect he is also connected to similar robberies around the metro, and additional charges are likely. South St. Paul Police Chief Dan Vujovich told KSTP the robberies were committed the same way each time.
"A lone white male, he comes into the store, displays a black semi-automatic handgun, with a plastic bag and demanding money from the cashier," Vujovich said.
No one was injured during the robberies.

Experts speculate cause of Red Sea shark attacks

by Shannon Lee
Scientists are trying to determine what caused the shark attacks on tourists in the normally calm waters of Egypt's Red Sea.
A German woman died and four other were injured last week during a series of shark attacks near the shore of a resort in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Marine biologist George Burgess told the BBC the attacks were very unusual and definitely caused by environmental factors.
"What you have here are rational attempts by a predator to find food," Burgess said.
International investigators identified at least two different species of sharks as the predators in different attacks, but the investigation into what caused the incidents is still ongoing.
Other experts said overfishing, irresponsible tourist behavior and unusually high temperatures in the area may have encouraged sharks to move into shallower waters, reported the Guardian.
Hossam El-Hamalawy, a certified Red Sea rescue diver, told the Guardian that the tourism industry has been damaging the Red Sea ecology for years and he is "surprised the government has just woken up and discovered this overnight."
Many beaches have been closed to swimmers following the fatal attack Dec. 5, and the Egyptian government is concerned about the financial impact the shark attacks will have on tourism.

Census population estimates vary

by Shannon Lee
The U.S. population is somewhere between 306 million and 313 million, according to Monday's Census Bureau estimates. The exact number will depend on how demographers decide to count immigrants.
The official count will be released at the end of December and is expected to be about 308 million, according to the Washington Post.
When the official number is released, it will be used to reapportion seats in the House of Representatives. Depending on the official count, Texas and Florida could potentially gain seats, while Ohio and New York could each lose two seats, reported USA Today.
In 2000, the official population count was 281 million.
The recession and crackdowns on illegal immigration have made it more difficult to estimate the number of immigrants, particularly among the Hispanic population, reported USA Today.
Kenneth Johnson, demographer at the University or New Hampshire's Carsey Institute, told USA Today that Hispanics under 20 years old account for all increases in youth population since 2000. They have gained 5 to 8 percentage points and make up at least 22 percent of all people under the age of 20.

Three dead after a fleeing suspect crashes into vehicle

by Shannon Lee
A Minneapolis woman and her two sons were killed early Sunday morning when a suspect who was fleeing a state trooper in a stolen vehicle crashed into their car.
The suspect, Rufus Onel Victor, 29, fled the accident scene and was later found hiding along nearby railroad tracks by a state trooper, according to the Star Tribune.
Amanda Thomas and her son Andre, 12, were killed instantly. Her 3-month-old son Akeron died shortly after.
Witness Cynthia Haynes told KSTP she saw a child fly out of the car and that all victims appeared dead.
Victor's records show a criminal history that includes burglary, receiving stolen property, car theft and driving without a license, reported the Star Tribune.
Victor's sister, Renata Wesley, told the Star Tribune her brother "wanted to change his life" and never meant to kill anyone.

German man charged with smuggling tarantulas to the US

by Shannon Lee
A German man was arrested and charged Friday with illegally mailing over 500 live tarantulas to the United States.
Authorities began investigating Sven Koppler, 37, in March when 300 live tarantulas were discovered during a standard international package check.
Agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set up a sting operation and intercepted more packages.
One package contained 22 Mexican red-kneed tarantulas, a species that is considered threatened and cannot be legally traded without a permit, reported AOL News.
Koppler reportedly received $300,000 from the sales. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Williams told the Los Angeles Times Koppler sold tarantulas to "dozens of countries, including to about nine people in the U.S."
If convicted, Koppler faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Powderhorn neighbors to rally in the park

by Shannon Lee
Residents who live near Powderhorn Park will meet in its northeast corner Wednesday evening for a "Reclaim the Park" rally.
Community leaders and authorities plan to raise awareness and discuss ways to prevent violent crime from occurring in the park, Fox 9 reported.
The vigil will be held one week after a 45-year-old woman said she was sexually assaulted at gunpoint by four teenage boys while she was cross-country skiing with her two children. Police said the teens fled from the park and were found sexually assaulting two other girls in their garage shortly after.
Residents living in the area have reported at least two other serious crimes in November. Police told Kare 11 that a man exposed himself to a woman and tried to grab her Saturday night in her apartment one block from the park.
The rally will also raise money for a 12-year-old girl who doctors said will most likely be paralyzed for life after she was accidentally shot two blocks away from the park on Nov. 12.

Ex-convict jailed following bar holdup

by Shannon Lee
Police arrested Tyice Alexander Phillips, 33, and are seeking other suspects in connection with an armed robbery of a White Bear Lake bar Saturday morning that left one injured.
Witnesses told police that two or three men entered the bar shortly before 2 a.m. and demanded cash.
A bar employee said one of the men pointed a gun to her head and told her to open the safe. A customer told police that he pushed the gun to the floor and the gunman pulled the trigger, causing another patron to be hit with the bullet when it ricocheted off the floor, reported the Star Tribune.
White Bear Lake Police Chied Lynne Bankes told the Pioneer Press she believes Phillips was the suspect who fired the gun.
Phillips is an ex-convict who had been out on supervised parole for four months. He served nearly three years in prison for invading a North End home and holding a mother and four children at gunpoint with three or four other armed men, the Pioneer Press reported.

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