December 5, 2008


This computer-assisted report by the Star Tribune uses records from several sources, such as the united Nations, CIA Fackbook, USDA, NASS and Gargill, Inc. The results of these reports offer a variety of sources, providing more evidence, but it is interesting as Cargill is used as a source and is one of the major agricultural companies discussed in the news story.
The computer skills needed to report this story were the capability to combine video with sound, mapping and graphing. The graphs would be able to be produced by Excel, but the map requires multi-platform knowledge allowing the links to correspond with the descriptions, making the graphic interactive with the reader.
The entire report is very interactive and easily navigated.

Minnesota predicts $5.28 billion deficit over next two years

Minnesota faces a $5.28 billion budget deficit over the next 2 1/2 years, reported the Pioneer Press on Friday.
The Pioneer Press reported state finance experts on Thursday forecast a $4.85 billion shortfall for the next two-year state budget, and a $426 million hole in the current budget, ending June 30.
But this is not the worst deficit Minnesota has seen. The 1980-82 budget crisis brought the worst deficit to Minnesota, with huge spending cuts and tax increases.
The current problem, however, is "similar in size and scope" to the $4.56 billion gap Pawlenty and lawmakers faced in 2003, said Tom Hanson, commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget.
The main cause reported of the predicted budget deficit is a national recession that is far worse and expected to last much longer than anticipated, reported the Star Tribune.
According to state economist Tom Stinson, this recession will be the worst in 25 years ans possibly the worst since World War II.
The current economic forecast is just plain ugly," Stinson said.
Because of the struggling economy, taxpayers are earning less, consumers are spending less and state tax collections are dropping.
Forecasters predict that over the next two years, state revenue will drop $3.3 billion, which is 9.4 percent less that earlier estimates, to $32 billion.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 41 states face budget deficits.

Recounting done with exception

Except for 133 missing ballots from Minneapolis, the U.S. Senate race vote recount is over, reported the Star Tribune Friday.
According to the Star Tribune's calculations, Republican Coleman has a 192-vote advantage over Democrat Al Franken, but the results remain unclear until the resolution of those Minneapolis ballets and thousands of ballot challenges.
Prior to the recount of votes, Coleman held a 215-vote edge. 2.9 million ballots were recounted since Nov. 19.
"We're done," said state elections director Gary Poser, after putting stickers on the 21st challenged ballot from the Wright County town of Montrose.
The last ballot that was tallied was not for Coleman or Franken, but the Independence Party's Dean Barkley, from a voter in Hanover.
The search for the 133 missing ballots was called off today at 2 p.m.
However, the 192-vote margin is expected to change as soon as the challenged ballots that have been set aside are reviewed by the state Canvassing Board. The Board is planned to meet on Dec. 16 to begin the review of the recount and to review the ballenged ballots.
According to the Star Tribune's calculations, during the recount, the Coleman campaign challenged 3,376 ballots and the Franken campaign challenged 3,281.
On Wednesday, the Franken campaign said it was withdrawing 633 challenges, and the next day the Coleman campaign said it would withdraw 650. The withdrawn challenges are not factored into the 192-vote gap.

December 4, 2008

Milwaukee teacher accused of selling drugs

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, 25-year veteran Wauwatosa East High School teacher was arrested at his City of Pewaukee home on suspicion of drug possession, police said Tuesday.
City of Pewaukee police Lt. Jack Kopatich said police suggest the teacher, Roger K. Payne, 47, be charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, maintaining a drug trafficking house and obstructing an officer.
Payne called police Nov. 20 to report a theft of $1,500, naming a 21-year-old man as a suspect in the theft from Payne's condominium on Wild Oats Drive.
When detective questioned the 21-year-old about the missing money, he told police that Payne regularly hosts parties for underage people, including former students, according a police report. He told police that party-goers would smoke marijuana or use mushrooms and cocaine at Payne's residence.
The suspect admitted he entered the condominium, but said he did not steal the money. According to the police report, he did admit to taking a bag containing a quarter-pound of marijuana and a glass jar containing marijuana.
Police searched Payne's condo Nov. 20 and seized $6,400, four bongs, four glass pipes, numerous bags of marijuana, a magazine about marijuana and four pornographic movies that might have underage actors, according to a search warrant affidavit returned in Waukesha County Circuit Court.
When asked about the theft, Payne admitted he lied about the stolen money to avoid reporting that the marijuana was taken, the warrant says.
Payne teaches math at Wauwatosa East. The district is working to find a long-term substitute teacher to take over his classes, Wauwatosa School District spokesman Chris Preisler said.

December 3, 2008

Gazans prevented from traveling to Mecca

For the first time since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, no Palestinians from Gaza are making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca this year because of a power struggle over which Palestinian government is legitimate, reported the New York Times.
Saudi Arabia, which runs the pilgrimage, known as the hajj, asked the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank, run by President Mahmoud Abbas and backed by the West and Israel, to compose the list of pilgrims, 4,000 from the West Bank and 2,200 from Gaza. Egypt opened its border with Gaza to allows the pilgrimage.
The West Bank residents left two weeks ago but Hamas, the Islamist militant group that runs Gaza, insisted on submitting its own list of Gazans. When the Saudis said they would not grant any of them visas, Hamas set up eight checkpoints along the route to the Egyptian border and barred passage to those on the other list.
According to witnesses, the police used sticks to beat those who did not turn back. Maher Amin, owner of a tourist company, said five other tourist company owners who dealt with the West Bank officials for the hajj were jailed by security officials.
As a results, Gazans are deprived of of the chance to perform one of the most basic duties of a Muslim, the Mecca pilgrimage.
“Even the Israelis never dared prevent the pilgrimage this way,? Amin said.
“They have been putting military and economic pressure on Gaza, but this is a new form of pressure,? said Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas leader in the West Bank. “We will not give in.? Since the hajj takes several days and ends early next week, there is no chance a compromise will be reached, he said.
Hamas is under growing pressure not only from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but from much of the Arab world after withdrawing from a Cairo-sponsored effort to reconcile it with the West Bank government.

Ex-U.S. official cites Pakistani training for India attackers

A former Defense Department official said Wednesday that American intelligence agencies had determined that former officers from Pakistan's Army and its Inter-Services Intelligence agency helped train the Mumbai attackers, reported the New York Times.
However, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no specific links had been uncovered yet between the attackers and the Pakistani government.
His disclosure came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Indian leaders in New Delhi and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad. The meetings were part of a two-pronged effort to pressure Pakistan to fully cooperate in effort to find those responsible for the attacks in Mumbai last week.
Also on Wednesday a "fully functional" bomb was found and defused at a major Mumbai train station, Mumbai authorities said. The discovery raised questions about why authorities had failed to find the bombs earlier.
Tens of thousands of people marched Wednesday through Mumbai, mourning the deaths of at least 173 people and protesting the failures of Indian politicians and security services to protect citizens.
Rice said that Pakistan had a "special responsibility" to cooperate with India and help prevent future attacks. She also warned India against hasty reactions that would cause what she called "unintended consequences."
“The response of the Pakistani government should be one of cooperation and of action,? she said at an evening news conference in New Delhi with Indian official Pranab Mukherjee. “Any response needs to be judged by its effectiveness in prevention and also by not creating other unintended consequences or difficulties.?
Mukherjee said his government was convinced that the attackers and their “controllers? came from Pakistan. He said he had conveyed to Rice “the feeling of anger and deep outrage in India? and said that his government was prepared to act “with all the means at our disposal? to protect Indian territory and citizens.

November 20, 2008

Minn. AG proposes mandatory mediation in foreclosures

Attorney General Lori Swanson is proposing legislation that would make lenders negotiate with homeowners before foreclosing on properties, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Swanson outlined the "Homeowner-Lender Mediation Act" at a Capital news conference.
Swanson says her proposal is modeled on a farmer-lender mediation law enacted during the 1980s farm crisis.
The "Homeowner-Lender Mediation Act" would give homeowners facing foreclosures a limited time for mediation process, which would include adjustment of interest rates and principal and repay periods.
Lenders would be required to come to negotiation processes in good faith, reported the Associated Press.
Swanson, a Democrat, says she hopes to work with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty on the proposed legislation.
The Pioneer Press reported, the rising number of foreclosures could erode nearly $70 billion in home values for Minnesotan by 2010, Swanson said.
Swanson acknowledged during the news conference that farm loans back in the 1980s were not sold off, sliced and re-packaged as securities, a common practice in recent years with home mortgages. "That process of making securities out of home loans, and selling them to investors around the world has complicated the prospect of trying to renegotiate many distressed mortgages," reported the Pioneer Press.

Twin Cities Sheriff's Deputy arrested for suspected DWI

After hitting and killing a motorcyclist with his squad car in 2007, a Twin Cities Sheriff's Deputy was arrested Saturday on suspicion of drunken driving, reported KSTP.
On August 30, 2007, Dakota County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Williams pulled his squad car out in front of motorcyclist Bill Wallace, hitting and killing him on Highway 3 and 200th in Empire Township.
Williams was arrested early Saturday morning on suspicion of drunken driving and having an open bottle of beer in his car. Williams was pulled over for speeding on County Road 46 in Empire Township, just minutes from where he hit Wallace's motorcycle 15 months earlier.
Williams failed both a field sobriety and breath test, was arrested at the scene and had his car impounded, authorities said.
Williams has worked for Dakota county since August 2000. After being convicted of careless driving May 13, 2008, he was prohibited from driving county vehicles and re-assigned to court security as a bailiff.
Williams was supposed to have his license suspended for one year but state records show it was reinstated October 7, 2008, five months after his conviction.
"He could have taken another life," step-brother Joe Geror said.
Dakota County Chief Deputy Dave Bellows said Williams is on paid leave.
"This makes us angry," Bellows said.
If convicted, this would be William's second DWI in under 10 years. He also has a DWI conviction in North Carolina from December 1998.

November 19, 2008

Charter schools to buy three Minneapolis district buildings

MPR reported Tuesday the Minneapolis School District is close to finalizing the sale of three of its buildings to charter schools.
The W.I.S.E. Charter School plans to move into Franklin School, a two-story structure in north Minneapolis built in 1970. The Hiawatha Leadership Academy will get Morris Park School of south Minneapolis, and Yinghua Academy, the first Chinese immersion charter public school in the nation, plans to move into Putnam of northeast Minneapolis.
Even though the district has leased space to private schools before, there used to be a policy banning the sale of any district building to charter schools to prevent competition.
"It isn't just a situation of trying to unload property and get some money," School Board member Pam Costain said, in an interview. "We desperately need to unload property, which carries debt and is a burden on our district — but not at the expense of high-quality education for our kids."
Fellow School Board member Tom Madden agreed and said it would be foolish to sell a building to an underperforming charter school because it would result in those students returning to the Minneapolis district. It was important to find good-performing schools that would fit with the neighborhoods, Madden said.
The building sales are partially the result of many meetings in which the district and local neighborhood groups sought input on what should be done with the vacant buildings.
The Minneapolis School District currently has 12 closed buildings, but at this point, the three are the only to be sold to other schools.
Howe, Holland and Northrop are also on the market. Offers on the three properties are due next month.

November 18, 2008

Pirates attack more ships off East African coast

The crew of a supertanker was reported safe Tuesdayafter pirates hijacked the oil vessel off the East African coast near Kenya, reported CNN.
Two more ships were attacked Tuesday and a third was seized Saturday but was only reported Tuesday, according to a monitoring agency.
The hijackings highlight an increase in piracy affecting national governments and shipping companies around the world.
"This is completely unprecedented," said Michael Howlett, assistant director of the International Maritime Bureau in London, which tracks pirate attacks. "We've never seen a situation like this."
After the Tuesday hijackings, 95 incidents involving pirates and commercial vessels off the East African coast have been reported this year, an increase from 31 incidents in 2007 and 10 in 2006, Howlett said.
The U.S. Navy said the tanker is currently anchored off Haradhere, reportedly a village base for pirate gangs, 180 miles north of Mogadishu, Somalia.
Howlett said pirates currently hold 17 vessels and 339 crew members hostage.
A multinational naval force including vessels from the U.S., the UK and Russia has been patrolling the Indian Ocean waters seas near the Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, following the increase in pirate attacks in the region. However, attacks are spreading farther north, according to Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center.
The Sirius Star supertanker was attacked Saturday. It weighs more than 300,000 metric tons and the ship's operator says it is fully loaded with oil, which industry sources say could mean as much as two million barrels.
The 25-man crew, including British, Croatian, Polish, Filipino and Saudi crew members are reported to be safe, according to Dubai-based Vela International Marine.
The Saudi-owned vessel is the largest ship seized in the recent piracy crisis.

Texas grand jury indicts Cheney, Gonzales

According to Willacy County Distract Attorney Juan Angel Guerra a grand jury in south Texas indicted Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez on separate charges related to alleged prisoner abuse in federal detention centers, reported CNN Tuesday.
Willacy County is on the Southern tip of Texas, on the United States-Mexico border.
Also being charged in the indictment is Texas Democratic state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.. Michael R. Cowen, an attorney for Lucio, issued a statement calling Guerra a "one man circus."
Cowen said in a statement, "In the March 2008 Democratic Primary, 70 percent of the Willacy County voters elected to remove Juan Guerra as Willacy County District Attorney. Now with only a few weeks left in his term, Mr. Guerra has again chosen to misuse his position in an attempt to seek revenge on those who he sees as political enemies."
"The vice president has not received an indictment," Cheney spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said.
According to the Associated Press, the indictment stems from Cheney's investment in the Vanguard Group, an investment management company that is reported to have interests in the prison companies in charge of the detention centers involved.
The Associated Press also reported Gonzalez halted an investigation into abuse at the detention centers while he was attorney general.

November 16, 2008

Anaylsis on diversity

The Star Tribune report on the Minneapolis rally against gay marriage bans I believe does move beyond stereotyping homosexuals into something more substantive. Instead of including a video clip of the report, as most Internet reports do to incorporate other mediums, the video clip provided is that of the rally itself. A nearly two minute speech of one of the demonstrators is shown, along with frames of other demonstrators and scenes of the rally, giving the rally and the people involved a voice. By viewing the clip, the reader is better able to picture the magnitude of the rally and its peacefulness. The report mentions other similar protests being violent, so this clip helps distinguish the Minneapolis protest as peaceful and accepting to all forms of marriage od or unions. Also, the quotes that were chosen give the report a human voice that reflects the overall disappointment of gay marriage supporters after the recent amendments in California, Arizona and Florida.

Obama election triggers run on gun sales in Wisconsin

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday that figures on state background checks show handgun purchases in Wisconsin skyrocketed 82% in the days before and after the election of Barack Obama as president compared with the same 13 days in November last year.
Most of the early November background checks took place after Election Day, a sign that gun owners anticipate new restrictions with Democrats taking control of the federal government.
In the first 13 days of the month, 2,642 background checks were requested. During the same 13 days last November, the number was 1,453, state Justice Department spokesman Bill Cosh said.
Tom Smith of Eagle, Wisconsin said Friday that he purchased two handguns in the days before the election when it became clear Obama would win.
"I bought them because I was afraid they were going to be outlawed," Smith said.
Gun owners also are worried that Obama might push for tax increases on ammunition and gun accessories, what they described as a "back-door way" to bring about gun control.
"I went out and stocked up on ammo. I bought 20 cases of rifle ammunition," Kyle Troeger of Muskego, Wisconsin said.
Sean Eaton, owner of Fletcher Arms in Waukesha, Wisconsin, said he is experiencing a 30 percent to 40 percent increase in handgun sales. The rush started in the days before the election and it has not slowed down, he said.
Whether Obama will pass restrictions on issues such as gun control is unclear since discussions on the economy and national security dominated the campaign.
Obama's Web site says: "The Second Amendment creates an individual right, and he respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms. He will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport and use guns."

Franken sues for lists of voters whose absentee ballots were disqulified

The Al Franken campaign filed a lawsuit Thursday against Ramsey County seeking the names and addresses of voters whose absentee ballots were rejected, reported the Star Tribune.
The campaign hopes to force counties across the state to turn over lists of rejected absentee voters who, if later found eligible, could reverse the close results that announced Republican Sen. Norm Coleman as the winner of the U.S. Senate race. With Coleman ahead of Franken by 206 votes, a hand recount is scheduled to begin next week.
Marc Elias, lead recount attorney for Franken, said that both Ramsey and Hennepin counties had rejected the campaign's request, forcing it to take legal action.
Elias said that because Beltrami County had complied, the campaign had already learned of one woman, an 84-year-old stroke victim, whose absentee ballot was disqualified because her signature no longer matched that on her pre-stroke voter registration card.
"The state may not devise a regime where a woman, because she had a stroke, does not have the right to vote," Elias said at Franken headquarters Thursday morning.
Beltrami County Auditor Kay Mack questioned the campaign's account, saying her office had not rejected any ballots because of mismatched signatures. Mack said that an 87-year-old woman's ballot was rejected because it had no signature or mark. Mack said that the law is "very clear" about not accepting such ballots.
Franken campaing spokeman Andy Barr said Thursday night that the campaign is "still digging into the facts" regarding the report, and the issue does not affect the merits of their lawsuit.

Minneapolis rally protests gay marriage bans

The Star Tribune reported more than 700 people gathered in downtown Minneapolis Saturday to protest constitutional amendments passed in California, Florida and Arizona prohibiting gay marriage.
More than 700 people gathered on the plaza of the Hennepin County Government Center for the rally. Similar demonstrations were held at the Capitol in St. Paul, Duluth and other cities across the country.
"From Golden Gate Park to Loring Park, we will step together until this battle is won," Minneapolis City Council Member Gary Schiff told the crowd at the government center. "We will not forget the tens of thousands of gay couples who had their loves erased in California."
Join the Impact, who organized Saturday's demonstrations, asked supporters to be respectful and refrain from attacking other groups during the rallies.
In Boston, the mood was generally upbeat, with attendees dancing and signing to the song "Respect." Signs cast the fight for gay marriage as the new civil rights movement, including one that read "Gay is the new black."
Plans for the nationwide demonstrations were started by Seattle blogger, Amy Balliett, just days after the California vote on Proposition 8, which took away gay marriage rights that had been granted by the state's high court by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.