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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.