August 2, 2007

Russia Claims Pole Territory

Two Russian submersibles ventured to the seabed beneath the North Pole thursday, where they staked a rust-proof, titanium Russian flag. The goal of the Russian expedition, according to Moscow, was to gather evidence supporting Russia's claim that the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of Russia's continental shelf, and therefore entitles them to more than 460,000 square miles of Arctic seabed via international law and strengthens their claim to a theoretically rich supply of untapped Arctic gas and oil resources.

Others saw the expedition as a land grab. Canadian Foreign Minister Peter Mackey was quoted as saying, "This isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'We're claiming this territory'."

According to the Star Tribune, the U.S. Senate has not yet ratified U.S. accession to the U.N. Law of the Sea, which would ultimately give the U.S. a seat on the panel that will consider and rule on Russia's territorial claims.

Also, interestingly enough, Reuters and the Star Tribune quote expedition leader Artur Chilingarov in slightly varied fashion. Reuters quotes him as saying, "If a hundred or a thousand years from now someone goes down to where we were, they will see the Russian flag." The Star Tribune phrases it this way: "If someone else goes down there in 100 or 1,000 years, he will see our Russian flag.'' It remains unknow whether he actually said both of these things...

Also, it is worth noting that the BBC posted this story much higher than the other two sources.

The Reuters coverage of the event can be found here:
http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL0223079620070802?sp=true

The BBC here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6927395.stm

And the Star Tribune coverage here:
http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1339685.html

I-35W Bridge Collapse

Shortly after 6:00 p.m. Wednesday evening, the section of the Interstate 35W bridge between Washington Avenue South and University Avenue Southeast collapsed. One drowning fatality has been confirmed thusfar, though Rueters reports a total of four now, with an unknown amount of additional bodies recovered thursday morning. At least 60 people were injured. Reuters reports more than 20 people missing, with the New York Times and the BBC staking that number as high as 30.

Rescue efforts have been slowed by safety concerns. Divers and rescue boats were forced to halt their activities at nightfall due to the mass of submerged metal debris. The bridge was 40 years old, and had been listed as being structurally deficient in a federal government report. Inspections of the bridge by the University of Minnesota Civil Engineering Department concluded that the bridge was not an imminent threat. Governor Pawlenty said that the bridge was slated for replacement in 2020.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning on lowering the water level by two feet to help with rescue efforts. President Bush also extended condolences to victims and families, and authorized a $5 million dollar federal grant to aid in the rescue, recovery, clean-up and repair efforts. Senators Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar said that they would seek upwards of $100 million to rebuild the bridge and would a lift on the limit of federal funds available for aid.

The New York Times Coverage can be found at the following:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/02/us/02cnd-bridge.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&hp
http://http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Bush-Bridge-Collapse.html?hp
http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/02/following-the-minneapolis-bridge-collapse/index.html?hp

Reuters' coverage can be found here:
http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSN0123484920070802?=undefined&src=080207_1055_TOPSTORY_more_bodies_found&sp=true

The BBC Story can be found here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6927725.stm

The Star Tribune at the following:
http://www.startribune.com/10204/story/1339588.html
http://www.startribune.com/10204/story/1339966.html

The Pioneer Press here:
http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_6526391?nclick_check=1

July 26, 2007

Castro Absent From Revolution Day Ceremonies

Fidel Castro was absent from the July 26th Revolution Day ceremonies, leaving his brother and interim president Raul Castro to speak in his place. Fidel has not appeared in public since the previous year's speeches. He announced five days later that he would be undergoing intestinal surgery, and remained out of the public eye since.

The day marks the 1953 assault on the Moncada barracks in the city of Santiago on the eastern part of the island, of which both the Castro brothers were apart. The attack was a failure, but effectively served to begin the revolutionary movement that would unseat Fulgencio Batista in January 1959 and bring Fidel to power.

The New York Times covered the story in considerable depth, though Reuters and the BBC maintained decent detail. The most notable difference in the coverage between the stories is that the Reuters and BBC stories create an image of two beloved Cuban leaders that the people hold in high regard, and that the people have faith in Raul Castro in Fidel's stead, whereas by contrast, the Times story portrays Fidel as little missed. In the Times story, Raul is described as assuming power with relative ease, and that the real nature of his policy preferences will be seen in the coming year. Raul Castro says that he is still interested in opening talks with the U.S.

The New York Times story can be found at the following:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Cuba-Revolution-Day.html?em&ex=1185595200&en=683940528cb948d1&ei=5087%0A

The BBC story is here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6916923.stm

And Reuters here:
http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSN2534170120070725?sp=true

Level 3 Sex Offender Sought For Probabation Violation

Herman Dequon Curry is being sought for violating his probabtion and failing to report to his probation officer on July 13th. Level 3 offenders are those considered in Minnesota as the most likely to reoffend, and Curry has previously been convicted of having sexual contact with girls aged 6-12, as well as drug possession, driving with a suspended license, lurking, window peeping and escaping police custody. The Star Tribune covered the nature of Curry's history and recent circumstances in greater depth than the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, though the Pioneer Press actually included information about Curry's physical appearance and recognizable traits.

The Star Tribune Story can be found at the following:
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1325871.html

The Saint Paul Pioneer Press story at the following:
http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_6464792?nclick_check=1

July 19, 2007

Minnesota group hunts for MIAs

Minnesota-based MIA Hunters ventured on three separate excursions into Papua New Guinea between May and June to search for the remains of World War II-era crash sites on the island. The group claimed to have found 11 crash sites, as well as the remains of both American and Japanese soldiers. The Star Tribune estimates the number of American soldiers at up to 38 and Japanese at up to 22. The Saint Paul Pioneer Press described the remains as being seven U.S. military aircraft with an estimated eight crew members and five Japanese bombers with at least a dozen crew members (whether those numbers refer to each aircraft or the overall total is unknown).

MIA Hunters does not disturb the remains when found. They photograph and prepare detailed reports on the sites and submit these along with GPS coordinates to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii. Investigators from the JPAC then search for the remains and recover them. The group's founder and organizer is retired vice president of marketing for Northwest Airlines Bryan Moon. The non-profit organization is based in Randolph, MN, in Dakota County.

The Pioneer Press version of the story is at this location:
http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_6408483

The Star Tribune article is here:
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1311443.html

Gaza Aid and Economics

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency reported that it has been providing food for approximately 825,000 refugee-classified Gazans, and that the U.N. World Food Program is aiding an additional 200,000-250,000 (Depending on whether the numbers come from Reuters or the New York Times), as Gaza's crossings with Israel have been completely cut off since Hamas' routing of Fatah forces in the Strip.

Also, according to the New York Times, some 68,000-70,000 (also depending on the source) Gazans have lost their jobs since mid-June due to the stifled economic circumstances of the territory. This is about 80 percent of those employed in the private sector. Raw material shortages and the inability to trade/export have largely contributed to these figures. The commissioner general of the UNRWA, Karen AbuZayd, warned that the closures of key crossings from Gaza to Israel could cause further economic collapse and greater need for outside aid and food supplies, a task for which the UNRWA does not have sufficient funds to accommodate.

The Karni crossing, an important access point between Gaza and Israel, has been closed since June 12th, as it was previously operated on the Gaza side of the border by Fatah forces, and Israel presently has no Palestinian allies in Gaza that it trusts enough to assume the position. This has caused the exchange of goods to be routed through smaller checkpoints with less-advanced technology. The current method of exchange requires all goods to be unloaded on one side of the border and reloaded on the other, driving up costs approximately $300 per ton and restricting the flow of goods.

The Reuters article concerning the subject can be found at the following:
http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL1886581320070719?sp=true

The New York Times story can be found here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/19/world/middleeast/19mideast.html

July 12, 2007

Teen Madam

An Eagan 19-year-old was charged last month with recruiting minors for prostitution. Investigators believe that Justine Alex Reisdorf was recruiting high school girls to work for her as prostitutes at a townhouse she rented in Burnsville, and that she later used her job at the Burnsville Hampton Inn to obtain hotel rooms to use for the same purposes. Investigators also believe that she advertised throuh the classifieds website Craigslist.org, and eventually through Live Links as well. The girl's boss at the Hampton Inn reported having no prior knowledge of any such behaviors.

The Star Tribune reported on this story in fair detail. The St. Paul Pioneer Press posted no coverage as of the time of this writing. The Star Tribune's story can be found at the following:

http://www.startribune.com/crime/story/1297789.html

Israeli Casualies

Israel sustained its first combat casualty in nine months on Thursday, during an early-morning raid in Gaza. In the confrontation with Hamas militants, two other soldiers and two Islamic Jihad gunmen were also killed.

Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has vowed that Israel will continue to fight the militants in Gaza for their failure to recognize Israel and their refusal to ban the firing of rockets at Israeli bordertowns.

The confrontation, which began when about 10 tanks and two bulldozers with helicopter support advanced into farm fields near the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip before dawn. Hamas said that it detonated two large mines, and that Israeli aircraft fired on them when gunmen advanced.

While the New York times covers this story in a certain amount of detail, adding information attributed to Hamas that is not found in the Reuters wire story, Reuters covers it in greater depth. They go on to discuss further plans for Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas and Israel's Ehud Olmert to meet and discuss future plans. They also discuss how Olmert lost a great deal of popularity after the Israeli army's failure to crush Hezbollah on the norther border a year ago.

The stories can be found at the following:

The New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Israel-Gaza.html

Reuters:
http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL1254192220070712?pageNumber=2&sp=true

July 5, 2007

The Case of Vang Pao

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Wednesday that San Francisco attorney John Keker, a Marine Corps. platoon commander in the Vietnam War, is taking the defense of Gen. Vang Pao. Keker is regarded as one of the nation's top trial lawyers, and is taking the case without compensation, vowing to fight the charges to the bitter end.

The article quotes Keker as saying, "I certainly don't take cases so people can plead guilty," and "I don't think Gen. Vang Pao is going to acquiesce to these charges. ... We wouldn't be here unless I thought Gen. Vang Pao didn't want to fight this." Pao, who led a CIA-backed Hmong rebellion during the Vietnam War era, is regarded as a spiritual leader in the large Hmong communities in both Minnesota and California. Keker cites his service in Vietnam as compelling him to assume this case. Keker has formerly represented Eldridge Cleaver as well as acting as prosecutor during the trial of Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North for 16 felony charges related to the Iran-Contra affair.

Rallies in three states, including two in St. Paul, have been held in support of the Gen. Vang Pao.

Outside of the Pioneer Press' coverage of these trial updates, The Star Tribune posted no coverage of the matter at this point.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press' article can be found here:
http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_6300590?nclick_check=1

Gaza Casualties

Israeli forces conducting a routine raid into the Gaza strip thursday clashed with militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. According to The New York Times and the Star Tribune, both printing the same Associated Press wire story verbatim, six Hamas militants were killed in ground fighting, including their field commander in central Gaza, and two more militants from missiles launched at militant sites in the area by Israeli aircraft.

Reuters reports different figures. They report that the six Hamas casualties includes the two killed in airstrikes, and adds that a seventh man, an unarmed Islamic Jihad militant, was also killed. According to medics cited in the Reuters article, 13 people were also wounded, including children. Reuters also reports that both legs of a Hamas television cameraman were amputated after he was shot while standing with gunmen, though he appeared to be unarmed. Israel commented that these cameramen are not journalists but rather part of Hamas' operational forces, joined with squads of armed men to gather intelligence, and are often armed themselves.

The Times and the Star Tribune report the location of the fighting as being near the Bureij refugee camp, though Reuters reports that the fighting took place in al-Maghazi refugee camp.

Ismael Haniyeh of Hamas has condemned Israel's "military escalation" and "criminal massacre," saying that Palestinian gunmen had the right to respond. The AP wire also reports that a spokesperson for Fatah, Hamas' rival in the West Bank, also condemned the Israeli actions. Haniyeh is quoted here as saying, ''We assert that our people have the full right to defend themselves and to confront these aggressions." The AP goes on to add that Hamas officials have claimed that some 15 tanks and three bulldozers have moved into Palestinian farms and begun leveling the land. Israel has denied knowledge of or involvment with any such activities.

The two wires wrap up by focusing on different aspects of the ongoing conflict. The AP discusses the unrest surrounding the discrepencies in the recognized work weeks between the West Bank and Gaza, with Hamas attempting to assert its control in the West Bank by enforcing its Saturday through Wednesday work week, and Fatah recognizing the Israeli Sunday through Thursday work week.

Reuters discusses Palestinian ambulance workers being seized by Israeli forces while attempting to evacuate a wounded Palestinian man. Reuters cites one of these workers as saying that Israeli forces used them as human shields to exit the area. Israeli law prohibits such tactics, and Israel has denied knowledge of any such actions.

The stories can be found at the following:

Reuters:
http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL057617020070705?sp=true

The New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Israel-Palestinians.html

The Star Tribune:
http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1285730.html

June 27, 2007

Murder Conviction

Steven Van Keuren was convicted of the first degree murders of his ex-girlfriend, Teri Lee, and her boyfriend, Timothy Hawkinson. Van Keuren admitted to the killings, and claimed that he had gone to Lee's home with plans of only killing himself, despite messages that he left on friends answering machines saying that he was planning on killing Lee.

Van Keuren claimed that in the time between those messages and the time of the killings he had changed his mind about killing Lee and was only planning on killing himself in her presence. He also claimed that he killed Hawkinson by accident while the two were involved in a physical altercation immediately post the shooting of Lee.

The trial's jury of six men and six women found Van Keuren guilty of two counts of first degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The killings also aided in the passage of a new state law requiring a photograph to accompany a no contact order in hopes of bolstering law enforcement agents abilities to maintain appropriate tabs on suspects.

More can be found at the following:

http://www.startribune.com/crime/story/1271593.html

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_6241489?nclick_check=1

Both the Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press covered the story in fairly similar detail.

CIA Declassification

The Central Intelligence Agency is declassifying hundreds of pages of records detailing 25 years of overseas assassination attempts, domestic spying, and kidnapping. CIA Director Michael Hayden declassified the papers in hopes of "lifting the veil of secrecy" surrounding the agency. The documents contained "reminders of some things the CIA should not have done," Hayden said (Reuters). He also commented that when government witholds information, myth and misinformation often "fill the vacuum like a gas" (New York Times).

The records describe the agency's attempts to enlist the services of certain mafia figures to assassinate Fidel Castro as well as documentation of their involvment with the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s. Among the agency's other past deeds covered in the records are attempts to infiltrate the anti-war movement surrounding the Vietnam War and student unrest, as well as hostile interrogations of ex-KGB operatives.

General Hayden has defended his decision to make these records public in hopes of building public trust in the CIA, which was founded largely on secrecy and deception. He championed similar policies when he was the director of the National Security Agency, where he invited reporters to briefings and authorized officials to speak to James Bamford for his book "Body of Secrets."

Hayden has received some criticism for his actions, most of which suggests that the move to declassification is little more than a plot to make some of the agency's more recent activities seem less "nefarious" by contrasting them with the unpopular deeds of previous years, although Bamford credits Hayden for his seeming openness.

More information on the declassifications can be found at the following locations:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/23/washington/23hayden.html?_r=1&n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fOrganizations%2fC%2fCentral%20Intelligence%20Agency%20&oref=slogin

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/22/washington/22cia.html?n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fOrganizations%2fC%2fCentral%20Intelligence%20Agency%20

http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSN2636255220070626?src=062607_1522_DOUBLEFEATURE_cia_secrets_revealed&sp=true

The New York Times hosted particularly detailed coverage of the subject and analyses of the implications and potential motivations involved with the issue. Reuters, likewise, also covered the story in fairly great depth, but perhaps not quite to the extent of the Times. Additionally, at the time of this research, the Star Tribune had no visible coverage.

June 21, 2007

Suburban Drug Bust

Dung Anh Nguyen, a 34-year-old Bloomington man, was arrested June 17th, when the Dakota County Drug Task Force served a warrant to search his Apple Valley residence. The authorities were tipped off by Dakota Electric employees who had noticed that the house was drawing abnormally large amounts of power from a nearby transformer, causing power outages in the area. A wire had apparently been spliced directly to the electrical supply line from inside the house, bypassing the electric meter. The employees reportedly smelled an odor of marijuana eminating from the residence, as well, and subsequently called in the police. Charges were brought against Nguyen on Wednesday, including producing and attempting to produce a controlled substance, and criminal possession of a controlled substance. 1,200 plants were reportedly siezed by authorities, each one capable of yielding about a half-pound of marijuana, for a total sale value of over $1 million.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune reported similar information regarding this story, though they both list some details absent in the other: the Pioneer Press adds to the above information that Nguyen's bail was set at $75,000, and the Star Tribune notes that he his scheduled to appear in Dakota County First Judicial District Court in Hastings on July 16th. The Star Tribune also mentions the address as being on the 8700 block of Hunter's Way in Apple Valley.

Both sources published information on the subject can be found at the following:

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_6190875?nclick_check=1

http://www.startribune.com/crime/story/1258100.html

Upon personal interview, one of the former residents of the Apple Valley home, which was sold to Nguyen last September for $391,000, commented that he had told her family that he was buying the house due to imminent marital plans. The resident asked not to be named.

June 20, 2007

Aftermath

For the first time since Hamas siezed control of Gaza, Israeli forces attacked the Islamist militants early Wednesday. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the launch of two rockets that landed outside the Israeli border-city of Sderot, which caused no reported casualties. Israel retaliated by launching an airstrike on the two rocket launch-sites. Earlier in the day, they also moved tanks across the border and began hunting for wanted militants, eventually killing four militants in their pre-dawn incursion into Gaza. Additionally, Islamic Jihad guerrilla and one Fatah gunman died in a gun battle in the West Bank. More details can be found at:
http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSKRA05235120070620?pageNumber=3&sp=true

Furthermore, the Israelis as well as their western supporters continued to refuse to negotiate directly with Hamas, regarding it as a terrorist organization for its failure to recognize Israel as a state and their on-going desire to ereadicate the Zionist regime. Despite this, Israel allowed the passage of 12 trucks of food and medical supplies to enter Gaza in hopes of averting a humanitarian crisis. They have also been allowing the passage of some Gaza residents at the Erez border into Israel for medical needs on a case-by-case basis. So far, those allowed through have included those wounded by factional fighting, a teenager with leukemia, and other seriously ill patients. More can be found at the following two sites:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/20/world/middleeast/20israel.html
http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1257401.html

The United States, the United Nations, and Israel of pledged to ease embargo restrictions on Palestine put in place when Hamas gained power in early 2006 in hopes of bolstering Abbas' Fatah government, though Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has thusfar not agreed to full-scale peace talks with the Palestinians. Some Fatah leaders have questioned Olmert's motivations, and Abbas' national security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, has alleged that "Israel is releasing money not because they are honorable but they just want to entrench the divide between the West Bank and Gaza" (Reuters - see first link at top of page).

It is also worth noting that, at this point, Reuters, the New York Times, and the local Star Tribune have presented comparitively in-depth coverage of the unfolding events in Gaza and the surrounding areas. It is also worth noting, perhaps, that the Star Tribune's material is an Associated Press wire, whereas both the Reuters and New York Times material do not originate from an external agency, but are reported in-house, so to speak.

For further reading, the following two links lead to Op-Ed contributions from the New York Times. The first is entitled "What Hamas Wants," and was written by Ahmed Yousef, the political adviser to Ismail Haniya, the Hamas-backed prime minister of the Palestinian Unity Government. It is worthwhile to read for the sake of garnering some insight into Hamas' perspective of the present situation, though it is not discussed herein as it is not actual news coverage. The second item is "Brothers to the Bitter End," written by Fouad Ajami, who is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. This piece details the current dynamic of the Fatah-Hamas relationship, and discusses the fundamental similarities between the two and the general asininity of the current situation. This section was also not discussed herein due to the fact that it is not actual news coverage, but it is worthwhile to read nonetheless for the sake of thorough understanding. They are as follows:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/20/opinion/20yousef.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/19/opinion/19ajami.html

June 14, 2007

Developments in Gaza

Over the past six days, Islamic Hamas militants and secular Fatah security forces have been clashing in Gaza, leaving some 80 casualties thusfar. As of today, Hamas gunmen have captured the Preventive Security headquarters, one of the last strongholds of the western-backed Fatah in Gaza. More can be found here on the subject: http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSMAC32084020070614?&src=061407_0827_TOPSTORY_hamas_captures_compound&pageNumber=1

Political science professor Ayman Shaheen from Al-Azar University in Gaza has said that he believes this to be "the end of Palestinian democracy" (Nissenbaum, Star Tribune). Shaheen was also quoted as saying of Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen, that "Abu Mazen will be a symbolic president in Gaza without any power" (ibid). See http://www.startribune.com/722/story/1244747.html for more details.

Additionally, Hamas has been referring to its victory in Gaza as the second liberation of Gaza, referencing the departure of the Israelis in 2005. Hamas has also said that it is still ready for dialogue with Fatah, but that only the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas was legitimate, and that Abbas' West Bank institutions are illegal. Go here for more:
http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSFLE44790620070614

At the suggestion of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the E.U. and U.N. have begun considering forming an international contingent to station on the Gaza-Egypt border to attempt to curtail weapons smuggling activities and Hamas' growing power. The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), however, has said that it will not support such a contingent, and that a "better understanding between internal forces" (OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu) is what is needed. More can be found here:
http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSKLR10823720070614

Furthermore, the E.U. has suspended humanitarian aid to Gaza due to the violence in the area, and has said that it will only resume when "security" is reestablished. More can be read on this here:
http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSL1428704420070614