December 7, 2008

Indian minister denies calling Pakistani president

During the attacks by gunmen on Mumbai Pakistani authorities said they put their air force on high alert after their president received a "threatening" late-night call that they say came straight from the Indian government, according to the Associated Press.

The Indian government are calling the allegations a hoax.

But, the Pakistani president's leadership abilities are also in question.

A Los Angeles Times article said a year ago, Asif Ali Zardari "was best known as the corruption-tainted, polo-loving husband of Benazir Bhutto, the charismatic former Pakistani prime minister who appeared poised to make a dramatic return to power."

"Now Zardari, 53, who took over leadership of Bhutto's party after she was assassinated Dec. 27 and became president three months ago, finds himself head of state at a time of extraordinary turmoil, even by Pakistani standards." (Los Angeles Times)

"It's not so easy," Shaukat Qadir told the Los Angeles Times, a political analyst and retired general. "What he has to do is stand up for Pakistan, but let India know he understands we have to coexist."

Pakistani Information Minister Sherry Rehman said a "threatening" call to Zardari on Nov. 28, when the attacks were still under way, definitely came from India's External Affairs Ministry.

India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee denied that Sunday, telling the Associated Press, "I had made no such telephone call."

Pakistan has said it will cooperate with India if authorities prove the attacks came from Pakistani soil. It has denied any of its state agencies were involved, noting it too is a victim of terrorism, and pointed to "non-state actors." (Associated Press)

Obama says economy will likely worsen

President-elect Barack Obama said in a news conference Sunday that the economy is likely to worsen.

According to New York Times coverage, Obama said he would pursue a recovery plan "equal to the task ahead."

Some of the proposed ideas included expanding public works programs and offering jobs to help develop green technology, according to the Times article.

The Los Angeles Times coverage said Obama believes economic times will worsen before they get better referring to the fragility of the financial system and to recent numbers showing the U.S. with its highest unemployment rate in 15 years.

Obama said it is not quite like the Great Depression, but a serious issue, according to the Times.

One of the main issues he addressed was the problems the auto industry is facing.

Obama for the first time voiced support for auto industry bailout legislation being drafted in Congress, according to the LA Times.

He said it would be "unacceptable" to allow the U.S. auto industry to fail during a time of growing unemployment, the LA Times article said.

"If this management team that's currently in place doesn't understand the urgency of the situation and is not willing to make the tough choices and adapt to these new circumstances, then they should go," Obama said during the news conference.

Obama said he is aware of the tough road ahead.

"As a part of our economic recovery package, what you will see coming out of my administration right at the center,? he said, “is a strong set of new financial regulations, in which banks, ratings agencies, mortgage brokers, a whole bunch of folks start having to be much more accountable and behave much more responsibly.?

Missing Somali man sparks discussion

Local Somali families spoke Sunday about the men in their lives who they say have gone missing.

According to the Pioneer Press, the families fear they are fighting a jihad in the war-torn country.

This week, one Minneapolis resident was buried after he blew himself up as a part of his role as a suicide bomber in the ongoing civil war, according to the Star Tribune.

The FBI said they only helped to return the body to Minneapolis and would not confirm the death of the man, said to be Shirwa Ahmed, the Star Tribune said.

The Somali community is concerned and speaking out about other young men they worry will find themselves in similar situations after being brainwashed.

"(The missing men and boys) have been financially supported to leave the country with the promise of utopian society," Abdirizak Bihi, Somali community leader told the Pioneer Press. "But they are in harms way."

Bihi's nephew is one of the people missing.

Attorney Mahir Sherif, who represents local mosques, said they are not recruiting men to go and fight, but he told the Star Tribune "he has seen some in the community call young men to arms."

"The whole issue raises some interesting questions," he told the Star Tribune, adding the number of men rumored to have left to fight has dropped from 45 to possibly fewer than 10.

"Let's say they went in answer to a call to stop aggression. Or maybe they just left to protect their grandmother. Do people have a right to return to a country to fight? Will it be a crime?" he asked in a Star Tribune interview. "And does the government even want them back, especially if they have been trained over there?"

Missing Somali man sparks discussion

Local Somali families spoke Sunday about the men in their lives who they say have gone missing.

According to the Pioneer Press, the families fear they are fighting a jihad in the war-torn country.

This week, one Minneapolis resident was buried after he blew himself up as a part of his role as a suicide bomber in the ongoing civil war, according to the Star Tribune.

The FBI said they only helped to return the body to Minneapolis and would not confirm the death of the man, said to be Shirwa Ahmed, the Star Tribune said.

The Somali community is concerned and speaking out about other young men they worry will find themselves in similar situations after being brainwashed.

"(The missing men and boys) have been financially supported to leave the country with the promise of utopian society," Abdirizak Bihi, Somali community leader told the Pioneer Press. "But they are in harms way."

Bihi's nephew is one of the people missing.

Attorney Mahir Sherif, who represents local mosques, said they are not recruiting men to go and fight, but he told the Star Tribune "he has seen some in the community call young men to arms."

"The whole issue raises some interesting questions," he told the Star Tribune, adding the number of men rumored to have left to fight has dropped from 45 to possibly fewer than 10.

"Let's say they went in answer to a call to stop aggression. Or maybe they just left to protect their grandmother. Do people have a right to return to a country to fight? Will it be a crime?" he asked in a Star Tribune interview. "And does the government even want them back, especially if they have been trained over there?"

November 23, 2008

Bush spends last trip abroad in Peru

President Bush arrived in Peru's capital, Lima, on Friday to talk with the leaders of Peru about the economic crisis and other looming threats for the country.

President Bush wrapped up his final meeting with leaders of Asia-Pacific nations on Sunday, leaving the economic summit with an endorsement of his plans for international financial regulatory reform, a renewed call for free trade and a promise from China to host another round of the so-called six-party talks, aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, according to the New York Times.

"As we work to rebuild confidence in our financial systems in the short term, we must also work to promote long-term economic growth," Bush said in his weekly radio address released Friday. "Together, our nations must focus our efforts on three great forces that drive this growth -- free markets, free trade and free people." (Washington Post)

Bush's main goal during his two-night stay in Peru was to enlist support for an economic crisis agreement signed a week ago by the United States, China and 18 other major economies. The pact focuses on keeping trade barriers down and encouraging free-market principles while implementing reforms to the global financial system, according to the Washington Post.

Experts and teen's father say viewers played role in webcasted suicide

A Miami teenager killed himself after announcing his plan hour before on his blog.

Abraham Briggs, 19, broadcast the last moments of his life on a webcast and experts and his father say those who watched the video and followed the blog contributed to his death, according to USA Today.

Biggs, who was a student at Broward College, died of a combination of benzodiazepines, which he was prescribed for bipolar disorder, and opiates, according to USA Today.

Police found him dead in his father's bed 12 hours after he declared on a bodybuilding website that he planned to commit suicide.

His father said it was "unimaginable" that neither the website's operators nor any viewers alerted the police, according to BBC News.

Reports say that some viewers who logged in to watch encouraged the teenager to kill himself, while others tried to dissuade him, according to BBC News.

After several hours, when he had not moved some viewers finally notified the site's moderator, who then called the police, according to BBC News.

"Those individuals who were egging Mr. Biggs on in essence were able to depersonalize," Keith Whitworth, a professor of sociology at Texas Christian University who studies Internet fraud and social networking sites told USA Today. "They would not do it face to face, but in the computer medium they were able to absolve themselves of any personal responsibility for their actions."

Whitworth told USA Today at least one other Internet suicide has occurred. It was Kevin Whitrick, 42, who hanged himself in front of his webcam while others watched in 2007 in Britain.

November 16, 2008

Diversity Analysis

In Mourning an Immigrant, a Call for Unity on Long Island from the New York Times

This story, which ran in the New York Times, uses the funeral of an Ecuadorean immigrant who was taunted in Patchogue, N.Y. to focus on the issue of relations between Latinos and white residents in an ethnically diverse village in Suffolk County, N.Y.

Through observation and quotes, the reporter describes the emotions and the crowd who gathered together to mourn the loss of Marcelo Lucero, 37, a serious-minded man who had lived in the United States for 16 years, who was stabbed to death a week earlier as a part of hate crime.

The reporter listed state representatives on both sides of the illegal immigration issue in attendance.

By using this specific incident of violence, the reporter was able to profile a part of the city that clearly is struggling with a racial divide and by looking deeper into this act of violence, the reporter is able to provide the reader with the bigger picture of what is going on in this area of the city.

The story goes behind the issue of illegal immigration and the race of the deceased man to humanize a problem many are aware of in this area.

The man's death has spurred discussion among politicians and community members allowing the story to be able to conclude that the death of this immigrant may serve as a catalyst to improve relations between the Latino and white community that share this village as their home.

It is important for reporters to use this tactic when tackling issues surrounding diversity issues.

Vitamin C, E supplements don't prevent cancer

A study released last week finding Vitamin C or E pills are ineffective in warding off heart disease also do not help prevent cancer in men.

"At least in the context of two very common outcomes -- cardioprotection and chemoprevention -- we see no compelling evidence to take vitamin E or C supplements," one of the study's authors, Dr. Howard Sesso, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston told the Washington Post.

The findings are expected to be presented by Sesso on Sunday at an American Academy of Cancer Research (AACR) meeting in Washington, D.C.

The study included almost 15,000 male physicians who were randomly assigned to take a 500 milligram vitamin C supplement daily and 400 international units of vitamin E every other day, or placebo pills for the 10 years of the study. All of the men were over the age of 50 at the start of the trial. (Washington Post)

Despite hopes of vitamin E helping to prevent cancer, after an average of eight years, there were 1,929 cases of cancer, including 1,013 cases of prostate cancer. However, rates of prostate cancer and of total cancer were similar among all four groups (Associated Press)

"Well-conducted clinical trials such as this are rapidly closing the door on the hope that common vitamin supplements may protect against cancer," Marji McCullough, nutrition chief at the American Cancer Society told the Associated Press. "It's still possible that some benefit exists for subgroups that couldn't be measured, but the overall results are certainly discouraging.

About 12 percent of Americans take supplements of C and E. The new study does not mean these vitamins have no value, just that they didn't prevent cancer in this group of doctors, who may be healthier than the general population, Dr. Peter Shields, deputy director of Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center told the Associated Press.

The best bet, Shields told the Associated Press, is to do things that are known to prevent the disease — eat right, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise.

Rallies across U.S. protest gay marriage bans

Tens of thousands of people in cities across the United States gathered Saturday to show support for same-sex marraige, giving voice to an issue many gay men and lesbians consider crucial for equality.

The New York Times reports rallies occurred in cities including San Francisco and Minneapolis only 11 days after California voters narrowly based a ballot revoking a previous law making same-sex ceremonies legal in the state.

Protestors across the country carried handmade signs with slogans like “No More Mr. Nice Gay? and “Straights Against Hate.? In New York, some 4,000 people gathered at City Hall, where speakers repeatedly called same-sex marriage “the greatest civil rights battle of our generation.? (New York Times)

“We are not going to rest at night until every citizen in every state in this country can say, ‘This is the person I love,’ and take their hand in marriage,? Representative Anthony D. Weiner of Brooklyn told the New York Times.

More than 700 people gathered on the plaza of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis on Saturday to protest constitutional amendments in California, Florida and Arizona prohibiting gay marriage, according to the Star Tribune.

"It's really sad that this is even an issue at all," Kendra Atkins, 21, a University of Minnesota student from Eau Claire, Wis., told the Star Tribune before a rally in support of gay marriage in downtown Minneapolis. "Love is something we all experience in our own way and it's very unfortunate that certain people think there should be a right way and a wrong way to love."

Planning for the nationwide protests was started by a Seattle blogger, Amy Balliett, just days after the California vote, which took away gay marriage rights that had been granted by the state's high court, according to the Star Tribune.

Endeavour shuttle docks at space station

Space shuttle Endeavour docked Sunday with the international space station, delivering cargo similar to home remodeling gear.

The linkup to the station unites 10 American and Russian astronauts for most of the next two weeks. It occurred at 4:01 p.m. CST, as the shuttle and station sailed 212 miles over the border between India and China, according to the Houston Chronicle.

"The international space station is indeed ready for an extreme makeover," Mike Fincke, the station's commander, radioed Endeavour skipper Chris Ferguson as the shuttle neared. "We'll be sure to open the door." (Houston Chronicle)

The crews will begin one of the 15-day mission's top priorities as early as Monday by transferring a cargo module carrying nearly 15,000 pounds of gear to the station, according to an Associated Press article in USA Today.

New sleep stations, a toilet and a water recycling system are among the furnishings needed so the station can double its crews to six people next year and get more science research done, according to the AP.

The mission also includes four spacewalks to repair a damaged joint that rotates solar wings on the station's starboard side, according to the AP article.

NTSB names poor gusset plate design as a cause of 35W bridge collapse

The National Transportation Safety Board began its public hearing Thursday to determine what lead to the collapse of the Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis that killed 13 people and injured 145.

The board said the hearings were "to see that such a tragedy never, ever happens again," according to the Star Tribune.

The bridge collapsed during rush hour on August 1, 2007 and was the nations deadliest bridge collapse in 30 years, according to the Pioneer Press. More than 100 cars were on the bridge at the time.

The two-day hearings began one day after lawsuits were filed against two private firms who were hired to work on the bridge, according to the Star Tribune.

Following acting NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker's remarks, the NTSB's Mark Bagnard said in the presence of a Star Tribune reporter that fellow federal safety investigators say that design flaws in the steel gusset plates connecting the Mississippi River bridge's beams were a factor in the collapse.

"Much of what we will (talk) about in this investigation will focus on the U10 gusset plates," said Mark Bagnard, investigator in charge for the NTSB's Office of Highway Safety in the presence of a Pioneer Press reporter.

Some family members affected by the collapse attended the NTSB hearings, and members of the NTSB addressed them as the hearing got underway.

"This bridge collapse was tragic for many of you, but it was humbling for all of us," Board member Debbie Hersman said in the presence of a Pioneer Press reporter. "I hope (today) will provide some of the answers to the questions that a lot of you had about our investigation."

Fridley High School student dies in shooting accident

A Fridley High School star athlete was killed Friday in an accident shooting, according to police.

Emmanuel Bartuoh, also known to his football coach as the "E-man,", was a quiet leader and a standout player with dreams of a college football scholarship and one day earning a degree, according to the Pioneer Press.

Bartuoh, 18, died of a gunshot wound inside his Fridley town home, where he was watching the state high school football tournament on TV, according to the Pioneer Press.

Samuel Keleih Dennis, a 20-year-old graduate of Fridley High, was booked into the Anoka County Jail on suspicion of second-degree manslaughter after he pointed a semi-automatic gun he didn't know was loaded at his friend, Bartuoh, and pulled the trigger, authorities told the Pioneer Press.

Bartuoh had spoken earlier in the day with a Midwestern college about a football scholarship, according to the Pioneer Press article.

"It doesn't make sense. Oh, God, could this really be happening?" said his older sister, Marthaline Bartuoh, 22 told the Star Tribune. "I can't say it was his time to go, because it's not. It was not his time to go."

According to the Star Tribune, hundreds of students gathered at Fridley High School on Saturday sobbing and hugging each in grief.

"He was a great kid and he's gonna be deeply missed by a lot of people," Bartuoh's football coach, Lambert Brown told the Star Tribune. "Hopefully they can remember him by the good things he did and try to live up to the example that he set."

Fridley High School principal, David Webb said Bartuoh is the first student to die at Fridley High School in 11 years.

The Anoka County attorney's office will review the case. Formal charges against Dennis as well as a court appearance are expected Monday, according to the Pioneer Press.

November 2, 2008

Aid Convoy to go to Congo

The United Nations is sending a convoy of food and medical supplies to help people who have been displaced by recent fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the BBC News, 250,000 people have found themselves in this situation.

Aid groups were expected to travel into the Congo's rebel-held territory on Sunday, according to CNN International.

On Saturday, aid groups delivered food and water to a refugee camp north of Goma, traveling through a narrow "humanitarian corridor" the rebels established following a cease-fire with government forces that the rebels announced Wednesday. (CNN International)

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told CNN Intenational the international community cannot allow Congo to become "another Rwanda," where 800,000 died during a 1994 genocide.

"Our priority is to restart the activities at many health centres in the area," Gloria Fernandez, head of the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Goma told BBC News. "We're taking health supplies, water, and sanitation."

Christian Science Monitor to go online only

After a century of publication, the Christian Science Monitor announced Tuesday it will go online only and no longer produce a print edition.

The paper is currently published Monday through Friday, and will move to online only in April, although it will also introduce a weekend magazine. John Yemma, The Monitor’s editor, told the New York Times that moving to a Web focus will mean it can keep its eight foreign bureaus open.

The Christian Science Monitor recognizes that daily print has become too costly and energy-intensive," Editor John Yemma told the Chicago Tribune. "Online journalism is more timely and is rapidly expanding its reach, especially among younger readers. … Our shift … is likely to be watched by others in the news industry as they contemplate similar moves."

The announcement came during the same week of several announcements by newspapers and magazines planning to make significant cuts in jobs, including the Gannett Company.

Lou Ureneck, the chairman of the journalism department at Boston University, told the New York Times that it was difficult to interpret what the move meant for other newspapers, because The Monitor was nonprofit and most newspapers were not. But across the industry, news organizations “are going to simply have to be smaller organizations,? Mr. Ureneck told the New York Times.

Ken Doctor, a newspaper analyst at Outsell Inc., told the New York Times most newspapers cannot give up paper. Print editions still bring in 92 percent of the overall revenue, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

“If that much revenue is tied up in the print product, if tomorrow these companies dropped those editions, they would have 90 percent less revenue,? Mr. Doctor told the New York Times. While getting rid of costs like printing plants and delivery trucks would help a little, he said, it would not make up for the lost revenue.

The Monitor's decision will be closely watched by media organizations.

Study shows flu shot important for children

In a study in today's Pediatrics, doctors found that flu shots can keep kids out of the doctor's office, even when that season's vaccines aren't a perfect match for viruses in the community, according to USA Today.

"In a two-year study of 2,500 children ages 6 months to 5 years, those who were fully vaccinated had half as many flu-related medical visits. Children under 9 need two shots — given one month apart — to be fully vaccinated. Older kids need just a single shot. Researchers found that "partly" vaccinated children got no protection." (USA Today)

The Lancaster Eagle Gazette reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it is changing its flu shot recommendations for children.

Up until February 2008, the recommendation was children 6 months to 5 years old, now it will be children 6 months to 19 years old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is publishing its new guidelines Sunday, which recommend a flu shot for all healthy children ages 6 months to 18 years, nearly matching the CDC's recommendation changes, according to USA Today.

One in four eligible children have been immunized against the flu in the past, Joseph Bocchini, chairman of the pediatric academy's committee on infectious diseases told USA Today.

Up to 25% of children get influenza each year, Bocchini told USA Today. Because babies younger than 6 months are too young to be vaccinated, experts suggest those living in the house with them and caregivers get vaccinated to protect them.