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February 28, 2007

Ex-aide to former Congressman Ney pleads guilty to conspiracy charges

A former chief of staff to former Ohio Rep. Bob Ney pleaded guilty Monday to federal conspiracy charges, accusing him of accepting bribes from Jack Abramoff and his associates, according to an AP report (http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-02-26-heaton_x.htm).
William Heaton, 28, was the Ohio republican's chief of staff from 2002 to 2006, when Ney resigned. Ney was sentenced to 30 months in prison in January after confessing to recieving bribes from Abramoff.
Heaton helped accompanied Ney on trips funded by Abramoff and other lobbyists in return for favors. Heaton was also charged with concealing gifts given to Ney by lobbyists.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Heaton faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine (http://www.columbusdispatch.com/national-story.php?story=dispatch/2007/02/27/20070227-A3-03.html).
Neil Volz, Ney's previous chief of staff with ties to Abramoff also plead guilty last year to federal charges.
Heaton, along with Ney, had also been involved in illegal business deals with Syrian businessman, Fouad al-Zayat. Zayat had given Ney $50,000 in gambling chips at a British casino, after Ney promised to help lift the U.S. trade ban with Iran, where Zayat wanted to sell airplanes.
Heaton, along with a third, unnamed aide, was involved in concealing this money.

The AP article takes a standard hard news lead and story structure. It begins with Monday's plea and then gives some background into the details of the case. There is an integral quote in the middle of the story to support the article's main points, showing the connections between Heaton and Abramoff. The Columbus dispatch article, in my opinion, was much more interesting because it was very detailed and unique. Instead of bringing up Abramoff, it chronologically tells the story of Ney and Heaton's business deal with Zayat. I also liked how the lead was just a description of the safe in Ney's office. It worked well to illuminate the entire theme of the rest of the article. The only problem with the article was that it was difficult to tell where all this information had come from. Some of it seemed unattributed.

February 27, 2007

Grim mystery unfolds in Central America

Four top Guatemalan police officers were killed in their jail cells Sunday, after they had been arrested on suspicion of assassination of three El Salvadoran legislators a few days earlier, according to the Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-guatemala27feb27,0,2550461.story?coll=la-home-headlines).
There are suspected connections between the officers and criminal organizations, although no definitive evidence has been brought forth.
Their are conflicting reports of how the officers were killed. Some say a commando unit broke in and killed them, some say inmates did the killing. The head of El Salvador's police said that the killings were to silence the officers in order to protect a very powerful criminal organization.
On Febr. 19, three El Salvadoran legislators and a driver, who were in Guatemala for an economic conference, were found dead in a burning vehicle, their bodies severly charred and riden with bullets. The three slain El Salvadoran legislators were members of the right-wing National Republican Alliance, including the 32-year-old son of the party's founder. Officials are unsure why the legislators were killed. Some have said that the legislators had ties to drug traffickers and a business deal had gone awry. Others say the legislators were mistaken for somebody else.
According to an AP report, the Sunday killings of the Guatemalan officers led to an inmate riot, although the inmates claimed not to be responsible (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17350430/).

The Times article begins with a teaser lead, then goes into a short chronology of events, not bringing up Sunday's killings until the third paragraph. The Times article discusses the many different theories involving both murders, supporting the points with quotes from both El Salvadoran and Guatemalan police officials. It makes very sure that most of the information is conjecture based on initial assumptions. The problem with the article is that it confusingly tries to tie the two killings together by mixing chronology. It is very hard to follow which murder its following. The AP article does a much better job of being clear and succinct. It goes more in depth about the Sunday murders and separately brings up the Feb. 19 murders later on.

February 24, 2007

Wimbeldon awards equal prize money to both male and female players

The All England Club decided on Thursday to award equal pay and prize money to both male and female players at this year's Wimbeldon tennis tournament, according to an AP report (http://www.newsday.com/sports/tennis/sns-ap-ten-atp-wimbledon,0,6152761.story?coll=ny-tennis-print).
Wimbeldon is one of four major tournaments in professional tennis. The Australian and U.S. Open already offered equal pay and prize money. The French Open offers equal prize money to the champions, but not in terms of pay throughout the tournament.
The decision was controversial and not all male players agree. German player Tommy Haus said he didn't think the decision was fair, although he did acknowledge the increasing significance of women's tennis.
According to a Reuters report, The All England Club, which governs men's tennis, had reduced the pay gap throughout the last several decades, but had held out in making the prices equal (http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/articlenews.aspx?type=reutersEdge&storyID=2007-02-23T113004Z_01_NOA341365_RTRUKOC_0_TENNIS-WIMBLEDON-WOMEN.xml&pageNumber=1&imageid=&cap=&sz=13&WTModLoc=NewsArt-C1-ArticlePage1).
The club said that men gave better value as they play best-of-five set matches, while women play best of three. However, in recent years, critics responded by saying that the women's championship matches were much closer and more drawn out than the men's matches. Also women's tennis has been drawing an increasing number of sponsors.

The AP article focuses on the ATP's reaction to the decision of the announcement made by the All England Club. It contrasts the ATP's jubilance with the Haus quote that disagrees with the decision. There is only limited information on the actual decision. The article is almost entirely in quotes, which, in my opinion, works against the article. The author doesn't make any points, but simply provides a bunch of people's opinions on the decision. The Reuters article was better, but I felt at times it was biased. It used strongly, accusatory language, such as refering to the All England Club as stubborn. However, the article did a nice job of support it's points with information from recent matches and figures on the pay gaps between male and female players. There was also a nice variety of quotes to support some points, although a few at the end are just opinions, and in my opinion, could've been left out.

FBI agents pose as mobsters, sting Florida cops

Four veteran police officers were accused Friday in court of taking bribes from people they thought were mobsters, but were actually FBI agents, according to an AP report (http://www.cnn.com/2007/LAW/02/23/police.corruption.ap/index.html).
The FBI agents were undercover, posing as New York-based criminal organization, as part of a two-year sting to catch a ring of corrupt police officers.
On Friday, the four officers were charged with conspiracy. The case will go before a grand jury.
The four officers are Detective Kevin Companion, 41; Sgt. Jeffrey Courtney, 51; Officer Stephen Harrison, 46; and Detective Thomas Simcox, 50, who all serve out of Hollywood, Fla.
According to the Miami Herald, Courtney, Harrison and Companion appeared in federal court Friday morning and pleaded not guilty. An arraignment is scheduled for March 15 (http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/16772270.htm).
The FBI had to shut down the sting operation after Courtney and Companion had discovered they were being investigated. Courtney and Companion had called in sick and put in their letters of resignation. After the FBI realized their cover had been blown, they immediately arrested Courtney, Harrison, and Companion.
According to agents, Companion was the leader of the group of crooked cops and recruited the others for illegal capers. "In exchange for cash, Companion and others protected the collection of illegal gambling debts and the fencing of stolen watches; they personally delivered $400,000 in bearer bonds and a tractor-trailer full of cigarettes; and they protected a rigged, high-stakes poker game on a yacht."
The FBI will continue their investigation, but it will be difficult now that the case has gone public.

The AP article focuses more heavily on the court procedings and the legalities of the case. The Herald article focuses more heavily on the investigation, its findings and the criminal activity. I thought it was interesting that the AP article stated that the suspects hadn't made any pleas while the Herald article said that three of them had plead not guilty. The AP article scratches the surface and unfortunately doesn't give any quotes to back up its claims. Because of this, there is very little information about the investigation and the illegal activity. I thought it was interesting that the Herald article thought the fact that the FBI investigation was blown was more important than the fact that four cops were arrested on corruption charges. This article used several quotes, mostly by Hollywood Police Chief James Scarberry, to support the claims about the charges and the investigation. I personally enjoyed the Herald article much more.


February 22, 2007

Washington couple arrested in pot bust

Two road trippers from Washington were arrested Monday after police found 157 pounds of marijuana in their car, which was discovered by a mechanic working on the couple's vehicle, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/local/16744230.htm).
The couple's pickup truck was having fuel problems when they brought it into Midas Auto Service Experts on St. Paul's East Side. The mechanic working on the vehicle grew suspicious when he saw a modified gas tank with fresh weld marks.
The couple had told the man not to touch the tank. He grew even more suspicious and called the police. Authorties found 157 pounds of marijuana crammed into two welded compartments within the gas tank.
Marvin E. Kennedy, 48, and Patsy R. Floyd, 62, were being held in the Ramsey County jail on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance. Charges had not been filed as of Tuesday.
Authorities said the couple were driving from Yakima, Wash. to Chicago. A DEA officer said the problem may have been caused by mariajuana seeping into the gas tank.
According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report, the couple have been released and federal prosecutors have declined to prosecute the suspects (http://www.startribune.com/467/story/1016733.html). The case has been turned over to the St. Paul Police. The couple's whereabouts are currently unknown but since no arrests or warrants have been filed, they are not considered fugitives, officials said.

These articles were released at different times so it is interesting to note the differences in the focus of the articles. The Press article begins with an interesting lead. It starts out with a pun. Then it tells a very brief chronology that doesn't mention the marijuana until the end of the third paragraph. The article largely focuses on the police and mechanic perspective, documenting how the suspicion led to the arrest. The article supports several of its main points with comments by local and federal police officials. The Tribune article focuses on the release of the two suspects by federal authorities. The chronology of the drug bust is very brief and placed near the end of the article. This article has no quotes and very little information to support its points. For example, it doesn't explain why the couple was released, which is crucial. It also doesn't explain how the St. Paul police intend to arrest the suspects if they choose to do so. There were many key points missing in this article.


February 20, 2007

Bill Proposes Tax on Plastic Surgery

Minnesota state Representative Phyllis Kahn wants to extend Minnesota's 6.5 percent sales tax to include cosmetic surgery and appearance-enhancing procedures, according to an AP report (http://www.startribune.com/587/story/1011675.html).
Some of the procedures include chemical skin peels, laser hair removal, cosmetic injections, breast implants and spider-vein treatments.
Kahn said that those who can afford plastic surgery can also afford the tax. She also said the tax would raise $7 million a year.
The proposal had its first hearing before a House tax panel Monday. So far, no vote has been taken.
The bill excludes medically necessary procedures, such as facial reconstruction resulting from an accident. It also wouldn't apply to laser eye surgery or certain important dental procedures.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said there was only a slight chance of adding it to a larger tax bill later in the session (http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/16736466.htm).
Currently only New Jersey levies a sales tax on comestic procedures. Dr. George Landis of the Minnesota Medical Association said it would be difficult to determine which procedures are simply cosmetic and which aren't.

The AP article is a hard news story that just scratches the surface. It touches the main components of the story and gives the reader an idea of what sort of bill Kahn wants to pass. However, it lacks any conflict and comes off as dry and static. The Pioneer Press article presents much more depth. There are several quotes instead of paraphrasing, and the reader gets the perspective of several people who disagree with the bill. I also found it interesting that the AP article tried to jam tons of information in the lead, while the Press article had a very short lead that was more of a teaser than a summary. The Press article also discusses the possibility of the bill passing in the House committee, while the AP article doesn't delve very deeply into the political context.


Australia to change lightbulbs to curb warming

The Australian government announced Tuesday that it plans to ban incandescent lightbulbs in an effort to limit Greenhouse gas emissions, according to a Reuters report (http://www.reuters.com/article/gc06/idUSSYD26236520070220).
Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that incandescent bulbs would be replaced with flourescent bulbs by 2009. Incandescent bulbs will be impossible to buy because they won't meet energy efficiency standards.
Turnbull also said that the ban would reduce gas emission by around one million tons and lower household energy bills by 66 percent.
According to an AP report, incandescent bulbs lose most of their energy in their form of heat (http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/02/20/ap3444865.html).
Efforts at similar bans have occured in California and New Jersey, while Fidel Castro launched a very similar program two years ago in Cuba.
Environmentalists commended the plan, but also called it a small step. They stressed Australia's need to curb emissions from coal power stations and other industry.

The Reuters article takes a hard news approach to the article, keeping the information concise. It focuses on the Australian government perspective. I thought it's focus was too narrow. It should've gotten quotes from environmentalist leaders and other countries' leaders. The AP had a much broader focus. It used good comparisons from other nation's that have implemented similar programs, and it offered an environmentalist perspective.

February 18, 2007

One man killed in Inver Grove crash

One man died in a car collision on Hwy. 52 in Inver Grove Heights Saturday morning, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune (http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1009010.html).
The man driving the car was struck head on by another car that had crossed the median.
According to State Patrol, Antonio Alatorre-Garcia, 24, was driving in his SUV and heading southbound when his car crossed the median and struck the other driver. Alatorre-Garcia was treated for injuries, but was later released. The name of the deceased was not released by State Patrol.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a State Patrol report states alcohol was detected in Alatorre-Garcia. No charges have been filed (http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/local/16724664.htm).

Both articles felt too short. The Tribune article presented this story as a short, hard-news story. The Press article was even shorter, although it included a few interesting specifics. I thought it was strange the Press article mentioned exactly what type of car Garcia drove. I also found it very interesting that the Press article mentioned the alcohol factor, while the Tribune left it out. Finally, both articles were not very specific about whether the drivers were both driving alone. This story works as a quick, first account, but I'd hope the second account delves into more detail about the circumstances and consequences of the accident.


Oil Company to pay $200 million for dumping toxic waste in Ivory Coast

A Dutch-based oil company agreed to pay the government of Ivory Coast $200 million to settle a lawsuit claming the company illegally dumped toxic waste in Abdijan last year, according to the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/15/world/africa/15ivory.html?_r=1&oref=slogin).
The company, Trafigura, which operates out of London, said the settlement wasn't an admission of guilt. The money will be used to build a new waste disposal plant and hospital.
At least ten people died and thousands were injured last August when the waste was dumped at several, densely populated sites. The spill also swamped the country's health care system, and caused the overthrow of several cabinet members in the government.
Last July, Trafigura sent their waste on the Probo Koala, a ship, to Amsterdam. However, the waste was too concentrated and potent that the waste disposal company in Amsterdam raised the price of waste disposal. Instead, the waste was redeployed to the Ivory Coast and put in the hands of the company Tommy. However, this company didn't have the supplies or knowledge to properly dispose of the waste, leading to the illegal dumping.
According to the Associated Press, in addition to the cash settlement, the Ivory Coast government released three Trafigura executives that were arrested in conjunction with the spill (http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6420435,00.html).

The Times article begins by discussing the settlement, but then quickly shifts to the context of the spill and its effects on the people of Ivory Coast. The middle portion is a chronological story of how the waste got to be spilled and that part is very effective. It waits until the end to bring in some more of the debate involved. It also waits until the end to use the majority of its quotes. The AP article works quite similarly. It puts the conflict a little earlier in the story and uses more quotes. It goes into more specifics about the spill, but it waits until the very end to do so. I liked both articles and I especially like that they placed the story within a wide enough context so the reader could understand the whole issue. I found it surprising both writers focused more on the spill than on the settlement, but I liked that facet.

February 16, 2007

Chaos as rioters rock Guinea

Around 100 demonstrators were shot dead by police and military forces during mass protests in the last few weeks throughout the west African nation of Guinea, according to a BBC report (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/6364513.stm).
The current president, the 70-year-old Lansana Conte, who has ruled Guinea for 23 years, has recently refused to relinquish power despite concerns over his mental and physical health. A few months ago Conte repealed a presidential decree to give more power to the prime minister.
Recently, the country's economy has started to take a downturn. Massive unemployment and low civil servant wages have sparked large amounts of frustration with Conte's government.
As a result of the unrest, Conte has declared martial law. The army chief has order a curfew, only allowing people out of their homes between noon and 6:00 p.m.
According to a Reuters report, almost all the people that have died have been civilians (http://www.reuters.com/article/homepageCrisis/idUSL15772092._CH_.2400). Several of the casualties were bystanders hit by stray bullets.
The protests and the business strikes in correlation have caused food shortages. Many local businesses have shut down.
The strike leaders and protesters said they were unwilling to negotiate with Conte under conditions of martial law.

The BBC article uses a first-person narrative. It starts out with a hard-news lead before breaking off into an anecdote about the writer's car breaking down. In the middle of the narrative, the author gives some background information about the political situation in Guinea. He then goes into more anecdotes about witnessing gang violence, looting, and protesting. Finally the author closes off by telling stories of foriegners who are able to leave the country, and reiterating the fact that Guineans are trapped in this violence.
The Reuters article weaves in small narratives and details the lives of native Guineans into its story. It opens by describing the struggles of a local university student. It doesn't mention the 100 dead until about six or seven paragraphs in. The article focuses much more on the local perspective. The article finishes by talking about the food shortages and the economic implication, as well as possible negotiations.
Each article had it's own advantages and disadvantges. The BBC article's realistic, first-person descriptions give extra realism to the peace, but it leaves out the Guinean perspective of the Reuters article. However, the Reuters article didn't offer enough background. I thought that both articles didn't present the protester/striker perspective well enough.

February 13, 2007

14-year-old Inver Grove Heights girl abducted by father

An Amber alert was issued Monday night after a man abducted his 14-year-old daughter from her home in Inver Grove Heights, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune (http://www.startribune.com/467/story/998527.html).The father, Stephen Michuda, 34, does not have custody of the girl, Deidra Michuda, and according to the mother, is a convicted sex offender. He is prohibited from being with Deidra without supervision.
The two left in a green 1998 Chevrolet Ventura minivan, which was found Tuesday morning in South St. Paul. Police are searching the van for evidence.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, police are uncertain whether Deidra was abducted by force or if she went willingly (http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/local/16685579.htm).
Anyone with information about the pair's wherabouts is supposed to call 911.
The Tribune article starts by presenting the hard news facts about the story. It has one paragraph of chronology. Then the rest of the article is a detail description of Deidra and Stephen, and gives instructions to readers about what to do if they see the either of the people. The Press article is structured in the same way. The chronology is slightly more detailed. Because these articles are based on the same police report, they are similar and both make sure to present detailed descriptions of Stephen and Deidra. One important difference I noticed was that the Press article put the Stephen's sex offender history in the lead, while the Tribune article waited until the nut graph.

FBI loses laptops with important information

The FBI lost 10 laptops containing classified information during a period of nearly four years, ending in 2005, according to a report done by the Justice Department's inspector general, CNN reports (http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/02/12/fbi.laptops/index.html).
Overall, 160 laptops were stolen during the 44-month period ending on September 30, 2005. Inspector General Glenn Fine also reported that 160 weapons were also missing from the FBI.
The report also stated that one of the 10 missing laptops had information identifying FBI personnel. Several of the stolen laptops also contained important counterterrorism and counterintelligence information.
This report did show improvement on the 2002 audit, which found more than 300 laptops and 300 weapons had been stolen in a 28-month period.
Assistant FBI Director John Miller stressed the improvement that had been made, but also acknowledged the more had to be done to secure information.
According to a Washington Post article, the report said in a few cases FBI officials didn't try to assess the potential damage to national security when a laptop holding secret information was lost or stolen (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/12/AR2007021200629.html).
According to the 2002 audit, several of the stolen weapons were used in robberies and one was found on a murder victim.
Overall, the FBI maintains more than 52,000 weapons and 26,000 laptops, according to the 2005 audit.

The CNN article takes a hard news approach. It brings up the 10 classified info laptops in the lead and then goes into the more broad detail in the nut graph. This article had strong quotes, from politicians, FBI officials and the Inspector General. I wish the article would have delved further into explanations on how these laptops were stolen. The Post article was very similar. The only key difference was that it described the 2002 audit in further detail.

February 12, 2007

Turmenistan votes to replace dictator

Voters in Turkmenistan went to the polls Sunday to elect a new president for only the second time since the fall of the Soviet Union, according to The Guardian (http://http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2010923,00.html).
The election was set to replace former Turkmen dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, who passed away two months ago. The results will be announced on Wednesday. Officials are predicting that the winner is almost certain to be the acting president, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov.
About 98% of the eligible population voted in the election. However, voters were only given six candidates all of which were from the same party. Opposition party leaders were banned from participating in the election.
Berdymukhamedov said he will follow the path of Niyazov but also has stated that he plans to make some social changes including improving access to the internet, providing better healthcare, and allowing more women into schools.
Niyazov had been a brutal and cultish dictator. He named the month of April after his mother, built revovling, golden statues of himself and deemed himself Turmenbashi the Great.
Westerns are hoping for the election to lead to better relations between the countries, as well as better access to the country by NGO's.
However, Westerners are weary of a possible power struggle that may ensue later this year.
According to an AP article in the Internation Herald Tribune, Berdymukhamedov kept a low profile during the election, even allotting them his TV campaign slots. (http://http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/02/12/asia/AS-POL-Turkmenistan-Election.php)
However, the article also states that Berdymukhamedov, despite offering social reform, shows few signs of instituting political reform. Turkmenistan is one of the world's leading producers in natural gas.
The Guardian article took a hard news approach to the story at first, but then went on to analyze the possible consequences of the election, instead of looking at the election itself. It quoted a Turkmen scholar, which I liked, but it didn't quote any government officials. I understand this is hard due to the government's repression of press freedom. I also thought the article took too much of a Western slant, analyzing how it could affect Westerners, while not mentioning the citizens of Turkmenistan. The AP article didn't focus on the Western perspective as much, and it also focused more on the recent political history of Turkmenistan which offered helpful context.

Twins sign Mauer to a $33 million deal

The Minnesota Twins signed catcher Joe Mauer to a $33 million, 4-year contract extension Sunday, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune (http://www.startribune.com/509/story/995546.html).
Mauer was scheduled for a salary arbitration meeting in Phoenix this Tuesday before the Twins General Manager Terry Ryan announced the deal.
Last season, Mauer became the first catcher to win an American League batting title, batting .347. Also, last season Mauer made only $400,000. "Mauer will make $3.75 million this year, $6.25 million in 2008, $10.5 million in 2009 and 12.5 million in 2010."
Mauer was planning to go into arbitration, which usually starts with the player and team offering separate bids for a one-year deal.
Ryan said that arbitration can be a tricky deal and it is usually best to avoid it. By avoiding arbitration and sticking to a four-year deal, Mauer also gets the chance to hit the free agent market at age 27 in 2010.
This is the Twins second largest guaranteed contract in team history. Only Johann Santana's $40 million contract exceeds it.
Other stipulatons of the deal include additional award bonuses and the right to designate three teams each year, which means he can't be traded to them without his consent, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. (http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/16677073.htm)
The Tribune article begins with a chronological lead, leading up to the point when Mauer realized that he'd been signed. Then the writer spends time giving quotes from Mauer and other Twins staff. Later on in the article, the writer breaks down some of the more complicated parts of the contract and also compares the contract to other players in the league. The Press article goes with a hard news lead and then gets into Mauer's background right away. As the story progresses, it gets more into quotes from Mauer and the Twins staff. I personally liked the Tribune article more. The lead captured my attention more and it broke down the contract deal into a more understandable way. The comparisons to other players also kept my attention.

February 8, 2007

Parcel bomb injures U.K. office worker

A parcel bomb exploded at Britain's driver and vehicle licensing agency Wednesday, injuring one woman, according to an AP report (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/02/07/ap/world/mainD8N51B280.shtml).
The letter bomb was the third in as many days that have exploded at office buildings associated with vehicle and traffic regulation. Seven devices similar to this have been detonated in the last three weeks, officials say. Police have not revealed any motives, nor made any connections between the bombings.
The woman's injuries, as well as those of all involved in the other letter bombings, have only caused minor injuries.
In another incident Monday, a woman was injured by a letter bomb at the head office of Capital Group PLC in London. Two people were injured Tuesday in an explosion at Vantis PLC in Wokingham.
According to a Reuters report, the police stressed that these devices were designed to shock, not to kill (http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/02/07/uk.letterbomb.reut/). Last Saturday, a director of an unidentified company also recieved a bomb at his home. However, the man said that the bomb seemed to be intended for his company. These devices also don't appear to have conventional explosives, officials say.
The AP article very briefly touches on today's incident, while spending most of the article covering all the explosion incidents and relating them to the ongoing police investigation. I thought that the chronology was slightly skewed. It would have easier to follow if the article, after describing today's bombing, started with the first letter bomb and told the story chronologically until the last letter bombing. The Reuters article focuses even more on the police perspective. It looked at what the police think the bombs were intended for. I liked the Reuters article slightly more because it had two excellent quotes from victims describing the explosions.
One last point I found interesting was the fact that the articles listed different numbers of people injured in the lead. The AP article said a woman was injured, but the Reuters article said that six people were injured. Further analysis showed that six were actually injured, but one woman had to go to the hospital for treatment on cuts. The others injured had either hearing problems or they were treated on the scene. I thought the different numbers of injuries changed the tone and emphasis of each lead.

February 6, 2007

Former FBI Agent wins suit

A Minneapolis FBI agent and whistleblower was awarded over $500,000 in compensation Monday, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/local/16631479.htm).
Former agent Jane turner was awarded $565,000 from a U.S. District Court of Appeals in Minneapolis when the jury decided she had recieved unfair reviews, unwarranted threats of being fired, and was forced to resign.
Turner, a 20-year veteran of the FBI, had always recieved either satisfactory or high performance ratings. In 1998, she filed a sexual discrimination claim with the FBI saying female agents didn't recieve enough credit for cases.
Turner's supervisor, Craig Welken, retaliated against her by not assigning her to a high-profile, child pornography case in North Dakota, despite the fact that Turner was one of the FBI's top specialists in crimes against children.
The U.S. attorney for North Dakota intervened, demanding Turner be assigned to the case. Turner eventually got a confession out of the child pornographer.
However, Welken criticized Turner's handling of the case and gave her negative performance ratings for the first time in her career. After several negative reviews, Turner was transferred to a desk job in Minneapolis in May 2000.
In Minneapolis, the FBI was planning to fire Turner for poor performance. Turner countered by complaining that she wasn't being assigned to cases in her area of expertize. In 2003, Turner resigned before she could be fired.
The government attorney's representing the FBI were not able to be reached for comment.
Stephen Kohn, the president of the National Whistleblower Center in Washington, and one of Turner's lawyers, called the case the most important jury verdict in a case filed against the FBI, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune (http://www.startribune.com/462/story/982647.html)
The Pioneer Press article had a very usual structure for a story like this. The lead goes over the basics of the court case. The second paragraph goes into further detail about the case. Then there are some fact graphs and quotes that cover a little background. Then after the first four paragraphs, the story is told chronologically, starting from Turner's filing of the complaint in 1998, and leading all the way to her resigination in 2003. The Tribune article takes a very similar approach, but it gives the reader more information about the result of the court case, adding many quotes from friends of Turner in response to the verdict. The chronological retelling comes much later in the story and goes into less detail. Personally, I think the Pioneer Press article was better because it gave more background.

Bush Sends Congress $2.9 Trillion Budget Plan

President Bush sent a $2.9 trillion budget plan to Congress Monday, according to the Washington Post.(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/05/AR2007020500208.html?sub=new)
The proposed budget plan will dramatically increase military spending, but will divert money away from domestic programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Bush's goal is to eliminate the federal deficit by 2012.
The budget calls for an $245 billion increase in spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The budget will cut $96 billion dollars away from Medicare and Medicaid, while also making cuts at eight other federal level agencies such as education and environment. The budget proposal also calls for permanent tax cuts.
Many Democratics rejected Bush's proposal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the tax cuts were aimed at multi-millionaires and ingored the middle class. He also said the budget proposal would erode health coverage for children and seniors.
Bush's defense spending proposal would give less and less money to Iraq each year, leading some to say that he is setting an economic timetable. The President denied these statements.
Bush also said that to eliminate the deficit by 2012 would require economic growth, tight domestic spending, and reduced funding for the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Democrats said the tax cuts will not decrease the federal deficit, instead saying that tax breaks for corporations will have to be eliminated. The Congressional Budget Office also said that it will be difficult to balance the budget if the tax cuts continue.
The temporary tax cuts established in 2002 and 2003 led lawmakers to be wary of raising taxes, for fear of retaliation by taxpayers. Instead the Democrats are trying to find ways to raise revenue without raising taxes on the middle class, according to the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/05/washington/05cnd-budget.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5094&en=36e7d83e38932b3b&hp&ex=1170738000&partner=homepage).
The Post article has an interesting structure. It starts out with the most important information, then it breaks down the bill into sections and more deeply analyzes the budget proposal. It puts a lot of the controversy early on in the story, then gets into specifics about military spending and social service spending. I liked the article but I thought it should have compared this budget proposal to previous ones in a clearer manner. The only comparisons made were quotes from politicians. The Times article went less in depth and focused on the debate throughout the entire article. Almost the entire article was quotes from politicians either in favor of or opposed to the plan. This made the article tiresome and boring. I also thought the Times article had a terrible lead.

February 5, 2007

UK takes action in Ivory Coast waste spill case

A British court will hear a class-action lawsuit brought by 5,000 people in Ivory Coast who claimed to be injured by a toxic-waste spill from a UK-based company, according to the BBC. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6324051.stm)
Martyn Day of the Leigh Day and Co. law firm will be representing the citizens of Ivory Coast against Trafigura, a Dutch-owned company that runs most operations in London.
As a result of the chemical spills last August, ten people died and thousands fell ill near Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Day and other lawyers are travelling to Ivory Coast to assess the long-term affects from the toxic-waste spills.
Trafigura says that they never dumped any toxic=waste into Abidjan. They said that the waste tanks were handed over to and operated by a local contractor. Trafigura said it also wants to talk to Ivory Coast officials to determine what happened to the waste.
According to a CNN report, two French Trafigura directors were detained in Abidjan, facing charges under toxic waste laws. (http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/africa/02/02/IvoryCoast.Britain.reut/index.html)
The BBC story focuses mainly on Day and the lawsuit. It uses a lot of quotes from Day early on in the story. It counters in the middle section with a long written statement from a director from Trafigura. The article is very careful to remain even-handed, especially because it involves a lawsuit. It uses more quotes than most articles I've come across. The CNN article brings the Trafigura denial earlier on in the story. It also puts more emphasis on the environmental and health damage caused by the spill. Day's perspective is pushed further back into article. I personally liked reading both articles because they were even-handed, but dealt with the material in different ways.

Two killed and one critically wounded in Waseca home

A father and son died, and a wife was left critically wounded, when intruders broke in their home and shot the family, outside Waseca, Minn. Saturday morning, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. (http://www.startribune.com/467/story/978914.html)
Police officials found Tracy Kruger, 40, and Alec Kruger, 13, dead in the family's farmhouse outside of town. Tracy Kruger's wife, Hilary, 41, was taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and is in critical condition.
The family also had a younger son who was at a friend's house when the killings took place.
One man, who was a stranger to the Kruger family, was taken in by investigators because he was linked to a truck found in a ditch by the Kruger's house. The Kruger's SUV was also in a ditch as well as another vehicle that was stolen from a neighbor's house.
There was no information as to whether the man was arrested or not.
According to the County Sheriff's office, the police recieved a 911 call from Alec Kruger around 3:00 Saturday morning. Shortly after the dispatcher heard gunshots and the line went dead.
The killers were gone, and Tracy and Alec were dead, by the time the police arrived.
At the time of the Tribune article, investigators refused to discuss motives and said they had no other suspects at that time.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, investigators believed that the neighbor's car was stolen after the killings had taken place. (http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/local/16618691.htm)
The Tribune article approached this story as a hard news story, focusing on the killings and the police investigation. It saved some space at the end for some obituary-type information about the family. It attributes most of it's information to the Waseca County Sheriff's Office. I felt the quote near the beginning of the story by Elizabeth Cram, was out of place. Near the end of the story the article uses good quotes from neighbors and friends in the community. I liked the Tribune article, but I think it shifted in tone too much, going from murder story to obituary.
The Pioneer Press article kept a more consistent tone, but I felt that article left me with too many questions.

February 1, 2007

German court challenges C.I.A. over abduction

A German court issued the arrest warrant of 13 people involved in the kidnapping and torture of a German citizen of Lebanese descent, according to the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/01/world/europe/01germany.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=world).
The courts say the 13 people are C.I.A. agents, although they refused to release the names of any suspects.
Prosecutors said the C.I.A. seized the man, Khaled el-Masri, in Macedonia in 2003 and brought him to Afghanistan, based on "alleged" links to al-Qaeda.
Prosectuors say Masri was imprisoned, interrogated, and beaten for five months, before being released without charges.
Masri's case is an example of the C.I.A.'s practice of "extraordinary rendition," in which terrorism suspects are sent to other countries and often tortured in order to extract information.
C.I.A. officials denied comment on Wednesday.
In Germany, suspects cannot be tried in absentia and it is unlikely the Bush adminstration will extradite the suspects.
The case has serious implications for German-United States relations, which both Chancellor Merkel and President Bush have recently been trying to mend.
According to the BBC, investigators believe most of the suspects used code names. They are currently focused on determining the real names of the suspects (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6316369.stm)
The New York Times article attributes most of its information to German prosecutors. In contrast, the BBC attributes most of its basic information to Mr. Masri. The Times article uses quotes sparingly, quoting Stern, the prosecutor, and a member of German parliament.
I felt the Times article could've used at least one quote from a United States source, despite the fact that the C.I.A. declined to comment. I also thought the middle section of the article, which discusses how this case could hurt U.S.-German relations, needed a quoted source to add some addtional perspective. It seemed like speculation.
The BBC article ignores the political implications of the case, instead focusing mainly on the perspective on Masri and his lawyer. It lacked the depth of the Times article.