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May 3, 2007

Chavez announces plan to drop out of IMF and World Bank

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez announced Monday his intention to remove Venezuela from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, lending organizations that have had a controversial role in the developing world, according to the Belfast Telegraph (http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/article2502497.ece). Venezuela, due to its large oil wealth, has been able to pay off its debt with both organizations under Chavez (even before schedule), making the declaration largely symbolic.
Chavez has denounced the IMF and World Bank for being run by US and Western interests and corportations, leading to unfair privitization, and establishing greater poverty in Latin America. Chavez has also tried to provide money for countries trying to develop in the region. He has often talked about starting a "Bank of the South." Chavez has also spent millions in government funds to reduce poverty and raise welfare in Venezuela, in a transition to a socialist economy.
Some analysts have claimed Chavez is upset about the IMF's support of a rebel group that led a coup against Chavez in 2002, which left him temporarily out of office.
A day earlier Chavez met with leaders from Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti where he claimed that the IMF and World Bank "sooner or later, those institutions will fall due to their own weight."
According to an AP story, the IMF had already closed its offices in Venezuela late last year (http://www.boston.com/news/world/latinamerica/articles/2007/05/01/venezuela_pulling_out_of_imf_world_bank/?p1=MEWell_Pos3). Chavez often criticized previous administrations for signing IMF deals that lead to inflation. For example, a 1989 deal hiked gas prices, transport fares, and prices, and led to riots that killed over 300 people.
Other Latin American countries like Nicaragua and Equador have also expressed interest in leaving the IMF.

I think these stories were a little unbalanced in their reporting. In neither case did I read any viewpoint of IMF, World Bank, or US officials. Also, I think the articles simply assumed that pulling out those groups would lead to prosperity and didn't mention any negative side effects that could result. For example, another story I read talked about a clause in Venezuela's IMF contract that would default its loan repayment if they left the organization. This fact wasn't mentioned in either of these stories. I thought the AP story did a good job discussing the effects of the IMF in previous presidencies. I simply thought there were too many quotes from Chavez in each story. I think he is the newsmakers, as both leads will show, but there has to be other voices in the background both for support and opposition. I also thought the "Bank of the South" idea was really interesting and should've been expanded in each article.

May 2, 2007

Police shoot suspects in two unrelated cases

Two armed men attempting to rob a bar on the North Side of Minneapolis were shot by a police officer who was at the bar Monday afternoon, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune (http://www.startribune.com/467/story/1154637.html). The two men emerged from the bathroom of the bar, Legends Bar & Grill at 825 E. Hennepin Av., wearing ski masks and holding guns at about 3:30 p.m. By chance Sgt. Bill Blake, who was on duty and in civilian clothes was sitting at the bar with his cousin. Bill Blake pulled out his gun and yelled "police" before firing at the assailants. One of the men's gun was shot out of his hand. The other man was shot. The suspects fired no shots and escaped out the door. Blake tried to run after the suspects, but lost them after making sure everyone in the bar was ok.
One suspect turned himself in after suffering injuries. The other is still at large.
In an unrelated incident Monday, MInneapolis police officer Tony Adams was working in the North Side when someone aimed a sawed off shotgun at his vehicle around noon.
Adams heard the suspects shoot off several gunshots when he saw them come around a corner. One aimed a shotgun at him. Adams fired several shots at them. A car chase ensued with the suspects shooting at Adam's car, and Adams shooting out the suspect's rear windshield. An unidentified woman was driving the two shooters.
After the suspect's car stopped, one suspect pointed his gun and fled. The other and the driver remained in the car. Adams also discovered weapons and a baby in the car. Adams arrested the two suspects in the car and the suspect who fled was caught later.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the suspect's identities in the cases have not been released (http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_5788828?nclick_check=1). Blake is apparently a regular customer at Legend's. Police have seized two bicycles and a shotgun wrapped in a blanket in the bar shooting incident. Both officers Blake and Adams have been placed on paid leave as a result of the shootings.

I think the Tribune did a great job telling the stories, although I question the placement of them together. I think that there is a common theme, and it is very uncommon for two incidents like this to occur in one day. However, I think that readers might get the stories confused and some of the facts seem to blend together. However, I also don't like how the Press emphasized the bar story, and summarized the car chase shooting in one graph. I think the reporting here was thorough based on the deadlines. I would've liked the baby angle to be more fully developed by the Tribune in updated pressings. I also think the context of recent shootings in the middle of the story awkwardly separates the nut graph from the chronology and would've been better utilized as a closer. I liked how the Press got quotes from someone who works at the bar for added insight, something the Tribune lacked. Finally, I was confused why the Press article didn't mention the names of the police officers involved while the Tribune did. Is this to protect the cop?

May 1, 2007

Accused escort service operator apologies for outing State Dept. official

A woman accused of running a Washington-based escort service apologized Monday for outing a top State Department official as a customer, who had to resign from his post, according to the Canadian Press (http://www.canada.com/topics/news/world/story.html?id=be483ca8-2888-47e9-b541-d8ab70e994f5&k=43258). Randall Tobias, head of the U.S. administration's foreign aid programs, abruptly resigned Friday after ABC News revealed he used Deborah Jeane Palfrey's service, Pamela Martin & Associates. Tobias clamied that nothing illegal transpired and he only received massages.
Palfrey turned over the phone numbers of people she has done business with to ABC News before a judge's order refused her from doing so. Palfrey said she felt bad for Tobias, but said she plans to subpoena him and others in the list who will prove her business was legal.
Harlan Ullman, a military strategist who authored the combat strategy known as "shock and awe," was also listed by Palfrey as a client.
Sibley, one of Palfrey's lawyers, said he didn't know whether 20/20 will release other names. ABC executive vice-president said that they are seeking a legitimate news story and they will publish what they deem newsworthy.
According to the Washington Post, Palfrey was allowed to appoint a new lawyer, but not allowed a high-price New York attorney that she wanted (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/30/AR2007043000665.html?hpid=topnews). She was also denied access to stocks that were seized by the federal government.
Originally Palfrey had intended to sell her list of telephone numbers to fund her case, but instead handed some of them to ABC without compensation. She said the revealed list will create a group of defense witnesses for herself.
The government charges Palfrey offered $300-an-hour prostitutes in the Washington area, operating by phone and e-mail from her home in California. Previously she served 18 months in the early 1990s for operating a prostitution ring.

I really liked both of these stories, especially the Washington Post story. I thought it was interesting how the Post lead used a "who" lead, while the AP focused on the "what." I like the "what" more because I don't think Palfrey is identifiable enough. The AP report focuses much more heavily on the Tobias aspect of the story, pushing his perspective to the front. The Post on the other hand spends a lot of time talking about Palfrey's case and her problems with lawyers and fundraising. The AP story did a good job balancing quotes from Palfrey and others, although I don't think the prosecutorial perspective comes out well enough. I like how the exact charges and evidence is listed at the end of the Post story. I also think including the fact that she was jailed before is really important, and the Post handles it well, pushing it to the bottom as to not make it seem incriminating. I think the level of reporting by the Post was superb. If one thing was wrong with it, it included too many quotes from Palfrey which swayed the story in her favor. This helped the reader understand her perspective and the depth and context of her case, but it is also slightly biased.