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 ( 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 ( 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.

April 24, 2007

Tamil rebels launch 2nd airstrike in Sri Lanka

Rebels planes operated by the Tamil Tigers bombed government military positions in Northern Sri Lanka Tuesday, in the second ever airstrike used by the rebel group, according to the Associated Press (
The military said six soldiers were wounded but troops fire caused the plane to retreat before reaching a key base. Tamil Tigers said that their two planes struck both air and storage facilitites. The military said that the rebels only had one plane, and that it was turned around before reaching the base, only bombing a bunker that injured six soldiers. This occured at a base by the Palay peninsula, a base captured by the government in 1995 that is strategically located to rebel strongholds.
This was the second ever air bombing done by the Tigers, the first which took place last month.
Norway's ambassador, who has been working as a mediator between the sides, was asked to leave ethnic Tamil area, leaving some to speculate that an attack might occur.
Norway had helped establish a cease-fire in 2002, but recent months of renewed fighting have taken almost 4,000 lives.
According to the Austrailian Herald Sun, more than 60,000 people have died as a result of the civil unrest (,21985,21616013-5005961,00.html). However, according to this story, both Tamil and government sources said that six soldiers were killed, not wounded.
The Tamil Tigers are believed to be the only rebel group in the world to possess both naval and air capabilities.

I found it surprising that the AP story said that the soldiers were wounded, while the Sun claimed they had died. I don't think it is a matter of when the stories were published. However, since both govt. and rebel forces matched with each other in each story, it makes me wonder where the descrepancy.
I thought the AP story was severely lacking in background. First of all, how big is the Tamil rebel force? How long has this conflict taken place? How did they get planes? What social implications on civilians does this conflict have? The Sun story does a little bit better job answering some of these questions, but to a limited extent. I also didn't like how the Sun story started with four straight quotes from a Tamil Tiger. I thought the part about cricket was funny, but should have been moved to the back. I preferred how the AP balanced the two different perspectives of what happened back-and-forth. The Sun story seemed a little slanted.

April 17, 2007

Mayor of Nagasaki, Japan shot

The major of the Japanese city of Nagasaki was shot on Tuesday, while police have arrested one supsect in the case, according to a Reuters report (
Mayor Itcho Ito, 61, was shot near a train station at 8:00 p.m. He was taken to a hospital after suffering two shots to the back. Ito is running for re-election in Sunday's election.
Nagasaki police arrested one suspect, Tetsuya Shiroo, 59, a member of a gang affiliated with Yamaguchi Gumi crime syndicate. He was arrested on suspicion of the attempted murder of the mayor.
The motive is unclear, but Shiroo is said to have been critical of Ito and his bidding for public works projects.
According to an AP report, Ito did not appear responsive to efforts of resuscitation at the scene of the crime (
He is currently in critical condition. In 1990, former Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima was shot and seriously wounded by "rightists" critical of Motoshima's efforts to place blame on World War II war crimes of Emperor Hirohito.
Ito is backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Gun violence in Japan is mostly conducted by organized crime, known as yakuza. Japan has very strict laws banning handguns.

I found it interesting that Reuters named the suspect while the AP story had not released his name. Otherwise both stories had the same information about the suspect, including his intention and organized crime affiliation. I also thought it was strange that both stories mentioned that Nagasaki was destroyed by an atomic bomb in WWII. This doesn't seem necessary. I think most readers have a general idea where Nagasaki is, and it's not a claim to fame that really adds to the context of the story at all. What I would have liked in both stories was a little more information about Japanese crime syndicates and how they operate. The AP story did a slightly better job describing Ito's background and the recent scandals he has been wrapped up in. They also gave a party affiliation that was important.

April 9, 2007

Zimbabwe's Catholic bishops attack Mugabe's rule

Zimbabwe's Catholic bishops accused President Robert Mugabe of leading a corrupt and poorly managed government and have also called for political reforms to a revolt, according to a Reuters article (
A pastoral letter posted Easter weekend in church notice boards by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference said extreme economic hardship and political repression have resulted from Mugabe's rule.
Zimbabwe has 1700 percent inflation, unemployment of 80 percent, and increasing shortages of food and fuel. The bishops were also protesting against the March 11th crackdown on anti-Mugabe activists, where protesters are reported to have been beaten and hospitalized.
The bishops warned that reforms were needed to stop a possible violent uprising. Mugabe, 83, will run for president next year. Critics say he has rigged elections before. He's Zimbabwe's only leader since independence from Britain in 1980.
According to an AP report, similar pressure brought against Malawi's former prime minister led to a 1992 referendum that overthrew him ( The government has failed to respond to the letter. Mugabe is current out of the country.
The Catholic Church makes up a majority of the Christian population in Zimbabwe and Mugabe himself is a practicing Catholic.

Both these articles were very strong but were missing a few key points. I felt the Reuters article provided better background to the situation. They provided clearer historical context and were more specific about the policies that the Catholics didn't approve of. I also like how the March 11 incident was pushed up in the story. It helped provide necessary context which the rest of the story could develop from. The AP story added this at the end like dressing and it could be easily forgotten. However, the AP article gave the economic data of Zimbabwe much earlier, which is also essential to get to the reader early on so they get a stronger sense of the current political setting. I think both stories used strong leads (they were very similar). They should've focused just on developing context, which they did slightly. Then they should've discussed the grievances of the Bishops. Each article was missing some viewpoints as well. I wanted to know what Western leaders or scholars think about this development. What impact will this have internationally? Also, where is the government's POV? Finally, how have the policies caused the current economic conditions. Both of the articles were too vague in this aspect.

April 6, 2007

Chechnya swears in a new pro-Russian president

Pro-Russian Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, better known as King Ramzan, was sworn in as the president of Chechnya at a ceremony Wednesday in Eastern Chechnya, according to the Independent (
Kadyrov had been acting as president of the country, but after having reached the age of 30 was able to officially be sworn in. Russian President Vladimir Putin hand picked Kadyrov as his man to fully integrate Chechnya back into the Russian Federation, after two wars and over a decade of violence.
Controversy has surrounded the inauguration because Kadyrov's forces have been accused of several human rights abuses and he is a former rebel himself.
Wednesday's ceremony has been described as ornate and regal. Kadyrov has developed somewhat of a cult of personality.
Activists have claimed that Kadyrov's militia, the Kadyrovtsy, has killed and tortured their way to create stability in Chechnya at the request of the Kremlin. Colleagues of the recently murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya allege Kadyrov was involved in her death, although Kadyrov has denied these allegations.
According to the Guardian, Kadyrov's father, Akhmad Kadyrov, a Chechen and pro-Russian president, was assassinated in the capital, Grozny, in 2004 (,,2051359,00.html). Kadyrov had assumed the role of president-designate last year after Putin fired the previous president, Alu Alkhanov. Both large Russian funds and Kadyrov's militia have been credited for eliminating insurgent groups from the streets of Grozny.

Each article took very different approaches. The Independent article focused on the ceremony, giving vivid descriptions of the material aspects involved. I think it did this to frame and provide context to the cult of personality surrounding Kadyrov. It saves the controversy for later in the story. His militia wasn't mentioned until the very end. I wish the article would've developed the connection to the Kremlin more. Putin is mentioned in the lead but doesn't really appear in the story very much. I also wanted a little more historical background about Kadyrov as a rebel leader and his work as prime minister. The Guardian article focused much heavily on the controversy, almost to the point I thought it was a little biased. The lead even mentioned the human rights abuses. One thing i didn't like about this story was the allegations against Kadyrov were always very vague; specific cases would've been much more helpful. I did like this story more because it discussed Kadyrov's work as prime minister, mentioned his father, and went a little further into the connections with the Kremlin, although still not enough. Some more historical context of the situation in the Chechnya over the last decade would've been helpful to many readers as well.

March 27, 2007

Several of Earth's climates to be drastically altered by 2100

A new global warming study predicts that several climate zones, such as those in Austrailia, Indonesia, and Amazonia, will disappear by 2100, according to an Irish Examiner story (
Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also said that new climates unlike any present today are likely to emerge.
The results of the climate shifts upon the ecosystem, including plants and the human population, are unpredictable. Scientists warn that many plant and animal species could be wiped out. The climate changes were predicted using computer models based on greenhouse gas emission forecasts among other forecasts.
The current climates of the Peruvian Andes, Siberia, and southern Austrailia are all predicted to disappear. New climates are predicted to appear predominantly in tropical regions.
About 39% of the earth's surface could consist of new climate zones while 48% of current climates could completely disappear assuming carbon emissions stay at current levels.
The study also said even if emissions are cut, about 20% of current climates could be eliminated.
According to an AP report, tropics have little change in temperature ( Therefore, a temperature increase of only 3 degrees might have a strong impact in an area not used to weather changes.
Right now, scientists are unsure exactly how the climate changes will affect animal species, but drastic change is almost inevitable.

Both of these articles are very similar. The Examiner article begins by mentioning the most eye-opening finding of the story. It spends the most of the article talking about the disappearance of climates and the emergence of unknown ones. It also is careful to cite the study and specific scientists. The article does a good job separating facts in the study from hypotheses. I thought the article could've done a little better job explaining how the climates will disappear. The AP used a very familiar formula. I found it interesting how both articles didn't mention the name of the panel until the third paragraph, something I might have pushed higher into the story. The AP article did a slightly better job explaining the process of climate change, although it is still fairly vague. One thing I didn't like was the fact the story closed with two quotes back-to-back that didn't do much to highlight the findings or central theme of the story.

March 20, 2007

78 killed in mining explosion in Siberia

Seventy-eight people died in a methane explosion in a coal mine in Siberia, with another 50 people still missing, according to an AP report (
Up to 200 people were in the mine when the explosion occurred. So far at least 75 people have been rescued. Company officials and safety experts are among the missing in the worst Russian mining disaster in a decade.
Rescuers were checking open sections of the mine for survivors and have been in contact with some of the trapped survivors.
The mine is located in the city Novokuznetsk, where two of the deadliest mine disasters have occurred in the past decade.
This mine was partially owned by Evraz SA, a large conglomerate that government officials have accused of cutting corners to save money. The chairman of the Indepedent Coal Miner's Union said the miners may have encountered a pocket of methane and he suggested the need to develop safety methods to deal with these problems.
Some have suggested that the miners may have been careless due to quota systems that force them to work faster and harvest more coal.
According to a Bloomburg report, the Russian government will set up a state commission to investigate the explosion (
The region were the explosion occurred produces 56% of Russia's coal. A similar accident in the area occured in February 2005.

I thought the AP story took the wrong focus. The important thing to me is the deaths and the people still trapped in the mine. The story had very little information about the people rescued or the efforts to get the people still trapped. There wasn't a human face on the story. It tried to divide its time between a story about the explosion and a story about coal mining problems throughout all of Russia. I felt the U.S. comparison was unnecessary. Even by looking at the lead you can see that the explosion is more important than the fact that 78 people died. And I also thought it was unfair that the only specific deaths mentioned were that of a British man and his interpreter. The story's quotes were used well, but they were more fitting to a story about the whole system of coal mining in Russia, not a specific, developing story about a mining explosion. The Bloomburg story had similar problems. It only spent the first three graphs on the actual explosion and rescue mention. Later it bogs down into the broad context of Russia's coal mining industry. These facts all seem really inconsequential.

March 6, 2007

Bush OKs aid programs for Latin America

President Bush said he plans to send tens of millions of dollars in aid to improve education, housing and healthcare in Latin America, according to an AP report (,,-6459596,00.html).
Bush also said that poverty in the region has become a scandal that has increased disbelief in democracy. Bush gave this speech amid criticism that he has ignored Latin America.
The speech came three days before the president leaves for a trip to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.
Since taking office, Bush has doubled Latin American spending to $1.6 billion a year. However, much of this money has been relegated to military and anti-narcotic programs.
Some of the aid's provisions include a health care professional training center in Panama, $75 million in increasing education in English speaking, and $385 million to make housing more affordable.
According to a BBC report, some say the aid is in response to the election of many leftist leaders in Latin America, many that are critical of the U.S. (
One in four people in the region live on less than $2 a day and many children never finish grade school, Bush said.

One thing that stood out about the AP report was the fact that they mentioned the "why" in the lead, which I thought was out of place. It undermines the fact that the aid was being given away, and it also shifts focus away from Latin America and lavishes it on Bush. The story was structured well, placing the Bush quotes up front and getting quotes from other experts in response later on to add context. The one thing the article lacked was dissenting opinion. There has to be someone critical of this plan. The BBC article had a straightforward "who" lead, as is common with stories focusing on Bush. This article didn't have any sources besides Bush, which I disliked, but it was just a brief account of the main outline of the speech. If I may editorialize, I think both of these articles somewhat fail because they focus so much on the small details. It might be naive to think these articles should question the conventional wisdom, but I personally have become very cynical toward development aid programs like this. Aid, I have learned, is never free and there are always hidden costs that keep the rich in power and the poor struggling to get by.

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 (,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 (

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 20, 2007

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 (
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 (
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 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 (
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 ( 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 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 (
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 ( 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 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 (
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 (
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.

January 24, 2007

Hezbollah clashes with government in Lebanon

The New York Times reported (http://
that on Tuesday, militant, Islamist group Hezbollah clashed with government supporters and blocked roads in Beirut. Three people died and over 100 were wounded during the clashes.
The protest was called off after the day, but Hezbollah warned that more protests could ensue.
Hezbollah was protesting what they said was the corruption of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a Sunni Muslim.
Hezbollah called for Mr. Siniora's resignation, and also for their own veto power within a "unity" government.
The NY Times article's lead felt a little too long and descriptive. I also didn't like how the article brought up points about the Lebanese civil war and didn't elaborate on the history of the situation. A CNN article ( had a similar lead. I found it interesting that, on both of the web page headlines, each news outlet mentioned that three people died, yet both sources left out this fact in the lead. The CNN article went much deeper into the upcoming conference in Paris and it's economic implications for Lebanon.
In my opinion I don't think both news outlets needed to say that Hezbollah is supported by Iran in the lead because Iran wasn't mentioned anywhere else in either article.