November 2012 Archives

4 men sue New Jersey gay conversion group

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Four gay men who underwent conversion therapy filed a civil suit against their therapists Tuesday, charging the group with fraud under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, the New York Times reported.

The group, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, which is based in Jersey City, is charged with falsely claiming to be able to eliminate homosexual desires in its clients, the Chicago Tribune reported.

JONAH was founded by Arthur Goldberg and Alan Downing. The group -- which, despite its named, is not religiously affiliated -- describes itself as working "directly with those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions," the New York Times reported.

According to the New York Times, these therapists -- part of a larger group including conservative religious leaders and self-identified "life coaches" -- argue that homosexuality is caused by childhood trauma, such as sexual abuse or parenting issues.

JONAH clients underwent therapy sessions that included removing all their clothes or beating effigies of their mothers, the Chicago Tribune reported. Minimum weekly prices for therapy sessions were $100, with an additional $60 charged for group therapy sessions.

The four men and two of their mothers are being represented by lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights group.

"The defendants peddled antigay pseudoscience, defaming gay people as loathsome and deranged," one of the group's lawyers, Sam Wolfe, told the New York Times.

This piece, from the Akela Flats Journal, is about an ongoing dispute between the Fort Sill Apache of New Mexico and the state about creating a casino on their reservation.

The reporter, Dan Frosch, made extensive use of both scene-setting and tribal history in the first part of the article. This provided grounding for the reader, and allowed them to fully understand the context of the current conflict.

Frosch went to the reservation and spoke with the tribal chairman. He also spoke with the tribe's lawyer and the mayor pro tem of a town near the reservation. To represent the other side of the conflict, he interviewed a spokesperson for the Interior Department and did an email interview with a spokesperson for the governor of New Mexico.

There are, of course, a lot of stereotypes about Native American reservations and casinos. Frosch avoids these by making the story more about the conflict and its history than about the casino itself. In order to do this, he represents both sides thoroughly, explaining what is at stake for both. This equalizes them to some degree, but also, I think, leaves the reader on the side of the tribe.

The story, with its vivid scenes and rich history, shows the reader that what is most important to tribe members is to regain land they lost in the 19th century, and that building a casino is a way to do so.

Ikea admits to using forced labor in 1980s

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Ikea, the Swedish-owned home goods company popular for its low prices, admitted Friday to using East German political prisoners for forced labor in the 1980s, the New York Times reported.

A report by Ernst and Young found that Ikea knowingly used and benefited from forced labor, the New York Times reported. The report was commissioned by Ikea in May, following accusations that forced labor was used with employee knowledge.

According to the Los Angeles Times, investigators examined 100,000 documents from Ikea and Germany, interviewed 90 people and set up a tip hotline.

Jeanette Skjelmose, Ikea's sustainability manager, expressed the company's regret in a statement. The company said it will donate funds to research on forced labor in East Germany, the LA Times reported.

According to the New York Times, Ikea is not the first company revealed to have used East German forced labor, though the actual number is not known.

Grandmother and 2 grandkids die in crash

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A 70-year-old woman and her two grandchildren died Friday when their car collided head-on with a school bus in Inver Grove Heights, the Star Tribune reported.

Elaine M. Clausen, 11-year-old Leala Clausen and Gion Clausen, about five, were driving on the 7600 block of Argenta Trail near Minnesota 55 when their car collided with the bus, the Star Tribune reported. Police were notified of the crash at about 4 p.m.

According to the Pioneer Press, both vehicles partially caught fire. But the bus driver -- the only person on the bus -- was not injured.

According to the Star Tribune, the identities of the victims have not yet been confirmed by the Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner.

Clausen was a school bus monitor, the Star Tribune reported. Marvin Emeott, one of her co-workers, said she knew the importance of being cautious when driving near school buses.

Nicollet mall gunshot noise a false alarm

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A gunshot-like noise put the Nicollet Mall area on high alert Friday, causing police to search an office building leased by Target, the Star Tribune reported.

Police were notified of the noise at about 11 a.m. Friday, the Star Tribune reported. The 911 call said shots were heard in the Retek building on Nicollet Mall. About 1,300 Target employees work in the building.

According to the Star Tribune, workers were warned of an "active shooter alert" and advised to stay in their offices. The University of St. Thomas Minneapolis campus, which is located nearby, warned its students of the incident as well, according to the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal.

A SWAT team searched the Retek building but found no evidence of a shooting. Police issued an all clear at about 1:30 p.m, the Business Journal reported.

Police later found that construction workers in the building used a tool that sounded like gunfire, the Star Tribune reported.

Israel broadens Gaza bombing

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Israel continued bombing of Palestine's Gaza Strip Saturday, extending the reach of attacks to government buildings and destroying the headquarters of the Hamas prime minister, the New York Times reported.

The attacks mark the fourth day of conflict between the two countries, Al Jazeera reported. Forty-five people in Gaza and 3 in Israel have been confirmed dead.

Between Wednesday and early Saturday evening, Israel had struck about 950 targets in Gaza and Palestine had struck 400 targets in Israel, Al Jazeera reported.

The White House continues to support Israel, the New York Times reported.

"We believe Israel has a right to defend itself and they'll make their own decisions about the tactics that they use in that regard," said Ben Rhodes, the U.S. deputy national security adviser.

According to Al Jazeera, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem -- both Israeli population centers -- have been attacked. According to the New York Times, Israel has taken steps for a possible ground invasion.

FDA releases injury records for energy drinks

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The Food and Drug Administration released records Thursday about fatality and injury filings tied to three energy drinks, the New York Times reported.

The filings relate to the popular Rockstar Energy, Monster Energy, and 5-Hour Energy. According to the New York Times, the FDA has received 13 fatality reports mentioning 5-Hour Energy, and has confirmed 5 fatality reports on Monster Energy.

Filing an incident report does not mean that a death or injury is necessarily related to a product, the New York Times reported.

An FDA statement said they "must carefully investigate and evaluate all possible causes before deciding whether the product actually caused the medical problem," CBS News reported.

But records used in New York Times reporting show that more than 30 cases related to the drinks since 2009 were "serious or life-threatening," CBS reported. Among symptoms reported to the FDA were convulsions, heart attacks and one case of a spontaneous abortion.

Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut wrote to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg Thursday requesting a meeting on energy drinks, the New York Times reported.

Second earthquake strikes Myanmar

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An earthquake struck northern Myanmar early Monday, hours after a previous earthquake that killed at least 12 people, Al Jazeera reported.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 5.6 magnitude earthquake occurred about 84 miles north of the country's central city of Mandalay, Al Jazeera reported.

The initial earthquake, which had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8, struck at 7:42 a.m. Sunday, the Associated Press reported. According to Al Jazeera, a monastery and partially-built bridge were damaged.

Myanmar, formerly Burma, has had difficulty with natural disaster response in the past. In a 2008 cyclone, 140,000 people were killed, the Associated Press reported. According to Al Jazeera, 70 people were killed in a 6.8-magnitude earthquake in March 2011.

U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Myanmar next Sunday, the Associated Press reported. He will be the first American president to do so.

Analysis: Divining music fans' habits

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This article, which was written by Ben Sisario for the New York Times, uses data on the effect that music streaming services have on music listening and purchasing.

The angle of the story is that the relationship between streaming services like Pandora and Spotify is more complicated than one set of data can show. Sisario refers to multiple listener surveys in order to show trends over time and explain disparities.

Data used in the story comes from a survey released last week by the market research firm NPD Group, another survey they released a few months ago and a survey released last year by NPD Group and the National Association of Recording Merchandisers.

The numbers used are percentages, averages and general quantities (for example, "Spotify's subscriber ranks have more than doubled."). This makes the story accessible, and prevents the reader from getting caught up in specific figures.

Sisario did not necessarily crunch the data numbers on his own, but he did analyze them in a way that made them more straightforward. For example, he writes, "additional spending by average fans fell much more than among the most passionate ones." Here, he summarizes the trend shown by the data, rather than providing readers with the raw data with which to draw this conclusion on their own.

Priest pleads guilty in abuse of 2 boys

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A Catholic priest pleaded guilty Thursday to molesting two underage brothers and was banned by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from ministry, the Star Tribune reported.

The Rev. Curtis Carl Wehmeyer, 48, pleaded guilty to abusing the boys in 2010 when he was the pastor at St. Paul's Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, the Pioneer Press reported. He also pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography, which was part of another case.

Wehmeyer's sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 1, the Pioneer Press reported. According to the Star Tribune, he will remain a priest despite being banned from ministry.

Wehmeyer admitted in court to molesting the brothers, then 12 and 14, in a camper parked outside of the church, the Star Tribune reported. He said he offered the boys alcohol and marijuana to entice them inside. He said he also showed them child pornography, touched one boy's genitals and masturbated in front of them.

According to the Pioneer Press, Wehmeyer was removed from his parish job June 21, after the victims reported him to the police.

St. Paul teacher wins $25,000 national award

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A St. Paul teacher received the $25,000 Milken Educator Award in a surprise ceremony Friday, the Pioneer Press reported.

Stephen Abenth, 37, teaches 4th grade and directs the choir at St. Paul's Highland Park Elementary School, the Star Tribune reported. Several people received the award this year, but Abenth was the only recipient in Minnesota.

The award is typically given as a surprise, the Star Tribune reported. Abenth said he was asked to prepare choir students for an assembly recognizing student achievement.

The Milken awards are known as "the Oscars of teaching," the Star Tribune reported. Recipients are in their early- to mid-career, and many go on to become administrators.

According to the Star Tribune, Abenth said he will use the money to pursue a master's degree in education technology. He has already done work with technology at Highland Park Elementary -- according to the Pioneer Press, he created a data-tracking system to identify student achievement gaps.

Among the attendees at Friday's assembly were U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, the Star Tribune reported.

BBC director resigns

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The BBC's director, George Entwistle, resigned Saturday night after a report aired the previous week wrongly implicated a former politician in a pedophile scandal, the New York Times reported.

The report, which was broadcast Nov. 2, was featured in the prominent BBC program "Newsnight." A man interviewed in the program said he experienced abuse at a care home in the 1970s, Reuters reported. The man said Friday that he misidentified Alistair McAlpine as his assailant.

Newsnight reporters admitted they did not contact McAlpine for comment before airing the program, Reuters reported. According to the New York Times, upon resigning Entwistle said the journalistic standards used in the report were "unacceptable."

The BBC is already mired in another child-abuse scandal after the revelation last month that former television host Jimmy Savile assaulted perhaps hundreds of minors, including some on BBC premises, the New York Times reported.

The network was accused of attempting to cover up the accusations against Savile by cancelling a Newsnight report on him last year, the New York Times reported.

One third of young Americans are college-educated

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A record one-third of young Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 hold bachelors degrees, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Research Center, the New York Times reported.

The report, which analyzed recent census data, showed that people in that numbers of people in that age group who graduated from high school or completed some college also increased.

According to the report, the economic recession and declines in job opportunities may be responsible for the increases, the New York Times reported. As a result, more Americans may see higher education as necessary.

A 2009 Pew Research survey showed 73 percent of adults thought college education was necessary, in comparison to 49 percent in 1978, USA Today reported.

But the report showed that despite the increases, other nations have still surpassed the United States in college completion rates, USA Today reported.

The New York Times obituary for George McGovern is an extensive feature, rather than simply an announcement of McGovern's death.

The lead is grounded in the news of his death and its significance, pointing out notable moments from his life and then saying when, where, under what circumstances and at what age he died.

The piece resembles a biography more than it does a resume -- it moves through significant moments in McGovern's life, beginning in the political arena and then returning to his beginnings. Quotes often come from McGovern himself and offer valuable reflections on the information being imparted to the reader. McGovern biographies are also quoted, including "The Making of the President 1972" by Theodore H. White.

The news value of this piece is high given McGovern's prominence in U.S. politics and the legacy of his 1972 bid for the presidency. Every major U.S. news organization covered his death, as did some outside of the U.S.

Interestingly, this particular obituary was written a number of years ago by David Rosenbaum, a Washington correspondent for the New York Times who died in 2006. That alone says a lot about the significance of the piece -- that McGovern's life was being written about extensively even before his death.

Study shows suicide rate rose during economic downturn

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Suicide rates in the United States have spiked in the years since the economic downturn, according to a study released Sunday, the New York Times reported.

The study, which was published on the website of the medical journal The Lancet, showed that between 2008 and 2010 the suicide rate increased four times faster than between 1999 and 2007.

According to the New York Times, similar studies in Spain, Italy and Greece have showed similar trends during economic downturns.

In addition to presenting the data, the researchers behind the study said politicians should do more to combat mental health, Reuters reported.

"There is a clear need to implement policies to promote mental health resilience during the ongoing recession," said Aaron Reeves -- a Cambridge professor who led the study -- to Reuters.

SPCO cancels all 2012 concerts

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The management of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra cancelled performances until the end of the year Thursday, the Star Tribune reported.

The decision is the latest in a process that began Oct. 21 when management locked out the orchestra's musicians, the Star Tribune reported. The contract between the musicians' union and management expired June 30, and the two sides have yet to reach a consensus on the musicians' salaries.

According to the Star Tribune, musicians have said they would like to continue performing during contract negotiations.

On Wednesday, the union rejected a management proposal that included reduced salaries and benefits as well as a smaller orchestra, the Pioneer Press reported.

Kyu-Young Kim, a member of the negotiating committee, said, "management again fails to realize that an orchestra functions as a team, and that none of us in the SPCO have any interest in selling our present or future colleagues down the river," the Pioneer Press reported.

The two sides will meet gain on Thursday and the musicians will present a new proposal, the Star Tribune reported.

39 wolves killed in hunting season's first weekend

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Minnesota's first wolf hunting season opened Nov. 3, and by the following afternoon 39 wolves had been killed, the Star Tribune reported.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, 32 of the wolves were killed on the first day, the Star Tribune reported.

All 1,600 available wolf hunting licenses were sold within 5 minutes Monday, the Associated Press reported.

An effort to block wolf hunting was struck down by the Minnesota Supreme Court last week, the Associated Press reported. A separate wolf hunting-and-trapping season will begin Nov. 24.

Quotas are set at 200 wolves for each of the two seasons, the Star Tribune reported.

New York students will return to school Monday

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New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg called for the city's students to return to school Monday after a week-long break following Hurricane Sandy, the Associated Press reported.

All of the city's 1,700 public schools -- which serve about 1.1 million students -- will re-open Monday, with the exception of 57 that were severely damaged by the storm, the Associated Press reported.

Two of the schools that experienced the most damage were John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, which was damaged by a fire, and Beach Channel High School in Queens, which was flooded, the New York Times reported.

According to the New York Times, students who attended schools that are now damaged will be relocated and some classes may be split up.

Eight school buildings are being used to house people whose homes were damaged in the storm, the New York Times reported. Classes will resume in those buildings.

U.S. airman accused of punching Japanese boy

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An American airman allegedly broke into an apartment on Okinawa and punching a 13-year-old boy before attempting to escape through a window, the New York Times reported.

According to police, the 24-year-old man broke into an apartment early Friday morning and punched one of the two boys sleeping inside. The man had apparently been drinking at a bar on the ground floor of the building and allegedly became violent before going up to the third-floor apartment, the Daily Mail reported.

According to the New York Times, the airman was apparently in violation of a curfew set last month for the 52,000 U.S. troops on the island after two U.S. sailors were accused of raping a woman there.

Crimes by members of the U.S. military on Okinawa are of concern to the island residents, along with the noise and pollution that the bases produce, the New York Times reported. Three-quarters of American military bases in Japan are on Okinawa.

Though American officials said they would cooperate with an investigation, the governor of Okinawa said the incident threatens the alliance between the U.S. and Japan.

"You can only conclude that they are fracturing the alliance," he was quoted as saying in the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun, according to the New York Times.

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