October 6, 2008

Salmonella sickens people in 12 states; USDA urges consumers to fully cook chicken dinners


This is one of those trends pieces. Salmonella cases have broken out in Minnesota. That in itself merits a news story. However, it has also sprung up in 11 other states, which the USDA did not name in its initial release warning about this contaminated chicken, which has mostly been in microwavable meals. A news story gains more prominence when it's effecting more people. A statewide trend becomes a national trend, and you've got the USDA releasing warnings and urging people not to trust chicken.

The story isn't written like a trends piece -- no anecdotal lead transitioning into "But Sally's case is like an alarming amount of others around the country" -- but the trend becomes the nut graf of the story, instead of just the nasty illness.

35W has people thinking about other area construction


The 35W bridge went up in 11 months. Some highway construction projects take more than three years. People have begun asking why.

The article doesn't really answer "Why" it just says what things were special about the 35W construction and juxtaposes them with other projects, like highway 62 and parts of 494.

For instance, the 35W project had just one manager over everything, not a bunch of managers for different parts. Certainly, streamlining like this and taking out a bunch of the middlemen is a good thing and helped stuff get through quicker.

35W also was using some of the most modern construction practices.

Also, since the road was completely closed (read: gone) there was no traffic, and when there's no traffic, construction crews can work a lot quicker.

It's a good article in that it points out the special circumstances of the 35W bridge apart from the fact that it was a tragedy and there was immense need and approval to get it up quickly.
It doesn't really answer "Why" though, but it couldnt without straying into the realm of opinion. So maybe the opinions page will answer that question.

India 'not a threat to Pakistan'


Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that India is not a threat to Pakistan, and in fact never has been, and that the militants in Kashmir are terrorists.

This is Zardari basically making a radical departure from national stances of the past. Pakistan and India have engaged in conflicts before, and the militants in Kashmir used to be supplied by Pakistanis.

Also, Zardari said that the U.S. was firing missles at militants in Pakistan and got the OK from his government.

What the Pakistani citizenry will think of this remains to be seen, but considering Zardari has basically come out and said the exact opposite of what's traditionally been said about these issues, it might not turn out so great.

This was just a little news brief on BBC, but still an interesting one. The quick facts listed could potentially be enough to keep a reader waiting for a follow-up in the coming days.

September 29, 2008

In Storm’s Aftermath, Cow Roundups in Southeast Texas


In Hurricane Ike's aftermath, along the Texas coasts, ranchers and cattlemen are searching for all their wayward cows.
Apparently cows float pretty well, because their four stomachs are full of air.
The piece is written with both an immediately local perspective, making it important to the people in Texas, but also translates maybe to people in the midwest, who lose cows in tornadoes, or many other farmers who can have their business wiped out by natural disasters.
In addition to talking about the cows that are lost, we also learn that the vegetation from the water has been gnarled by the saltwater.
One man, Harold Clubb from Hamshire, Texas, has only recovered 250 of his 2,700 cows. Also, the grassland he owned as pastures was nearly all destroyed by the saltwater.
“I’m 76 years old,? Mr. Clubb said, shaking his head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.?
"The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with state animal welfare and agriculture agencies to mount efforts to dispose of the thousands of decaying carcasses in the area. Mr. Staples said they would begin burning the animals in trenches this weekend."

Hard stuff. it'd be interesting to have follow-up articles on this subject, exploring what this will do to grocery prices and the beef industry, that sort of stuff.

Impulse made Freedom Rider of Peter Ackerberg


This is a very interesting feature on Peter Ackerberg, a Prospect Park resident who was a reporter for the Minneapolis Star.
It's very interesting to see how Chris Steller balanced between paraphrasing and direct quotes when painting a scene, so to speak. I'm interested in what judgements get made during that. Is it OK to paraphrase scenery passages, or describing emotions? Steller wasn't in the South during the Civil Rights movement, so does he need to constantly attribute this back to Ackerberg, the new book "Breach of Peace," or did Steller and his editor come to a consensus that it read clearly enough that a reader would understand that the reporter isn't pulling this stuff out of thin air?
This isn't the newsiest piece of news to blog about, but i was tired of going to Star Tribune for local stories. I used to get The Bridge for free in my mailbox, but i moved and i don't get it anymore.
It's also just a pretty good feature.

China space craft returns to earth


China's Shenzhou VII space capsule came back to earth Sunday, landing in the Mongolian desert. The purpose of the mission was to do some experiments and also have an astronaut tethered out into space, which they did successfully. China is the third country to have men in space, since in 2003, i think, they did a manned space mission.
It was news to me that China hadn't done anything like this in the past. I thought a lot of countries had done space stuff.
The suit that the astronaut wore while out in space is thought to have cost $10 million to $40 million, if i'm to be reading the British style of "$10m to $40m" correctly.

Many of the quotes in the story were about how momentous this was for China, and how this is part of a three-step program. So to find out just why this is so momentous, i followed a link on BBC.com to an article titled "What's driving China's space efforts?"


According to Dean Cheng, senior Asia analyst at think tank CNA in Washington, D.C., there are many political motivations for the China space program. It seems to be a way of saying to the rest of the world that China has "arrived" on the international stage. Also, interestingly, Cheng said it's a move on the part of the government to boost the morale of the China citizenry.
"There are problems like melamine in milk. There are issues of corruption. But the party has shown it is able to achieve things that no previous Chinese government has ever done, and that China is among the first-rank powers in advanced technology," Cheng said.
The article then goes on to say that there may be military motivation with this space program, like developing precision launching systems which could carry over to weapons technology.
"It is a demonstration of technological virtuosity," said Dr Roger Launius, senior curator in the division of space history at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. "It's a method of showing the world they are second to none - which is a very important objective for them."

Some have apparently begun to think that the United States may get into a race with China, but both Launius and Cheng say that this isn't really the case.
"There is a space race underway," Launius said, "but it is an Asian space race. It is between China, Japan, maybe Korea, certainly India. They are competing with each other for stature in that context."

Some thought that because NASA is set to retire its shuttles, therefore having to rely on Russian craft to get up to the space stations, whom the U.S. is in conflict with over Georgia, the pressure would be on NASA to push up its debut of the new Ares-Orion. Apparently that's not the case.

September 22, 2008

Eden Prairie third best place to retire

Eden Prairie was named the third-healthiest place to retire by U.S. News and World Report. Ahead of it are Bella Vista, Ark., and Boulder, Colo. The criteria that influenced the decision were things like providing places to exercise, promoting strong social support and encouraging healthy lifestyle habits, cost of living, recreational opportunities and climate.
Ranking behind Eden Prairie are Green Valley, Ariz. at No. 4 and Issaquah, Wash. at No. 5, followed by Longmeadow, Mass, Portland, Maine, Punta Gorda Fla., Reston, Va. and Walnut Creek, Calif.
The story in the Strib didn't have much more than that, given that the report was just published Sunday. Maybe more will come of this, if the Strib editors decide to pursue stories on local businesses in Eden Prairie in relation to seniors and the like.


Students taking advanced math, not doin' so hot

The Star Tribune had this national trends story on its Web site Sunday about eighth graders and advanced math. Although enrollment in advanced math classes has gone up for years since the Clinton administration, the kids' grades have not been so great.
The call for more kids to take algebra by eighth grade was seen in the '90s as a "new civil right" because it was believed that algebra is a "gateway" class to higher learning. There was a push to put minority students in advanced math classes to give them more chances. A recent private study has shown, however, that kids are scoring very low and being passed on to higher-level math courses. Also, advocates of the practice of putting minority students into the classes worry this study will add fuel to opponents' arguments that minority kids don't belong in the classes.
"My big worry is people will use this to say, `Aha, see, it ain't working, let's put these kids back where they belong,'"
said William H. Schmidt, a Michigan State University professor of statistics and education.
Some think that math is a subject where you have to pass and prove you know one year's curriculum in order to be successful at the next, and if you don't eventually you'll just totally fail.
And still others think that passing through these classes is doing more harm than good, and speculate that the quality and challenge of the class is watered down.

It's interesting to read a national trends piece to see how the information is organized differently than just a straight-up report. Also, this is a really good article to serve as an example of an "attribution" story.


South African pres steps down

South African President Thabo Mbeki stepped down Sunday. This comes a day after the national congress called for him to quit.
The story opens up with three or four grafs that read very much like hard news, quickly establishing the 5 W's. After that, we get more information on what's been leading up to Mbeki's resignation, such as the allegations that he might have tampered with a rival's corruption case. The rest of the story is divided up via subheads chronicling things like Mbeki's resignation speech, who his successor is and a more in-depth look at what led up to his resignation.
An interesting note: Since this was culled from BBC.com, notice that on second reference all people are referred to Mr. or Mrs.


September 9, 2008

Rashad Raleigh, killer of Probation officer Porter

Today on the Pi Press' Web stie, they had a news brief reporting that Rashad Raleigh, who plead guilty to killing Howard Porter in May 2007, a probation officer and former basketball star, received a sentence of life without parole. He pleaded guilty to this crime in an agreement to avoid charges for a triple murder in Ramsey county that took place just a few months before the Porter murder. He could still face federal charges for that crime, however.

It was a standard news brief, which had its middle paragraph devoted to telling facts about Porter — his basketball stardom at Villanova in the early '70s, his seven pro seasons thereafter, his cocaine abuse and rehabilitation.The brief says that another defendent pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting, and a third defendent's murder trial is set to begin soon.

On StarTribune.com, they have a much more in-depth, almost feature-style account of Monday's court proceedings.
In this version, we find out that the defense's attempt to remove Raleigh from the court during the prosecution's impact testimonies was turned down by the court, so he had to stay in the court while Porter's widow and sister told stories of how their lives have been changed.
Also divulged are the details of the murder, and the two other defendents' names: Tonya E. Johnson, who pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting, and Fredquinzo (Snake Eyes) King.
Johnson ployed Porter into her house under pretenses of sexual intercourse. While they were in the middle of a sex act, Raleigh and King helped Johnson beat him to death. The motive was robbery.
Also learned from this article were the circumstances of the triple murder Raleigh was allegedly involved in but was able to avoid a state trial for. Slain were Maria McLay, 32, her boyfriend, Otahl Saunders, and her 15-year-old daughter, Brittany Kekedakis, in the head. Two younger children escaped. Those slain were shot to death.
The Star Tribune account has many quick jots of descriptions about the weeping witnesses and the "red-eyed and expressionless" Raleigh.
"Eventually, [Judge] McGunnigle asked Raleigh if he wanted to address the court before his sentence was read.
He replied simply, 'No.' "

One has to think that the news brief was the most coverage (at least online) in the Pioneer Press because this was a case that happened in Minneapolis, but the Star Tribune article said that 2,500 people mourned him, attending services in more than three states.
One article went for facts, one went for emotion.