December 10, 2007

Grade School Geniuses?

An Inver Grove Heights grade school is giving kids as young as kindergarten instruction in the Advanced Placement (AP) style used by high school kids to get into better colleges and take care of basic required classes. According to a Wednesday Dec. 5 Star Trib article, only a few other schools in the country have put this Pre-AP program into action. The residents and teachers of Inver Grove Heights quoted in this article give positive reviews for the program. Some teachers already work on some of the concepts the program details, but not necessarily to the extent. The article doesn't say anything about any problems of limitations inherent in the program, if any are present. It appears from the article that each teacher is responsible for making up their own programs for each class, but on the Inver Grove Heights Community Schools website, it seems like they go through a training course.

December 9, 2007

Get 'Em Out By Friday, or Don't. They Can Just Wait

This December 4 Star Trib article talks about how airplanes are starting to be fuller and fuller. It says that the reason for the packed flights is because the airlines are charging less for each ticket in order to steal people from competitors. This means that when flights are canceled or delayed, the next available flights get filled up faster, resulting in all too many people getting stuck and missing appointments and such. This title and tone of the beginning of this article suggest that it will make a horrible villain of the airline industry for forcing this change, but the industry can't really be blamed for the economic and political problems, including the "tech bubble burst" and 9/11. The article closes with the statement that the problems probably won't end soon. So, the villain of this article is neither the consumer nor the airline industry, but the rest of reality.

The Golden Vaulted Ceilings of Edina

The homebuilding trend for the past few years has been to buy a decrepit house on salvageable land, knock it down, and then build an incredible hulking behemoth in its place. This has the result of making the rest of the neighborhood look worse in comparison. These old, single family homes were affordable and remain that way. But the gigantic castles that people are building today ruin the atmosphere of the neighborhood, say some residents. Supporters of the giant houses say they help elderly and retired residents who stand to make tidy profits from the sale of their homes. This article balances the opposing sides well. It alternates sympathy in each chunk.
I picked this article because, to me, it is a local concern in my hometown in Illinois too. The house that went up next to mine is the biggest house in a neighborhood of huge houses. It is dark and imposing, and it supposedly cost over a million dollars. The price tag on the superlarge houses is what the people complaining about them really care about. The bigger the house, the higher the price tag, which means new families probably won't be able to afford living in that neighborhood, which keeps new blood out of the area, which makes it less desirable to live there.

December 2, 2007

A Green Holiday

The "Holiday" (Christmas) Tree in St Paul's Rice Park hosts 360 LED lights this year instead of a full compliment of regular incandescent bulbs. This article, from the Friday print edition of the Star Tribune, is a bit of a puff piece, but I feel it's notable for a few details. First, the article conforms to the current trend of referring to the Christmas season as the Holiday season. This trend has been building for a few years now, but it has finally overtaken the traditional name. A lot of people hate this trend, but a much louder portion of the public sees the continuation of the Christmas name as an invasion of religion. The other trend this article reports on is the Green trend. Even though the 360 LEDs won't really affect the emissions of the "Holiday" tree, the article was still printed. I suppose the basis of the article was to tell people that the tree will be entirely LED next year, but then that information should have been farther up in the article.

Warning: Temperatures Dropping. It Could Get Cold

An article in Sunday's Star Tribune talks about the ramifications of Vladimir Putin, Russian President's plans for his post-presidential career. The article is clearly written with the intent of making the reader think back to Cold War tensions with Soviet Russia. It mentions Stalin several times, and describes Putin's options of post-career with negative connotations. The article says that even after Putin's second term is up, he will likely still remain in some form of power, either as a prime minister, a "national leader", or become a "ruling party strongman in the mold of Josef Stalin." The latter half of the article talks about how much Putin has done, or at least claimed to do, for Russia. Interestingly, in the layout of page A6, the Putin article is sandwiched between one about Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, which talks about a vote being put forth that could, among other things, make Venezuela officially a socialist country, and an article about Iran's nuclear program. This page's layout seems tailored to produce the maximum amount of worry. Iran's nuclear program raises concern for nuclear terrorists. The Putin article suggests a return to the days of one-party communism, and the Chavez article suggests a socialist Latin America and Caribbean. Certainly, the editors of the Star Tribune wouldn't want its readership to worry too much, would they?

November 28, 2007

Armed and Dangerous, and Remorseful?

In Houston, Texas, a man defended his neighbor's home by attacking two burglars with his shotgun. His neighbors admire him, while others raise questions of vigilante justice. The Star Tribune printed the AP version of the story, while the Houston Chronicle printed an original, and much more interesting, article, dated Nov. 18, 2007. There, Horn is portrayed as a confused, possibly unstable man, who said he would be haunted by the killings for the rest of his life, as opposed to the AP article from the Star Trib where he seems more like a vigilante cowboy figure. The AP article is written in a very anecdotal form; it seems more like a treatment for a movie scene than an article of news. It is a strange combination of direct and indirect news. The author uses a delayed lead, but then the article is in the inverted pyramid form. It's very confusing to try and work out exactly what happened when.
The Chronicle article is much more traditional, not to mention longer, probably due to the locality of the news to the paper. It tells the story of his attack on the burglars, but also talks about the legal process and snarls that he is going through because of it. The AP article never mentions charges, or a trial, or what happens to Horn after his adventure. This is odd because the Star Trib AP article was printed more than a week after the more complete Houston Chronicle article. I chalk this up to the AP creating random news geared at entertainment, rather than delivering complete and accurate news.

Archery Takes a Hit

According to a Tuesday Nov. 27 Star Tribune article the hobby of archery might become outlawed in suburban areas, in addition to the ban in urban areas. The article focuses on the recent Roseville ban on backyard archery. According to a sidebar within the article, there are 70,000 bow hunters in Minnesota, and doubtless there are more than that who shoot arrows as a hobby. The majority of the people quoted in the article didn't support the ban, citing childhood backyard archery tradition as a reason. The middle of the article gives humorous descriptions of laws about bows, including the fact that it's illegal to carry a concealed bow (difficult to do anyway), and gives generalizations that say todays criminals are not using bows to commit robbery or assault. People do support the ban, though, because unskilled archers could kill and maim people accidentally. I could see this tying into controversy surrounding the Supreme Court's look into the 2nd Amendment regarding the right to bear arms. Its never overtly stated, but I think there could be a connection.

November 18, 2007

Croaked the Tin Man, "Oil!"

In Nov. 12's Business Section of the Star Tribune, a group of Star Trib analyze the country's new oil crisis in comparison with older ones. On the front page of the Business section, they had a large graph at the bottom of the page showing the cost of a barrel of oil from 1970 to today, in the modern dollar and in the dollar of the day. Inside the section, is a large sidebar, separated by a dark background which tells how companies are coping with the raised gas prices. All kinds of companies are affected, including airlines, manufactureres, restaurants and the food service industry. The article has a lot of information about the situation, but nothing about how to fix it. None of the people interviewed have anything to say about fixing the overall problem, just about fixing their own smaller problems, like grocery stores reducing packaging, and trying to find cheaper ways to supply the petroleum products they need. It would have been nice for the writers to get some opinions from store or company owners about how to fix the new oil crisis.

Legends of the Hidden Costs

In Tuesday's Star Trib, Josh White of the Washington Post revealed the estimates of the real cost of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This refers to not only the cost of weapons, etc, but things like higher oil prices, paying medical and rehabilitation care for wounded vets, and paying interest on loans. The first half of the article is the gist of the report, while the second half is the views of people who disagree, like a member of previous president's National Security Council, Robert Hormats. He says that the price of the current wars is still less than half the cost of WWII. Hormats has issues with some of the estimates the government report made, like "it would be hard to show that the Iraq war has caused oil prices to skyrocket or oil producers in the Mideast to falter." The article closes with comments by Hormats about the economic differences between America at the time of WWII and today.

Some St. Paul Residents Worried About Campus Renovations

The St. Paul campus of the U of M is known as the "getaway" spot used for relaxation when classes become too stressful. Residents who live near the campus think so to, which is why they're worried that the U's plans to update the campus will upset the balance of the town of Falcon Heights. Thursday Nov 15ths Star Trib article talks about these worries and says that the U will "hold a 'listening session'... to gather input." The officials quoted from the university talk about what the campus needs, but beyond the first few paragraphs, Jean Hopfensperger doesn't give any more column space to the thoughts of the community. She also says that the university people re-evaluate the use of space on both campuses every ten years, which I think might have been a good thing to put farther up, because the way the article reads now makes it sound like they are randomly renovating another part of campus in addition to Kolthoff Hall and the new Stadium area.

Attack of the Hybrids

A parade of hybrid buses drove down the Nicollet Mall. According to this article from Friday's Star Tribune the city of Minneapolis Metro Transit has spent $557,000 on each hybrid bus. The people quoted in this article are all in support of the cost of purchasing 19 additional buses, possibly due to the social and commercial boost the paper could get for advocating the hybrid buses. This article seems like a puff piece, and therefore is pretty bad journalism.

November 11, 2007

Deadly Duck Parasite

Bluebill ducks are dying in northern Minnesota. The ducks that eat a certain kind of snail that carries the parasite will be passed onto the duck, which will result in the duck's death. The article, from Wednesday's Star Tribune, describes the impact on this season's duck hunting. The experts quoted in the article talk about how they can't predict the extent of the infection of the nematode that's killing the ducks. It talks about how the incredibly low levels of the scaup (bluebill) population is, and how the large quantities of surviving scaup rest in northern Minnesota and are at risk of infection and death.

Number Time

Target is the subject of an article in the Wednesday Business section of the Star Tribune. It's targeted (pardon the pun) at the business world, and is therefore difficult to read. It describes the sales increases from the last few months and compares it with Walmart. The article is loaded with jargon and is confusing to me, a layperson. It has quotes from business professionals, who apparently know what the article is trying to talk about. Basically, this article isn't interested in producing information for the general public, only to business professionals.

He's Being so Nice. Are there Germans Coming?

The French people call their president, "Sarko the American". According to a Wednesday Nov. 7 article in the Star Tribune, President Sarkozy has been trying to mend relations with Bush after the diplomatic battles between Bush and previous French president Chirac. The tone of this article is vaguely mocking towards Sarkozy. The article, which was made by the Associated Press, is light on the details of why exactly Sarkozy is in America, beyond the fact that he was going to address Congress.

Return of the Native (Filmmakers)

The Coen brothers recieved a lot of press in the Friday Star Tribune. Their new movie "No Country for Old Men" was released in theaters, and it was reviewed in the Source Section. In the front page section, though, Colin Covert interviewed them about their next project, which will be set in Minnesota. Native sons: Back for a dose of home is the article's title. The Coen brother's first movie, "Fargo", set the national opinion on Minnesota and the accent of its residents. Now, they are gearing up to shoot a new film called "A Serious Man", which will be based on the brothers' experiences in their childhood.
I'm not sure that this article needed to exist. It could have been combined with the article about the movie review; they could have made it more of a feature, saved column space for other stuff. I also don't think it should have been on the front page of the paper. Maybe the two articles about the Coen brothers could have shared space on the front page of the Source section instead.