December 7, 2008

Analysis: Computer Assisted Reporting

The Star Tribune's article "Our Hungry Planet: Golden Eggs" has analyzed food trends. The story used reports on the increasing cost of basic foods and statistics on farming worldwide.

These reports allowed the reports to compare prices and also look at arable land for farming in comparison to malnourished nations.

This is part of a series the Star Tribune is doing, so each article will use new sources and have new interactive features.

Riots in Greece

Riots in Athens and other cities happened overnight after an elite police corps shot dead a teen in the Greek capital, reports CNN.

The officer who shot the teen has been charged with murder with malicious intent and suspended from duty, police said.

A police statement said that incident started when six youths pelted a police car with stones. The teen was shot as he tried to throw a fuel-filled bomb at the officers.

Demonstrators barricaded streets and threw petrol bombs. Storefronts were smashed and businesses were burned. More violence is feared.

The Greek government has condemned the shooting and is calling for a calm in the rioting.

Recount Almost Finished

All 2.9 million ballots have been examined in the recount between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken in the U.S. senate election, reports MPR.

Currently, Coleman holds a 192 vote lead, but there are still 5,300 ballots up for dispute.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie hopes that the campaigns will continue to withdraw challenges before the State Canvassing Board meets on Dec. 16 to rule on the ballots.

The recount is still open in one Minneapolis precinct where 133 ballots are missing. The ballot count in the Dinkytown precinct came up short Wednesday.

It is unclear what officials will do if the missing ballots are not found.

Economy to Get Worse Before it Improves

President-elect Barack Obama said that the economy seems destined to get worse before it gets better, reports MPR.

Obama pledged a recovery plan "that is equal to the task ahead."

In an interview broadcast on Dec. 7, Obama said that any bailout must be "conditioned on an auto industry emerging at the end of the process that actually works."

Obama takes office in six weeks and has said that help for homeowners is a part of his plan.

The president-elect announced on Dec. 6 that he would call for the most massive spending on public works since the creation of the interstate highway system a half-century ago. His first priority would be projects that would create jobs right away.

National Health Emergency in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has declared a national health emergency due to a cholera epidemic during the country's economic crisis, the Associated Press has reported.

The Minister of Health, David Parirenyatwa, was quoted as saying, "Our hospitals are literally not functioning."

The emergency was declared at a meeting of government and international aid officials in Harare. Parirenyatwa appealed for money, drugs, food and equipment for the hospitals in Zimbabwe.

The United Nations has estimated the deaths from the cholera outbreak at over 500. A lack of water treatment and broken sewage pipes are to blame for the outbreak.

Walter Mzembi, the deputy water minister, said the country only had enough chemicals to treat the water for 12 more weeks.

Various agencies are pledging to help with the crisis in Zimbabwe. The European Commission said it was providing more than $12 million for drugs and clean water.

Zimbabwe has been paralyzed since disputed elections in March. The country is suffering from the world's highest inflation and daily shortages of food and basic goods.

3M Cutting Jobs

Minnesota Public Radio is reporting that 3M is cutting 1,800 jobs from its worldwide operations in the fourth quarter.

In the third quarter this year there were 1000 layoffs.

"Given current global market conditions, we are expecting about 1,800 jobs to be eliminated worldwide," said Jackie Berry, the company spokeswoman. "Several hundred of those job eliminations would be in the United States."

It is expected that several hundred jobs will be cut in the United States, including the Twin Cities.

There are no specifics on where the cuts will come from or how much the cuts will save the company.

Berry says that employees who are let go will receive severance pay and other assistance.

"Affected employees will have the opportunity to apply for other jobs within the company," said Berry. "They are also eligible for transition assistance, including severance pay and outplacement services."

November 23, 2008

Bill Richardson Set to be Commerce Secretary

The Star Tribune is reporting that President-elect Barack Obama has chosen New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to be commerce secretary.

The nomination is to be announced after Thanksgiving, said an anonymous Democratic official.

Richardson has had a distinguished career in Washington before becoming governor of New Mexico in 2002. Richardson was U.N. ambassador under President Bill Clinton and later served as energy secretary. He was in the White House from 1983-1997.

Under Clinton, Richardson was on many high-level diplomatic missions, including direct talks with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"Richardson is all about crashing through boundaries, said national security deputy at the U.N. in the late 1990s, David Goldwyn. "He says hello to the security guy, and if he's Hispanic he;ll say something in Spanish. If he's African-American he might call him 'his brother.'

Mystery Piano

A woman walking through the woods near Cape Cod, Mass. discovered a piano in good working condition, set up as if someone was about to play, CNN reports.

Police are trying to figure out how and why this piano was in the middle of the woods.

Sgt. Adam Hutton of the Harwich Police Department said information has been broadcast to all other departments in the Cape Cod area in hopes of drumming up a clue, however minor it may be.

The piano was at the end of a dirt road near a walking path in the middle of conservation land near the Cape.

It took a few police to move the piano into a vehicle to storage, so it is thought that more than one person was involved in placing the piano in the woods.

Oil Pipeline Proposal

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will meet on Tuesday to consider a proposal for a new oil pipeline across northern Minnesota, according to MPR and Kare 11.

The pipeline would go from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wis. and is being sought by Enbridge Energy.

The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy opposes the project saying that the process of extracting oil from Canadian tar sands is too energy-intensive and runs counter to the energy efficiency goals of the state.

Enbridge said the project has cleared an extensive environmental permitting process.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission must sign off for the project to move forward.

Senate Recount Continues

The Minnesota U.S. Senate recount continues, with 73 percent of precincts reporting, reports MPR.

The results so far show that Republican Sen. Norm Coleman is leading Democrat Al Franken by 167 votes, with more than a quarter of the precincts yet to be counted.

The number of challenged ballots has grown to 1,900 which outnumbers the margin between the two candidates.

Several Twin Cities sites have completed their recount and others are one pace to finish before Thanksgiving, according to the Pioneer Press.

The challenged ballots will head to the state canvassing board next month, which will do a final tally and declare a winner.

November 16, 2008

Analysis: Diversity

Across U.S., Big Rallies for Same-Sex Marriage, New York Times

This news story is very substantial and deals with an issue that has been on the minds of many people, the passing of Proposition 8 in California on Nov.4.

The story goes way beyond stereotypes and looks at the opinions of a variety of people that have been impacted by this proposition across the country.

Quotes and observation make up the majority of this story, with reports coming for multiple rallies against the Proposition across the United States, including Minneapolis.

November 14, 2008

Pollution Threat in Asia

Pollution in parts of Asia is altering weather patterns, blotting out the sun and getting into the lungs of millions according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations, the New York Times reports.

Soot, smog and toxic chemicals are the byproduct of automobiles, slash-and-burn agriculture, cooking on dung and wood fires, and coal fired power plants.

Atmospheric brown clouds in Asia are dramatically reducing sunlight in China and leading to decreased crop yields in India. The problem has been studied since 2002.

The brown haze is sometimes more than a mile thick and stretches from the Arabian Peninsula to the Yellow Sea. In the spring it hits North and South Korea and Japan, sometimes even drifting towards California.

The U.N. report identified 13 cities as brown-cloud hot spots, including Bangkok, Cairo, New Delhi, Tehran and Seoul, South Korea.

According to the report, smog blocks from 10 percent to 25 percent of the sunlight that should be reaching city streets. Scientists working on the report believe that the blanket of haze might be temporarily offsetting some warming from the simultaneous buildup of greenhouse gases by reflecting solar energy away from the earth.

November 13, 2008

Fake New York Times Printed

Over a million fake copies of the New York Times with the headling "Iraq War Ends" were handed out Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles, reports the BBC.

The free special edition also included a story about Americans getting free health care.

The fake paper was dated July 4, 2009 and played with the Times' motto "all the news we hope to print."

A liberal group called Yes Men has claimed responsibility for the hoax, with the help of thousands of volunteers.

"In an elaborate operation six months in the planning, 1.2 million papers were printed at six different presses and driven to pre-arranged pick-up locations," according to a statement from Yes Men.

New York Magazine's Daily Intel blog also reported on the story, saying that many media professionals worked on the story including some members of the Times staff.

"There were a few people from the Times — we can't tell you who they are," said Steve Lambert, an artist who worked on the fake paper. "They're respectable journalists."

November 12, 2008

Gay Marriages Begin in Connecticut

Connecticut began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Wednesday, the New York Times and NPR are reporting.

This comes just a week after California voters passed a constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage there. Connecticut and Massachusetts are now the only states that allow same-sex marriage.

An order was signed Wednesday morning by a Connecticut Superior Court judge allowing gay and lesbians to apply for marriage licenses. Last month the Supreme Court ruled Connecticut could not ban gay marriage, saying it was unconstitutional.

Barbara and Robin Levine-Ritterman were the first to be issued a same-sex marriage license on Wednesday in New Haven.

In 2004 the couple sued Connecticut, along with seven others, for the right to marry.

Recount Panel Named

Four judges and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie will make up the 2008 Minnesota General Election Canvassing Board, reports MPR and the Pioneer Press.

These people could determine who wins the race between Republican Senator Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.

Ritche announced that Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, Justice G. Barry Anderson, Ramsey County District Court Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin and Assistant Chief Judge Edward Cleary will be the board members.

The five will meet next Tuesday to certify the election, said Ritchie. The board will then order the recount, which will begin the next day and take place in 120 different sites across the state.

"You got the Coleman pile, you got the Franken pile and you got 'all others,'" said Ritchie. "The 'all other' piles are the ones where you can't tell the intent of they've invalidated themselves by marking."

The panel is politically diverse, and this is pleasing to Larry Jacobs, Director of the Center for Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute.

"These are some of our very best judges," said Jacobs. "I look at that and say, 'This is going to be fair.'"