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October 25, 2008

Gov. Palin not clear to public about religious views

The NY Times reported that in an interview this week with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Gov. Sarah Palin was asked to “clear up exactly what you believe in� about her religious faith, including her association with Pentecostalism.

Palin responded vaguely, but extensively, about how she counts on God for strength, guidance and wisdom. “My faith has always been pretty personal,� she said. She did not talk in depth about her church affiliation or her beliefs.

Palin’s faith has been in many media reports after two videos taken in her former church surfaced on YouTube and became immediately popular. The first showed a visiting preacher from Kenya praying fervently over Palin in a gravelly voice and asking God to favor her campaign for governor and protect her from “every form of witchcraft.�

The second video was of Palin at an event in June praising the African preacher’s prayer as “awesome� and “very, very powerful.� She is also shown nodding as her former pastor from Wasilla prays above her and says that Alaska is “one of the refuge states in the Last Days,� a piece of prophecy popular in some prayer groups that sees that as the “end times� approach, people will run to Alaska for its open space and natural resources.

Palin declined an interview with the NY Times, and the McCain campaign did not respond to specific questions about her faith. It is difficult to confirm Palin's beliefs as she has not specifically answered questions regarding them.

Palin has had long associations, however, with religious leaders who practice an especially assertive and urgent brand of Pentecostalism known as “spiritual warfare.�

Its followers believe that demonic forces can colonize specific geographic areas and people, and that “spiritual warriors� must “battle� them to assert God’s control, using prayer and evangelism. The movement’s obsession on demons, its aggressiveness and its leaders’ claims to exalted spiritual authority have bothered some Pentecostal Christians.

Palin gave a graduation speech for a class of young spiritual warriors in June at the Wasilla Assembly of God, the church she grew up in.

SWAT Team is brought to fight in St. Paul

The Pioneer Press reported that a man who assaulted another man early Saturday morning, kept him inside a New Brighton house and then did not cooperate by coming out, was arrested after a SWAT team responded, police said.

Michael Kenneth Hertog, 24, was jailed on suspicion of third-degree assault and terroristic threats.

A caller reported a loud party around 9:30 p.m., with music and fighting going on at a duplex at 1085 Sixth Street SW near Sunset Way, where Hertog lives, said public safety chief Bob Jacobson. Police responded immediately to the call.

The last call came at 12:48 a.m. Saturday from one of the attendees of the party, who said that someone was beat up inside the house and that the suspect had a large knife, Jacobson said. The victim was able to get out through a window but Hertog refused to come out when asked to by police.

A SWAT team responded and was able to convince Hertog to leave the house aroun 7 a.m., Jacobson said. To ensure Hertog wasn't coming out with a weapon, they ignited a flash device to "disorient" him, the chief said. Police then searched the residence this morning.

Jacobson said the victim went to the hospital with a broken nose and needed stitches for a head wound, but was later released.

Hennepin County Judge has tough fight ahead

The chief judge of Hennepin County District Court James Swenson is fighting tough campaigns on two parts, the Star Tribune reported.

He is in a tight reelection campaign with Tom Haeg, former family court referee for the county. Haeg decided to run after his job was eliminated in July because of budget cuts.

Swenson said he was on vacation when Haeg was laid off and that former Chief Judge Lucy Wieland made the choice. Haeg resigned and said he would pursue a campaign to expose Wieland and Swenson's tactics, rather than take a new job at identical pay. Swenson was assistant chief until last summer when he succeeded Wieland, who is now in juvenile court.

The chief, who is trying to hold on to the seat he has held for 13 years, said he has never seen such vicious attacks in a county judicial race. Haeg said he wanted to make a "positive statement" when he entered the race and "didn't want the campaign to be negative. This is just what we've been learning through the entire campaign."

Swenson spends his time in the mornings and evenings talking to groups about potentially damaging budget cuts from the state that could force the county to close court one day a week. "It's very difficult. Being a chief judge is very tough especially when I am spending so many hours on our budget issues," Swenson said.

Haeg is charging at Swenson on several levels and he wrote a 2 1/2-page letter detailing his complaints. He blames Swenson for "lapses in judicial temperament," the number of cases that participants decline to have heard in his court and a state Department of Human Rights settlement with a former employee.

Haeg also points out that he feels he'd be the better judge.

"I think I'm more patient. I have the capacity to allow the litigants to establish a record," Haeg said, conceding that Swenson is very smart, but adding that can be a problem because "you run the risk of saying, 'I know better than you.'"

Gov. Palin's makeup artist made $22,800 in 2 weeks

One might think the highest paid people in Senator John McCain's campaign during the first two weeks of October would be Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser. Or perhaps Nicolle Wallace, his senior communications staffer.

Nope, it was Amy Strozzi, Gov. Sarah Palin’s traveling makeup artist, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday night as reported by the NY Times.

Strozzi was paid $22,800 for the first two weeks of October alone, according to the records. The campaign categorized Strozzi’s payment as “Personnel Svc/Equipment.� Strozzi was nominated for an Emmy award for her makeup work on the television show “So You Think You Can Dance?�

Make-up aside, Angela Lew, Palin’s traveling hair stylist, got $10,000 for “Communications Consulting� in the first half of October. Lew’s address listed in F.E.C. records traces to an Angela M. Lew in Thousands Oaks, Calif., which matches with a license issued by the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.

The campaign’s payment on Oct. 10 to Strozzi made her the single highest-paid individual in the campaign for that two week period. She easily beat out Scheunemann, who received $12,500 in the first half of October, and Wallace, who got $12,000. Lew was the fourth highest paid person in the campaign during that span. There were , however, more than two-dozen companies that got larger payments than Strozzi.

Lew collected $8,825 in September for what the Republican campaign labeled in its report as “GOTV Consulting.�

Two DHL Executives Killed in Kabul

The NY Times reported that the deputy and director of the international courier service DHL in Afghanistan were shot and killed by security guard outside their office in central Kabul on Saturday, police said.

The early stages investigation found one of the Afghan security guards guarding the DHL compound shot the car carrying the two men, a Briton and a South African, when it pulled into the company headquarters, said Mirza Muhammad Yarmand, chief of the Interior Ministry's criminal investigations department.

The guard proceeded to put the AK-47 rifle to his own head and killed himself, Yarmand said.

The guard had been hired about a month ago from a Pashtun area just north of Kabul, Yarmand said. The Taliban recruits many of its fighters from the Pashtun ethnic group, but police had no evidence associating him to the insurgents.

Zabiullah Mujahed, a spokesman for the Taliban, denied that the group was to blame for the attack and said he did not know who was responsible for the shooting.

"This was a terrorist-style attack," Yarmand said.

The attack, which is in a fairly secure part of downtown Kabul, occurred days after the fatal shooting Monday of a British aid worker in western Kabul.

Gerold Beck, a DHL spokesman at its headquarters in Bonn, Germany, said the company was working with authorities to "clarify the situation."

October 19, 2008

Event coverage analysis entry

In an article titled "Five reasons the Minnesota Vikings need a victory today", the Pioneer Press reporter does exactly that. He goes on to list five detailed reasons the Vikings need to win their game, which is later in the day. There are no outside sources used because the piece is very editorial, with the feelings of the writer very obvious. The angle is obvious from the title that the author is a Vikings fan and feels passionately that they need to win the gae.

Obama breaks records in September fundraising

Barack Obama's campaign raised $150 million in September, the Huffington Post reported, putting the campaign at a significant financial advantage over Republican presidential candidate, John McCain.

The numbers were announced Sunday, one day before the campaign in required to file a detailed report of its monthly finances with the Federal Election Commission.

This money has put Obama above any video or TV adertising figures in the history of presidential elections. The money is fueling a huge campaign operation in an expanding field of competitive states.

David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, said in an e-mail to supporters Sunday morning, that the campaign had added 632,000 new donors in September, for a total of 3.1 million contributors to the campaign. The average donation was about $86.

Obama is able to raise this kind of because because he opted out of the public financing system for the fall campaign. McCain chose to participate in the system, which limits him to $84 million for the September-October stretch before the election. Obama is limitless.

Before setting primary fundraising records, Obama said he would accept the public financing system if McCain did. Many right-wing voters have begun to second guess McCain's decision to accept the financing system.

As much as Obama raised, he needed a big fundraising month to make his decision to bypass the public finance system worth while. Financially, he has been competing against McCain, but also against the GOP, which raised $66 million in September.

Sun Country files for bankruptcy protection

Sun Country Airlines, a Mendota Heights based company, filed for bankruptcy protection Monday in a move that separated the company from its majority stockholder, Tom Petters, the Star Tribune reported. Petters' other businesses have been taken over by a court appointee as part of a large fraud case led by the F.B.I.

Stan Gadek, Sun Country's CEO, clarified the reasoning for these chain of events.

"We're not in bankruptcy because of our business model being broken," Gadek said in an interview. "We are in bankruptcy because of the recent events at Petters Group Worldwide."

Gadek had been relying on an operating loan from Petters, who owns all the voting shares of Sun Country, to help the low-fare carrier pay its bills during the months of October and November, traditionally low travel months.

Petters' home and office were raided on Sept. 24, and he was put behind bars on Friday.

Gadek said the choice to file for bankruptcy was made over the weekend, since Sun Country did not want to be under the auspices of a court receiver.

Attorney Doug Kelley was appointed the Petters' receiver by a federal judge Monday, and he will take control of the assets of Petters' companies. Because of the filing, though, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Minnesota, Sun Country will be excluded from that court action.

Fourth Petters Defendant may help prosecution

Larry Reynolds, alleged to be Tom Petters' money-laundering connection in Las Vegas and California, seems to be on track for a plea bargain in what authorities have described as a $3 billion investment fraud scheme, the Star Tribune reported.

Two weeks ago, federal prosecutors charged Reynolds and Petters with money laundering and obstruction of justice, and mail and wire fraud. On Thursday, though, they recharged Reynolds in a "felony information" with a single count of money-laundering conspiracy.

Typically, this would mean a plea bargain will follow. Three other defendants in the alleged fraud scheme were charged that way before they all pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the authorities.

The maximum statutory penalty for money-laundering conspiracy is 20 years in prison, but Reynolds might be able to get a cut in that time if he helps prosecuters.

Reynolds, 67, lives in Las Vegas and owned and operated Nationwide International Resources (NIR), a California corporation. His laywer, Fred Bruno, said he has no criminal history.

According to government documents, Reynolds assisted Petters convince investors that he was buying and selling large lots of electronic merchandise with their funding, when in reality there was no such merchandise.

Records show about $12 billion in investor funds were routed from 2002 until last month, through NIR accounts and redirected to Petters Co. Inc., a financing entity owned by Petters.

Dozens killed on bus in Afghanistan

The NY Times reported that Taliban militants stopped a bus traveling on Afghanistan's main highway through a dangerous part of the country's south, took around 50 people on board and killed about 30 of them, officials announced Sunday.

Militants stopped the bus traveling in a two-bus convoy in a Taliban controlled area 40 miles west of Kandahar, provincial police chief Matiullah Khan said.

Afghan officials said no soldiers were aboard and all the victims were civilians. A Taliban spokesman holds accountability for the attack but claimed to have killed 27 Afghan army soldiers.

Khan said two buses had been traveling together, and the pasengers had tried to stop the first one but were unsuccessful. He said the insurgents fired at the first bus, killing a child among many other victims.

Several death tolls have been announced from the attack, hich occurred in an area where government forces cannot travel safely without heavy military protection. This high security is the reason for the attack being announced Sunday instead of Thursday.

The Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, said 31 people were killed and six of the dead were decapitated in a secluded area from where the other 25 bodies were found. Khan had originally said 40 people were killed, but lowered the number at a news conference to 24 people killed.

There was no way to independently determine the number of victims.

''The Taliban want to hide the news that they arrested and killed innocent Afghan civilians,'' Khan said, denying their claim the victims were soldiers.

Colin Powell endorses Obama

President Bush's first secretary of state, Republican Colin Powell, announced Sunday he is endorsing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, the AP reported.

Powell said he belives Obama is better suited to handle the nation's economic problems as well as help improve its standing in the world. He also criticized the tone of Republican presidential candidate, John McCain's campaign.

"It isn't easy for me to disappoint Sen. McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that," said Powelll on NBC's "Meet the Press".

Powell clarified that his decision is not out of lack of respect or admiration for Sen. McCain.

"I think we need a transformational figure. I think we need a president who is a generational change and that's why I'm supporting Barack Obama," Powell said.

The Democratic party has been anticipating Powell's endorsement because of his strong foreign policy credentials, while Obama's are more weak. Powell, a Republican centrist, is popular among moderate voters.

Powell said he is disappointed over McCain's decision to have such a negative campaign, as well as his choice for his running-mate, Sarah Palin.

October 12, 2008

Golden Gate bridge to get suicide-prevention net

The board that controls the Golden Gate Bridge has voted to place a net under the bridge to catch attempted suicide jumpers, the Star Tribune reported.

The plan is not final, as an environmental review still needs to take place, including a look at how a net might affect pelicans and cormorants, frequent visitors of the bridge. Also, a financial plan will need to be created, since they are estimating the net at $40 million to $50 million.

Dr. Mel Blaustein, the president of the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California, supports the idea of the net, calling the bridge a "suicide magnet".

"This is a red-letter day in the history of San Francisco," he said. "Sometimes all they need is a certain amount of time to stop and reflect and change their mind."

About 20 people a year kill themselves at the bridge, where the road hovers more than 200 feet above San Francisco Bay and the railing is only 4 feet high. Last year, however, 38 people killed themselves jumping off this bridge, and this year there have already been 19.

The net, made of wire rope coated with plastic, would hang about 20 feet below the walkways on either side of the bridge and extend 20 feet out.

Denis Mulligan, chief engineer for the bridge, said similar style nets had much success in Europe.

US Senate Candidates stress differences in debate

The three Minnesota U.S. Senate Candidates tried to make their differences in ideas clear in the second general election debate Saturday to a crowd of about 500 people at Breck School in Golden Valley, MPR reported.

Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, Democrat Al Franken and Dean Barkley from the Independence Party, shared different answers when asked what they think the nation's biggest threat is.

Franken said terrorism poses the biggest threat to the nation, blaming Sen. Coleman for his support of the war.

"We started right. We went after al Qaeda and the Taliban but we didn't finish the job, and we got sidetracked to Iraq," Franken said. "And because we were sidetracked to Iraq we have made ourselves less secure."

Barkley said the growing national debt poses the biggest threat to America, attributing Sen. Coleman as part of the problem.

"We're the first generation of Americans who are going to leave our country in worse shape than we inherited it, but we can change it," Barkley said. " I mean how much more can we do? And 40 percent of that debt, Norm, was incurred on your watch."

Coleman said partisan bickering and gridlock in Washington poses the biggest threat to the U.S. right now.

Much of the debate was spent discussing the current financial crisis, similar to the first debate last weekend in Rochester.

Barkley and Franken criticized Coleman of falling down on his oversight duties. Coleman responded by saying that pointing fingers was not going to solve the financial crisis.

On foreign policy, the candidates agreed that the option of taking military action against Iran needs to remain on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The candidates will meet for the third time next weekend in Duluth.

Seattle high-school students now able to receive failing grade

Seattle public high-school students who do poorly can receive a failing grade on their report cards, a policy that has not been in effect for seven years, the Seattle Times reported.

No students have received an E, a mark more commonly known as an F, since 2000. High schools instead handed out N's for "no credit," which didn't affect a student's grade-point average. The E is will be back this semester, effective immediately.

A district committee recently discovered that the exclusive use of N's violated School Board policy. Many local principals and teachers support the decision arguing that students need more of a consequence for failure.

The harsher consequences may have a large impact on athletes, as they are required to maintain a C average to be able to play. Students also may find the college application process more difficult as they look at schools, although local area colleges are aware of the change.

In the past students preferred an N over a D or even a low C, since the N will have no impact on their grade point average.

A few educators say they'll miss the flexibility that the N enabled, especially the ability to send students a message without putting a big dent into their GPAs.

North Korea taken off U.S. Terrorist List

The New York Times has reported that North Korea has been taken off a list of state sponsors of terrorism in a bid to salvage a fragile nuclear deal that looked to be on the verge of collapse, the Bush administration announced Saturday.

The U.S. made the decision after North Korea agreed to continue disabling a plutonium plant and to allow some inspections to confirm that it had stopped its nuclear program as agreed several months earlier, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said.

The deal, seen as a major foreign policy achievement by Bush, began losing its strength in recent weeks in a dispute over the verification program. As recently as last week, North Korea barred international inspectors from the plant.

President Bush, who had called the country part of an “axis of evil�, was still reluctant over sending administration officials to negotiate.

Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, did not approve this motion, arguing that North Korea had yet to prove that it was serious about adhering to its commitment to denuclearize. Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama, called the deal “a modest step forward� in dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Officials of the Bush administration said the deal was the best the U.S. could get at this time, fighting potential criticism that they were seeking a foreign policy victory in their last months.

On Sunday North Korea gladly acknowledged its removal from Washington's terrorism blacklist and said that it would continue disabling its nuclear weapons facilities, enabling U.S. and United Nations monitors back into its main nuclear complex.

Bush administration officials have been debating about the latest deal with its partners in the “six-party� talks, the partners including Russia, South Korea and Japan that negotiated the agreement in 2007 for the North to discontinue its nuclear activities. Japan’s finance minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, called the American decision “extremely regrettable.�

In a press conference Sunday, Kim Sook, South Korea’s main nuclear envoy, expressed his support for the deal.

“We welcome the agreement because we believe this will help put the six-party negotiations back on track and eventually lead to the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear programs,� he said.

Minneapolis Teen Shot and Killed

A Rosevelt High School senior was shot and killed outside a south Minneapolis home Saturday night, the Star Tribune reported.

Police have identified the victim as Jesse Mickelson, 18, who was found near an alley behind the home. Authorities were called just before 7 p.m. in the 4100 block of 29th Avenue S. Mickelson was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said there had been a social gathering at the residence that evening. A relative told KSTP-TV that Jesse Mickelson was shot as he approached a car that pulled up around the back of the house.

Police are looking for a 4-door white Dodge Intrepid that had been spotted in the alley just before the shooting. Police are not releasing any information about the suspects at this time.

This is the thirtieth homicide in Minneapolis this year.

October 5, 2008

Analysis entry on spot and follows

In the Star Tribune story about Tom Petters, a Twin Cities business man who has now been arrested for fraud, the article has a focus that includes additional infomation from the first article. The Star Tribune initially reported that there were rumors of Petters taking part in fraud, but little information was being released from the FBI. In this article, though, the reporter reveals that Petters had secret plans to not be in the country during the presidential election.

This particular follow-up story is one of several involving Tom Petters, so it has the basic information that the original article had, but also has a narrower focus on particular details.

Sarah Palin steps up fight against Obama

Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, lead a strong rally in California Saturday, mainly targeting Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Palin said at the rally that Obama "sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country."

In Palin's speech, she put strong effort trying to link Obama to William Ayers, a former 1960s radical who co-founded the Weather Underground.

"This is not a guy who sees America as you and I see America," she said to a crowd of 10,000 at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Obama's campaign has continuously said that he was a child during the Weather Underground era, and has strongly disapproved the group's radical activities. The Weather Underground took credit for Vietnam War-era protests that included nonfatal explosions targeting the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.

Gabriel Sanchez, spokesman for Obama's California campaign, called Palin's claims "outrageous and a lie".

"It's lies and distortions first, not 'Country First,' " he said of the GOP campaign. "These comments are offensive, but they aren't surprising."

Palin did not schedule time to speak with reporters in Carson, and has no plans to speak with the media while in the Bay Area.

In a reference to a recent interview with Katie Couric, Palin said, "Oh, come on, let's start talking to the American people about the issues that you guys want to know about."

Obama jumps ahead in Minnesota Poll

A new Star Tribune poll reveals that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has taken a strong lead over Republican John McCain.

Of the 1,084 likely Minnesota voters, 55 percent support Obama, while 37 percent support McCain. This poll is a significant change from the September poll which had supporters split almost evenly.

Reasoning for this change has to do with voters' confidence in Obama's ability to deal with the nation's failing economy, his performance in the first presidential debate, as well as an increase in the number of Minnesota Democrats.

Obama's lead is reflected in every demographic of age, gender and occupation.

Other states, including battleground states, are showing an Obama lead as well. Gallup's daily national tracking poll released Friday showed Obama leading McCain by 7 percentage points.

In some states, Obama was trailing in polls by as much as 10%, but has increased in approval and is leading in key states such as Ohio, Virginia and Florida.

High cost of college placing a financial burden on graduates

The average student debt has doubled since the mid 1990s, the Seattle Times reported.

More than two-thirds of all college students borrow money to finance their education; in 1993 the number was less than half. According to one analysis of federal data, of undergraduates who borrow, the average student finished school in 2004 with loans of $19,000, up from $9,000 in 1994.

At the University of Washington, the average undergraduate student who borrows will owe around $16,000 after graduation. Graduate programs, however, are much higher in owed money. Master's students who borrow, finish with an average $36,000 in loans; law students with $66,000; medical students with $106,000; and dental students with $143,000.

Educators and Investors still argue that a higher-education will prove beneficial long-term, but the payoff is not as great as it once was.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average person with a bachelor's degree makes about $51,000 a year, which is $20,000 higher than that of a high-school graduate. They also report, though, that the rate of tuition is about five times higher than it was in the 1980s.

The private sector has been playing a larger role in recent years in writing student loans, and often times they have high interest rates. As the government fails to keep pace with costs, the private sector steps up even more. Last year, they took up 22% of student loans.

For students with graduation in the near future, large loan repayments are becoming an increasing financial burden at a time when they also are thinking about rising health-care costs, expensive housing and a difficult employment market.

Over a dozen soldiers dead in fighting with rebels

An attack by Kurdish separatist rebels in the mountainous border area of eastern Turkey killed 15 soldiers and wounded at least 20, the New York Times reported.

The attack happened Friday night on the Aktutun border post in Semdinli, a district that borders Iran and Iraq, according to the Turkish military.

Twenty-three Kurdish fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also called the P.K.K., were killed as well in Friday's attack. The attack was the deadliest since October 2007, when Kurdish fighters killed 13 Turkish soldiers in a confrontation near the town of Daglica.

Turkey has been fueding with Kurdish separatists in its southeast since the 1980s. Kurdish rebels want an increase in autonomy for Turkey’s minority Kurdish population. The conflict seemed to have died down since its peak in the 1980s and 1990s.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spent more than two hours strategizing with the country’s top security officials on how to move forward and respond to the attack.

In a statement Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, said the attack would “be investigated until the very end to find out how and with whose help� it was carried out.

Regional elections will be held in March, and Turkish authorities will be working hard to show the public that they are determined to punish the rebels for their attacks.

Deoderant Mistaken for Cocaine: Man released from jail

Police let a Shakopee man out of jail this week, two months after they mistook deodorant for cocaine, the Pioneer Press reported.

Cornelius F. Salonis, 31, was arrested in August for suspicion of D.U.I. He was put in jail when police saw a white powder in his car that resembled cocaine, but turned out to be deodorant.

Prosecutors dropped the felony charges Wednesday after receiving the results from the State Crime Lab. Salonis pleased guilty to a misdemeanor charge of drunken driving.

Salonis was sentenced for one year in jail, but the Judge allowed dismissed nine months of the sentence and took off one more month for good behavior. Salonis is now free with the two additional months he spent in jail already.