« January 2009 | Main | March 2009 »

February 28, 2009

Oldest human footprints discovered in Kenya

Scientists in northern Kenya discovered a set of footprints estimated to be 1.5 million years old.

The rare find suggests that one of our earliest ancestors, the Homo ergaster, had a modern foot anatomy and gait much more recently than scientists believed, reported ABC News.

Scientists found four sets of adult footprints as well as a possible child's footprint near Ileret, Kenya. The area also contained animal footprints, such as antelopes, said the Sydney Morning Herald.

The footprints all had short toes, a big toe that was parallel to the others and a high arch. These qualities show evidence of a modern gait.

Until now, the only other footprints discovered were 3.7 million-year-old impressions discovered by Mary Leaky in Tanzania. The older footprints are believed to belong to a less modern hominid, Australopithecus afarensis, who walked upright but is believe to be a closer relative to the ape than to the modern human.

The prints have been reburied for a future excavation in the summer. The team of scientists have been working with the Kenya National Museum to keep the site protected.

Michigan woman gives birth to twins from separate uteri

A Michigan woman gave birth to twins in separate uteri Thursday at Marquette General Hospital.

Sarah Reinfelder, 21, delivered the two baby girls by separate cesarean sections because she has a condition called uterus didelphys, reported Marquette's Mining Journal.

According Dr. Connie Hedmark, one of the physicians that delivered the babies, all females have two uteri that grow together before birth. Uterus didelphys occurs when the two uteri do not grow together and results in two uteri and cervixes. The uteri are different sizes.

The chance that a woman could carry a baby at the same time in each uteri is about one in 5 million. In fact, only three other similar cases have been reported in 40 years.

The babies were seven months premature and will have to be hospitalized for three to four weeks in order for their lungs to become fully developed, according to an Associated Press article in the Los Angeles Times.

Reinfelder and her husband Shane Reinfelder, 23, also have a 10-month toddler. The couple is originally from Sault Ste. Marie but have been living in Marquette in order to be near the hospital.

The couple named their daughters Kaylin Joy and Valerie Marie.


First Bhutan Day celebrated in St. Paul

A celebration for Bhutanese refugees is planned for the first time on Saturday in St. Paul.

Bhutanese families will gather for the event in order to celebrate their culture and learn about available refugee programs in Minnesota, reported MPR.

Those interested will also be able to attend workshops on topics such as job hunting to how to survive a harsh Minnesota winter.

According to an Associated Press article in the Star Tribune, the first refugees arrived in Minnesota last spring.

Currently, there are only 150 refugees living in the Twin Cities, with 7,000 to 8,000 scattered around the rest of the U.S., reported MPR in another article.

There are expected to be a total of 60,000 Bhutanese refugees in the U.S. in the next five years.

Bhutan is a small country between China and India with about 700,000 residents. The refugees are ethnic Napalese who have been persecuted by the Bhutanese government.

February 27, 2009

Downtown Austin fire set deliberately

Investigators announced Friday that the fire that destroyed several businesses in downtown Austin was intentionally set.

Austin Fire Chief Dan Wilson offered a $2,500 reward for anyone with information about who started the Jan. 15 fire, according to an Associated Press article in the Star Tribune

The fire began in the Mi Tierra Clothing Store on the 400 block of Main Street. It eventually damaged six businesses, reported KAAL News.

The damage is estimated at more than one million dollars. It took firefighters more than five hours in order to put out the fire.

Police told KAAL News that the owner of Mi Tiena Clothing smelled smoke inside of the store. Two of the owner's family members were also inside the store when the fire started.

Nearby, a new business, Steve's Pizza, opened on Main Street. Its owner, Steve Davis, installed a new sprinkler system in the building in order to prevent fire damage.

"When you look out the front window you see the building in ruins over there you wouldn't want anything like that to happen,” he told KAAL News.

February 22, 2009

Spot News

A recent example of a news event that has been followed for several days is the speculation surrounding the alleged assault between Chris Brown and Rihanna.

When the story broke on February 8, the L.A. Times wrote the story R&B singer Chris Brown booked on suspicion of making felony criminal threats. The story detailed the information released by police as well as some speculation on what happened.

Ever since, the L.A. Times has written many follow-up stories as related news has become more available. For example, only an hour after the first story broke, another one appeared: Singer Chris Brown under investigation in alleged assault.

This story has several of the same details as the first story, but verifies that Chris Brown is under investigation in connection with the assault.

Information on the story is continually being added as other celebrities, such as Kanye West, family members, such as Chris Brown's stepfather, or the victim herself makes a public statement.

The spot news format is helpful for this news story because it highlights important developments in the story while summarizing the most essential information from past stories.

New Ulm examines golf cart travel

The New Ulm City Council is considering whether golf carts should be allowed on city streets.

The council will review the issue this month, according to an AP article published in MPR.

The idea was brought up in 2008 when gas cost $4 per gallon. At the time, the council tabled the idea and decided to revisit it this month, reported the Mankato's Free Press.

A subcommitte has researched the idea and will make a recommendation to the council.

Two other nearby cities, North Mankato and Wells, also discussed the idea in 2007 but did not make any decisions.

If golf carts are allowed on the city streets, laws that include daylight operation only, mandatory installation of turn-signal lights and seat belts would be enforced.

Police close to arresting suspect in Chandra Levy case

Police are close to making an arrest in connection with the murder of Chandra Levy.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier told Levy's family Friday that charges would be pressed in several days, according to the New York Times.

The suspect, Ingmar Guandique, 27, is currently serving a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to assault in September 2001. He was accused of attacking women on two different occasions in May and June of that year at Rock Creek Park, which is the same park in Washington where police officials found Levy's body in 2002.

An inmate of Guandique contacted police and said that Guandique had told him he killed Levy.

The investigation of the disappearance of 24-year-old Levy in May 2001 revealed the illicit relationship between Levy and California Rep. Gary Condit, according to Fox News.

The media's coverage of the investigation led to speculations that Condit was involved in the disappearance even though police never named him as a suspect.

The case was forgotten, however, after the attacks of Sept. 11.

Explosion in Chinese mine kills 74, 114 injured

74 miners died and 114 were injured Sunday from a gas explosion in a Chinese coal mine.

436 miners were in the Tunlan Coal Mine in Gujiao city near Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province when the blast occurred before dawn, according to an AP report published by CBS News.

113 were hospitalized, including 21 miners in critical condition. Most of the hospitiazlied were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, reported the BBC News.

Earlier reports said there were at least 65 more miners still trapped.

The state-controlled China Central TV (CCTC) said 100 rescuers were working to free the trapped miners but a fire in the shaft was delaying their progress.

The Shanxi Coking Coal Group owns this mill and operates 27 others. It is the largest producer of coal in China.

Last year more than 3,000 people died in coal mine accidents, making China's mines the most dangerous in the world.

The last deadly coal mine accident occurred in December 2007, when 105 miners died from a gas eplosion in Linfen city in Shanxi province.

February 19, 2009

Rep. Ellison visits Gaza Strip

Rep. Keith Ellison and Rep. Brian Baird of Washington traveled to the Gaza Strip Thursday to view the damage caused by the three weeks of fighting in the area.

His visit is the one of the first made by a high-level U.S. official for more than three years, according to a Star Tribune article.

Ellison met with Gaza civilians and relief workers Thursday in towns destroyed by recent Hamas' rocket attacks.

Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, the spokeswoman for the U.S. consulate said the lawmakers would also meet with U.N. officials, reported the
Pioneer Press.

No plans have been made to meet with Hamas officials.

Ellison told CNN International that the destruction from Israel's recent military operation in Gaza was beyond description.

""I've always believed we need to resolve this thing by diplomacy," said Ellison to the Star Tribune. "I'm even more convinced of that now."

The U.S. State Department warned the lawmakers before they left about the danger in the area and the Obama administration did not give them an official sanction.

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, has recently made several trips to the Middle East.

St. Thomas approves biggest construction project in school history

The University of St. Thomas approved constructions plans Thursday for a $52 million athletic and recreation complex and a $66 million student center.

The two new buildings on the university's St. Paul campus is the largest construction project in the school's history, according to a
Pioneer Press
article.

The athletic complex will be built east of the football stadium on Summit and Cretin avenues. The athletic arena, field house and theater occupy the space currently but will be demolished when construction begins in May.

The student center will be connected to the athletic complex and will be located south of the football field. A parking lot and swimming pool occupy the space currently but will also be demolished.

The athletic complex is scheduled to open in the fall of 2010 and the student center is scheduled to open in 2012.

Mark Dienhart, the university's executive vice president and chief operating officer, told the Star Tribune that the current athletic facility was built in 1939 and the current student center was built for a student body of 2,000.

There are now nearly 7,500 students on the St. Paul campus.

"These type of facilities, which are very important to students, just didn't match up to the type of schools they were considering when they were looking at St. Thomas," Dienhart said to the Star Tribune. "So we lost some students. We're trying to ensure the viability of the institution."

February 15, 2009

Children's letters to Obama express hope, dreams

A free e-book, composed of 150 letters written by children to President Obama, is being released on President's Day.

The National Education Association and kidthing.com joined together to create the "Dear Mr. President" project.

Children ages 5-12 submitted their letters in January during the weeks leading up to the inauguration, according to the Associated Press printed in the Los Angeles Times.

Kidthing was flooded with more than 4,500 submissions on topics ranging from the war to climate change.

For example, a Latino child wrote, "Please change the immigration laws so my dad can come back from Mexico."

Other children, such as Aaron Van Blerkom, 7, wrote about less serious topics by saying,"Dear Mr. Obama, please make it rain candy!"

A hardcopy edition of the book will be sent to the White House for President Obama.

Seven-year-old Aaron Van Blerkom's letter was simpler — but no less problematic.

"Dear Mr. Obama," the Pasadena, Calif., first-grader began, "Please Make it rain candy!"

Structure

In the Wall Street Journal article, Investigators: Turboprop in Intense Roll Just Before Crash, the progression of news information in the story contains several different elements.

First, the story is an update or follow-up of a breaking news story, so the newest information about the findings of the federal investigators is placed in the lead and further explained in the nut graf.

After this, the story turns into a chronological narration about the events that lead up to the plane crash.

At the end, some fact blocks that have already been placed in earlier stories are repeated, such as the number of people dead.

This was an effective structure for the story because it updated the reader on the newest information but also provided older details in case this was the first time the reader had read about the story.

Buffalo plane crash may have been caused by improper procedure

The National Transportation Board announced Sunday that the Buffalo plane crash may have been caused by the pilots' adherence to improper procedure in icy weather.

The Continental Connection commuter plane was on autopilot before it crashed, according to an Associated Press article published in the Star Tribune.

Colgan Air, the company that owned Continental Flight 3407, requires all planes to be flown manually in severe icy conditions.

Investigators said the pilots were told of the "light to moderate icing" conditions before departing New Jersey. As a precaution, the crew turned on the de-icing system quickly after takeoff and it remained on for the entire flight, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The plane was on autopilot until the plane started to intense drops and rolls right before the crash. According to the data released by the board, the plane dropped 800 feet in approximately five seconds.

All 49 people aboard and one person on the ground died.

Microsoft plans to open retail stores

Microsoft announced Friday its plans to open retail stores in order to better compete with Apple.

David Porter, a former DreamWorks animation executive, was named vice president of retail stores on Thursday. He will be in charge of how many stores will open, when they will open, and which products wil be sold, reported the International Herald Tribune.

Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, told BBC News that the company is planning to sell computers already installed with Microsoft software, such as the new operating system Windows 7, and other products.

Last fall the company launched a $300 million ad campaign to adjust its image after receiving poor public response to its Vista operating system and being the target in many of Apple's ads. .

Apple, which has more than 200 stores around the world, is a serious competitor in the personal computer and digital music player market and owes much of its success to its retail stores.

Microsoft's decision, however, has come at a bad time for the electronic industry. Circuit City declared bankruptcy in November and an attempt by Gateway, a computer company, to open retail stores failed.

Microsoft also makes the Xbox video game console and the Zune MP3 player.

St. Louis Park man died from smoke inhalation

A St. Louis Park man died Friday after being found by firefighters inside of his burning house.

The Hennepin County medical examiner identified the man as Thomas Costello Holden, 56, according to an Associate Press article printed in the Pioneer Press.

The medical examiner said that Holden died from smoke inhalation but the manner of death is still unknown.

Fire officials received a call from a neighbor around 1 p.m., who reported smoke and flames coming from the structure, said said St. Louis Park spokesman Jamie Zwilling to the Star Tribune.

Holden was found in the first-floor bedroom of his house on the 4100 block of Alabama Avenue, reported the Star Tribune.

Holden was pronounced dead on the scene.

Fire officials believe the fire started in the back of the house near the kitchen but the official cause is still unknown.

The house did not appear to have working smoke detectors.

Rise in college tuition sparks protests

College students from Winona State University and Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical protested Friday against cuts to higher education funding.

Students gathered in an outside common area at WSU around a smashed car, according to an article from the Winona Daily News.

The car represented the shape of the economy and its negative effects on students. The protesters also led students and staff in chants of "Stop the crash!" and other phrases.

Caitlin Stene, acting president of the WSU Student Senate told the Winona Daily News that she was afraid what her children will have to pay for higher education.

Tuition at WSU has increased 85 percent since 2001, from $3,110 to $5,768 per year, reported MPR.

After graduation, the average debt of a Minnesota college student is $24,000, according to the Project on Student Debt.

Governor Tim Pawlenty has proposed a $146 million cut to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, which includes 32 higher education institutions within the state of Minnesota.

WSU President Judith Ramaley supported the students protests and criticized the state cuts.

The student groups that organize the rally and others in the state plan to lobby lawmakers Wednesday in St. Paul.

February 8, 2009

Attribution

In the article 65,000 gallons of oil sludge spills near Chicago, several examples of attribution are given.

Even though the article is small, seven attributions were used. Most of these sources were officials involved in the incident, such as a U.S. Coast Guard officer, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency or police.

None of the sources were named in the lead, but most of them were eventually named after the information was attributed.

Attribution from different sources were scattered through out the story in order to make the story seem more credible and fair.

Many of the attributions are crediting comments from interviewees. The only exception would be a statement issued by the Caterpillar company.

Overall, the way the reporter chose to attribute his/her sources was effective and clear.

Oil sludge leaks into a Chicago river

Oil sludge leaked from a Caterpillar facility Sunday into the Des Plaines River.

A holding tank spilled approximately 65,000 gallons of oil sludge from the facility in Joliet, a Chicago suburb.

The sludge was mainly spilled on land, but 6,000 gallons contaminated a 3-mile section of the river, according to the Pioneer Press.

A U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer said the spill was not a serious threat to human health but could be dangerous to animals.

All barge and boat traffic has been stopped.

Caterpillar released a statement that said an investigation into how the sludge leaked will begin shortly. The company also assured the public everything possible is being done to clean the oil sludge.

Local officials, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency have placed a floating wall in the water in order to isolate the area, reports Fox News.

Minneapolis is seen as an unpopular place to live

Only 16 percent of Americans would like to live in Minneapolis, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

The results, which were announced last Sunday, placed Minneapolis as the 5th least desirable place to live, reported USA Today.

The findings came from a telephone survey of 2, 260 adults in October.

The survey also found that almost half of Americans would like to live somewhere else. The factors that most heavily influenced where Americans chose to live were gender, age and political ideology.

The three most popular cities to live were Denver, San Diego and Seattle.

An editorial article from the http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/travel/minnesota/39062212.html?elr=KArksUUUU disagrees with the findings. The reporter, Bill Ward, wrote comedic quips about some of the higher rated cities, such as Phoenix:

"Smoggy and stupefyingly hot. 'But it's a dry heat!' locals proudly proclaim. Uh, it's a hundred-and-freaking-fourteen, folks. Love those scorpions, too."

Newly elected president of Somalia raises hope

The Somali Parliament elected Sheik Sharif Sheikh Ahmed Saturday as the president of the country's transitional government.

The election took place in Djibouti and results were announced a little before 4 a.m., reports the New York Times.

Sheik Sharif, a modest Islamic cleric, defeated Gen. Maslah Mohamed Siad, son of the former dictator, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Siad Barre, and Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein.

The people of Mogadishu celebrated in the streets after hearing the news early Saturday morning.

Currently, the transitional government operates from Dijibouti, because Al-Shabaab, a radical Islamist militia took control of the government's base in Baidoa last week. The group has ties to al Qaeda, according to CNN.

Somalia has been in the hands of several militias since General Siad Barre was removed from power in 1991. The country has been left in anarchy because there has been no functional central government.

Al-Shabaab recently gained control after Ethiopian forces withdrew from Baidoa. However, several analysts believe the militia will lose political control now that the fight against Ethiopia is over.

Sheik Sharif believes he can stop the turmoil that has lasted 18 years, according to the New York Times.

“I promise that I will serve my people loyally and neutrally without color or clan,? he said. “I call other Somalis who are not part of this peace process to join us.?

February 7, 2009

Pioneer Press newsroom faces consequences of economy

Union workers at the St. Paul Pioneer Press accepted a week-long unpaid furlough Friday.

The request was made by the newspaper's Denver-based owner MediaNews Group because of debt problems caused by the advertising meltdown, according to a MinnPost article.

The Newspaper Guild workers voted on a provision that would require 307 employees to take five unpaid days off between Feb. 9 and April 30. Those affected include newsroom, advertising, circulation, business and maintenance workers.

MediaNews Group hopes this measure will prolong the need for lay-offs, but Minnesota Public Radio reports that the paper's management has not promised the furlough will eliminate that possibility.

Management is concerned that the furlough will affect the quality of news at the paper since the staff will be so short-handed. Freelancers are not allowed to replace staffers and 70 percent of the furloughs must happen by March 31, according to MinnPost.

In addition to the furlough, the newspaper laid off four newsroom employees Friday, according to another MinnPost article.

Thom Fladung, an editor, sent a memo in response to the layoffs. He announced the merging of the news and sports copy desks and gave advice to his fellow journalists.

"What can we all be doing, right here and right now, to help? Journalism. Break exclusive news online and in print. Tell stories that can't be found anywhere else. Find photos that jump off the page and videos that must be watched. Design dynamic illustrations and pages. Write headlines that demand to be read," he said.


February 5, 2009

Groping suspect admits charges are true

A Minneapolis man confessed Thursday to sexually assaulting 10 University of Minnesota female students.

Police charged Phillip W. Acosta, 41, with two counts of fifth-degree criminal sexual assault after being arrested Tuesday in connection to two earlier incidents.

According to the Minnesota Daily, two University Police Officers arrested Costa near 19th Avenue South and First Street.

The officers found Acosta fleeing on foot after assaulting a woman near McNamara Alumni Center around 8:30 p.m. After arresting Acosta, another woman reported an assault that occurred earlier in the evening near Moos Towers.

University Police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner announced Wednesday in a press conference that both women identified Acosta as the man who had groped them.

Acosta will remain in the Hennepin County jail until all charges are reported, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

According to the Star Tribune, all of the assaults occurred on or near the university's Minneapolis campus and were first reported on Dec. 9.

University and Minneapolis police believe Acosta assaulted all of the women by coming up to them from behind, either by bicycle or on foot, and grabbing their genital area.

February 2, 2009

Leads

Dozens killed as petrol tanker explodes in Kenya, an article published in the Guardian, is an example of a piece of hard-news that begins in true inverted-pyramid form.

Here is the lead and a few subsequent sentences from the article:

"At least 111 people were killed and more than 200 injured after an overturned petrol tanker exploded in Kenya yesterday, police said today.

The tanker exploded in the town of Molo, about 105 miles from Nairobi, after crowds had gathered around it in an attempt to collect free fuel.

Nearby hospitals were filled with victims, including small children, who had suffered severe burns in the blast."

The lead begins by describing the action or the "what" - the deaths and injuries from the tanker. The journalist mentions the "how" by explaining the that the tanker exploded, but no specific cause is mentioned. The lead also includes a general mention of the "where" and "when" but like the "how," is not specific until later in the story.

This type of lead works since the explosion just happened Saturday, so the emphasis of the lead is on the current death toll. Once the cause of the explosion is reported, that may become the new emphasis of a lead.

Target cuts jobs at its Twin Cities headquarters

Target Corp. cut 600 employees and 400 open positions from its downtown work force Tuesday in order to remain afloat during the economic recession. According to the Downtown Journal, these cuts represent 9 percent of the company's corporate Twin Cities employees.

The decision came after Target's sales in December were less than expected for the sixth straight month, reported the Pioneer Press.

Those affected by the lay-off will receive pay and benefits through April 1. After this date, packages, which will include 12 months of health care, will be sent based on years employed.

As companies continue to make cuts, more Minnesotans realize jobs here are no safer than anywhere else. In 2008 the state's unemployment rate rose to 6.9 percent - a 25-year high - which is comparable to the nation's unemployment rate of 7.2, according to the United States Department of Labor.

Mayor R.T. Rybak offered his condolences to the laid-off workers and offered the Minnesota Dislocated Worker Program as a career counseling resource, reported the Downtown Journal.

"Members of the talented Target team make contributions to the city everyday, and now is the time for the rest of the community to give these workers the support they need in their career transitions. We will work with our local employers to do all we can to keep these talented workers in this community."

Target also closed a distribution center in Little Rock, Ark. that employed 500 people.

Bald eagle population prospering in southern Minnesota

The bald eagle population is exponentially increasing in southern Minnesota, according to an Associated Press article published in the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the species from the endangered species list in 2007 after being listed for almost 40 years under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. Their near extinction was caused by DDT and lead poisoning, illegal shooting and loss of habitat.

The state's Department of Natural Resources now reports 872 bald eagle nests, which is a 670 percent increase from the number of nests recorded in 1973. Residents of the Fairmont area have also reported seeing the birds.

DNR nongame wildlife specialist Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer said to the Associated Press that bald eagles only need a few things in order to thrive: tree cover, an adequate food supply and some distance from other nesting pairs.

February 1, 2009

Tanker explosion in Kenya kills many

111 people died and more than 200 people were injured after a gasoline tanker exploded Saturday in Kenya.

The explosion occurred in Molo, a town approximately 105 miles west of Nairobi, reports The Guardian.

Many of the victims were women and children who had gathered around the overturned tanker to collect free gasoline.

BBC News reports that the cause has not been announced. Witnesses say the cause was a lit cigarette but others believe it was started intentionally after police tried to keep people away from the tanker.

Local hospitals, such as the Nakuru Provincial General Hospital and Molo District Hospital, are now flooded with burn victims, reports Kenya's http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/522744/-/item/0/-/x7ce65z/-/index.html. Those in critical condition have been airlifted by the Kenya Air Force to Nairobi for further treatment.

The death toll is likely to climb as Red Cross officials are still trying to identify many of the charred bodies.