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April 25, 2009

Public Records

In the investigative series, The Informant, two Star Tribune reporters uncovered corruption that was being done by Minneapolis cops.

As the article wrote, "The Star Tribune, through confidential police and court documents, has retraced the inner workings of that public corruption probe from its origins on the streets of Minneapolis in late 2006."

The reporters had to have strong knowledge of how to request police and court documents and how to find valuable information from them.

They received documents from the Minneapolis Police Department, the FBI, federal and state courts, and the offices of the Minneapolis city attorney, the Anoka County attorney and the Hennepin County sheriff.

Some examples of the types of documents they requested are transcripts of Minneapolis police internal affairs unit interviews with police officers and officials, and with an informant in the public corruption probe, an FBI report recounting the investigation and confession of a police officer who accepted money from an FBI informant, and a federal indictment of a police officer who confessed to taking money after providing confidential information to an informant.

There are many other sources they used but all of these reporting methods helped them to write a comprehensive and accurate story that began as an anonymous tip.

"Baby Shaker" application for iPhone pulled by Apple

Apple pulled an application called "Baby Shaker" from its online store Wednesday after the company received outraged complaints from child welfare groups.

The 99-cent-application, created by a company called Sikalosoft, was available for iPhone users to download on Monday through Apple's App store, said the New York Daily News.

The application shows a sketch of a infant. When the infant begins to cry, the user can shake the device to silence the infant. After enough shakes, the crying will stop and two red Xs will appear over the infant's eyes.

The day Apple posted the application also coincided with the beginning of Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week, said the
Chicago Tribune

Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris told the Chicago Tribune that the company evaluates the applications before they are posted. Obviously, she said, there was an error.

"This application was deeply offensive," she said. "We sincerely apologize for this mistake."

April 24, 2009

New evidence in the Craiglist murder case

A match was made Friday between the bullets that killed Julissa Brisman, an aspiring model, and a gun found in the home of Philip Markoff.

Officials said they are still waiting for the final results from the ballistics test, said the New York Times.

Markoff, a Boston University medical student, was charged with Tuesday with killing Brisman, a 25-year-old masseuse he met through Craigslist, in another Boston hotel on April 14. He was also charged with robbing another woman at gunpoint in a Boston hotel, said
Associated Press

Markoff pleaded not guilt on Tuesday to the Boston charges.

Law officials said that a fingerprint was found at a Rhode Island hotel where an exotic dancer was held at gunpoint that matches that of Markoff.

However, he has not been charged in the Rhode Island case.

Suicide bombers in Baghdad kill at least 60

Two suicide bombers killed at least 60 people and injured 125 others Friday near a Shiite shrine in Baghdad.

The attack occured as people were gathering from Friday prayers at the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine in the Kadhimiya area, said
BBC News

CNN also reported that the site is considered one of the holiest shrines in the Shia sect of Islam.

A senior Iraqi bomb disposal officer told Reuters news agency that the suicide bombers packed explosives in two leather bags and placed them among the crowds at the gate to the shrine.

"They used sidestreets to get there and this enabled them to avoid checkpoints," said Major-General Jihad al-Jabiri to BBC News.

Many of the people killed or injured were Iranian pilgrims.

According to the Iraqi State TV, the Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ordered an investigation into the attacks.

This is the third attack in the Kadhimiya neighborhood this month.

April 23, 2009

Volunteers needed to remove sandbags

The Salvation Army called all volunteers to the neighboorhoods recently flooded by the Red River Thursday to help remove sandbags.

Residents of Fargo and Moorhead need help removing about a million sandbags, said the Star Tribune.

Annette Bauer, the charity's spokeswoman, told the Star Tribune that help is needed.

"The outlook for a swell of volunteers is bleak," she said.

Volunteers need to be available on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, be able to lift 25 pounds continually and be willing to get dirty. Volunteers should report to the old Wal-Mart in Dilworth, Minn.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota is also asking volunteers to report to the area on April 25 and May 2, said the Pioneer Press.

Hamline vandalized by graffiti

Vandalism was discovered Wednesday morning on the campus of Hamline University in St. Paul.

The graffiti, which was found mainly Admissions House and the Theta Chi fraternity house, included spray-painted homophobic slurs and sexually graphic images, said the Star Tribune.

Although most of the graffiti has been cleaned up, the vandalism came at the end of Hamline's Rainbow Week, which celebrates the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, said the Pioneer Press.

President Linda Hanson notified the students, faculty and other associate with school in a letter that assured school officials and police would "pursue every avenue to discover the perpetrators of this vandalism."

In addition to the two buildings, shrubbery, trees and sidewalks on campus were also vandalized.

Kale Anderson, 20, a junior who lives in the Theta Chi fraternity, told the Star Tribune he believes the vandalism was not brought on by intolerance but because of "childishness."

"It must have been drunk people," he said, "or just people screwing around."

April 17, 2009

Coleman appeals Senate decision

After judges ruled unanimously Monday that Al Franken is the winner of the U.S. Senate seat, Norm Coleman is beginning his appeal.

Even though he knows many Minnesotans are tired of hearing about the election, he believes "the law is on our side," said the Star Tribune.

His argument centers around how absentee ballots were counted. He said that in some places, such as Minneapolis, ballots were counted even though there were flaws such as missing signatures or unregistered witnesses. In other places, such as Carver County, ballots with these mistakes were thrown out.

However, the three-judge panel ruled that Franken had won by 312 votes.

According to an opinion article by the
Pioneer Press
, the judges agreed with Coleman that there were variations in the treatment of absentee ballots. However, the judges also agreed with Franken by saying that these variations did not violate the voter's constitutional right to equal protection under law.

If Coleman appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court, the question would be "what tolerance for error is acceptable."

Obama announced plan for high-speed rail line

President Obama announced Thursday that $8 billion of federal stimulus money will be allocated to building a high-speed rail system.

Ten lines were chosen as high-priority projects and included a nine-state Midwestern network that will look around a rail hub in Chicago, said the
Chicago Tribune.

The funding will also include an additional $1 billion annually given to states for five years to improve passenger rail.

"High-speed rail is long overdue, and this plan lets American travelers know that they are not doomed to a future of long lines at the airports or jammed cars on the highways," Obama said to the Los Angeles Times. "There's no reason why we can't do this."

Trains passing through Chicago could be up and running as soon as 2012 to 2014. These lines would connect with Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., on one corridor and Detroit and Pontiac, Mich., on another. Later, routes connecting the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Louisville would be added.

Outside of the Midwest, high-speed lines in Florida, Texas and the Pacific Northwest are being considered.

Burnsville bartender breaks cocktail record

A Burnsville bartender broke the record for the most cocktails made in one hour Thursday at the Shout House, a dueling piano bar in downtown Minneapolis.

Chris Raph, 31, made 662 cocktails, easily breaking the current world record of 389 cocktails held by a bartender in Munich, Germany, said the Star Tribune.

A crowd of more than 300 people, which included an official judge from the Guinness World Records, gathered to watch the attempt, saidCity Pages.

The record-breaking 290th drink was auctioned for $225 and the 662nd drink was auctioned for $175. The proceeds went to charity.

According to the Guinness rules, each drink must be different otherwise the bartender may get away with just making several hundred screwdrivers.

But Raph said he kept it simple and had three bar-backs working to clear the drinks and clean the glasses.

Behind the bar, Raph had 110 bottles of vodka and tequilla, and gallons of fruit juice.

It took months for Raph to prepare for the event. After he learned about the record last summer, he contacted Guinness and then created a list of 784 drinks to work off of.

April 16, 2009

India begins month-long elections

India's elections began Thursday and are expected to be one of the messiest elections in recent years.

Millions have already voted in 124 constituencies as the first round of the month-long elections begin, said BBC News.

The currently governing Indian National Congress faces strong opposition from the Bharatiya Janata Party as well as a third front of communist and local parties, said the New York Times.

More than 714 million people are eligible to vote for 543 members of Parliament. The election results are to be announced May 16.

The Central Election Commission has indicated that turnout has been as high as 86 percent in some places.

However, scorching heat and Maoist rebel attacks, in which at least 18 people have been killed, have deterred some from voting, said the New York Times.

More than two million security personnel have been deployed throughout the country, many in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

United Airlines institutes new policy regarding obese passengers

United Airlines announced Wednesday that the company will be implementing a new policy that places restrictions on obese passengers.

If a passenger is unable to fit in a single sit, wear a seat belt or put an armrest completely down, the airline's first action would be to find a pair of empty adjoining seats where the passenger could sit free of charge, said the Chicago Sun-Times.

If this cannot be done, the passenger would have to buy a second seat at the cost of the original seat or pay the cost of upgrading.

If this also cannot be done, the passenger would be asked to rebook their trip on the next available flight. If the passenger cancels the trip at this point, he or she would get a full refund.

United Airlines said they decided to adopt the policy after receiving more than 700 complaints last year, said The Guardian.

Critics suspect that there will be a considerable amount of protest since many flights are take-off at full or nearly-full capacity.

April 12, 2009


In the article Banquet celebrates the good news with the Hmong economy, a Twin Cities Daily Planet reporter writes about a Hmong banquet.

The banquet celebrated the success of local Hmong businesses despite the economy.

The article is not necessarily a substantial piece of reporting because it does not probe very deeply into any issues facing Hmongs in particular.

However, the journalist covered the event well because clearly told the important achievements of certain business owners in the Hmong community.

Most of this information was told by observations of the event as well as quotes from speakers.

While this article does not convey a stereotype in any way, it is not very substantive.

U.S. Captain is rescued from pirates

Capt. Richard Phillips was rescued by U.S. forces Sunday from Somalian pirates after being held captive since Wednesday.

Three of the captors were killed during the rescue mission.

Phillips was placed aboard the Navy destroyer Bainbridge and was flown by helicopter to another ship before he received a medical examination, said New York Times.

The pirates held Phillips since Wednesday in a motorized lifeboat after his crew had been released from the cargo ship.

Phillips was being held at ransom for $2 million.

The FBI began an investigation Saturday into the hijacking of the cargo ship, said CNN News.

The Justice Department will be reviewing evidence to decide whether charges will be brought against an uninjured pirate.

April 11, 2009

President of Liberia visits the U

President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf spoke to a sold-out crowd at the University of Minnesota on Friday.

Sirleaf is Liberia's first female president. She visited Minnesota as a part of a national tour to promote her memoir, said the
Star Tribune

The "iron lady" also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for public service, said the Minnesota Daily.

During her lecture, she talked about permanent residency and the possibility of dual citizenship for Liberians living in the U.S.

Many of those living here were granted special immigration status in order to flee from the country's long civil war.

Minnesota has the largest Liberian population in the country with 20,000 to 30,000 Liberians living in mainly Brooklyn Park or Brooklyn Center.

The lecture was a part of the Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series, which is sponsored by the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Retired priest injures crowd after Good Friday service

An 89-year-old woman died and four others were injured after a retired priest drove his car into a crowd Friday following a Good Friday service at a church in western Pennsylvania.

Madelyn Romell was hit by the car while she was waiting for a ride outside of St. Maurice Church in Forest Hills, Penn., said CNN News.

Officials said Romell, whose leg was severed in the accident, died at an area hospital.

The retired priest had just finished helping with an afternoon service was driving around the church entrance when his car accelerated into the crowd, said the Los Angeles Times.

The other four people injured did not sustain life-threatening injuries.

Romell attended services daily and her husband was in the crowd but was not injured.

April 9, 2009

Father of missing St. Thomas student asks for help

The father of missing St. Thomas freshman Dan Zamlen asked for the public's help to find his son, who has been missing since early Sunday morning.

Dale Zamlen of Eveleth, Minn., spoke at a press conference Wednesday at University of St. Thomas.

More than 500 students have volunteered to search for Zamlen on Monday, who is believed to have gone missing on the bluffs areas of S. Mississippi River Blvd. and St. Clair Avenue.

If found, Zamlen, who is a Type I diabetes, would likely to be in a diabetic coma.

St. Paul Police have asked residents in the area to search their garages, sheds and homes in case the boy tried to seek shelter, said the
Star Tribune.

St. Thomas officials requested that amateur searches stay away from the river bluffs, said the Minnesota Daily.

Zamlen called friends around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday to ask for help before his phone cut out.

He is 6-feet-1 and 175 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a dark blue zip-up fleece, light blue T-shirt, blue jeans and brown Dr. Martens shoes. He was carrying a black iPhone and a blue hand-held insulin meter.

Georgians begin protest in hopes of presidential resignation

Tens of thousands of people gathered to protest Thursday in Tbilisi in hopes of forcing President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign.

The protest, which has remained peaceful so far, is centralized in front of the Georgian parliament. However, several thousand protesters broke away from the main march in the afternoon and went to the headquarters of the national television station to demand live broadcast of the protest.

Opponents planned the protest to begin on Georgia's National Day of Unity, which honors the death of 20 people during a 1989 anti-Soviet protest, said the Associated Press.

Saakashvili has been blamed by opponents for destroying foreign relations with Russia after Georgia was defeated in a five-day war, said the New York Times.

The war drove thousands from their homes and caused two separatist regions to gain recognition from Russia.

Saakashvili has also been blamed for changing from an energetic, pro-Western reformist to an authoritative dictator, protestors said.

He was re-elected last year and his term does not end until 2013.

April 4, 2009


In the Pioneer Press article "More office space sits empty," many numbers were used to describe the rising office-vacancy rate.

The reporter used numbers for the difference in rates in the overall metro area, as well as in different segments of the area. The change in dollar amount per square foot of office space was also described with numbers.

I thought the article was overwhelming because of the excessive use of numbers and lost interest quickly in the story.

I think he could have reported the percent change between two rates (ex. the rate has increased by 20%) instead of writing both rates in numerical form.

The sources are not listed.

I understand that numbers had to be included in this story, but the story had no energy or interest.

Sold-out crowd enjoys Britney Spears concert

The Target Center was filled Friday night for Britney Spears' first concert tour in five years, "The Circus Starring Britney Spears."

The big-top theme was enhanced by aerial artists, clowns, jugglers, contortionists, acrobats, a strong man, a magician and 16 dancers, said Star Tribune.

The concert began with a video introduction by Perez Hilton, a celebrity blogger, and continued with burlesque performances centered around the ringmaster, Spears.

The tour started in New Orleans on March 3 and will stop in 27 U.S. cities before going to Europe in June, said the Seattle Times.

The tour reaffirms the fact that Spears' life is finally starting to come together after having her divorce, custody battles and rehabilitation in the spotlight. Her "Circus" CD, which was released in December, has already sold more than a million copies.

April 3, 2009

Thai man is imprisoned for anti-monarchy comments

A Thai man was sentenced to 10 years in jail Friday because he posted comments on the Internet that insulted the country's monarchy.

Suwicha Thakhor, 37, was arrested in January from his home in Nakhon Phanon, a province in northeast Thailand.

Thakhor was found guilty of lese-majeste, or insulting the monarchy. This offense is considered quite serious, because many people in the country see the 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej as semi-divine, said Reuters.

After pleading guilty to two charges of lese-majeste, Thakhor had his sentence reduced from 20 years to 10 years.

According to BBC News, more than 5,000 websites have been blocked in the past year for similar offenses toward the monarchy.

Iowa Supreme Court approves same-sex marriage

Iowa became the third state in the United States to approve same-sex marriage Friday after the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a 1998 law limiting marriage between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

The decision came after a four-year trial that began with a suit that six same-sex couples brought to the lower courts, said the New York Times .

Same-sex could begin as soon as 21 days and will be permitted for at least two years.

Those opposed to the ruling are expected to lobby for a state constitutional amendment that could send the issues to voters, said CNN News.

If voters were asked to vote on a constitutional amendment, the state legislature would have to approve a ban on same-sex marriage in two consecutive sessions before a vote would be taken.

Iowa does not have a residency requirement for getting a marriage license, which may lead many to the state temporarily from other states.

April 2, 2009

Husband and wife injured after robbery

A husband and wife were injured after being shot by a robber Thursday in their St. Paul home.

The robber knocked on the front door and forced his way in when the door was answered.

Police received a 911 call coming from the home in the 400 block of Blair Avenue, said the Pioneer Press.

Both victims were taken to Regions Hospital and are have noncritical conditions.

Police also said that the couple recognized the shooter, but there are no suspects in custody and the police have not released descriptions, said the Star Tribune.

The couple are in their 40s and have five children, who range in age from 2 to 15. None of them were home at the time of the shooting.

Body of St. Cloud professor found in Utah's Canyonlands

The National Park Service announced Thursday that the body of a St. Cloud State University biology professor was found March 19 in Utah's Canyonlands National Park.

Jerry Wolff, 65, was discovered by another hiker near a canyon in the park's Needle District, reported

After the body was found, it was sent to the Utah Medical Examiner's Office where Wolff was identified using dental records, said the Star Tribune.

Wolff had been missing for 10 months before his body was found.

Before he entered the park in mid-May, he sent a note to his family and friends saying, "I am gone in a remote wilderness where I can return my body and soul to nature. There is no reason for anyone to look for me, just leave me where I am."

It appears that Wolff died from a single gunshot to the head.

Wolff joined the St. Cloud university faculty in 2006 as an internationally known expert on animal behavior. He had also worked for the National Science Foundation.

Shawn Thomas, who had lived with Wolff before he left for Utah, said that he is glad to have closure.