May 5, 2007

Kenyan Jet Crashes;114 People Missing

A Kenyan Airways jet carrying 114 passengers crashed in southern Cameroon Saturday, according to multiple sources. People in nearby villages reported hearing a loud boom, according to the AP. The jet was headed for Nairobi at the time of its crash.

The plane crash occured in a heavily forrested area, which has made the search for survivors difficult. The AP reported that search planes have been flying over the area, but no wreckage has been found and no survivors have been spotted.

Weather may have played a part in the crash, as the plane departed in torrential downpour, according to Reuters. A local government official told Reuters that a plan is in place to locate any survivors.

"The crisis committee ... has decided to set up several teams made up of villagers to continue the search throughout the night," Placide Ndobo said.

It is still to early to determine the exact cause of crash.

"We need to get information from the technical experts as to whether it was occasioned by the weather or pilot error or mechanical fault,? Ali Chirau Makwere, Kenya's transportation minister, told the AP.

April 29, 2007

Food Safety Inspectors Head to China to Investigate Melamine.

Melamine, a chemical made from coal, has been reported as the deadly ingredient found in the pet food that has killed a number of pets in recent weeks. Officials in China said Sunday that the chemical has been secretely added to animal feed for years.

The general manger of a Chinese chemical company spoke to the International Herald Tribune about melamine. He said that melamine scraps are routinely bought by companies and added to their animal feeds. The chemical resembles protien in tests, so it adds some value to the food, although it has no nutritional value.

"I don't know if there's a regulation on it," said Ji Denghui of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui Chemical Company. " Probably not. No law or regulation says 'don't do it,' so everyone's doing it. The laws in China are like that, aren't they? If there's no accident, there won't be any regulation."

Melamine is not believed to be highly toxic, which makes it suprising that it became so lethal in pet foods. Still, the chemical's presence in any form of American food is illegal.

The Chicago Tribune reported that melamine has now spread to humans. Forty-five people in California reportedly consumed pork from hogs that had melamine added to their feed.

The effects of melamine on humans are not well known. It is belived that melamine is of little harm, but human consumption of the chemical has been rare enough that little effort has been made to study the effects.

"They've known about this for some time," said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), in reference to the FDA. "What did they do with it?"

April 22, 2007

At Least 47 Killed in Somalia

A bloody battle between Islamic insurgents and Somali-supported Ethiopians killed at least 47 people on Sunday, according to the International Herald Tribune. The Pakistan Daily Times had the death count at a minimum of 51 killed. The fighting occured in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia.

The Islamic insurgents, some of whom may have ties to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, have been challenging the weak transitional government in Somalia. Since Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, Somalia has not had an effective government, according to the Herald Tribune.

Sunday's death count adds on to an ever-growing tally for the week. Both sources have the total death count near 215 casulties, with many more having been wounded during the fighting. Mogadishu has been ravaged, with buildings having been destroyed and dead bodies rotting in the streets.

Sudan Ali Ahmed, head of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Organization, has been outraged at the number of civillians being killed or wounded. 42 civillians were estimated to have been killed Sunday, while over 300,000 have fled Mogadishu since February, according to the Daily Times.

“Bodies are lying rotting in areas we cannot access. We are appealing to both sides to stop the fighting. This is unacceptable, the civilians are bearing the brunt,? Ahmed told the Daily Times. "This is a crime against humanity."

April 15, 2007

Protesters Clash With Russian Police in Opposition of Putin

A few thousand protesters were met by riot police in St.Petersburg on Sunday, the second day of anti-Kremlin protests. The protesters were calling for the resignation of President Vladmir Putin. According to Reuters, Russian police have been trained to detain activists, which has raised questions in the West. Some police kicked and beat demonstrators during Sunday's clash.

"Stop the beating," demonstrators shouted at the police. "Fascists. How much did Putin pay you?"

The anti-Kremlin movement has not been able to accomplish much, however. According to the AP, Putin is by far the most popular political figure in Russia. On top of that, Putin's Kremlin party controls the main television news channel, which limits the opposition's ability to get their message out. The Rossiya channel only briefly covered Sunday's protests.

Some in the opposition have said that the police's harsh tactics may reflect badly on Putin. They hope that the protests will bring negative publicity to Putin and ultimately lead him to fall out of office.

April 7, 2007

Dire News About Global Warming

A new report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted the fate of global climate in the coming years and has urged countries to act decisively. The report, which was issued in Brussels, said that current measures are insufficient and that countries need to enact larger-scale plans to combat global climate change.

As reported in the New York Times, the report was most dire in its predictions for Europe. Breaking the continent down into regions, the report said that Southern Europe will experience more extreme heat waves, Northern Europe could have greater winter floods, while Central and Eastern Europe will see a drastic decrease in rainfall. Although no true timetable was laid out for these predictions, the Science Daily reported that global temperature will rise by three degrees this century.

This temperature change will have a large negative impact on biodiversity and the ecosystem. Spring will start earlier, meaning tha, among other things,t some animals will alter their egg-laying patterns and water run-off will occur earlier.

Ultimately, the effects of global warming could harm the health and nutrition of millions of people worldwide. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been a driving force behind proactive measures, saying that current measures fall short.

"Adequate, large-scale adaptation measures have the potential to alleviate some of the worst consequences outlined in the report, if Governments take action without delay," Mr. Ban said.

April 1, 2007

Earthquake Triggers Disasterous Tsunami in South Pacific

A magnitude 8.0 underwater earthquake unleashed a small tsunami on the Solomon Islands Mondoy, destroying at least one village and making several people go missing.

The tsunami had 12 to 15 feet tall waves, a local business owner told Rueters. The waves traveled up to 200 miles inland, wrecking homes as they went. Many of the houses that were on stilts are now sitting on the ground. Several large boats have been washed into the streets.

A local resident told the AP that the head-level or higher water flattened the homes on the coast. The downtown area is a mess as homes, boats, and people were scattered all over.

Death counts and damage estimates are very sketchy at this moment. Rueters has said that at least two villages were struck with four missing people. The AP said that the early death count was eight, with six of them being children. Other Pacific rim countries, like Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia, have been put under high alert and citizens of the Solomon Islands are being told to get to higher ground.

In a natural disaster story, detail is everything. For example, watching Hurricane Katrina unfold in front of us was quite the spectacle.because we saw almost every detail. In this story, the details of the devestation is what draws in the reader. As this latest tsunami develops, we will begin to see pictures and videos, which will add further detail to this dramatic story.

March 24, 2007

Suicide Bombings in Iraq Kill Dozens

A wave of suicide bombers set off detonations in Iraq Saturday that killed a large number of people, many of whom were police officers.

Various estimates of the death count have been released. Reuters said that at least 60 were dead, while the New York Times issued a more conservative estimate of at least 47 deaths. The worst attack occured outside a Baghdad police station. According to Reuters, 14 policemen were killed when a truck filled with explosives detonated. Six others were killed in this attack.

The New York Times reported that, despite U.S.efforts, car bomb attacks have not decreased this year. In fact, a record 44 car bombings occured in February. Suicide bombings in general have become a staple of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

Death counts are very sensitive statistics. Being accurate is essential, especially when it comes to informing families of the deceased. Newspapers have an obligation to only report confirmable deaths and to do it in an appropriate manner. Reporting deaths that didn't actually occur or failing to report deaths that did can be harmful to a community and to a newspaper's integrity.

March 19, 2007

Former VP under Hussein Executed

Taha Yassin Ramadan, Saddam Hussein's former vice president, was executed in Baghdad on Tuesday for his roll in killing 148 Shiite Muslims in the 1980s. He was hung early Tuesday morning, according to the Independent Online.

Ramadan is the fourth person, including Hussein, to have been executed in connection to the killings of the Shiite Muslims. Saddam was executed in December, while the two others were executed in January, according to Reuters.

Ramadan's son expressed understandable disagreement about the hanging.

"It was not an execution. It was a political assassination," Ahmad Ramadan said.

Taha Yassin Ramadan was originally given a life sentence in November, but a February appeal changed his sentence to a death penalty. The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said that Iraq should have refrained from the dealth penalty in this case, as there was insufficient evidence against Ramadan.

"Ramadan was convicted in an unfair trial, and increasing his punishment from life imprisonment to death reeks of vengeance," said Richard Decker, a member of the organization's International Justice Program.

It will be interesting to see if this actually turns out to be true. If a man was unfairly hung, how will this affect Iraq's fragile new democracy and volitaile current situation? Could this lead to some sort of protest? Only time will tell how Ramadan's execution will affect other realms in Iraq and elsewhere in the world.

March 4, 2007

Blood-Red Moon a Treat for Stargazers

The first total lunar eclipse in almost 3 years happened Saturday night, which caused the moon to turn coppery red. Many observers were able to watch the spectacle, as the eclipse was visible in the U.S., eastern Canada, Europe, Africa and much of Asia.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon crosses into the shadow of the Earth. The moon appears copper red, brown or orange due to the remaining sunlight which strikes it. The National Post in Canada obtained reactions form those who watched it. Despite clouds in the early part of the event, many were awed by the moon's appearence.

“It’s very surreal,? said Frank Burke, 52, of Halifax. “You never see the moon looking like that.?

The entire event lasted 3 1/2 hours. Totality--when the moon is fully covered-- lasted an hour and 16 minutes.

Sky News in England called the eclipse "The most spectacular lunar eclipse in more than a decade." Astronomer concurred, regarding this as one of the most memorable in over 15 years. The eclipse was visible throughout England, as well as in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Clear skies prevented the eclipse from being obscured.

Civillians Killed During U.S.-Afgani Skirmish.

Sixteen civillians died Sunday after America troops fired upon a road in Barikaw, Afganistan. A car bomb detonated near the troops, which was followed by an ambush by Afgani forces. U.S. troops said that they opened fire in order to defend themselves.

The New York Times reported that a millitary spokesman expressed regret for the innocent bystanders who died.

“We regret the death of innocent Afghan citizens as a result of the Taliban extremists’ cowardly act,? Lt. Col. David Accetta said.

However, Accetta firmly placed the blame onto the Afghanis. He called their attack "cowardly' and said that such a manuever showed 'blatant disregard for human life'. The deaths triggered protests along the road where the shots were fired.

The AP reported that the American's story may be inaccurate. Nine witnesses, including wounded Afganis, said that the U.S. troops fired indiscriminately along the road.

"They were firing everywhere, and they even opened fire on 14 to 15 vehicles passing on the highway," said Tur Gul, 38, who was shot twice while standing outside a gas station. "They opened fire on everybody, the ones inside the vehicles and the ones on foot."

If U.S. troops did attack innocent bystanders unprovoked, a huge backlash could follow. This situation will likely further lower the public's opinion on current U.S. millitary engagements. This should also affect perceptions on the current Iraqi war. President Bush could find himself with even more of a struggle to set forth his millitary agenda, regardless of the outcome of this story. The allegation itself is damaging enough to the U.S. millitary's reputation.

February 24, 2007

Prodi Given Second Chance

Romano Prodi, the Prime Minister of Italy who resigned last week, was asked by the president Saturday to retain his role. Prodi will face a confidence vote in parliament in order to reestablish some order in Italy. Prodi resigned Wednesday after a parliamentary defeat of foreign policy.

The AP has reported that even a vote of confidence does not ensure future stability. The International Herald Tribune concurred, noting that the current situation was "weak". Radical leftists, who were to blame for Prodi's resignation, will have to allign with Prodi for him to receive the support he needs.

This is obviously a situation worth watching over the next few months. It will be interesting to see how the Italain government functions under such turmoil. Expect plenty more news coverage in the coming month's as Italy's Parliament and Ministry deal with ongoing conflict. Initial coverage had been efficient in following this story in detail.

February 18, 2007

U.S. To Mediate Israel-Palestinian Talks

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders Monday, although expectations for the meeting have lowered since it was first discussed. Rice will talk with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with informal discussions, not negotiations, the primary objective.

According to Reuters, the U.S. would like to discuss challenging issues, such as the parameters of a potential Palestinian state. Any discussions must stay true to Quartet conditions, say both the U.S. and Israel. These conditions were set by the Quartet of Middle East mediators, which includes the U.S, the UN, the EU and Russia. Among these conditions is the renouncement of violence, which Israel stressed as essential.

A BBC news report focused on the coalition between Fatah and Hamas, which happened within the last week. The two rival factions had been fighting violently before the agreement. The next step will be for Palestine to recognize Israel so that a new Palestinian state will be able to coexist peacefully with Israel.

Each article was highly informative and does a good job of reporting on the critical information. Each article was also timely, since they were able to inform people of what to expect in the future. The articles were good background pieces which will lead in nicely to future reports.

February 11, 2007

Festive Feast Fetches a Fortune

Arguably the most expensive meal ever, at around $1 million for 15 paid guests, was served Saturday night in Bangkok. The meal featured many exotic foods and rare wines. Along with the 15 paid customers there were 25 invited guests. Most of the meal's profits will go to charitable causes.

The AP put the initial focus on the hefty price tag and the potential record setting feat. More detail was later given to the meal's contents and descriptions of the chefs and diners. This article closed with a section that listed what 13,000 pounds (the price per diner) could also have been used for. Examples included sponsoring needy children for 17 years and building libraries for tsunami-damaged communities in Thailand.

A softer piece was written by Ian MacKinnon of The Observer in England. MacKinnon looked to stimulate the senses with his opening graph, which details the sights and sounds of the event. This approach puts the reader at the table as the food is being unveiled. From here, MacKinnon's approach is similar to the AP. He discusses the wealthy diners, the three-star chefs, and the rare wines and foods. Again, the exorbidant price is a main focus, due to its utterly staggering size.

For a story like this, the approach used by MacKinnon is the best choice. A subject involving such visual elements as exoctic foods, rare wines, majestic views, and high-rolling guests is best described using all five senses. Without use of the senses, a story like this lacks the type of spark and energy found in MacKinnon's article.,,2010461,00.html

February 2, 2007

Alarming New Report on Global Warming

For the first time, climate change scientists are saying that global warming is inevitable and that human actions are the main cause. In a report released Friday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the UN, 90 percent of the scientists concluded that carbon dioxide and other human-released greenhouse gases are triggering the global climate change.

Both BBC News and the New York Times are attributing these results to the aforementioned IPCC. The IPCC is the leading group on climate change in the world, consisting of hundreds of scientists and reviewers worldwide . They have issued a total of 4 climate change assesments since 1990. Undoubtedly, this is the best source for any news regarding global warming.

BBC gets further information from the EU Enviroment Commisioner, who is likely the best local source. Getting the commisioner's perspective places the story in a more localized context, since Brittish readers can probably relate better to a European authority figure than a non-European figure.

The New York Times takes the same approach. Their next source of information is a Harvard professor who is a climate and energy expert. He supplies his knowledge to the subject and the article even has a link to a complete report of his. This source functions in the same way that the EU commisioner does; it provides a national source with a high degree of credibility.

Each article uses sources in the proper way. The IPCC is the logical first source, since they are the definite authority on the subject. After that, choosing credible and respected local sources is the proper way to create a highly respectable and in-depth article.

January 27, 2007

Are Atomic Centrifuges Being Built in Iran?

Contradictory reports were released Saturday regarding the current development of atomic centrifuges in Iran. The AP has reported that 3,000 centrifuges are being constructed at a uranium enrichement plant in Iran, to the alarm of a U.S. State Department member.

"If Iran takes this step, it is going to confront universal international opposition," said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns.

However, according to a Rueters report, an Iranian nuclear official has denied any such development. This came in respone to comments from an Iranian parliament member.

So, what story is accurate? Currently, it would be impossible to validate either report. It is possible that Iran is constructing the centrifuges and officials are simply denying it. Or, the claim could be false and Iranian nuclear officials may be defending themselves. In either case, the AP lead that confirms that the centrifuges are being built is risky. If this report turns out to be false, the AP loses credibility since they would have published a false story. By running a story that leaves open both possibilites, Rueters is being much safer and wiser. Waiting for further information to surface is the best choice in covering this story.