November 23, 2008

Hijacked tanker on the move

Somali pirates who hijacked a Saudi Arabian oil-tanker have moved the vessel because they feared an attack from Islamic militants opposed to piracy.
Bloomberg reports “ the Islamic Courts Union warned the pirates to leave Harardhere� and the tanker was taken out to see to an unknown destination.
Moving the tanker, which holds 2 million barrels of oil, could prove dangerous in the shallow coastal waters, the Financial Times reports.
The pirates are demanding a $25 million ransom for the ship, up from the typical $2 million ransom.
According to Bloomberg, this is the at least the 92nd vehicle hijacked in the Gulf of Aden since January.
Al-Shabaab, an Islamic group told the pirates to release the tanker or face armed conflict, Bloomberg reports.
“Saudi is a Muslim country and it is very big crime to hold Muslim property,� a leader of Al- Shabaab said.

Obama and Democrats plan huge economic stimulus

With an increasingly bleak economic outlook, president-elect Barack Obama and other Democrats are planning a enormous fiscal stimulus program that could end up costing as much as $700 billion over the next two years.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday that a new stimulus package should focus on creating jobs and could possibly include a tax cut, the BBC reports.
The Washington Post said that Obama hopes to create 2.5 million jobs by 2011, although it is unknown what exactly would be have to be done or how much money would be needed.
The plan would have funding for public works projects intended to improve the nation’s infrastructure, money to promote green technology and tax cuts targeted at a variety of different demographics, the Washington Post reports.
David Axelrod, Obama’s senior campaign strategist, was quoted by the BBC as saying that Obama would do “what’s necessary� as president, saying that it is going to take a combination of stimuli to get the economy moving again.
Axelrod did admit to the BBC that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which Obama promised to repeal repeatedly on the campaign trail, may be left in place for a time after Obama takes office.
Republicans criticized the plan, the Washington Post reports, instead pushing for more tax cuts that they think would spur economic growth.

November 16, 2008

Supporters turn out to protest gay marriage ban

More than 1,000 people took to the streets of downtown Minneapolis Sunday as part of a nationwide movement protesting the passage of amendments in states across the country banning gay marriage.
The crowd gathered at Hennepin County Government Center and marched to Loring Park, the Star Tribune reported.
Anne Phibbs, director for GLBTA programs at the University of Minnesota, told the Minnesota Daily that the protests provided a way for the gay communities to come together.
The Star Tribune reports that the idea for protests came from Seattle blogger Amy Balliett and spread quickly online, soon involving tens of thousands of people in hundreds of communities.
State Sen. Joe Marty and and state Rep. Karen Clark were both on hand for the rally and vowed to push for more gay rights legislation.
The Minnesota Daily reports that the passage of Prop 8 in California caused a bit of an uproar after blacks who voted to support Barack Obama also overwhelmingly supported banning gay marriage.
According to the Star Tribune, all 30 states that have voted on gay marriage have voted to ban it.

Paul McCartney wants to release 'mythical' Beatles track

The mythical 14-minute-long Beatles track “Carnival of Light� does exist, Paul McCartney said, and he wants to release it to the public.
Paul McCartney confirmed the songs existence in a radio interview with BBC Radio 4 to be aired this week, the London Telegraph said.
The song was recorded 41 years ago for an electronic music festival. It has only been played publicly once, at the festival, the BBC reports.
The song is said to contain a mix of shrieks, psychedelic sounds, distorted guitars and much more.
About the song Paul McCartney said, "I like it because it's The Beatles free, going off piste."
Before the song could be released, the Telegraph reports that Ringo Starr and the widows of George Harrsion and John Lennon would have to sign on.

Security pact approved by Iraqi cabinet

Iraq’s cabinet voted Sunday to approve a security pact that would see a continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq until the end of 2011.
The New York Times reports that all but one of the 28 cabinet ministers at the meeting voted to approve the agreement, which will now be sent to Parliament for consideration and could be voted on as early as Nov. 24
The Associated Press describes the pact as a compromise between Iraq’s desire for full sovereignty with its need for American support to reach that goal.
"It's the best possible, available option," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said to the Associated Press.
The fate of the pact had been in doubt in the months leading up to the vote, the New York Times reports, as the Iraqis continued to press for changes on a variety of issues.
There is still some hesitation among different blocs in the parliament about approving the deal, with the Sunnis waiting for a national referendum and the Kurds tentatively supporting the agreement.
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called Sunday for the parliament to veto the agreement and threatened to resume attacks on U.S. forces unless they immediately withdraw from Iraq.

November 13, 2008

Obama to resign Senate seat Sunday

President-elect Barack Obama announced Thursday that he will be resigning his senate seat effective Sunday.
The timing of his resignation means that he will miss next week’s Senate session that will deal with the economic crisis and a possible bail out for U.S. automakers, Reuters reports.
The Democrats will have a 50-49 majority in the senate, including the two independents who align with the party, after Obama’s departure.
Obama said that he was stepping down in order to focus on his transition to the White House, leaving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a democrat, responsible for choosing Obama’s replacement, Bloomberg said.
It has been one of the highest honors and privileges of my life to have served the people of Illinois in the United States Senate," Obama said in a statement reported by Reuters.
Whoever is chosen to replace Obama would serve until 2010, which is when Obama’s term ends.
Bloomberg points to Jesse Jackson Jr., a seven-term congressman and son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, as a possible replacement for Obama. Tammy Duckworth, the director of Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, and Jan Schakowsky, who also serves in the U.S. Congress.

November 2, 2008

Obituary analysis

The obituary I analyzed was for Jacques Piccard, a scientist and underwater explorer from Switzerland.
The story uses a standard obituary lead in that it states why Piccard is famous and then follows it with a short sentence on his age.
It then states where Piccard died.
The lead is effective, simple and gives his accomplishments and the details surrounding his deaths right away.
As for sources, only Piccard’s son’s company is attributed, and that is only to confirm his death. There is one quote from Piccard about his work.
This does raise a little question as to where the information is coming from, but the story sticks to a basic list of accomplishments and chronology, something that does not require a high level of verification.
The obituary differs from a resume in that it is more reflective and less formal.

Advisory panel questions FDA's stance on BPA

The Food and Drug Administration made mistakes in determining the safety of a chemical commonly used in baby bottles in other plastics, a report released Friday said.
The report, released by an FDA advisory board, did not state whether the chemical, known as bisphenol-A, should be considered unsafe but instead called for the agency to redo its assessment of the substance, the Washington Post reports.
According the advisory panel, the agency’s BPA evaluation “creates a false sense of security� and “overlooks a wide range of potentially serious findings,� the New York Times reports.
According to the New York Times, BPA is a chemical commonly used in plastic bottles, baby bottles and canned foods. The chemical appears to have estrogen mimicking effects, which could lead to accelerated puberty or increased cancer risk.
The Washington Post reports that FDA’s current stance on BPA is controversial because it stands against more than 100 studies that say there is “some concern� BPA may affect brain development in small infants.
There is a widespread call for manufacturers to drop BPA from their products but John Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Manufacturing Association, tells the Washington Post there is no immediate replacement for BPA and it could take up to two years for the FDA to approve an alternative.

St. Olaf professor confesses to stealing campaign signs

A professor at St. Olaf has confessed on a national blog to stealing McCain campaign yard signs, describing the experience as thrilling and satisfying, if immature.
Phillip Busse a visiting professor teaching media studies at the Northfield college said he hoped to point out the bizarre things people do during the intense political season, the Star Tribune reports.
Busse wrote an essay for the online blog Huffington Post, stating "yanking out the signs and running like a scared rabbit back to my idling car was one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done.''
The Pioneer Press reports that Busse expressed remorse in an e-mail to the Northfield News, calling his actions “immature and impetuous.�
According to the Star Tribune, Busse has already spoken with sheriffs about offering restitution from the signs, but he won’t find out if he will be charged until next week.
A St. Olaf representative said that they do not condone Busse’s actions, noting that he is a visiting professor at the school teaching one class for one semester.
Sign stealing has affected both parties, with a McCain campaign aide saying that an estimated 1,000 yard signs had been stolen in Minnesota alone. An Obama campaign spokesman estimated that 3,000 Obama signs had been stolen or destroyed.

Britain and France push for increased aid to Congo

In a joint statement issued Sunday, Britain and France called for increased aid to war-torn Congo.
The statement came after David Miliband, Foreign Secretary of Britain, and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner made a visit to the region Friday in response to a sudden escalation in the civil war in eastern Congo, the BBC reports.
In the statement the two called for a strengthening of the cease-fire agreement the two feuding sides agreed to Wednesday. They also called for increased humanitarian assistance, the International Herald Tribune reports.
“The humanitarian needs for food, shelter, water and health care must be met through universal provision and secure routes for delivery,� the two said in the statement.
The BBC reports that the United Nations is continuing with its efforts in the region with it plan to send food and medical supplies to help 250,000 people that have been displaced by the fighting.
The United Nations is also considering re-organizing some of the 16,000 peacekeepers scattered throughout the country in order to reinforce the violent hotspots.

November 1, 2008

Diabetes rates growing at staggering pace

The numbers of diabetes diagnoses has nearly doubled over the past ten years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.
The Associated Press reports that about 90 percent of new cases are Type 2 diabetes, the form linked with obesity.
There were 1.6 million new adult diagnoses of diabetes last year, bringing the number of affected people nationally at 23 million, the Associated Press reports.
Reuters reports that the diabetes problem is most acute in the south, with nine of the ten states with most new cases coming from that region. Minnesota had the lowest rate of new diabetes diagnoses.
The Associated Press reports that this information will help health officials decide where to focus new prevention campaign.
American Diabetes Association spokesman Matt Petersen told Reuters that the rise in cases is directly tied to the continued increase in obesity rates. He said that once diabetes diagnoses should slow once obesity rates stop rising, but warns that won’t happen for a while. “We won't see the plateau in type 2 diabetes for quite a while."

October 26, 2008

Gas prices experience record decline

Gas prices fell more over the past two weeks then at any other point in history, according to a nationwide Lundberg survey.
CNN reports that the slide in prices can be attributed to a fall in crude prices and reduced demand as more drivers stayed off the road during the widespread economic downturn.
The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was $2.7785, according to Reuters, which is about 53 cents less per gallon then the price two weeks ago.
Crude oil prices have fallen from a high $147 a barrel in July all the way to $64.15 a barrel.
Trilby Lundberg, who edits the survey of 5,000 nationwide service station, said that the slide in prices should continue, but a much less drastic pace.
"The price of oil doesn't seem likely to jump up substantially any time soon and, considering the U.S. economy, it seems likely that oil prices will stay in their current neighborhood," Trilby said to CNN.

NASA works on repairing Hubble telescope

NASA scientists announced Thursday that the Hubble Telescope is starting to come back to life after they were finally able to boot the backup computer system.
The New York Times reports that a computer that sends data from the telescope to the Earth failed late last month and that scientists had been trying to switch over to another computer system. However, two glitches caused trouble for the telescope when the switch was first attempted last week.
Engineers had been working on the problem over the last week and seemed to have fixed the problems as the backup system slowly came online, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Art Whipple, chief of NASA's Hubble systems management office, told the New York Times that the initial trouble taking the backup system online was probably a result of the system not being used for 18 years. Whipple was quoted in the New York Times saying that there did not appear to be any permanent damage to the telescope.
NASA had planned a shuttle mission to perform more repairs on the telescope for this October, but now say that the mission will likely take place in February, the Los Angeles Times reports.
If all the repairs work as intended, the lifespan of the telescope could be extended by as much as six years.

I-35W collapse result of a design flaw

The collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis likely resulted from a design flaw that had existed since the bridge was built, the Star Tribune reports.
According to sources, key steel gusset plates were only one-half inch thick instead of an inch and this difference made the bridge unable to bear the load that was placed on it by two additional renovations, the Star Tribune reports.
According to the Associated Press, investigators had long focused on the gusset plates as the possible start to the collapse that killed 13 people on August 1, 2007.
Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, had been critical of the National Transportation Safety Board for focusing so much on the gusset plates, and still expressed doubt even after the leaked findings.
“It stretches both credibility and past experience with bridge structural failure to find causation through a single factor,� Oberstar was quoted as saying in the Associated Press.
The NTSB will publicly review the report in a hearing scheduled for Nov. 13, after which they will issue a final report on the cause of the collapse and provide recommendations for preventing future collapses, the Star Tribune reports.

Pope to visit Africa for first time

Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that he will be making his first papal visit to Africa at the beginning of next year.
Benedict was giving his homily to close out the three-week gathering that had brought bishops from across the globe to the Vatican to discuss the bible when he surprisingly announced that he would be traveling to Cameroon in March and then possibly onto Angola, the Associated Press reports.
Benedict will travel to Cameroon in preparation for a bishops meeting to be held later in 2009 that will focus on Africa, Reuters reports.
Benedict said he then hopes to visit Angola, which will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of its evangelization.
The Associated Press reports that the Catholic Church has been experiencing growth in Africa and parts of Asia, a heartening trend in the face flagging faith in the modernized West.
This will be the 11th trip outside of Italy for the pope since he was elected in 2005, Reuters reports. Benedict has visited many European countries, Australia, the United States and Brazil in the past three years.
Although this will be Benedict's first trip to Africa, the Associated Press says that his predecessor Pope John Paul II visited Africa numerous times throughout his papacy.