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May 2, 2007

Its Official: Prince Harry Will Serve in Iraq

Amid speculation regarding Price Harry's viability as a likely target to Muslim warmongers, he is now set to be deployed to Iraq this month with the rest of his Blues and Royals regiment as a lieutenant. Rumors are circulating that the prince's picture had been downloaded and sent to numerous militia groups, making his an easier target, especially concerning along with the string of attacks on British forces in southern Iraq as of late. Prince Harry's unit will be sent to southern Iraq.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times (and printed in the Pioneer Press): "A Sunni insurgent leader told the newspaper that his group had people "planted" inside British military bases who were under orders to track Harry's movements.

But London-based defense analyst Tim Ripley said the level of the specific threat against the prince has been exaggerated.

"Once he's got his uniform on, his helmet on and he's in a tank, how do they know it's him?" he said.

Ripley said a decision not to send him would be a much harder order.

"It would be a devastating blow to the morale of the British Army in Iraq if, as a result of a huge amount of media froth, he didn't go on account of it's too dangerous," he said. "What do you tell the thousands of other troops, along with their families, who have to go?"

According to an AP Wire story printed in the Star Tribune: "
Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt said the decision would be kept under review, but he hoped his statement would end media speculation on Harry's deployment.

"The decision has been taken by myself that he will deploy in due course,'' Dannatt said. "I would urge that the somewhat frenzied media activity surrounding this particular story should cease in the interests of the overall security of all our people deployed in Iraq.''

He spoke after newspaper reports cited unidentified senior military officials as saying an army review was likely to lead to Harry being banned from the battlefield, although he could still do a desk job."

Harry is a recent graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and has been enthusiastic about serving his country. He will be the first royal to serve in military combat since his uncle, Prince Andrew, flew as a helicopter pilot in Britain's conflict with Argentina over the Fakland Islands in 1982.

The two stories were basically the same, the LA Times piece being slightly shorter, and a little more confusing about the nature of the threats toward Harry. The AP story, however, cleared up my confusion.

April 29, 2007

Ireland Announces Election in Light of Political Questioning

Ireland Prime Minister Bertie Ahern announced that the country's next general election will be held on May 24. Ahern also vowed to continue his 10-year reign. Ahern and Ireland's symbolic head of state, Mary McAleese, signed a document on Sunday allowing parliament to dissolve for the four weeks that the campaigns will be running. McAleese said the newly elected parliament would convene on June 14 to elect a new government.

Ahern belongs to the Fianna Fail party of Irish politics. The party has dominated elections since the 1930s. Issues for debate will likely include the state of the economy in Ireland, as well as transportation and health care.

This election could be a major turning point in Ireland, as the Fianna Fail party has been challenged by more left-leaning parties such as Sinn Fein or the Green Party, both of which expect to gain seats in Dail Eireann, Ireland's key lower house of parliament.

This article came out of the Sunday edition of the New York Times. A "world briefs" version also appeared in the Star Tribune.

April 22, 2007

Orphanage Fire Kills Five

According to an article in the New York Times, a fire at an orphanage in downtown Sarajevo, the capitol city of Bosnia, early Sunday morning has taken the lives of three baby boys and two baby girls by smoke inhalation. Nineteen other children and workers are currently being treated for injuries, mostly smoke inhalation, and are not thought to be in critical condition.

According to the article: "The fire broke out in a third floor room of the Ljubica Izevic children’s home shortly before 6 a.m., said Dubravko Champara of the prosecutor’s office."

"A nurse who had tried to save some of the babies was also injured, with burns to the arms and face, Mr. Champara said in a telephone interview."

April 15, 2007

Taliban is Getting Support ... from Flowers?

Poppies, the flower that makes heroin possible, is taking over the farming market in Afghanistan, and the selling of the drug is funding the Taliban, according to an AP Wire story that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Also according to the story: "When the Taliban ordered Afghanistan's fields cleared of opium poppies seven years ago because of Islam's ban on drugs, fearful farmers complied en masse.

Today, officials say the militia nets tens of millions of dollars by forcing farmers to plant poppies and taxing the harvest, driving the country's skyrocketing opium production to fund the fight against what they consider an even greater evil - U.S. and NATO troops.

Corrupt government officials, both low-level police and high-level leaders, also protect the drug trade in exchange for bribes, a recent U.N. report found. Warlords and major landowners welcome the instability the Taliban brings to the country's southern regions, causing poppy eradication efforts to fail.

The Taliban denies it supports poppies."

In a combination of government corruption and a whole lot of money, "out of an opium economy of about $3.5 billion, you get a significant amount of money which could be potentially seen as the funding of terrorism," Costa said last month. (Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime)

"Afghanistan's opium crop grew 59 percent in 2006 to 407,000 acres, yielding a record crop of 6,100 tons, enough to make 610 tons of heroin - 90 percent of the world's supply, according to the United Nations. Western and Afghan officials say they expect a similar crop this year.

No one knows the Taliban's exact take from poppy cultivation, and guesses range from the low tens of millions of dollars to an estimate of $140 million by Gen. Khodaidad, Afghanistan's deputy minister for counter-narcotics. His figure was based on various Taliban taxes that could add up to 20 percent of the farmers' $700 million.

The Taliban uses the money to buy weapons and pay soldiers, and as one Western official put it: "You can buy quite a bit of insurgency for $10 million."

The biggest challenge for this reporter was probably to show all sides of this story fairly, due to the attitude against the Taliban in this country, and in many European countries. Sometimes it was hard to follow, with many names and numbers being thrown around, but the overall point came through.

March 28, 2007

Canadian Woman Eats Tainted Dog Food and, Surprise, Becomes "Violently Ill"

In a ploy to get her dog to eat her food, Ottawa, Canada resident Elaine Larabie would take small bites of the Iams food to convince her newly adopted dog, Missy, that it was people food.

Thinking she had a virus, Larabie experienced "confusing and embarrassing symptoms" such as vomiting, loss of appetite, and foaming of the mouth for three days.

At the time, Larabie was unaware of the recall on pet food, but connected the dots later after seeing it on a news broadcast.

Larabie is now awaiting blood work results, and her dog is doing fine. She has been in contact with Iams to solve the problem and possibly receive reimbursement for medical costs.

The Star Tribune featured a short AP wire version of this story, which is where I came across it, but I also was able to find a longer, more elaborated local version at Canada's National Post website. Clearly, the reporters there were able to get more information because they were closer to the source, but the short AP story was a nice teaser to get me to look for more.

Overall, an interesting and unexpected story ... Larabie said she learned her lesson and vowed to "never eat dog food again."

March 25, 2007

50th Anniversary of European Union Draws Talks of Future

In a celebration of the EU's 50 years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel brought numerous issues to the table regarding future plans for energy use and foreign policy.

In the NY Times: "“We must also renew the political shape of Europe in keeping with the times,? Mrs. Merkel said, challenging the leaders to put Europe on a “renewed common basis? by 2009."

Also: "While the refurbished monuments of this once-sundered city served as testimony to Europe’s achievements, the festivities were shadowed by a sense that the union is stuck in a midlife crisis — unhappy about its divided present, uncertain about what path to take in the future. In a city that celebrated the World Cup last summer with joyful abandon, today’s revelry seemed a bit dutiful."

On the BBC News Website: "British Prime Minister Tony Blair also said the EU needed "more effective rules", adding that the "sooner it is resolved the better"."

Both the NY Times and the BBC News also used various numbers and statistics to better represent the countries in the EU and how divisive they would be on certain issues. All numbers were presented in a fairly straightforward fashion.

March 9, 2007

US and Brazil Sign Ethanol Deal, Locals Show Hostility

President Bush announced on Thursday that the US has struck a deal with Brazil to greatly increase the development of ethanol. Bush and Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva "appeared at a heavily guarded biodiesel fuel depot on the industrial outskirts of Sao Paulo, the largest in South America, to announce the deal late this morning," according to the article published in the New York Times.

In the midst of this ground-breaking deal, however, were numerous demonstrations by locals, as well as hostility by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who was planning a rally in opposition of Bush later that day.

I found an article both from the New York TImes as well as the BBC news website. They both provided relatively the same information, but the BBC focused slightly more on the public demonstrations and hostility against President Bush. Neither article mentioned any specifics about the deal that was reached, which was something that would have been interesting and informative.

February 28, 2007

Two Picasso Paintings Stolen in Paris

Two Picasso paintings estimated to be worth $66 million were stolen from the Paris home of Picasso's granddaughter Diana Widmaier-Picasso. The two oils, “Maya With Doll? from 1938 and “Portrait of Jacqueline? from 1961, were taken sometime overnight between Monday and Tuesday.

Ms. Widmaier-Picasso's lawyer, Céline Astolfe, said that “They heard a noise, went downstairs and saw nothing ... They went to bed and the following morning they saw that two paintings were missing.?

The work is thought to be done by professional art thieves, who neutralized the home alarms and left no signs of a break-in.

This is not the first time that Picasso's work has been stolen from various museums and family members, but it will be virtually impossible for the work to be sold on the open market, according to the BBC's article.

The New York Times also covered the event.

This would have been more of a challenge for the NY Times to cover rather than the BBC, since Paris is further away.

Both the NY Times and the BBC did a nice job of covering the known details of the break-in as well as the history of other thefts of Picasso's work. Both websites also had numerous links to view pictures of the paintings in question, as well as more information on Picasso himself.

February 22, 2007

Prince Harry Is A Fighter

Britain's Prince Harry's Blues and Royals regiment will be deployed to Iraq in either May or June, according to the Ministry of Defense. Harry is a second lieutenant and will serve a troop commander's role. After graduating from Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, he insisted on getting the opportunity to serve his country, saying that he wanted to be out there with "[his] boys." This seems to be one thing that Harry is serious about. He has long had a spot in British tabloid newspapers for his partying ways. He could become the first royal to see combat since his uncle Prince Andrew served in the Falklands war against Argentina in 1982. Harry is following royal tradition in joining the military. His father, Prince Charles, was a pilot with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and a ship commander, and Harry's grandfather, Prince Philip, had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during World War II.

This article from the Associated Press was in the New York Times, as well as more local newspapers as the Star Tribune. The NY Times, however, included more of the article. The Strib's version was shortened quite a bit.

The most interesting article came from BBC news, probably because the organization is closer to the action and is more equipped to gather information on the subject. BBC included more information regarding the recent military numbers of Britain as expressed by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Overall, the BBC provided a little bit fuller coverage than the AP article, but both got the point across.

February 16, 2007

Italy Indicts Americans for Kidnapping

26 Americans and 7 Italians (2 on smaller charges as accessories to the crime) were indicted Wednesday on charges of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric from Milan. Most of the Americans work for the CIA. A trial in Italy has been set for June 8th.

"Prosecutors allege that five Italian intelligence officials worked with the Americans to seize Muslim cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr on Feb. 17, 2003," says an AP story that ran in the New York Times, and the Star Tribune, as well as other national newspapers.

Nasr claims that he was beaten and tortured during his time in prison in Cairo. The CIA has been quiet about the situation.

The BBC also reported on this event, although their article was significantly shorter and less in detail about the chronology about the apparent crime that occured four years ago. Their article focuses mostly on the Americans that were indicted and the claims that Nasr has made against them.

This case is challenging to report because there are many high-profile individuals and organizations in the spotlight and it would be difficult to find someone willing to talk about the situation. It is still a new and developing story, and the CIA, as well as the individuals being indicted are likely still planning their strategy for dealing with such an accusation.

Both the AP story and the BBC covered the story well with what information they had, but again, the AP article was a bit more in depth.

February 11, 2007

Vladimir Putin Unhappy with United States

Russian President Vladimir Putin caused a stir on Saturday at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy when he criticized the U.S. for their sloppy foreign policy and said that they have "overstepped it's national borders in every way." The remarks have been compared to those of the Cold War in their hostility. Putin, however, also had a few good things to say about U.S. President Bush saying he "is a decent man, and one can do business with him."

The New York Times went greatly into depth on this subject, citing specific arguments in the room, what other international officials had to say, including other U.S. Senators, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. The article was quite a bit longer than our local source, but it was appreciated to get that kind of detail on a subject that would otherwise be covered up slightly.

The Star Tribune, got their information, once again, from the Los Angeles Times, but the article was still informative in a more general sense. It was substantially shorter than that of the New York Times, but editors at the Strib could have easily edited sections out to fit in their publication.

February 3, 2007

First Suicide Bomb in Nine Months Hits Israel

On Monday, a Palestinian man bombed a bakery in Eilas, Israel, killing himself and three others. It was the first suicide bombing in Israel in nine months. Two Palestinian militant groups, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, admitted responsibility for the attack.

The incident was hard to cover because it took place in Israel. Both Twin Cities papers received their information via wire services. Attribution was well done in both articles. They quoted a few people, witnesses, and officials, and made sure the public knew where all of the information had come from.

The Star Tribune's article on the event was quite a bit longer then the Pioneer Press', and covered more of a historical background on the political issues that have taken place in Israel recently.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press article was quite a bit shorter, but was more focused on the issue that had taken place.

Both articles were strong, but the Star Tribune provided information that the average reader might not have known, which was appreciated.

January 25, 2007

Gang Killings in Ireland Covered Up by Belfast Police

After over three years of research, Police Ombundsman Nuala O'Loan released a report on Monday accusing Belfast police of covering up at least 10 gang killings between 1993 and 2000. Belfast police were paid off in tip-offs in exchange to keep quiet about the murders. The police involved, however, are unlikely to be criminally charged, because they covered their tracks very well.

The coverage of this event was very similar between the St Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune, the only difference being the order of information released in the articles.

The only great challenge in reporting this story is obtaining information from an international source.