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May 2, 2007

Bush Vetoes Iraq Exit Bill, His First Veto of the Year

After Congress passed an Iraq spending bill for $124 billion, with a timetable for pullout of overseas troops, last week, it reached President Bush's desk on Tuesday. He vetoed the bill, only the second of his presidency and the first of this year.

In a televised speech, he called the bill a "prescription for chaos and confusion," and said he had to veto the bill due to the timetable element.

According to a New York Times article that was printed in both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press: "Democrats concede they do not have enough votes to override the veto. But, speaking in the Capitol shortly after Mr. Bush’s remarks, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, and the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said they would not be deterred from pushing the president as hard as they could to bring the troops home.

“If the president thinks by vetoing this bill he will stop us from working to change the direction of the war in Iraq, he is mistaken,? Mr. Reid said. He added, “Now he has an obligation to explain his plan to responsibly end this war.?

The fight has been brewing for nearly three months, ever since Mr. Bush sent Congress his request for emergency financing for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including money to support his troop buildup. The next chapter begins Wednesday, when Congressional leaders are expected to meet Mr. Bush at the White House to open negotiations on a new bill. They are expected to look for ways to preserve the benchmarks for Iraqi progress that were included in the initial bill while eliminating the timetables for troop withdrawal that Mr. Bush has emphatically rejected."

Continuing ... "The veto, announced by Mr. Bush at 6:10 p.m., just before the network news broadcasts began, was quickly seized on by Democratic groups.

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, a group financed, in part, through labor union money, presented a television advertisement criticizing the White House and Congressional Republicans. The group also planned a series of rallies across the country. In the Capitol, several Democrats and Republicans said they were eager to find common ground on the Iraq spending bill and bring an end to the bitter fight.

“Unfortunately, people are getting locked down in their respective positions,? said Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine. “The White House wants to have open-ended latitude on how to conduct a war, but I don’t think that is simply an option at this point.?

April 26, 2007

What Will Bush Say?

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have now officially passed the bill giving a deadline for pullout in Iraq, according to articles from the Washington Post (printed in the Pioneer Press) and the New York Times.

The bill, which would approve $124 billion dollars in military spending, also contains a demand for troops to be pulled out by October 1 of this year. According to the Washington Post article:

"The bill also establishes benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet:

# Create a program to disarm militias.

# Reduce sectarian violence.

# Ease rules that purged the government of all former Baath Party members.

# Approve a law on sharing oil revenue.

If the Bush administration does not determine by July 1 that those benchmarks are being met, troops would begin coming home immediately. The goal would be to complete those withdrawals by the end of the year.

If the benchmarks are being met, troops would begin coming home no later than Oct. 1, with a goal of completing the troop pullout by April 1, 2008."

Bush has vowed to veto the bill when it reaches his desk on Monday, only the second veto of his presidential career. The veto will also come almost exactly to the day that four years ago Bush proclaimed and end to major combat.

According to the New York Times article on the Thursday Senate approval of the bill: Overall in the congressional vote over the last two days, "On the final vote, 216 Democrats and 2 Republicans supported the bill; 195 Republicans and 13 Democrats opposed it. The legislation provides more than $95 billion for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through Sept. 30, with the money conditioned on the administration’s willingness to accept a timetable for withdrawal and new benchmarks to assess the progress of the Iraqi government."

The Senate vote was 51-46, quite short of the 2/3 majority benchmark that would be needed for them to override a presidential veto.

On a final note, I thought both papers covered the events very thoroughly, which I appreciated. Along with some analysis of what will likely happen in the future, they are doing the best they can to provide this information to curious Americans.

April 18, 2007

Supreme Court upholds Abortion Dispute

According to an AP Wire story that appeared in the New York Times and the Star Tribune, as well as many others, the US Supreme Court has ruled to uphold 2003's Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, a small victory for conservatives.

According to the article: "It was the first time the court banned a specific procedure in a case over how -- not whether -- to perform an abortion."

"The outcome is likely to spur efforts at the state level to place more restrictions on abortions."

The story is a big one for those involved in women's rights as well as those on the religious fronts.

The ruling was voted at 5-4.

I was a little surprised that I didn't see anything related to the vote in the Pioneer Press, but I was glad that one of the two papers had printed the article.

April 15, 2007

Five Children Die in Illinois House Fire

According to an AP Wire story that ran in both the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune, "a house fire killed five children and injured four people early Sunday in western Illinois, police said."

The fire occured in Quincy, Ill., about 90 miles west of Springfield and was reported at about 3 a.m. on Sunday morning. The dead bodies of the children, four boys and one girl aged about 8 to 10 years old, were found on the second floor of the house. Three others were injured and one firefighter suffered burns to the face. The children were likely family members.

State and local police are investigating the fire, and did not release names, ages, or any preliminary cause of deaths of the children or the other victims.

I wish there could have been more information and more specifics on this story, but I realize that it was very last minute to get the story online or even in print. The time crunch on this was probably the biggest challenge that faced the reporter.

March 31, 2007

It's Not Rat Poison After All!

The FDA confirmed on Friday that the cancer drug and rat poison aminopterin was not the culprit of the contaminated pet food recall, but rather an imported wheat gluten from China called melamine. This finding came after Cornell University scientist compared chemical components of the recalled pet food, urine of a sick cat, and a kidney of a cat that died as a direct result of the poisoning. Melamine was the common component.

Melamine is a substance that is used as a fertilizer and in the production of plastic kitchen products. It is not registered for use in the US.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which printed an article out of the Washington Post: ""Melamine is an ingredient that should not be in pet food at any level," Sundlof said. Nor does it have any approved use in food for humans. He said the FDA is not aware that any contaminated wheat gluten went into human food, but said he could not confirm that "with 100 percent certainty."

Sundlof and FDA investigative officials said a company found to have imported the contaminated wheat gluten manufactures dry pet food as well as "wet" or "moist" food similar to that previously identified as the source of the illnesses. However, they said, investigators have not yet determined whether any of the wheat gluten has been used in any dry pet food. "

According to the Star Tribune, which printed an article from AP Wire: "Menu Foods recalled 60 million containers of cat and dog food, sold throughout North America under nearly 100 brands, earlier this month after animals died of kidney failure after eating the Canadian company's products. It is not clear how many pets may have been poisoned by the apparently contaminated food, although anecdotal reports suggest hundreds, if not thousands, have died. The FDA has received more than 8,000 complaints; the company, more than 300,000.

Company officials on Friday would not provide updated numbers of pets sickened or killed by its products. Pet owners would be compensated for veterinary bills and the deaths of any dogs and cats linked to the company's products, the company said.

The melamine finding came a week after scientists at the New York State Food Laboratory identified a cancer drug and rat poison called aminopterin as the likely culprit in the pet food. But the FDA said it could not confirm that finding, nor have researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey when they looked at tissue samples taken from dead cats. And experts at the University of Guelph in Ontario detected aminopterin in some samples of the recalled pet food, but only in the parts per billion or trillion range."

Both articles wer of the same length and covered the same basic information, but were organized differently and had greater detail in different areas of the investigation. Together, they made a very nice cohesive article. Pool your resources.

March 25, 2007

Rat Poison Found to be the Cause of Death of Numerous Pets Around the Country

After numerous pets around the US mysteriously died from their food, the cause has finally been linked to a chemical known for its use as rat poison: aminopterin.

According to the New York Times: "The poison, aminopterin, a rodenticide that has not been approved for use in the United States or in Canada, was found in wet food manufactured by Menu Foods of Ontario and distributed under more than 90 brands, including Eukanuba, Hill’s Science Diet and Nutro Natural Choice, and under store brands including Hannaford, Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie. (A complete list can be found at menufoods.com/recall.)"

According to an AP Wire Story (printed in the Star Tribune): "After the announcement, the company that produced the food expanded its recall to include all 95 brands of the "cuts and gravy" style food, regardless of when they were produced. The company also said it would take responsibility for pet medical expenses incurred as a result of the food."

Officials are not yet sure how the chemical got into the food, because the drug, also used in the past to induce abortions, is illegal in the US and Canada. They are still looking at various possibilities, including sabotage. In addition to this investigation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been notified in the event of a public health problem.

While both stories featured basically the same information, the AP story failed to mention exactly which brands of food were being effected by the chemical, which I found myself asking until I read the story by the NY Times, which had all the information. They also had considerably more interviews with the owners of a few of the pets who have been victims to the poisonings.

March 11, 2007

Who Would've Thunk: Man Uses Mouth-to-Mouth to Save his Dog

In Omaha, Nebraska, a man used his mouth-to-mouth resuscitation skills that he learned in the Air Force to breathe life back into his 10-month-old bulldog.

Randy Gurchin and Lucy are "best buddies" according to the AP article that ran in the Star Tribune, the New York Times and the Lincoln Journal Star (I couldn't fine the article in the Omaha paper, oddly enough).

After Lucy jumped into a partially frozen lake in pursuit of ducks and geese, she found herself overwhelmed by the cold. Gurchin managed to pull her out but realized that she was blue and needed air. So, he did what any pet owner would do. He was reminded of his training in the Air Force and gave her "mouth-to-snout" resuscitation. And it worked! He said she was breathing again in about a minute, when he then brought her to a veterinary hospital, where the doctors were able to give her better care.

By Friday, Lucy was back to normal.

This article was so out of the box that I had to write on it. I didn't even know that that was possible! I was disappointed that I couldn't find a more in-depth local version of the story in an Omaha newspaper, because I found the same AP article in three publications. Although it was written well, I had hoped that it would be longer and have more details (or something).

March 4, 2007

Bush Tours the South in Consolation of Tornado Victims

President Bush has been traveling alot lately. In the aftermath of the tornadoes that swept through the South last week, the President took time out of his schedule to survey the damage and console victims at various towns throughout the affected areas.

"The hastily arranged trip, following a massive storm system that produced at least 31 tornadoes from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, was intended to send an image of a compassionate president leading a competent government response, in sharp contrast with the lingering images of federal indifference and ineptitude after Hurricane Katrina," reported the New York Times in their AP story. "The president’s day began in Enterprise, Ala., where eight students were killed as a tornado on Thursday ripped apart Enterprise High School."

"On the second leg of his visit, Bush toured Americus, Ga., about 120 miles south of Atlanta, where storms killed two people and destroyed dozens of homes and businesses," reported the Star Tribune's AP coverage.

Both AP stories covered the basics of President Bush's visits, but the NY Times provided more depth and a longer article, with interviews from the student body where he spoke and other visitors of the site. They also provided information about the federal disaster relief funds that will be received from FEMA.

The story ran by the Strib was also informative, but not quite as long and detailed.

February 25, 2007

New Airport Scanner in Phoenix Creates Controversy

A new airport scanner is being tested out in Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport, starting Friday, February 23. It does such a precise job that an AP wire story printed by the Star Tribune said it "can see through people's clothes and show the body's contours with blush-inducing clarity." While some see this as overly invasive, officials say that its only purpose is to find concealed explosives and other weapons.

Not every passenger will have to use the scanner, however. Those passengers who do not pass the first metal detector inspection will have a choice of using this new scanner or being traditionally patted-down. While some passengers are opting for the new method, saying it's easier and more convenient, others feel that it is an invasion of privacy and would rather have the pat-down.

The Transportation Security Administration hopes to have more trial machines in place for further testing in the Los Angeles airport and New York's Kennedy Airport by the end of the year.

While the New York Times and the Star Tribune both ran AP wire stories in print, they were surprisingly different. The Times' was significantly longer and included a few useful pictures, and was more in-depth, with more interviews and seemingly more research on the reporter's part. The Star Tribune's article was almost as informative, just a little shorter and with less specifics.

There wasn't really much of a challenge in reporting this event, other than making sure that enough interviews were made on different sides of the controversy in order to fully inform the audience. Both articles did this well.

Overall, I felt the specifics and extended research in the NY Times article made their article better than the Strib's. The pictures were great, too. Visualizations are great for readers like me who are across the country and have no idea what a thing like this would look like. Kudos to NY.

February 16, 2007

Another Contamination Story ... This Time It's In Your Peanut Butter

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working on pinpointing the cause of a salmonella outbreak in select brands of peanut butter.

"Nearly 300 people in 39 states have fallen ill since August," stated an AP article that ran in the New York Times as well as the L.A. Times.

Peanut butter brand Peter Pan, the third largest peanut butter distributor in the nation, and certain batches of Wal-Mart's Great Value house brand are under investigation.

Why it took officials so long to track down the cause of the sickness? ''It's just not one of the first things you'd suspect,'' Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said.

Because the AP wire covered this outbreak, it was difficult to find another nationally circulating newspaper that had a different story, but the Star Tribune did have a more localized version of the story, since there have been five outbreaks of salmonella poisoning due to peanut butter in Minnesota. The Strib provided local readers more in depth information on where to get their peanut butter recalled and quoted local authorities on the issue.

This is a very serious issue, since peanut butter is very popular, especially among school age children, so the only challenge would have been to get a large amount of information out to the public as soon as possible.

I think both the AP and the Star Tribune did a good job of reporting the event and making it relevant and compelling for their readers.

February 11, 2007

Barack Obama Makes Presidential Bid Official

On Saturday, at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Senator Barack Obama gave an inspiring speech announcing his candidacy for the 2008 U.S. Presidency. More about hope, pride, and social change than specific policies and details, Obama's speech channeled Abraham Lincoln, and his charisma is being compared to that of the Kennedy brothers. His competition in the race is, of course, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and many are analyzing the different things that each would bring to the presidency. If elected, Clinton would be the first female president, and Obama would be the first black president.

The New York Times had a very long article on the event, but it was very well written, and very informative for someone like me who hasn't been following the specifics of the 2008 Presidential race very closely. The article provided key phrases from Obama's speech, why it's important, and alot of comparison to his competition, Clinton, and where they both stand on a couple of key issues, also bringing in the opinions of Sen. John Edwards. It also painted a picture of the event for those of us who weren't available to watch it, providing details on the wardrobe choice of Obama, who was accompanying him, and how the stage was set.

A more local source, the Star Tribune, gave similar details like the Times, but the article was significantly shorter, and also provided interesting tid-bits from high-profile Minnesotans, such as Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Although his insight is important to constituents of a more local area, it struck me as slightly odd considering that the article was written by someone from the Los Angeles Times. I wonder, did they put the bit from Rybak in, or did an editor at the Star Tribune add it at the last minute?

Overall, the event is a big one in current politics, and both news sources did an accurate job of covering it.

February 3, 2007

Delaware Senator in Line for President, Makes Remarks About Obama

Shortly after announcing his Democratic candidacy for the 2008 presidential election, Delaware Senator Joseph Biden made a comment regarding fellow frontrunner Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.). He is quoted in both articles as saying that Obama is "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." Many were offended by the remarks, but Obama himself was not, saying that he did not take it personally and has spoken with Senator Biden about it. Biden's remarks were only "historically inaccurate" according to Obama. Senator Biden plans on focusing much of his campaigning on his strong foreign policy expertise.

This would have been a challenge, not necessarily to cover, but to write and find out the more important aspect of the story. Both Biden's announcement for Presidential candidacy and his remarks about Obama occured very closely with eachother, and it is hard to say which one is more newsworthy. This is clearly seen in the different angles taken between the two Twin Cities newspapers.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press focused mostly on the announcement itself, making it the headline of the article, and briefly mentioned the remark later in the piece, making it sound substantially less important.

The Star Tribune, however, made the remarks the main event and provided more interviews and insight in the aftermath of the potentially offensive remarks.

I thought that the remarks about Obama were slightly more newsworthy, as they were quite controversial, so I appreciated the Star Tribune's coverage of it more. Attribution was also done very well. Throughout reading both articles, I didn't find anything that made me ask where the information came from.

January 23, 2007

New Passport Rules in Effect Today

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday about the new passport rules that are taking effect for air travelers. As of today, people traveling out of the country will need a passport to get back into the U.S. While this was the case previous to Tuesday, areas needing a passport now include Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda. U.S. territories, however, are exempt from the rule. This includes Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. This rule does not go into effect for land and sea travelers until January of next year. The need for a passport now also includes travelers of all ages, including infants.

While the issue was not a particularly difficult one to cover, Ellen Tomson provided the facts that travelers need to know about the new rules and regulations.

The Star Tribune also covered this event, but used a different approach to the same story, which was released in print on Monday the 22nd. Received via the AP wire, the article focused on how the new rules are or will affect the lives of Americans rather than on the strict changes of policy. Along the course of the story, readers were informed of the changes, but it was written in a more editorialized format. The Star Tribune story also included more insight from businesses like AAA and Expedia.com about the notifications they have been giving potential travelers. The only major disparity between the two stories was in the statistics about current passport holders in the U.S. The Pioneer Press reported that 94% of Americans already had passports, while the Star Tribune claimed that "only about a quarter of U.S. citizens hold valid passports."

I felt that the Pioneer Press did a better job of reporting the changes, as they simply gave the facts about what to expect and where the changes are taking effect. The Star Tribune got the point across, but only on a very basic level, and was hard to find through all of the anecdotes from specific people. This may have to do with the fact that the Star Tribune's story was received from the Associated Press, but the directness of the Pioneer Press was appreciated. The leads of the two stories were also very different. Again, the Star Tribune starts out with a direct story from someone in Atlanta, and then gets to the information later, while the Pioneer Press begins by giving the most important and useful information right away.