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October 26, 2007

Democrats Criticize Rice over Efforts in Iraq

House Democrats in Washington criticized Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in a hearing Thursday for mismanaging efforts in Iraq while concealing information from Congress.
Rice testified on Capitol Hill before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Iraq.
Democrats said that the State Department was poorly overseeing the construction of the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Rice had also allowed corruption in the upper levels of the Iraqi government Democrats said at the hearing in Washington.
The hearing focused on U.S. corruptions investigations in Iraq. Right now, the department says it discloses corruptions information because it could hurt U.S.-Iraqi relations.
The hearing gave Democrats a place to question the administration on the war, but did not go unnoticed by Republicans.

Rice appeared flustered at some points during the three-hour testimony.

Summer Drought Produces Mixed Pumpkin Crop

Minnesota pumpkin growers are experiencing smaller pumpkins and a small crop this season partially due to the summer drought. Because of this, consumers can expect to see higher prices and less supply when buying pumpkins this year.
Many pumpkins did not make it through the drought-stricken summer. Because of the large amount of rain in the past month, the stems of some pumpkins also began to rot. The combination resulted in a smaller yield.
Pumpkin experts are saying that Minnesota's pumpkin crop could have slumped as much as 50 percent from last year.
Due to the smaller crop, many businesses found it necessary to buy pumpkins from out-of-state suppliers. Retailers have turned to Illinois and Iowa for supplies this year. Illinois had a very healthy crop this year, so suppliers in the state are selling to much of the upper Midwest. Because of the cost of shipping, the overall price of pumpkins has increased.

Kurdish Separists Warned by Turkey

Turkey warned Thursday that U.S. troops will not stop at Iraqi borders in search of Kurdish Separatists.
Iraqi officials arrived in Turkey in attempt to persuade the government to stay away from Kurdish guerrilla bases in northern Iraq. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq sent American diplomats as well.
Leaders in Turkey have been in need of Iraqi and U.S. authorities to stop Turkish Kurd rebels from staging attacks all-around the area.
Turkey appears to be waiting to launch any kind of large-scale attack until the Prime Minister visits Washington in November. U.S. officials are urging Turkey to refrain from launching any kind of attacks that could destabilize one of Iraq's most stable regions.
U.S. officials are said to be taking necessary steps in the struggle in attempt to keep guerrillas out of the northern part of Iraq.
Turkey is requesting assistance from the U.S. as a form of repayment for its help in Afghanistan, but the top American military commander in northern Iraq said it is not the responsibility of the U.S. military.

Help to Survivors and Family Members of Bridge Collapse

Legislators began to consider how to help I-35W survivors and family members Thursday at the Red Cross headquarters in Minneapolis.
Relatives and survivors told their stories to a House of Representatives Committee. The hearing began with the state's consideration for creating a fund for families and survivors of the collapse. This fund would be similar to one created by the federal government after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Large medical bills and lost wages have plagued many involved in the collapse. Legislators must come to a decision on what role the state will play in offering compensation to families and survivors.
As time goes on, the frustration of those involved continues to increase.
"It is very maddening to see such an idle response from those responsible," survivor Brad Coulter said.
The funding would come from the state's budget and could also include private contributions from others involved with the bridge.
The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 15. Legislators will discuss setting up a fund and how it would be delivered.

The StarTribune's article on this topic focused a lot more on personal accounts of the tragedy where as on msnbc.com the story was very short and mainly about how legislators plan to proceed from this hearing. This is mainly due to the proximity of the tragedy and how it affected the Twin Cities.

October 18, 2007

Dalai Lama Honored in Washington

The 72-year-old Dalai Lama was honored on Wednesday when President Bush bestowed him the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony in the Rotunda at the Capitol.
The award will bring, "tremendous joy and encouragement to Tibetan people," The Dalai Lama said. He expressed hope that in the future Tibet and China will move past their mistrust.
It was the first time since Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 that a sitting US president met publicly with him.
"The Dalai Lama is a universal symbol of peace and tolerance," Bush said.
China had earlier slammed the US for giving such a high honor to the Dalai Lama.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award given by congress. It is designed specifically for each recipiant.

Family Ties Between Obama and Cheney?

Vice President Dick Cheney's wife Lynne Cheney said during a television interview on Tuesday that she had uncovered family ties between her husband and Barak Obama while researching family history for her latest book "Blue Skies, No Fences."
According to her research, the two are eighth cousins. According to MSNBC the two are ninth cousins once removed.
"This is such an amazing American story, lives that have taken such different and varied paths as Dick's and Barak Obama," Lynne Cheney said.
Obama's spokesman said when hearing that he is distantly related to Cheney that, "every family has a black sheep."

Massage Business a Possible Site of Prostitution

The Massage Room Wellness Center in southwest Minneapolis is the site of an investigation for possible prostitution.
Locals had begun to take notice of the high male clientele that the wellness center attracted in combination with the provocative clothing worn by some of the therapists during massage sessions. Authorities were alerted and in August, an undercover officer was allegedly offered sex for an additional cost during a massage session.
The owner was ordered to close his doors and he believes that the claims have hurt his similar business at a downtown location. He denies any connection to the allegations.
The incidences are still under investigation.

Possible Causes of Bridge Collapse Investigated

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board have been re-creating the layout of the Interstate 35W Bridge in attempt to find possible causes for the collapse.
They have begun to inspect specifically the section of the bridge that fell first. By analyzing these gusset plates, investigators are hoping to find out what played the biggest role in the collapse.
Significant corrosion was found in three of the gusset plates found from this section of the bridge. According to one structural engineer, runoff of salt and other de-icing chemicals could have contributed to this corrosion.
The L-11 gusset plate was corroded somewhat more than the other plates. Of the more than 100 gusset plates total from the bridge, this one could have played a substantial role in the collapse on August 1.
Another possible contributing cause of the collapse, according to investigators, is the temperature changes. Even though the bridge had roller bearings, they may not have worked effectively. MnDOT records that state that inspectors found the bearings weren’t working correctly because of corrosion and buildup of debris.
Although major advances have been made in the investigation, authorities are saying that it could be a long time before the causes for the collapse are completely understood.

October 13, 2007

Mudslide Kills 10 in Costa Rica

Torrential rains caused a hillside to collapse in La Fatima De Atenas Thursday, killing 10 people.
On Friday, rescuers had recovered the bodies of 10 people and were still searching for more. Rescuers are using heavy machinery and trained dogs to search for the missing. According to the Red Cross at least 4 more bodies were missing.
The mudslide took out a retaining wall and buried several homes in the hilly town near San Jose. Officials are worried that the hillside could collapse further. They are prohibiting civilians from looking for the missing.
Authorities declared a state of emergency at the scene along with several other areas near river banks where mudslides are feared.

Improvements in Academics at Year-round Schools

An Apple Valley school that offers a year-round class schedule says that teachers and parents report increased improvements in behavior and academic scores.
Apple Valley's Paideia Academy is able to have longer breaks between quarters while still maintaining year-round classes. Students attend classes the same amount of days per school year as students with a more traditional class schedule.
Teachers and students at the school say that the class schedule keeps students from forgetting material over the summer. The school principal Chris Pellant says it avoids unnecessary regression at the beginning of a school year.
Traditional schedules with a summer vacation result in the need to review subjects and classroom expectations every fall according to many public school teachers.
Because students still get a break after each quarter, they are ready to come back to school and work hard, Pellant says.
According to the National Association for Year-Round Education, Minnesota has at least 26 year-round schools. This number is on the rise because of the increase of charter schools.
The Department of Education has approved two year-round charter schools in Minneapolis. They will be designed to help improve performance of at risk children while preparing them to get into college.

Manufacturers Voluntarily Pull Cold Meds for Infants

Many leading manufacturers of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for infants were pulled from the market Thursday on the basis that the medicine could be misused by parents.
14 different products used to reduce congestion have been pulled from shelves nationwide. The decision comes two weeks after safety reviewers for the FDA urged the agency to ban the products for children under the age of 6.
The companies that make the pulled products say they are safe and effective when used properly, but there is a high risk of complications when misused in children under the age of 2.
There is little evidence that these products are effective in children and with this ban there is an increasing fear that the cold and cough products designed for infants may be dangerous. Pediatricians are recommending more traditional methods to calm sick infants such as suctioning out stuffy noses and using salt water drops.
A complete listing of the drugs being pulled can be found on startribune.com

University of Minnesota Faces Lawsuit

Jimmy Williams says he was hired by Univesity of Minnesota Basketball Coach Tubby Smith and then rejected by Athletic Director Joel Maturi for an assistant coaching job with the Gohpers.
After quitting his coaching job at Oklahoma State and selling his home, Williams was ready to move to Minnesota when he received notice that he was not being offered the job.
He filed a suit against Maturi and the university Thursday. He wants the assistant coaching job he had been offered as well as damages for costs due to quitting his job.
His complaint claims that the job offer was overruled by Maturi because of a history of violations while coaching for the Gophers in the 1970s and '80s.
The University of Minnesota says they do not owe Williams anything. According to the university, an agreement on employment was never met and the university never encouraged Williams to leave his coaching job at Oklahoma State.
The university denied a request to interview Smith and Maturi declined to comment about the matter.

October 6, 2007

Peace Agreement Signed by North and South Korean Leaders

Leaders of North and South Korea signed a reconciliation pact early on Thursday in Seoul, South Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun signed the agreement which promised cooperation for peace including to cooperatively end military hostility. The agreement was met after three days of summitt meetings in Pyong-yang.
The two countries agreed to boost economic ties by creating a joint fishing zone and opening a cargo railway service between North and South Korea. They will also send a cheering squad representing both Koreas to the upcoming Olympics in Beijing.
The two countries are trying to seek a permanent peace agreement. Progress on this peace treaty would require support from the United States and China since both fought in the Korean War.

Bush Vetoes Health Care Bill

President George Bush vetoed a bill to extend a health insurance program to children of poor working class families. The families that would be served by this program would be families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to afford private insurance. The bill would expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program which would cover over 10 million children. 6 million children are currently covered by the program.
Democratic leaders in congress are outraged by Bush's veto. The bill passed 67-29 in the Senate last week, but fell short of the two-thirds margin needed to override a veto in the House.
The House will vote to override the veto as early as next week. Republican leaders are confident that the President's position will be supported in the House.

The article covering this story in the StarTribune included many statistics about the program and specific numbers providing the reader with an understanding on how vetoing a bill works in the House and Senate. I researched this story from foxnews.com and found a completely different approach to the story. Their article included more about Bush's stance and less about what the program would actually do for working class families and their children. It also quoted many Democrat leaders on their strong opinions of Bush as a president, creating a much different tone in the story. The articles were written from a completely different perspective depending on the audience in which they were aiming to draw.

Runner Killed by Motorist Near Mankato Campus

A Minnesota State University, Mankato cross-country runner was killed when struck by an SUV during a run, Tuesday.
Catherine Delwiche, 18, was hit head on by 57-year-old Dale Hoechst near the Mankato campus. She had been on a run while teammate Laura Palmer, 18, biked with her. Palmer sustained minor injuries in the accident.
Alcohol was ruled out as a possible cause for the accident. Although Hoechst Lost control of the vehicle, he had no traces of acohol in his system. He sustained minor injuries and was released from the hospital, Wednesday.
Delwiche was a freshman attending Mankato. She had just starting running again this week after sustaining an injury early in the season. She was one of the state's top cross-country runners throughout high school in Glencoe, Minn.

The Startribune, Thursday edition fucused more on Delwiche's personal life of running rather than details of the accident. The reporter obtained personal information from family, friends and other teammates. It made the article more personal, focusing more on the recovery of those affected by her death. Kare11 had a story that was more fact-based and provided less personal information.

Construction Companies Claim to be Misled by MnDOT

Companies who lost the bid for the Interstate Highway 35W bridge project feel misled by MnDOT after the winning design was announced.
Three construction companies are complaining that state officials misled them into thinking that MnDOT wanted the cheapest and fastest solution for rebuilding the I-35W bridge. Lunda Construction, Ames Construction and C.S. McCrossen are claiming that what MnDOT really wanted was a plan that was more expensive and took more time to complete.
These three firms have been working with MnDOT for years. They are wondering how they could have lost since many had previous road contracts with MnDOT including other bridges in the metro area.
The companies filing the protest are represented by Dean Thompson, an attorney in the Twin Cities. They want the public to know that they think they were cheated out of the job.
The winning design was created by Flatiron Constructors, a firm from Colorado. They have never done business with MnDOT in the past.
MnDOT said that all bids for rebuilding the I-35W bridge were given the same information about the project.