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November 30, 2008

Guilty plea in prostitution charges for New Brighton City Council member

David Phillips, a member of the New Brighton City Council has pleaded guilty in the misdemeanor charge of engaging in prostitution.

Under the Alford Plea, Phillips is not admitting to committing the crime, but acknowledges that a sufficient amount of evidence exists for him to be charged and possibly found guilty.

Phillips went to the Days Inn on University Ave on Feb. 25 to meet with an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute. After handing the officer a 100 dollar bill and subsequently removing his clothing he was arrested.

Along with $828 in fines, Phillips has also been ordered by a judge to complete “john school.� According to the Star Tribune, a “john school� is “a program for people convicted of hiring prostitutes -- remain law-abiding and maintain contact with his probation officer.�

According to the Sun Newspaper for New Brighton, “Larson said Phillips will likely remain on the council� until his term is up on Dec. 31, 2011. “If he had been charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor, [Phillips] would be required to leave the council.�

Upon completing his probation orders, Phillips’ misdemeanor will be erased from his record in one year.

Even though this was a breaking news story on the Sun’s website, and obviously a popular story in the city of
New Brighton, the Star Tribune had a considerable amount of more coverage, including important quotes from another city council member and details of the arrest as well as Phillips’ charges and fines.

NPR journalist experiences car bombing in Baghdad

A bomb attached to the car of an NPR reporter and three Iraqi colleagues went off as it sat parked on a street in West Baghdad. All four escaped injury.

Reporter Ivan Watson stood nearly fifteen feet away while interviewing two area shop owners when the car exploded due to a bomb that was placed underneath the driver’s seat of the “armored� BMW.

Watson reportedly told NPR that the “bomb appeared to have been one of the so-called sticky bombs that insurgents have increasingly used to lethal effect in Baghdad over the past year.�

According to the Associated Press, several anonymous Iraqi soldiers “said they had arrested a suspect, an egg vendor who had suspected family links to a member of al-Qaida in Iraq.�

NPR reported that an “Iraqi army officer said an informant had called in with a tip that the bomb had been attached to the BMW while the NPR journalists were inside the restaurant.�

Because increased security in Baghdad has stalled the use of truck bombs as of recently, “sticky bombs� have come to replace the former as they are attached to many vehicles daily.

I really enjoyed reading the story by NPR because the entire article came from a direct source that was actually there and had experienced everything. Reading an article in the first person was a different experience, but it made me trust the information that was being relayed to me more.

I also noticed that NPR mentioned the street where the bombing happened and then gave the history of the street, which was a great addition to the story and very interesting to read.
“Rabiye Street was once a bustling commercial boulevard, where boutiques and popular cafes faced the gardens of a grassy median. At the height of the fighting in 2005, 2006 and 2007, this district was the scene of intense clashes and bloody massacres involving insurgents from al-Qaida in Iraq.�

I found it interesting that in the Associated Press’s article, the author said that the Iraqi soldiers who arrested the vendor remained anonymous due to media relations policies, yet in the NPR account, one of the soldiers was named. "I received a call just three minutes before it exploded," said Iraqi national army Capt. Heider Fawzi. (NPR)

New age limit set for safe-haven law in Nebraska

State legislators in Nebraska met on Wednesday to discuss changing the age limit of the controversial safe-haven law.

According to BBC News, “The law passed in July was intended to prevent vulnerable parents abandoning newborn babies in potentially dangerous situations.�

Based on a 41 to 6 vote lawmakers decided to limit the age in which children are allowed to be dropped off to 30 days or less. Previously, no age limit had been set for the law even though every other state had an age limit.
The consensus among the majority of the legislators is that local hospitals and social services in Nebraska have inundated with older children and teenagers.

According to CNN, “Nebraska's safe haven law was intended to allow parents to hand over an infant anonymously to a hospital without being prosecuted.�

Jen Rae Hein, communications director for the governor told CNN, “The abandonment of these children -- and the harm it is causing them -- is an immediate concern.�

The revised law will be signed by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman on Friday.

Although I was familiar with what this law was about, and had followed several specific stories of families dropping their (older) off at local hospitals, I felt that CNN did a good job in using several examples of this issue throughout this story to put the issues in to context. I also thought this article had several powerful quotes, or money quotes from people in the story, and the author’s use of transitions for the quotes helped to weave the story along.

November 23, 2008

Four-day strike in Chile leads to workers pay increase

A four-day strike in Santiago, Chile ended on Friday after the government approved a proposal for a ten percent pay raise for all government employees.

The pay increase, which goes in to effect Dec. 10 had been subjected to different amounts based on negotiations between the workers and the government. The workers originally asked for a 14.5 percent increase while the government first offered a 6.5 percent increase which they then increased days later to 9.5 percent. According to the Brunei Times, the government “was forced to improve its offer again after the Lower House of Congress rejected a 9.5 per cent increase.�

According to CNN.com, “Because of the strike, garbage piled up on streets, 18 hospitals were paralyzed and 3,000 surgeries were postponed. Even weddings and autopsies were not performed.�

CNN.com reported the number of employees affected as being 450,000 while the Brunei Times reported 400,000.

I found it interesting that the Brunei Times put this (random) political spin on the situation: “…the latest in a series of protests against President Michelle Bachelet's ruling centre-left coalition, which polls show could be ousted by rightist opponents in a presidential election next year.� I feel like in order to write something like this, the reporter needed to offer other information regarding this issue, especially for people who aren’t familiar with the current political climate of Chile.

A good deed that went a long way: Family gives away free vegetables on farm

Around 40,000 people showed up to a farm in Platteville, CO where a family was giving away free vegetables.

On Saturday, the Miller Family gave away free potatoes, carrots and leeks on the Weld County farm located near Denver’s town of Platteville. After hearing that food was being stolen from local churches, the Millers decided to open their farm up to the public for the first time.

Chris Miller told the Associated Press that "People obviously need food."

The Denver Post reported that the Millers “expected between 5,000 and 10,000 people spread out over a couple of days. Instead, they found themselves on Saturday morning inundated with cars and people with sacks and wagons and barrels ready to harvest whatever was available.�

Sandra Justice told the Associated Press, “"Everybody is so depressed about the economy. This was a pure party, everybody is having a great time getting something for free.�

The second day of gleaning, picking up leftover food on a farm, was cancelled for Sunday. Chris Miller told the Denver Post, “the pickins' are very slim now."

Both articles painted a very nice picture of the Miller family and all that they do for their community, but I think that the Associated Press’ article should have made a stronger connection to this story and the state of the economy.

Reading the Denver Post’s story, I was able to truly understand the desperation of folks in the community as the reporter included a section in the article that mentioned incidents near Denver where people have resorted to stealing food for the holidays.

“Evidently, Platteville isn't the only place where this is the case. Last week in Denver, thieves broke into freezers owned by the Park Hill Grandparents Organization and stole Thanksgiving trimmings — including more than a dozen frozen turkeys — set to be donated.�

The article also mentioned nearby places that were giving away food as well, putting somewhat of a positive spin on the situation/story.

“And in Lakewood on Saturday, people lined up in the dark at 6 a.m. to collect Thanksgiving boxes, donated by the Jeffco Action Center. By the end of the day, 5,141 people had gotten food — the biggest demand in 40 years.�

I also realize that because the Denver Post is a local paper, they may have easier access to this type of information.

Fallen officers honored in St. Paul ceremony

The group known as the Minnesota Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors held its annual service in remembrance of area police officers that were killed in the line of duty.

The Blue Light Holiday Ceremony was held Sunday evening on the State Capitol grounds near the Peace Officers Memorial. The Star Tribune reported that appearances will be made by “by family members of fallen Lino Lakes officer Shawn Silvera and fallen Minneapolis Park Police officer Mark Bedard.�

The ceremony will also feature the traditional blue lights as well as musical performances by local artists.

According to Examiner.com, “the color blue is associated with law enforcement,� and the group is requesting that “businesses and the public to display blue lights over the holidays.�

Initially, I was drawn to this story because I have several family members who are on the police force. The
Examiner website provided essential information, yet the Star Tribune’s account provided extra information on what Project Blue Light is about.

November 16, 2008

Rebels suspected of killing Peru police officers in ambush

At around 2:30 a.m. police were patrolling an area known for drug trafficking in the Ayacucho province when, according to the Associated Press, “attackers opened fire on their vehicle from both sides of a highway…�

A national police communiqué told the UK Associated Press that “the Shining Path Rebels are suspected of the killing of the four highway police officers.�

The Shining Rebels are known around the area as “narcoterrorists,� who work with local drug traffickers who pay the Shining Rebels for protection.

According the Associated Press, “One officer died in the attack, two died from gunshot wounds in a hospital and the fourth was in critical condition, police said.�

Interior Minister Remigio Hernani told the UK Associated Press that “the attackers may have been retaliating for police seizures of drugs.�

The US Associated Press’s story provided more background information on the history of Shining Path Rebels, which was useful because I had never heard of them. Also the term “narcoterrorists� was explained which was helpful.

Smoking allowed again in Atlantic City Casinos

After only a month of “clean air� the no smoking ban on Atlantic City’s 11 casinos that was passed by the City Council last April has been repealed.

On Sunday at 12:01a.m. patrons were allowed to light their cigarettes up again. According the Press of Atlantic City, “the month-long smoking ban was blamed by gaming executives for scaring away customers.�

The Press of Atlantic City reported that “Smoking will resume on 25 percent of the casino floor as part of the city's previous restrictions on tobacco use. Customers may also use new smoking lounges that don't contain any slot machines or gaming tables.�

The Associated Press reported that “the financial meltdown rocked the economy and led to even steeper declines at the casinos.�

Trump Entertainment Resorts CEO Mark Juliano told the Associated Press that “at least now there's an even playing field with out-of-state slot parlors.�

Too bad this had to happen, as an asthmatic the first and only time I went to a casino was when I went to Mystic Lake. Not sure what all the hoopla was about, but I was sick for almost two weeks afterwards. Why couldn’t they only allow smoking in the “lounges?�

Lawsuits against the friends of Amanda Jax dropped

The family of Amanda Jax, a 21-year-old who died from alcohol poisoning last year after a night of extreme drinking on her birthday has decided to drop all charges against Jax’s former friends. The lawsuit is now only against the bar where Jax and her friends were drinking on the night of Oct. 29.

Blattner Enterprises, who owns the now defunct Sidelines Bar & Grill in Mankato, is being sued by Jax’s family for over $ 50,000.

According to the Star Tribune, “In its claims against the bar, the suit says bartender Beau Ryan ignored Amanda's obvious state of intoxication.�

The bar owners, Craig and Adam Blattner, have denied these allegations.

Jax had a blood-alcohol content of almost 0.46 percent when she was found dead the next morning in a friend’s apartment. That amount is almost six times the legal limit allowed for driving.

The Free Press in Mankato
reported that according to police reports, “The friends told police they had spent two or three hours drinking at the bar with Jax. They drank pitchers of “Long Island iced teas,� shots of alcohol and beer.�

“Jax seemed nearly unconscious when she was carried out of the bar, brought to the apartment and laid on her side in a bedroom, the friends told police. She was alive when someone checked on her at 2:30 a.m. When someone checked on her again at 7 a.m., she was dead.�

While I am sorry for this family’s loss, I just don’t think that making her friends responsible for Amanda’s actions is right. I do hold the bar accountable, but I’m not sure how realistic it is to sue them, I mean even if the bartenders would have stopped serving her and friends, what if they just went to another bar? It happens all the time.

November 9, 2008

Local Fox News reporter charged with second DWI

KMSP-TV reporter Beth McDonough, 40 was arrested early Saturday and charged with a second-degree DWI, careless driving, and leaving the scene of an accident.

City Pages reported that in a criminal complaint, “McDonough hit another vehicle on Interstate 394 near Highway 169 shortly before 1 a.m. Officers caught up with McDonough and noticed signs of intoxication. An intoxilyzer test recorded McDonough's blood-alcohol concentration at .24.�

The Star Tribune reported that “[McDonough] refused a blood-alcohol test at first but later consented.�
McDonough was still on probation from last December when she received her first DWI charge was stripped of her driver’s license. The Star Tribune reported that “her license was reinstated in June.�

After posting a $ 12,000 bond, McDonough was released Saturday afternoon from Hennepin County Jail. Her first court appearance is Dec. 2.

McDonough has since been suspended from KMSP-TV.

Although City Pages’ account of story did not contain as much information as the Star Tribune’s story, they sure seemed to have a lot of fun with it! I enjoyed reading their version of a lede;

“TV news reporters fall fast too. And they also get a taste of their own medicine as their picture and embarrassing moment is broadcast across the Twin Cities. Lessons to be learned and ratings to gain!�

Florida high school votes to keep school named after Klansman

A school board in Florida voted Monday night to keep the name of a majority black high school named after Ku Klux Kan leader Nathan Bedford.

Fox News reported that “Forrest High got its name in 1959, when the Daughters of the Confederacy, angry about the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision forcing school integration, pushed for the name.�

According to the Associated Press, “after hearing about three hours of public comments, Duval County School Board members voted 5-2 to the retain the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School.� The two votes against the name where made by the school board’s only two African American members.

More than 140 people huddled in the board room to listen to arguments on both side, and 20 other people watched the meeting on a television in another room.

Brenda Priestly Jackson, one of two African Americans on the school board told the Associated Press that “(Forrest) was a terrorist and a racist."

Jackson also told Fox News, “I was actually in shock when I read the item, we had three hours of public comment, and I kid you not, you would have thought you'd gone back to some other place and time."

June Cooper, who is white, told the Associated Press that “Cooper was a good man, and that he was a military genius."

The Associated Press reported that “Some had suggested naming the school after the street it sits on, or honoring a graduate whose plane was shot down in 1991 over Iraq on the first night of Operation Desert Storm.�

This is the second time in two years that the school board has voted on this issue.

School in Haiti collapses

A school in Petionville, Haiti collapsed Friday, killing more than 30 students, and injuring many more.

According to the International Herald Tribune, “Neighbors suspected the building was poorly rebuilt after it partially collapsed eight years ago.� The Charlotte Observer reported the death toll as 75 on Friday as well.

Jinny Germain, a French teacher at College La Promesse said that many people left their homes well before, out of fear that the building would give away. She also revealed that the school’s owner then attempted to buy the families abandoned lots.

Around 500 students attended the College La Promesse, a kindergarten through high school institution; it is not clear whether all 500 students were in the school when it collapsed.

Many people suspected that recent rains were a major cause of the collapse; however, Mayor Claire Rudie Parent of Petionville told the International Herald Tribune that “she suspected a structural defect caused the collapse.� The Tribune reported that the “concrete building’s third story was still under construction� at the time.

Haitian President Rene Preval revealed to the Charlotte Observer that “a previous mayor of Petionville had tried to halt the expansion of La Promesse over safety concerns but the effort faltered when a new mayor came into power in the hillside suburb of the capital.�

She went on to plead for “consistency� between new and old administration. “The next time the mayor speaks and the authorities speak, people will listen,� Preval said.

Yphosiane Vil, a civil protection official told the Tribune that “More children were believed buried in the rubble of the concrete building, and the death toll was likely to go higher.�

I must have read almost 20 stories throughout the weekend as they were updated, death toll numbers increased (88 on Sunday), and new information became available. I have just now learned today (Sunday) that World News has reported that the owner of the school Fortin Augustin has been arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter for the wreckage.

November 2, 2008

After rape, girl is killed by Islamists for committing adultery

Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, a 13-year old Somali girl reported rape to authorities and was subsequently killed in the town of Kismayo.

According to CNN, “Dozens of men stoned Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow to death Oct. 27 in a stadium packed with 1,000 spectators in the southern port city of Kismayo, Amnesty International and Somali media reported, citing witnesses.�

AllAfrica reported that “this kind of punishment allowed under Islamic law and more commonly reported under the Islamic countries.�

In a statement to CNN, David Copeman, Amnesty International's Somalia campaigner said, “This child suffered a horrendous death at the behest of the armed opposition groups who currently control Kismayo.�

Reports have concluded Somalia as being one of the most destitute and violent countries in the world. CNN reported that “fighting is a daily occurrence, with violent deaths reported nearly every day.�

Troubling to me is the fact that allAfrica reported the 13-year-old girl as committing adultery; whereas CNN reported that she was raped. Obviously there is a difference in the legalities and morals of the two countries…but I was angered with certain parts of allAfrica’s report.

CNN’s article cited the female as a 13-year-old girl and allAfrica reported that the female was a 23-year-old woman. I checked with other sources, but I was still given conflicting ages. I later learned that the Somali journalists who first reported the story reported that she was 23 based her physical appearance. That makes me wonder how seriously ethics in journalism are taken in other countries compared to the United States.

University professor admits to stealing McCain signs

A visiting Professor at St. Olaf College confessed to stealing signs in support of McCain/Palin that were along Hwy. 19 in Northfield.

Philip Busse, who according to the Star Tribune is a “veteran writer, political activist and failed mayoral candidate in Portland, Ore� wrote of his experiences in his Huffington Post blog.

Titled "Confessions of a Lawn Sign Stealer, the Star Tribune quoted Busse as writing that "yanking out the (three) 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.''

Although in an email to the Northfield News Busse acknowledged his wrongdoing, he said that he was surprised at the reaction he’s received from people, citing that many have focused on his actions instead of his after-thought essay.

Busse is quoted as saying in the Pioneer Press, "I'm disappointed that most readers seem to have focused on the thefts, and not on the larger thoughts."

Steve Blodgett, St. Olaf’s director of marketing and communications expressed disapproval Busse’s actions in a quote to the Star Tribune, “"His actions ... are in direct conflict with the college's values and mission, and we do not in any way condone them.''

According to the Pioneer Press, “The Northfield Police Department says stealing political yard signs is treated as a misdemeanor, but complainants rarely decide to pursue charges.� The Star Tribune reported that Busse has offered to pay for the stolen signs.

As always, the Star Tribune’s account contained more information overall the Pioneer Press’s story and they were more objective in their writing in that they (Star Tribune) had more than one source.

I also noticed that the Pioneer Press labeled the Huffington Post as a liberal news site was this even necessary? Even if this is well-known notion, is it ethical for the Pioneer Press to comment?

There was also two discrepancies in the articles, one of which concerned the number of signs Busse actually stole. The Pioneer Press reported that Busse took seven signs and the Star Tribune reported that three signs were taken from Busse.

Also, the Pioneer Press reported that Busse is a visiting professor at St. Olaf's theatre department and the Star Trbune reported that Busse was teaching a class in media studies.

Double cheeseburger to be replaced on McDonalds’ menu

McDonalds’ new cheeseburger, the McDouble will soon take the place of the classic double cheeseburger as a way to increase profits for the chain.

According to BloggingStocks, “The new cheeseburger will be a little less cheesy, with two beef patties but only one slice of cheese.� The new burger “will cost about six cents less to make.�

Blogging Stocks reported that “…McDonald's will attempt to market the new burger as healthier, eliminating one slice of cheese hacks off 15% of the fat and 11% of the calories.�

Although the double cheeseburger has been a staple item on the dollar menu, the proposed price for the McDouble is $1.19. The Chicago Tribune reported that the “switch stems from soaring commodity costs, which have reduced profits from the dollar menu.�

McDonalds’ franchises have experienced a raise in ingredient costs.

Morningstar Stock analyst John Owens told the Chicago Tribune that hiking the cost of ingredients has “hurt the profitability of the items on the dollar menu, even though it's driving traffic to the restaurants."

Analysts estimate that the McStingy will cost about six cents less to make -- combined with the company's plan to raise the price to about the dollar mark, it could spell increased profitability for the chain.

Reading the two articles on this story has really stressed to me the importance of always reading more than one source on a story. The Chicago Tribune’s story on the new burger contained essential information, but the story by the BloggingStocks presents information on the story surrounding the current economic situation.

The BloggingStocks’ article had details about the new burger included, something that readers are probably interested in.