January 2012 Archives

Syrian rebels push fighting into Damascus

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BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Syrian government forces fought with rebels Monday to reclaim eastern suburbs of the capital city Damascus.

According to a New York Times article, rebel forces brought the fighting closer than ever to the capital in the 10-month-old conflict, engaging with tanks, troops and armed vehicles.

Russia, a notable ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said Monday that it plans to host informal meditation talks between leaders of both sides through its Foreign Ministry in Moscow. The ministry said that it has not received cooperation for such talks from the rebels.

"In an attempt to contribute with the Syrians to a peaceful settlement without foreign intervention and with respect to the sovereignty of Syria, we have appealed to the Syrian government and to all opposition groups to send their representatives to Moscow at a mutually acceptable time for informal contacts without prior conditions," the Foreign Ministry said.

But the Syrian National Council, a large Syrian opposition group, was reported by Agence France-Presse to not agree to the offer unless Assad resigned from office, an option that both Russia and Assad said they view as unacceptable.

As the number of civilian deaths tallied nearly 40 Monday, intensity increased at the United Nations for Russia to agree to the draft resolution, as said in a Star Tribune article. The resolution calls for Assad to hand over power to his vice president and allow creation of a unity government and eventually elections.

Assad has 15 days to respond before a United Nations Security Council may be forced to take further actions. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton, a participant of the council, said she condemned the escalation of the Syrian regime's violent and brutal attacks on its own people.

"The status quo is not acceptable," she said. "The longer the Assad regime stands in the way of a peaceful transition, the greater the concern that instability will escalate and spill over throughout the region."

Analysis: Leads in story about missing 6-year-old girl


The lead is designed to draw audience attention. In the msnbc.com article, the lead is straight-forward, summarizing the most important information in the story. The lead incorporates the essentials in hard news reporting: facts based on the five W's and a clear, concise writing style.
What the story is about is by far the most detailed aspect of the lead whereas why or how the story occurred is of less importance. These aspects of the story are typically found later in the story to provide further detail.
I feel the reporter chose this particular lead because it quickly informs the reader what happened yet provides some detail to provide the reader a better understanding without using too much space.

MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker said he has kept his promises and is moving the state in a positive direction during his second "state of the state" address Wednesday.

Walker, who is facing recall, focused on the successes during his first year, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The governor mentioned how he balanced the state's $3 million budget deficit while lowering property taxes and adding over 13,000 private-sector jobs.

"Our unemployment rate is down from a year ago. In fact, it's the lowest it's been since 2008," Walker said. "We are turning things around. We are heading in the right direction."

But Walker's figures are incorrect according to Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, who said that the state has lost jobs for six consecutive months.

"What we heard tonight is that the state of our state is divided and broken," Barca said.

As reported in a La Crosse Tribune article, Walker promised in his campaign to create 250,000 private-sector jobs in his four-year term. He failed to mention that pledge Wednesday.

Preliminary state figures show that only 2,500 jobs were created in the past year.

"It is unacceptable that the governor suggests he has kept his promises, while the facts prove otherwise," Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller said. "He is living in a state of denial."

Lakeville dad guilty of child neglect

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A Dakota County jury found Lakeville dad Steven Cross guilty of child neglect Wednesday. As reported in the Star Tribune, Cross, who abandoned his 11-year-old son Sebastian in July, will likely be sentenced to two years of probation.

The jury only required 30 minutes to announce its verdict, at which point Cross began sobbing.

"I was only thinking about my son," he said. "This is awful. I wouldn't wish this on anybody."

The Pioneer Press reported that Cross was unable to find work as an architect and was near evicting from his foreclosed home. He left Sebastian a note before driving to Cambria, Calif., in search of family. He was arrested on Aug. 28 while living in a van and working in a deli.

Sebastian found two letters, one addressed to him and another to the parents of his best friend, Joanne and John Pahl., asking them to take care of his son until Aug. 31. Cross said in an additional letter that he would sell all his possessions to the family for $1.

Cross has a scheduled sentence hearing on March 20.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf showed optimism towards building the team's new stadium at the Metrodome after a three-hour meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton Wednesday.

In a press release by the Pioneer Press Wilf said that the Arden Hills location remains in the picture.

"We would still like to explore [it], but we would leave it up to the legislative working group to decide where they would want us to work hardest at," Wilf said.

The working group, which includes Sen. Julie Rosen, R- Fairmount, as one of its leaders, will meet later this week.

"We are not ready to commit to a single site but we are moving forward," Rosen said.

As reported in the Star Tribune, Ramsey County officials funding the Arden Hills project have until the end of the week to create a new proposal after Rosen said their food and beverage tax plan was not doable.

Dayton sparked the latest round of stadium discussion by announcing Monday that the only Metrodome location had political chance of going forward at the Legislature this year.

When asked how quickly a public subsidy package could be created, Dayton said he was not setting any more deadlines, still leaving plans for the stadium unsettled.

Cruise ship fuel removal to begin Saturday

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GIGLIO, Italy -- Preliminary actions were made for the removal of fuel from the capsized Costa Concordia Tuesday. Half a million gallons are to be extracted from the cruise ship before it leaks into the Tuscan Sea.

Fuel extraction is expected to begin Saturday by Smit, the Dutch shipwreck salvage firm, reported the Star Tribune. On Tuesday teams hitched the bow of the vessel to a barge and began underwater inspections to locate six of the ships fuel tanks.

Franco Gabrielli, head of the national civil protection agency, said that once the initial six tanks are emptied, 50 percent of the fuel aboard the ship will have been extracted.

Pumping will continue 24 hours a day barring rough seas or technical glitches, said Gabrielli, noting that these six tanks are relatively easy to access.

Preparations for drilling continued Tuesday amid the discovery of very thin oil slick. As reported by the Washington Post, the specific origin of the oil was unknown but absorbent booms placed around the hull and surrounding areas were trapping it.

Officials said that there was not significant levels of toxicity present.

"At this stage we don't see a big risk in an oil spill," said Bart Huizing, head of operations at Smit, "but if weather deteriorates nobody can tell what the vessel will do."

River steals 6-year-old girl from father

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ESTACADA, Ore. -- A search is under way for a 6-year-old girl that was swept away by a river Sunday afternoon.

According to msnbc.com, Vinesa Snegur fell into the swift Clackamas River while her father was looking the other way.

"It was just a second of inattention," said sheriff Sgt. James Rhodes, "then, splash, and she fell in. He ran and tried to keep up with her, but he was unable to."

Rhodes said that the girl and her parents, Igor and Marina Snegur, drove 60 miles from their home in southeast Portland to play in the snow. The family parked near the Austin Hot Springs in the Mount Hood National Forest.

The spot has no cell service and is an hour away from the nearest ranger station Rhodes said.

The water temperature Monday was just above freezing when approximately 100 rescue workers searched a four mile stretch of river the Minnesota Daily reported. Trees and roots along with poor visibility imperiled search efforts.

Many streams in western Oregon experienced high water levels as result of a winter storm passing through the region last week. More rain is being forecast this week, raising the possibility of more floods.

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