February 2012 Archives

State has budget surplus of $323 million

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State officials announced a $323 million surplus Wednesday, but the money was automatically committed to paying the state's debt to public schools and replenishing budget reserves, the Star Tribune said.

The budget forecast was the second positive forecast in as many years. State Economist Tom Stinson and Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said it showed the state's finances may be in a holding pattern.

Stinson and Schowalter said that the state's economy has picked up and Minnesota's December unemployment was 2.8 percentage points lower than the national average -- 5.7 percent in Minnesota compared to 8.5 percent nationally, the Tribune said.

Minnesota has significant debts to repay in the coming budget cycles, so the forecast is unlikely to change the dynamic at the Capitol this year, the article said.

The next budget forecast predicts a $1.1 billion shortfall for 2014-15, the Pioneer Press said.

State leaders announced in November an improved economy created a surplus of nearly $900 million, money that was used to begin refilling reserves, the Tribune said. The state will now begin paying down $2.7 billion in the school shift -- money that was essentially borrowed from public education to bring the state budget into balance.

Stinson said that consumer confidence is rising.

"Generally things are looking good," he said "The economy appears to be strengthening."

Lower spending estimates account for two-thirds of the change, with revenue updates accounting for the other one-third, the Press said. State revenue are stable and Minnesota labor numbers are outperforming other states.

"We're certainly in a much stronger place than we were a year ago," said Schowalter.

Storms tear through southern Illinois, southwest Missouri

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At least six people were killed and about 100 were injured after a powerful tornado Wednesday tore through Harrisburg, Illinois, authorities said.

The National Weather Service said the EF-4 tornado that hit the town of 9,000 just before 5 a.m. was part of a wave of storms that cut across parts of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, an stltoday.com article said.

Severe storms also hit southwest Missouri overnight, killing at least three people, the article said.

"We have devastation in our community like we've never seen," Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg said in a news conference. "We can deal with floods. We can deal with lots of things but dealing with a tornado is heartbreaking."

Authorities said they had no one in Saline County, where Harrisburg is located, who is unaccounted for but were still looking for possible victims.

In the tourist city of Branson, Missouri, an apparent twister seemed to hopscotch up the city's main roadway, the Star Tribune said. At least 37 people were reported hurt, mostly with cuts and bruises.

"We were blessed with several things - the time of year and certainly the time of day, when people were not in their vehicles or outdoors," Mayor Raeanne Presley said.

Had this been during the city's peak season, there may have been up to 60,000 visitors in the city and staying in many of the hotels that were damaged. The busy tourist season is scheduled to begin within the next few days, the article said.

"If it was a week later, it'd be a different story," said Bill Tirone, assistant general manager for the 530-room downtown Hilton hotel, where the intense winds shattered windows and sucked furniture away, the Tribune said.

Mitt Romney is looking to build momentum after winning the Michigan and Arizona primaries Tuesday.

Romney scored a hard-won but narrow home state triumph and powered to victory in Arizona, the Star Tribune said. The Republican presidential race now expands to the 10 states that will vote on Super Tuesday.

Romney's slight edge - 41 percent to Rick Santorum's 38 percent - raised questions about whether he would change his strategy, the article said.

"We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough," he told supporters in Michigan.

Romney said he had made personal mistakes in recent weeks and was trying to "do better and work harder."

Romney signaled Tuesday night that he intends to stick to his core campaign message of fixing the economy and reducing unemployment.

"More jobs, less debt and smaller government - you're going to hear that over and over in the states ahead," he said.

The victories earned Romney about three-quarters of the delegates at play Tuesday night, extending his numerical lead over his opponents, the New York Times said. Romney won all 29 of Arizona's delegates and about half of those in Michigan, where the final allocation was still being worked out.

The Times said that Romney's twin victories over Santorum have quieted - for now - what had been growing questions about his command of the Republican field and his ability to appeal to the conservative base of his party.

All four candidates face financial strains as they try to advertise in a slate of expensive states, the Tribune said. Costs to run a week's worth of ads across the states voting next week are estimated to be about $5 million.

Third student dies after shooting at Ohio high school

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Three students have died and three others seriously injured after a shooting rampage Monday at a high school near Cleveland.

One student, Russel King Jr., 17, died early this morning of gunshot wounds, the New York Times said. Demetrius Hewlin also died Tuesday. The third student, Daniel Parmertor, 16, died on Monday.

The three victims were seated at a cafeteria table when the suspect pulled out a .22-caliber gun and began firing, witnesses said.

Tim McKenna, chief of police in Chardon, said the suspect in the case would be in court for a hearing Tuesday. The police did not offer any information about a possible motive or how the suspect obtained a gun.

The family of the suspect, T.J. Lane, 17, of Chardon Township, made his identity public Monday night when their lawyer Robert Farnacci read a statement saying the family is mourning "this terrible loss for their community."

Witnesses said that Lane was not a student at the school but knew some of the victims. Lane attends nearby Lake Academy, which is for students with academic or behavioral problems, the Star Tribune said.

Residents offered prayers to the families of those killed and wounded while the community offered grief counseling to students, staff and others at area schools, the Tribune said.

"We're not just any old place, Chardon," Chardon School Superintendent Joseph Bergant II said. "This is every place. As you've seen in the past, this can happen anywhere, proof of what we had yesterday."

Student Nate Mueller said he was at the table in the cafeteria where victims were shot.

"My friends were crawling on the floor, and one of my friends was bent over the table, and he was shot," he told The Plain Dealer. "It was almost like a firecracker went off. I turned around and saw (Lane) standing with a gun and I saw him take a shot."

Mueller told the Cleveland newspaper that Lane would wait at the school to take a bus to Lake Academy. He also said that King had recently started dating Lane's ex-girlfriend.

Lane "was silent the whole time," Mueller said. "That's what made it so random."

Russian and Urkrainian security services foiled a plot to assassinate Vladimir Putin, the San Francisco Chronicle said Monday.

Russian pro-government Channel One television said Urkrainian special services in the Black Sea port of Odessa had held two men linked to a group seeking an Islamist state in Russia's North Caucasus, a Chicago Tribune article said.

"I can officially confirm that they were preparing an (assassination) attempt on Putin," Marina Ostapenko, a spokeswoman for the Russian SBU service said.

Ostapenko said two men were under arrest. One was captured in Odessa after being wounded in an explosion at an apartment which also killed another alleged plotter.
The second man, who was on the international wanted list, was arrested a month later.

The Tribune said several assassination attempts have been reported on Putin since he became president in 2000 but such reports have rarely made a big impact on Russia.

Channel One said the plotters had been planning to travel to Moscow to kill Putin but the Ukrainian special services had been tipped off by the security service, which Putin once headed.

"Our final goal was to go to Moscow and attempt to assassinate Putin," a man described as one of the plotters said on Channel One. "Our deadline was after the election of the president of Russia."

Putin, 59, is seeking a return to the Kremlin amid the largest challenge to his 12-year rule after fraud allegations at parliamentary polls in December sparked the largest mass demonstrations against the government since the 1990s. Protesters wore white ribbons Sunday and joined hands in a bid to encircle central Moscow, including the Kremlin.

Three polls published last week show Putin winning more than 50 percent, the level needed to avoid a runoff, the article said.

Some Russians reacted with skepticism, the Tribune said, making clear on social network sites that they did not believe the report or suggesting the timing of the announcement was to attract sympathy for Putin.

"Everything is being done to assure Putin's victory," Gennady Gudkov, a lawmaker for the opposition Just Russia party and a deputy head of the lower house of parliament's security committee said. "That's why information is being dumped so that everyone forgets about the mass protest rallies."

Analysis: Multimedia options

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This week we discussed multimedia options, specifically slide-show content. For our analysis though, you asked us to compare two news organizations' multimedia options.

First, the Star Tribune features pictures with their headline stories, along with video to support feature stories. They also have a photo gallery section that follows up on their latest stories or compliments others. The photo galleries have captions describing the photos and the events taking place, very similar to what we did in class.

As for the pictures that accompany news stories, they are either single photos or mini slide-shows, and are complete with captions. Some stories also feature links to related content.

The other organization I looked at was KSTP in Minneapolis. They have links to news stories just like the Tribune but feature video content with some of the stories. They have a video section that houses most of their video content. I notice that KSTP has video content for subjects that the Tribune does not, like weather.
KSTP also has photo slide-shows with captions.

Both sites have links to social media like Facebook and Twitter.

As for writing, the multimedia help to complete the picture for a reader. Words are sometimes not enough to tell the full story so a multimedia compliment can be very beneficial.

The writing style for video clips and photo slide-shows is not the same as an article in the Tribune, mainly because they are shorter and more concise.

Gov. Mark Dayton has set a March 15 deadline for federal approval of a new St. Croix River bridge, the Pioneer Press said Wednesday.

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann Tuesday, Dayton said if the deadline is not met the Minnesota Department of Transportation will divert money set aside for its construction to other priority projects.

Dayton said the deadline for approving the project had already been extended.

"I was previously advised that it would be taken up on the House floor shortly after Congress reconvened in January; however, to date, no action appears to have been taken," he wrote.

The Star Tribune said that after speaking with Dayton, Bachmann issued a statement noting that while the project remains her "top priority," Congress is scheduled to be in session only eight days between now and the deadline.

Bachmann gave no assurance of a time frame and said she remains "confident we will face this challenge and move forward in a bipartisan fashion to compete this critical and much-needed project."

Bachmann said that the GOP House leaders' attention is now on a major transportation and infrastructure bill. The "road bill" has sparked controversy between Republican and Democratic lawmakers and faces an uncertain future, the Tribune said.

Republican sources familiar with the bridge legislation see little chance the road bill will be resolved soon, exposing the question of what path Bachmann will have to take to win a controversial exemption from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to continue the project.

The measure has received approval from the U.S. Senate but the U.S. house has yet to take action, the Pioneer Press said.

Bridge proponents say a four-lane freeway-style bridge spanning the St. Croix River in Oak Park Heights would help solve downtown Stillwater's traffic-congestion, diverting border-crossing traffic from downtown Stillwater onto Minnesota 36.

It would replace the Stillwater Lift Bridge across the river five miles north of the I-94 bridge crossing, the Pioneer Press said.

Minnesota lawyer named University of Vermont president

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A lawyer who had served as a vice president and provost at the University of Minnesota will become the next president of the University of Vermont, a Pioneer Press article said Wednesday.

E. Thomas Sullivan will be introduced to the UVM community today and will take office on July 15. He succeeds Dan Fogel, who took office in 2002 and resigned Aug. 1, 2011.

John Bramley, former UVM provost and professor, has been serving as interim president since Fogel's resignation, the Pioneer Press said.

The 63-year-old Sullivan is recognized as a national authority on antitrust law, the Star Tribune said. He has written 10 books and more than 50 articles.

Sullivan will be paid $447,000 in pay and deferred compensation during his first three years leading the university in Burlington, the Tribune said.

Dow Jones breaks 13,000 for first time since 2008

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The Dow Jones industrial average crossed 13,000 on Tuesday for the first time since before the 2008 financial crisis, the Guardian said.

The Dow passed 13,000 for about two hours into the trading day, then quickly dropped back. The last time it was above 13,000 was May 20, 2008, four months before the Lehman Brothers investment bank went under.

The Dow fell as low as 6,547 on March 9, 2009, the Star Tribune said. It has almost doubled since then.

Analysts said the 13,000 level is a psychological milepost, but in a market built on perception, it could influence more cautious investors to pump more money into the stock market.

US stocks were boosted by a long-awaited bailout deal from Greece, aimed at preventing a potentially catastrophic default, the Guardian said.

Under the bailout deal, Greece will get €130bn, or about $172bn, from other European nations and the International Monetary Fund. It will also owe €107bn less to investors who own its government bonds, the article said.

European markets fell after the Greece deal was announced. Stocks were down almost 4% in Greece, a little more than 1% in Spain and less than 1% in France and Britain.

Investors noted that Greece remains in deep recession, the Tribune said. Its bond investors will take a 53.5 percent loss on the face value of their bonds, which could discourage future investment.

The U.S. stock market has climbed steadily this year, primarily because of optimism about the economy, the Tribune said.

On Tuesday, the Guardian said, US markets enjoyed strong earnings reports from several big-name companies, including Home Depot and Dollar Thrifty.

Overall, though, investors seemed comfortable moving money into the higher-risk stock market and out of safer investments like government bonds. The yield on the government's benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose 2.05% from 2.01% Friday, a sign that fewer investors wanted the bonds.

Fat Tuesday underway in New Orleans

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Fat Tuesday began in the early morning hours Tuesday, marking the final unfettered party before Lent.

Post-midnight celebrations Monday featured entertainers Cyndi Lauper and Bret Michaels, who gave performances and tossed beads to members of the crowd.

Lundi Gras - or Shrove Monday - has become more popular in the last couple of decades, the Chicago Tribune said. The centerpiece is the ceremonial meeting between the king and queen of the Zulu krewe and Rex, the King of Carnival, and his queen.

Fat Tuesday is the official end of the Carnival season and is described as a thrill complete with food, booze, masked parties and other entertainment. The end of Mardi Gras gives way to the beginning of Lent, the period of fasting and repentance before Easter Sunday.

The French Quarter was full of costumed revelers, an nj.com article said, and the stakeout for prime spots along the Mardi Gras parade route started Monday. Die-hard parade-goers jockey for the best places to vie for beads thrown from floats on Tuesday.

Stephanie Chapman and her family said they would arrive at 4 a.m. today and would remain for the duration of the parade.

"This is a beautiful day and we'll be here until it's over," she said. "It won't rain on my parade, but if it does I won't pay any attention," she said.

Mardi Gras was getting into full swing across the Gulf Coast Monday. In the Cajun country of southwest Louisiana masked riders were preparing to go from town to town, making merry along the way in the Courir du Mardi Gras, nj.com said. Parades were scheduled elsewhere around Louisiana and on the Mississippi and Alabama coasts as well.

The celebration arrived in Louisiana in 1682 when the explorer LaSalle and his party stopped at a place they called Bayou Mardi Gras south of New Orleans to celebrate.

South Korea conducted live-fire military drills near its disputed sea boundary with North Korea Monday, stirring already high tensions between the two nations.

North Korea did not carry out threats of a "merciless" attack, the Star Tribune said. The nation instead intends to focus on internal stability two months after the death of Kim Jong Il and prepare for nuclear disarmament talks with the United States this week.

The talks will focus on six-nation aid, which North Korea pulled out of in 2009. The U.S. and its allies are demanding that the North demonstrate its sincerity in ending its nuclear weapons program before proceeding with the talks.

Tensions are expected to remain high the Tribune said as American forces conduct military exercises with ally South Korea over the next few months.

South Korea's drills took place Monday in an area of the Yellow Sea that was the target of a North Korean artillery attack in 2010 that killed four South Koreans. North Korea did not threaten similar South Korean firing drills in January but called the latest exercise a "premeditated military provocation" and warned it would retaliate for what it considered an attack on its territory.

North Korea claims the waters around the five South Korean islands, the New York Times said. The area, currently patrolled by South Korean warships, has been site of skirmishes between the two navies in 1999, 2002 and 2009. The North Korean barrage in November 2010 propelled the South Korean artillery in Yeonpyeong to launch a counterattack on gun positions on the North Korean shore.

North Korea is prepared for a "total war," and the drills will lead to a "complete collapse" of ties between the Koreas, the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried Monday by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Analysis: Spot and Follows

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This week we discussed spot and follow. I looked at a Pioneer Press article about Congress passing an amendment to require photo IDs when voting this fall.

The first lead, which ran early Wednesday, focused on the hard facts, that the bill passed with an 8-6 vote. A later lead was directed more towards Minnesota and what the state will have to decide on.

The updated version of the story presented more detail about what the state of Minnesota was doing with the issue. I think the later article presented the Minnesota legislature's response to the Congressional actions earlier in the day, and can be seen clearly in the choice of quotes and text in the article.

Citizens organize to block rock quarry proposal

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Citizens are organizing to block a proposed rock quarry in western Minnesota, fearing it will blemish a scenic landscape there.

Strata Corporation of Grand Forks, N.D., wants to develop a 104-acre quarry adjacent to the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, the Star Tribune said.

The quarry would be part of a 478-acre property that hosts nine species of rare and endangered plants amid rock outcroppings and prairie.

Project manager Bill LaFond said Strata is committed to limiting the environmental damage as much as possible and to reducing the impact on rare plants like ball cacti, which are found nowhere else in Minnesota.

"At this point in time we have to develop our natural resources in a wise fashion," he told the West Central Tribune.

Citizens opposed to the quarry gathered in Clinton Sunday. Clark Mastel, one of the residents, owns a 400-head beef cattle operation and has lived in the area since 1977.

"We've went to bed more than once with tears in our eyes worried about what is going to happen here," he said.

The area is already home to two large quarries, the Tribune said. Cold Spring Granite Co. has an architectural store and aggregate quarry nearby while Sioux Falls, S.D.-based L.G. Everest Inc has a larger aggregate quarry adjacent to Strata's site.

Strata intends to develop the quarry in three phases over a projected lifespan of 130 years.

It says the first of the three sites would be located farthest away from the refuge. Rock would be crushed and conveyed directly to BNSF trains next to the site to minimize trucking and other noise and dust-generating activity.

Gayle Hedge, who owns the site and leases it to Strata, said he was motivated by a desire for economic development in the county. He said he has seen too many young people leave the area for lack of opportunity.

Rusty Dinberg, an Ortonville Townships supervisor and farmer who grew up near the site, disagrees.

"It's something that I have been with all my life and I want it to be here after I leave, when I'm dead and gone," he said.

Five members from a New York state professional lacrosse team were arrested after a fight at T.G.I. Friday's in Bloomington, authorities said Wednesday.

The outburst occurred shortly before 1 a.m. Monday and involved 20 to 30 people before "spilling to the outside" of the restaurant, Deputy Police Chief of Police Rick Hart told the Star Tribune.

"It started with someone tossing a menu," Hart said. "One of the groups didn't like it," he said.

Bottles, glasses, food and silverware were flying through the air, Hart said. In all, the restaurant reported about $1,600 in damage.

Rochester Knighthawks team officials said the five players appeared in Hennepin County District Court in Edina Tuesday afternoon before returning home, a Pioneer Press article said. The charges include disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process.
The charges are either gross misdemeanors or misdemeanors, the Tribune said.

Two other T.G.I. Friday's patrons were also arrested. Tyrissa Hart, 19, of Minneapolis, was charged with disorderly conduct and Travis Davidson, 27, of Maplewood, was charged with fleeing police on foot.

Neither publication reported why the fight started.

Hart said "it's probably pretty likely" that drinking played a role in the behavior though no charges were filed connected to alcohol consumption, Hart said

Knighthawks team president Lewis Staats said his team's executives and the National Lacrosse League are investigating what happened. Staats said the five players have not presented any behavioral issues previously.

Senate committee approves amendment to require voter IDs

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The Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections approved Wednesday an amendment to the Constitution that will require voters to present a photo ID.

The controversial bill passed by an 8-6 vote, the Pioneer Press reported. A government innovation and veterans committee will handle it next.

Republicans defended the proposal as a reasonable way of insuring election integrity, a Star Tribune article said. The proposal would effect voting in November.

Two weeks ago, the bill was the subject of a five-hour hearing, where testimony was taken from about three dozen witnesses, the article said. Most witnesses opposed the amendment.

The article said that Constitutional amendments require no action by the governor to get on the ballot. Dayton vetoed a voter ID bill last session.

Congressional leaders are close to closing a deal Wednesday that would extend a payroll tax cut and extra jobless benefits through 2012.

Details in the bipartisan agreement still need to be worked out though, a Star Tribune article said. Both sides felt that the agreement was probably the best deal they could get.

House Republicans said they would offer a bill to extend the $100 billion payroll tax rollback for millions of working Americans without requiring spending cuts. The package will block a 27 percent cut in doctor's Medicare reimbursements that are to occur on March 1.

"I do expect, if the agreement comes together like I expect it will, the House should vote this week," House Speaker John Boehner said.

A vote would most likely happen by Friday, a New York Times article said, before Congress will recess for a week.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats were pleased the package will extend the payroll tax cut and extra jobless benefits. She feels that the agreement status is "way down the road" from where it was a few days ago.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said there were "just a couple of little wrinkles" left to be resolved Wednesday.

Lawmakers said the details of the savings to be used to pay for about $50 million of the roughly $150 million package still need to be determined.

"I think a lot of people realize Congress is not enjoying a great reputation," Baucus said. "Both sides recognized the need to get this done," he said.

Car bombs target embassies in India, Georgia

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Bombers targeted staff at Israeli embassies in India and Georgia Monday, wounding four people.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the attacks on Iran, and its Lebansese proxy, Hezbollah, a Star Tribune article said.

"Iran is behind these attacks and it is the largest terror exporter in the world," he said in a BBC article.

Netanyahu said this is the second attempt of terrorism against innocent victims and blamed Iran for prevented plots to attack Israeli targets in Thailand and Azerbaijan.

In Dehli, witnesses said a motorcyclist placed a device on an embassy car before it exploded, a BBC article said. A bomb in Tbilisi, Geogria was defused.

Iran's news agency Irna quoted the country's ambassador Mehdi Nabizadeh in India denying any involvement, saying "any terrorist attack is condemned and we strongly reject the untrue comments by an Israeli official."

"These accusations are untrue and sheer lies, like previous times," he said.

The Tribune article said the attacks Monday may elevate already high tensions between Iran, who is accused of developing a nuclear weapons program, and Israel, who fears such a program would be a threat to the Jewish state.

Israeli officials comments have raised concern Israel may be preparing a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Analysis: U.S. embassy closes in Syria

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This week we discussed structure in class, the ordering of information and presentation of information in a story.
In a New York Times article about the unfolding events in Syria this week, the author begins the story with the most important information first, the lead. The lead can usually tell the highlights of the story on its own.
The author used the inverted pyramid style to "refresh" the story in the second paragraph and then adds more detail with each subsequent paragraph.
In the article I referenced, I think the author presented the information in a logical order. The order is effective in transitioning the reader from one source of news to the next, and keeps it engaging. I think the story could have been effective had it presented information about recent damages and conflict ahead of background information, largely because readers want to know breaking news ahead of summarized recaps. I would have rewritten the information slightly to clarify its importance and then use strong transitional words or paragraphs to identify remarks or information of less importance.

Gundersen Lutheran seeking public help to fund expansion

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Gundersen Lutheran is seeking public help to fund the rest of its $70 million Campus Renewal project.

The health care provider has raised $38 million since the project broke ground last year, well short of its goal. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013, a La Crosse Tribune article said.

Greg Prairie, a member of the Gundersen Lutheran Board of Trustees, said medicine is important to all of us" and that the project "is going to help expand great medical service to everyone across the region."

Prairie is optimistic the hospital will reach its goal.

"I'm always amazed at the participation level and support," he said.

About $8 million of the raised funds have come from hospital employees, said Dave Solie in a WXOW report. The rest has come from corporate and private donors, the tribune said.

The new part of the building will include private rooms for patients, a new operating facility, E.R. and trauma center. The improvements will help enhance and expand inpatient behavioral health services offer improved medical, surgical and critical care units and allow for new technology and innovation, officials told the tribune.

Dave Skogen, Campus Renewal campaign co-chairman, said the project will be a legacy and meet an increasing need for health care services in the La Crosse area. He thinks the hospital needs to continue to grow in staff and technology.

"And you don't do that without a good facility," he said.

The Minnesota Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday about whether a former University of Minnesota mortuary science student was protected under free speech for comments she made on Facebook.

Amanda Tatro posted in 2009 that she was "playing" with a cadaver and wanting "to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar," a Student Press Law Center article said.

In December 2009, the university filed a formal complaint against Tatro, vowing her comments were threatening and in violation of mortuary science program rules.

The university cited Rule 7 of the anatomy laboratory course, which states, "Conversational language of cadaver dissection outside the laboratory should be respectful and discreet. Blogging about the anatomy lab or the cadaver dissection is not allowable."

The article said in April 2010 the university campus committee on student behavior ruled Tatro's comments to be "disrespectful, unprofessional, and reasonably interpreted as threatening," according to court documents. The committee ruled that Tatro must take an F in the anatomy course, undergo a psychiatric evaluation and be placed on academic probation.

Tatro's attorney, Jordan Kushner, said she was off campus when she posted the comments, she didn't identify the cadaver by name, and she didn't describe the dissection procedure in detail, which student rules forbid, a Pioneer Press article said.

"It would not be constitutionally reasonable for the university to restrict that speech," Kushner said.

Her attorney, Jordan Kushner, said Tatro was off campus when she posted the comments, she didn't identify the cadaver by name, and she didn't describe the dissection procedure in detail, which student rules forbid, said the Pioneer Press.

Tatro's posts caused anxiety among faculty members, who wondered whether the comments - particularly the one about her wanting to stab someone - were directed at them, the article said.

Kushner said in the case of Tatro no specific threats were made.

Mark Rotenberg, general counsel for the university, argued the university was enforcing reasonable rules "to meet legitimate pedagogical objectives," including teaching Tatro and other students to be successful funeral directors and refrain from unprofessional conduct.

Minnesota to get No Child Left Behind waiver

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Minnesota is one of ten states to be released from the No Child Left Behind act, the associated press said.

The waiver will give states leeway in how they prepare and evaluate students, a Star Tribune article said.

The other states to receive waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. New Mexico, the only state that applied for but did not receive the waiver, is working with the administration to get approval.

The No Child Left Behind act, enacted in 2001, requires students to be proficient in math and reading by 2014. A majority of Minnesota schools, some identified as excellent, are labeled as failing because small groups of students are not proficient in those categories, a Pioneer Press article said.

The act was primarily designed to help the nation's poor and minority children,said the Star Tribune. It has been up for renewal since 2007 and lawmakers have been hindered for years by competing priorities, disagreements over how much of a federal role there should be in schools and, in the recent Congress, partisan gridlock.

Supporters of Minnesota's waiver application argue it's a better way to determine how well schools are educating children, such as awarding schools credit for boosting the achievement of students, said the Pioneer Press.

Critics, though, argue the state's plans would let hundreds of schools off the hook for not producing better results for all children. The Start Tribune said critics think the 2014 deadline was unrealistic and the law is too rigid, leading to teaching to the test.

In states granted a waiver, students will no longer face actions prescribed by No Child Left Behind beginning this fall. A school's performance labeling may also be different, the Start Tribune said.

Mortgage deal to help struggling homeowners

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An settlement between the government and major banks could benefit up to 1 million homeowners, state and federal officials said Wednesday.

Up to $25 million could be awarded to delinquent borrowers facing foreclosure in the latest government effort to stop the housing market's decline, a Star Tribune article said.

California and New York, the two biggest holdouts, are expected to join the deal, said a person close to the matter. Florida is also expected to join after resolving civil government lawsuits over foreclosures and servicing misconduct by major U.S. banks, said another person related to the deal in a Chicago Tribune article.

The article said the significance of the deal would fall considerably if the Florida and California did not join.

The announcement would end over a year of negotiations between state and federal officials and the banks, who have been accused of unlawful documentation to deal with the large amount of foreclosures, the Tribune said.

Five core group of banks are involved in the settlement talks including Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc and Ally Financial Inc. The banks have been accused of using unlawful documentation to deal with the large amount of foreclosure, the Tribune said.

In addition to the 1 million homeowners expected to see lenders lower their mortgage debts, 300,000 homeowners are expected to refinance their homes at lower rates while 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure between September 2008 and the end of 2011 will receive checks for approximately $2,000, the Star Tribune said.

A handful of other states that are hesitant to sign, including Delaware and Massachusetts, are expected to also participate in the settlement, said the first person familiar with the incident.

U.S. embassy closes in Syria

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BEIRUT -- The United States closed its Syrian embassy Monday in an attempt to remove President Bassar al- Assad from power.

The embassy closed as a result of increased violence and instability in Syria and had been reducing staff for weeks, said a New York Times article. Both the Assad government and rebel forces see armed conflict as the only way to solve the 11-month old conflict.

William Hague, British foreign secretary, said Syria is "a doomed regime as well as a murdering regime" after the British ambassador was recalled to the Syrian capital Demascus Monday. "There is no way it can recover its credibility internationally," he said.

President Barak Obama said Assad will be out in a matter of time, reported the Star Tribune.

"We have been relentless in sending a message that it is time for Assad to go," he said in an interview with NBC. "This is not going to be a matter of if, it's going to be a matter of when."

Though diplomatic efforts to resolve the uprising were hindered at the U.N. through vetoes by China and Russia, the actions by the U.S. and Britain signaled that Western Powers have no intention in engaging Assad.

Violence is largest in Homs, the third-largest city in Syria, where 200 people were said to have died Friday and Saturday and at least 40 more people on Monday.

Despite increased pressure from the U.S., Obama said that a negotiated solution with recourse to outside military intervention was possible.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney later said that the administration was taking "no options off the table."

"We need to act to allow a peaceful political transition to go forward before the regime's escalating violence puts a political solution out of reach," Carney said.

Analysis: American Airlines to cut 13,000 jobs

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This week we discussed attribution, the act of giving sources credit for their information in stories. In the New York Times article, there are 10 named sources used. The sources with quotes are strung together in the middle of the article to capture the reaction to the news event while the beginning of the article focuses more on hard facts.
Named persons represented seven of the 10 sources and there were no records used as sources.
The reporter places the attribution at the beginning, middle and end of sentences. I think that the attribution style used in the story is effective because it doesn't interfere with the information of the story, which is what the author wants us to notice. It is my observation and experience that attribution can be difficult, especially when using multiple sources.

Milwaukee Co. supervisor charged with accepting bribe

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Supervisor Johnny L. Thomas was charged Thursday with accepting a bribe in exchange for helping a financial company win a county contract.

Thomas, a contender for city comptroller, was charged with two felony counts- one for accepting a $500 bribe and the other for misconduct in office. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Thomas could face up to 9 1/2 years in jail and a $20,000 fine.

Michael Maistelman, Thomas' attorney, said his client would be dropping out of the comptroller race by suspending his campaign.

""The D.A. has unfortunately taken unrelated events and forced an unreasonably negative and false story on top of the facts," Maistelman said. "As the process unfolds and all the facts come out, John will be vindicated and cleared of all charges."

Thomas, chairman of the County Board's Finance and Audit Committee, is accused of taking cash from the head of the county Department of Administrative Services as part of a tape-recorded undercover operation.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barret and Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway said they were both shocked by the charges against Thomas. Holloway said he had no knowledge of the case until it was revealed Thursday.

"These accusations are very serious and point to public corruption," Barrett said. "If they are true, then he has violated the trust of the people of Milwaukee, and it's appropriate for him to suspend his campaign for comptroller."

As reported in the La Crosse Tribune, Thomas added an item to his committee agenda a few days after accepting a bribe from the company he thought was offering the cash.

The charges are part of a John Doe investigation, one that allows prosecutors to compel testimony and subpoena evidence, that began last fall. Thomas was unaware of the probe prior to its release.

"Oh, wow," said the first-term supervisor. "I'm kind of waiting for you to say, 'Gotcha.' "

Maturi to retire as AD this summer

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University of Minnesota athletic's director Joel Maturi said Thursday he will retire from his position in June.

According to a Star Tribune report, Maturi will retire when his contract expires on June 30 and become a special assistant to President Eric Kaeler.

Maturi, 66, said the pace of the job was beginning to take a toll on him physically.

"I do not know how to do the job differently -- and the 14 to 16 hour days became more difficult for me," he said.

Kaler said he spoke with Maturi and feels that it's "simply the right time for Joel to retire." Kaler said he wants Maturi's replacement to be in office by July 1.

"Joel's legacy will be a lasting and shining one," he said at the news conference held at TCF Bank Stadium. "Joel has consistently said he has more to offer, and I think that's true. ... He is a persuasive advocate for the institution."

"Many base my success on wins and losses, and often times certain sports versus another," said Maturi. "I'm not worried about Joel Maturi's legacy. It's all in the eyes of the beholder."

According to the Associated Press, Maturi was given a one-year appointment to serve as a special assistant to Kaler, a role that will include fundraising, teaching and helping the transition for his successor. Maturi's $351,900 annual salary will continue with benefits through June 2013.

Maturi was hired in 2002 to help merge the men's and women's departments. He was often praised for his ability to guide the 25 different varsity sports teams through the transition.

Maturi saved the men's and women's golf and men's gymnastics programs early in his tenure and recently helped hire notable men's basketball coach Tubby Smith in 2007.

Smith, who was one of many coaches to attend the press conference, said that Maturi will be missed.

"Most coaches want an AD who is going to be fair," he said. "He's been a guy I've leaned on and valued. There are things he's helped me with."

Victorious in Florida, Romney turns attention to Obama

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Fresh off his win in the Florida primary, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney stopped in Eagan to rally supporters Wednesday.

Romney centered his speech on President Obama, according to a Pioneer Press article.

"We elected President Obama to lead," Romney said. "He chose to follow. Now its time for him to get out of the way,"

The former Massachusetts governor said that he was the right one to pull the country out of its economic downturn after numerous broken promises by the president.

"America finally needs a leader who understands how the economy works and how to get it working for the American people," Romney said in a Star Tribune article. "It's time for us to bring a new definition to hope. Hope should mean a good job and good paycheck, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker."

The Pioneer Press reported that Romney is a leader among GOP candidates entering this month's primaries and caucuses, including state precinct caucuses next week.

According to Public Policy Polling last month however, Minnesota, where Gingrich held a 36 to 18 percent advantage, is the state that he is most likely to lose.

Romney failed to mention the state caucuses during his speech.

Former Gov. Tim Pawenty,who dropped out of the presidential race after the Iowa caucuses, introduced Romney. Pawlenty, now Romney's campaign co-chairman, said Romney is a man of bullet-proof character and integrity.

"You are never going to wake up in the morning and be embarrassed about something you read about Mitt Romney," Pawlenty said. "He's a good man with good values."

American Airlines to cut 13,000 jobs


DALLAS -- American Airlines said Wednesday that it is looking to eliminate 13,000 jobs -15 percent of its workforce- while operating under bankruptcy.

In an article found in the Star Tribune, the third largest airline company in America will soon begin negotiations with its three labor unions to cut 20 percent off its labor costs. American Medical Response, parent company of American Airlines, has also proposed to cut its pension plan, a move contested by the U.S. pension-insurance agency and the airline's unions.

AMR said Tuesday it lost $904 million in December and has lost more than $11 billion since 2001.

Chairman Thomas W. Horton said in a letter to employees that the company has lost its competitive edge over the years, according to the New York Times.

"The world has changed around us and this is our moment to adapt or lose the opportunity forever," he said. We are going to use the restructuring process to make the necessary changes to meet our challenges head-on and capitalize fully on the solid foundation we've put in place."

The company that employs 88,000 workers has proposed cutting 4,600 mechanics jobs, 4,200 ground service positions, 2,300 flight attendants and 400 pilots in addition to 1,400 management and support services.jobs. Gate agents, representatives and planners are also being considered.

American is just the latest domestic airline to declare bankruptcy in the past decade, joining United, Delta and US Airways.

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