March 2012 Archives

Analysis: Numbers

| No Comments

This week we discussed numbers in lab. I found it difficult to place the numbers we found important into our story since you can argue for multiple places to put the data.

I looked at a story from WebProNews about a study on the growth of cloud computing.
The author led with the "news" of the study, and simplified the wording to make it understandable.

The next paragraph is a quote from someone affected by the study. Numbers are not used in the quote but are referred to.

Statistics are not in numeral form in certain cases. For example, one sentence uses "account for nearly half" instead of 50 percent or the actual numeral value.

Some stories I found online had sidebars and graphics that "relocated" the numbers relating to the study. In this example, there was a graphic at the bottom of the article that showed projected job-growth for different countries.

I don't think the numbers are overwhelming in the story because of the author's organization and the use of the graphic. Had that not been the case, I think the author could reword the statistics or simplify the terminology used to clarify the content for the reader.

To my knowledge, the author did not crunch numbers to effectively tell the story.

The article references the study in the first sentence and references the data in the graphic at the bottom of the content.

St. Thomas loses law school ranking over error

| No Comments

The University of St. Thomas School of Law has lost its ranking after announcing it had reported an incorrect percentage of its 2010 graduates who had jobs at graduation.

U.S. News and World Report magazine stripped the school of its No. 119 spot on its "Best Law Schools" list, banishing it to the category of "unranked," the Star Tribune said Thursday.

Class-action lawsuits have been filed against more than a dozen law schools for intentionally inflating data to recruit students and land a higher perch on U.S. News' influential list of "Best Schools."

St. Thomas has stressed that its error was an honest mistake, reported immediately after it was spotted in an advance copy of the rankings published this month.

"We remain deeply sorry that we failed to catch this discrepancy," school Dean Thomas Mengler told alumni in an email. "It will never happen again," he added in an interview.

The School of Law reported two different numbers on two separate lines of a form regarding the number of 2010 graduates known to be employed at the time of graduation, a school bulletin said. The correct number of 51 graduates (32.9 percent of 155 graduates) was accurately listed on one line of the form, but a different line incorrectly listed 125 graduates (80.6 percent).

The school or magazine did not report why the error occurred.

The revised data led editors to place a red asterisk by the description of the school, the Tribune said.

The share of students employed nine months after graduation, 86.5 percent, is correct in the rankings, the school said. U.S. News gives that number greater weight than the one at graduation.

In response to St. Thomas' data correction, the publication announced it would place the school in the "unranked" category "until the next Best Graduate Schools rankings and until the accuracy of each school's next data submission is confirmed to U.S. News."

Mengler said the decision to unrank the school will "create a disincentive for law schools to promptly report mistaken or erroneous data."

But in a response Wednesday, the editor of U.S. News stood by the call.

"Whether intentional or unintentional, St. Thomas received a rank it should not have been received," Brian Kelly wrote.

The school rose 16 spots higher in the report than last year, a significant leap, the Tribune said.

Employment statistics for new lawyers are increasingly scrutinized measure of a law school's quality. Class-action lawsuits have been filed against more than a dozen law schools for intentionally inflating data to recruit students and land a higher perch on U.S. News' influential list of "Best Schools."

Best Buy to close 50 stores, cut costs

| No Comments

Best Buy Co. is closing 50 stores in the U.S. in fiscal 2013 and is looking to cut costs by $800 million by fiscal 2015.

The biggest U.S. specialty electronics retailer also says it lost money in its fiscal fourth quarter partly because of a restructuring charge, the Pioneer Press said.

Best Buy lost $1.7 billion, or $4.89 per share, for the period that ended March 3. That compares with a profit of $651 million, or $1.62 per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 3 percent to $16.08 billion, however, and earnings were $2.47 per share, above analysts' estimates of $2.15 per share, the Press said.

The electronics retailer previously told investors that it wanted to reduce its U.S. square footage footprint by more than 20 percent over the next three to five years, the Star Tribune said.

Last month the company hired former Starbucks chief information officer Stephen Gillett to oversee its digital operations. The Richfield-based company hopes to accelerate its digital sales, one of its fastest-growing businesses, the Tribune said.

The U.S. Supreme Court's conservative justices appeared skeptical Tuesday that a key component of President Barack Obama's sweeping health care law is constitutional, the Pioneer Press said.

In an intense interrogation of the government's lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the justices posed repeated and largely unanswered questions about the limits of federal power, the article said.

Afterward, the court seemed split on the same questions that has divided political leaders and the country: whether the Constitution gives Congress the power to compel Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty, the Press said.

The health care law championed by Obama and passed by a Democratic- controlled Congress in 2010 may need to receive a judgment that there is something unique about the health care market that allows such regulation.

Several justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, seemed receptive that parts of the law can survive even if the centerpiece is found unconstitutional, The Associated Press said.

When Washington attorney Paul Clement argued the whole law should fall, even conservative justices questioned whether that would have been Congress' intent, USA Today said.

Roberts said many provisions in the bill "have nothing to do with any of the things we're talking about" as being tied to the requirement that most Americans buy insurance. But he also noted many of them were needed to get the entire bill passed, thereby tying them to the whole law.

The justices currently are considering at least three options: Keeping the rest of the law intact, eliminating the insurance market changes that are dependent on the mandate, or killing the entire law. They could also invent a solution of their own making, USA Today said.

College entrance exams to get security upgrade

| No Comments

Students taking college entrance exams this fall will have to adhere to tighter security following recent allegations of widespread cheating at a number of high schools on New York's Long Island, a prosecutor and testing officials announced Tuesday.

Students will have to have to submit photo IDs with their applications, CBS News said. It is one of a number of initiatives following the arrest of 20 current or former high school students accused in a cheating scheme.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said some of the students were paid as much as $3,500 to stand in for other students on the SAT exam.

She said students 50 students were likely involved in the scheme, but she only had evidence to arrest 20.

Rice said she learned one male student allegedly stood in for a female on one occasion. She said students have easy access to phony identification cards, making it difficult for administrators at testing sites to determine if a student is actually who he or she claims to be.

"These reforms close a gaping hole in standardized test security that allows students to cheat and steal admissions offers and scholarship money from kids who play by the rules," Rice said.

New testing requirements include making students upload a photograph of themselves when registering for the ACT or SAT, the report said. Those unable to upload a photo will be permitted to mail one, which will be scanned by the testing agency.

Other changes include checking student IDs when students enter a test site or re-enter the test room after breaks and when the answer sheets are collected, CBS News said.

Test-takers will also have to identify their high school, which will now receive their scores, the New York Times said. Previously, it was up to students to decide whether their scores were sent to their high schools, making it difficult for schools to detect suspicious scores.

The changes, Rice said, send a message to students who might consider cheating.

"They will be caught, and they will be held accountable," she said. "The old system did not ensure that."

French oil major Total dismissed fears on Wednesday of a blast at its Elgin North Sea platform, despite explosive natural gas is bubbling less than 100 meters from a flare left burning when workers had to evacuate the site.

"The platform could become an explosion waiting to happen," said engineering industry consultant John Shanks.

Total said the flare, which normally burns to regulate gas pressure at safe levels, had not been shut down when the platform was evacuated Sunday, Reuters said.

"We have not precisely identified the cause of the incident," a spokesman for Total in Paris said.

A Total UK spokesman in Aberdeen said the flare was on a separate platform from the leak, though only a short distance away, Reuters said.

"The leak is on the wellhead platform and the flare is on the Processing, Utilities and Quarters platform. There is a gap of 90 meters (300 feet) between the two," he said.

The leak developed in a well that workers were in the process of capping and abandoning, the New York Times said. The Elgin platform produces about 3 percent of Britain's total gas output but has a reputation for being troublesome because of the unusually high pressure in the undersea gas reservoir that it taps, the article said.

The firm warned on Tuesday it could take six months to halt the flow of gas, and analysts' opinions were divided on how serious the leak might be, Reuters said.

"Under normal conditions, the deeper the leak, the more difficult remedial work will be," Shanks said.

Analysis: Obituary

| 1 Comment

This week we discussed how to properly write an obituary or profile.

I looked at a New York Times obituary on Mel Parnell. It began with a typical lead and overall structure. The only source, however, was Parnell's son.

I think the presentation of the obituary was acceptable. This particular piece focused on the career of Parnell as a baseball player, and included statistics and detailed descriptions of his career.

The obituary differs from a resume because it focuses on key moments in a person's life. In this piece, we hear about the biggest accomplishments of Parnell. There is simply too much information about him to include it all in the obituary. Another difference is sourcing; family members or other acquaintances are not part of a resume.

Sheriff: 3 dead in Glencoe plane crash


A local sheriff said three adults have died in the crash of a small plane in Glencoe.

McLeod County Sheriff Scott Rehmann said the single-engine plane went down in a field about four miles north of Glencoe and broke apart. No one survived, he said.

Crash Glencoe.JPEG-0ccce.jpg

The Federal Aviation Administration said the crash was reported at 11:12 a.m. Wednesday. Rehmann said witnesses reported hearing a popping noise and then the impact of the plane crashing.

Rehmann said all three victims were adults. Names of the victims have not been released, the Associated Press said.

Authorities said they don't believe the victims were from the Glencoe area, WCCO said.

The National Transportation Safety Board also is expected to investigate, the sheriff said.

Doug Hanneman, editor of the Hutchinson Leader, who was at the scene, said wreckage was scattered over a couple hundred yards in the field, the Pioneer Press said.

Hanneman said local firefighters extinguished the burning wreckage.

ND man found near tracks was Amtrak rider

| No Comments

Authorities said Wednesday the man found dead along railroad tracks in western Minnesota was a passenger on an Amtrak train headed for Chicago.

The Clay County sheriff's office is waiting for preliminary autopsy results from Ramsey County to determine how 27-year-old Jared Nilles died, the Forum said.

Clay County investigators were en route to the Twin Cities today to meet with Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents working on the case, Clay County sheriff Bill Bergquist said.

Authorities are also checking whether the train had security cameras, the Pioneer Press said.

"I don't know if we'll ever know exactly what happened unless somebody saw something," he said.

BNSF railway contacted the sheriff's office around 7 a.m. Monday after a train conductor spotted Nilles' body along the tracks near Buffalo River State Park, the Forum said.

Nilles graduated from Fargo South High in 2003 before studying screenwriting and film production at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Major earthquake shakes Mexico

| 1 Comment

A major 7.4 magnitude earthquake with epicenter on Mexico's Pacific Coast shook central southern Mexico on Tuesday, causing buildings to sway and sending workers and residents to the streets.

Mexico's National Seismological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was 15 miles east of Ometepec, Guerrero and 10.9 miles underground.

The initial quake near the borders of Oaxaca and Guerrero states was followed by a less powerful, magnitude-5.1 aftershock that also was felt in the capital, Fox News said.

Angel Aguirre, governor of Guerrero, said he had received reports of 500 homes damaged, with some of them knocked down. Cell phone lines went down and traffic snarled in Mexico City moments after the quake, which lasted more than a minute. Some buildings in the capital's trendy district of Condesa were cracked by the quake, the Chicago Tribune said.

Lauren Villagran, a freelance reporter for Fox News Latino, who was walking in the streets of central Mexico City during the quake, told Fox News Latino that there doesn't seem to be major damage.

"Buildings shook, some windows have broken, the facades of some buildings have crumbled, some transformers busted," Villagran said. "The ground started to move, then rocked violently. As many as six aftershocks were felt around the city," she said.

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard tweeted that there was no visible damage from the air after a helicopter ride and Mexican President Felipe Calderon tweeted that there was no initial reports of major damage.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the inland earthquake would not generate a destructive widespread tsunami, but there was the possibility of some local tsunami effects, the Tribune said.

French shooter may have filmed attack

| No Comments

French authorities said Tuesday the gunman that killed a rabbi and three young children in an attack may have filmed his actions.

Claude Guéant, French interior minister, told a French radio station that surveillance footage from the Jewish school's security cameras showed what appeared to be a video camera strapped to the gunman's chest, the New York Times said.

With the nation's terrorism alert at its highest level - "scarlet" - the French authorities pursued a broad and high-profile search on Tuesday for the assailant, but Guéant said little was known about him.

The attack has been linked to two earlier shootings of French paratroopers, with the police saying that the same gun, a .45-caliber automatic pistol, was used in all three assaults and the attacks were carried out the same way - a man on a powerful motorbike who killed and then fled. The soldiers were all Arab or black, and appeared to have been targeted specifically, witnesses said.

"We are faced with an individual who targets his victims specifically," said Élisabeth Allannic, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office, which is handling the investigation. "He targets his victims for what they represent."

Authorities released a photo of some of the victims, Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and his two sons, Ariel and Gabriel, who were killed in the attack, The Daily Beast said. Miriam Monsonego, 7, was also killed in the attack.

The bodies of at least three of Monday's four victims were to be flown Tuesday to Israel for burial, said Nicole Yardeni, who leads the regional branch of the Crif, France's most prominent Jewish association.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has called the shooting a "national tragedy" and ordered a minute's silence at schools across France at 11 a.m., the Times said.

U.S. to impose tariffs on solar panels from China

| No Comments

The United States Commerce Department said Tuesday it would impose tariffs on solar panels imported from China after concluding illegal export subsidies were provided to manufacturers there.

A coalition of seven U.S. manufacturers, led by SolarWorld, has asked for duties of more than 100 percent on Chinese panels and cells, an article said. Commerce will impose duties of 4.73 percent on imports by Trina Solar, 2.9 percent on Suntech, and 3.59 percent on all others.

The Commerce Department will decide in May whether the Chinese government, which provided the subsidies, is "dumping" solar panels into the United States below their actual cost, the Times said. A finding of dumping would result in additional tariffs, the New York Times said.

There is no question that solar panels from China currently control about half the American market, while panel makers based in the United States hold less than one-third, the Times said. American imports of Chinese solar panels have soared to $2.65 billion last year from $21.3 million in 2005.

Despite opposition of the imports from American manufacturers, users of solar energy have benefited from the low-cost Chinese solar panels, the Times said. An American industry group composed of companies that sell and install solar panels said Tuesday they were pleased with the relatively small size of the tariffs, having braced for higher ones.

"This is a huge victory for the U.S. solar industry and our 100,000 employees," said Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy. "Given all our expectations, this is really good news."

On a global scale, low-cost Chinese panels have driven down the cost of solar energy by two-thirds in the last four years, narrowing but not eliminating the wide price gap that used to separate solar power from electricity generated by burning fossil fuels.

Plunging prices however, have led to bankruptcy for three American solar panel manufacturers since last August, including Solyndra, which cost the federal government more than $500 million.

Crowd helps man struck at Woodbury gas station

| No Comments

A 65-year-old man was badly injured Wednesday after being hit by an SUV at a Woodbury gas station.

Kenneth Burke sustained a head injury and a broken leg after being struck by a Ford Excursion, the Star Tribune said. Members of a gathering crowd tried to keep Burke awake as ambulances drew near.

The driver, 47-year-old Michael Carroll of Woodbury, will most likely not be charged. He pulled up to a gas pump and hit Burke, knocking him down, the Pioneer Press said.

Police got the call for help at 10:14 a.m., the Tribune said. Within minutes, firetrucks, ambulance and fire cruisers filled the parking lot. First responders had to decide how to lift the Excursion, which weighs more than 7,000 pounds.

They tucked an extrication tool called the Jaws of Life and airbags under the vehicle and deployed airbags to lift, Fire Cmdr. John Wallgren said. Burke was conscious and talking as they extricated him, he said.

Burke was in critical condition Wednesday night at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, the Press said.

His wife, Dianne Burke, told others at the scene that Burke was recovering from a stroke, and that's why he was walking with a cane.

Woodbury police, along with the State Patrol, are investigating.

Bloomington vise-throwing suspect jailed

| No Comments

A Bloomington man charged with throwing dangerous items at oncoming vehicles was booked in jail early Thursday.

Gerret Parks, 39, was charged Tuesday in Hennepin County with throwing objects ranging from a box of baking soda to gallon water jugs along a 14-block stretch of Normandale Boulevard in Bloomington this winter, the Star Tribune said.

Parks was booked into the Hennepin County jail shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday. The Tribune said there is no immediate word on the circumstances leading to his surrender.

The only injury reported from the alleged throwing incidents was last week, when a vice crashed through a car window and struck National Guard Sgt. Jon Stacke as he was behind the wheel. Stacke spent three nights in the hospital with a broken jaw, lost teeth and other facial injuries, the article said.

"I just remember hearing the explosion, grabbing for my mouth, feeling the blood, the glassl in my eyes," Stacke said in a Pioneer Press article. "The only thing that mystifies me - if it was a 17- or 18-year-old, it's one thing, but a 39-year-old man? Why would you do that at 39?" Stacke said.

According to the criminal complaint made public Wednesday, 14 incidents have occurred on Normandale between 84th Street and 98th Street from Dec. 29 to Feb. 27. In most cases, objects hit the front of oncoming vehicles and caused significant damage. Several victims reported the items came from the driver's side of another car.

In 1994 Parks was charged with property damage for a "series of incidents where he rode around in a vehicle using a wrist rocket and BB gun to shoot out windows of vehicles, homes and businesses," according to the complaint.

Parks said he had been "throwing away his dad's old items week by week" into a garbage can, and that his friend must have stolen the items to set him up, the complaint said.

While being held at Bloomington's Police Department, Parks used his pants zipper to slit both his wrists, the Press said. He was released Sunday after posting a $50,000 bond.

That evening, Parks was spotted driving more than 70 mph through a 35 mph zone in St. Croix Falls, Wis. He was arrested after a chase and physical confrontation with police, the complaint said.

He was again released on a $2,500 bond, the Press said. Other charges related to the incident might be coming; police believe Parks may have been intoxicated but are awaiting lab results.

Silver carp reach Winona

| No Comments

A commercial fisherman caught a silver carp Thursday in Pool 6 of the Mississippi River, confirming that another invasive species has made its presence known in Winona.

Commercial fisherman netted two invasive Asian carp last Thursday, the La Crosse Tribune said.

"This is by far the most northerly catch in the Mississippi River," said Department of Natural Resources communications director Chris Niskanen.

Tim Schlagenhaft of the DNR's Mississippi River Team said it's disappointing but unsurprising evidence that Asian carp continue to move up the Mississippi.

Silver carp are classified by the DNR as a prohibited invasive species along with bighead carp. Both species were imported from China in the 1960s and 70s, the Winona Daily News said. By the 1980s, the Asian carp had escaped into open waters in southern states.

Asian carp eat large amounts of plankton and aquatic plants, out-competing native fish species. Silver carp also pose a safety hazard as they jump out of the water when watercraft, possibly injuring boaters.

Testing last year indicated the presence of Silver Carp DNA in the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers in the Twin Cities area, though no live Asian carp have been found, the Tribune said.

Earthquakes awaken San Francisco Monday

| 1 Comment

Two earthquakes struck just seconds apart on the Hawyard Fault near El Cerrito Monday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

A 4.0 magnitude temblor struck near the Mira Vista Country Club in the El Cerrito hills at 5:33 a.m., eight seconds after a 3.5 quake hit a quarter-mile to the northeast. Each quake had a depth of 5 1/2 miles, the San Francisco Chronicle said.

The shaking was felt within a 60-mile radius, from Santa Rosa in the north to Santa Cruz in the south, a CBS report said.

A 2003 USGS report said the Hawyard Fault had the highest chance - 27 percent - of producing a large earthquake of magnitude-6.7 or higher in the Bay Area within 30 years.

"We know that the Hayward Fault is the really important fault in the Bay Area," USGS seismologist David Schwartz told KGO-TV on Monday. "These earthquakes, these 4's, are just an indication of ongoing activity, ongoing stress on the fault. They do nothing to relieve the liklihood of something larger happening."

Susan Torres, 72, who lives near the golf course, knew it was an earthquake immediately.

"It like thunder going through the house," she said. "I was thinking that the house was going to come down."

The Chronicle said the quakes gave Starbucks employees in El Cerrito a pretty good jolt.

"Everything was moving, for a minute maybe," an employee said who believed the quake was harder than a previous swarm of quakes centered in Berkeley last year.

Albany, El Cerrito and Richmond police dispatchers received no reports of injuries or major damage, the Chronicle said. In Berkeley, a water pipe at an apartment complex broke, causing minor water damage, a dispatcher said.

A railroad traffic controller's error was likely a key factor in the head-on collision of two trains that killed 16 people and he will face criminal charges, a prosecutor said Monday.

The investigation so far indicates that the controller, one of two detained for questioning, made a mistake while setting the mechanisms routing the trains, sending one the wrong way down the track at high speed, prosecutor Tomasz Ozimek said. The man will be charged with unintentionally causing a railroad accident, he said in an Associated Press article.

The two men were in charge of traffic on the route at the time the crash occurred Saturday night near the town of Szczekociny, Ozimek said. The collision left the front cars of the trains in a mangled heap, toppled others, and injured more than 50 people, a Washington Post article said.

Ozimek refused to reveal further details of the two controllers, who have not been charged with any crimes.

One of the victims was identified as a Russian citizen, Ozimek said. An American is also among the dead.

One train was traveling from the eastern city of Przemsyl to Warsaw in the north, while the other - an intercity train traveling 60 mph on the wrong track - was heading south from Warsaw to Krakow.

Prosecutors and railway traffic experts were still inspecting the site and the wreckage as they gathered evidence. Emergency workers continued to search the area in precaution to be certain no bodies were left in the wreckage.

The wreck is Poland's worst train accident in over 20 years, the Post said. The nation began two days of mourning for the victims Monday, lowering the Polish flag to half-staff at public buildings and canceling entertainment and sporting events.

Analysis: Speeches/ meeting

| No Comments

This week we discussed how to cover a speech in class. I found it difficult to determine what information should go into the last half of the article, where we report the opposing side and focus on the reaction to the speech.

I found a video on President Barack Obama's speech from Oct. 6 concerning the jobs bill. The ensuing news report by Fox News took what it felt was the main topic of the speech and elaborated on it, along with reporting on the reaction to the speech.

The reporter had to craft the story to include the important information at the beginning of the story and then retain the "point-structure" format we discussed in class. The reporter also provides background information about the environment of the speech and the reaction of the crowd - both present at the speech and elsewhere. A portion of the article is dedicated to the reaction from critics of Obama and the jobs bill.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

February 2012 is the previous archive.

April 2012 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.