March 2010 Archives

Chieko Ishijima, Japanese nail artist

According to The Japan Times, Chieko Ishijima rose to the top of the competitive nail decorating business by offering unique nail designs to customers, including designs with semi-precious stones and acrylic designs of anime characters, flowers, and bows.

The Times said Ishijima said nail artists are model makers, sculptors, and architects. She said they must know how to do a variety of things as nail artists in order to satisfy the customer with a unique product--which, she said, everyone is after because everyone wants to stand out in a crowd. The Times said she has about 1,000 designs to offer people, but she said she still ends up offering customized designs to many people.

Ishijima told the Times her nail designs represent Japanese spirit very well because the Japanese love miniatures. She offered origami and haiku as couple of examples of what she called "tiny expressions of beauty."

This profile works because most of the article is Ishijima's own words. It's almost like a Q&A, except the questions are left out and just the answers are shown. She gave an in-depth look on the nail scene in Japan and possible reasons why she has been so successful.

The profile might have been more successful had the questions to the Q&A been shown. It would have been helpful to see how she answered specific questions or if there were any questions she tried to avoid.

American poet Ai dies

The American poet Ai died March 20 at the age of 62. According The New York Times, Ai died of pneumonia, a complication of previously undiagnosed cancer.

The obituary acts as a feature of Ai's work--the New York Times said Ai's poems, which are nearly all dramatic monologues, have been widely recognized. The Times said Ai's poems varied in their characters, from male to female to likeable to unlikeable.

This poem is local to me because I've studied Ai's poetry in some of my creative writing classes. This obituary works because it focuses on the details of Ai's achievements while also giving readers background information.

For example, the Times said Ai received a National Book Award in 1999 for "Vice: New and Selected Poems" and offered a sample of her poetry. The article also explained that the poet, originally named Florence Anthony, changed her name when she was young to "Ai," which means "love" in Japanese.

It makes sense for the Times to have written the obituary mostly about Ai's work and not about her family life--the article said Ai found out she was the product of a scandalous affair her mother had and that when she died she had only one immediate survivor, a half-sister.

The one thing the article is missing is information about funeral services, but perhaps this is because she is a noteworthy figure, so service information was not included in the obituary for that reason.

Obituary of Margaret Moth

According to the Star Tribune, CNN photojournalist Margaret Moth, 59, died Sunday. They said a CNN spokesperson confirmed Moth died in Rochester, MN, in hospice care. She had terminal colon cancer, according to her CNN obituary.

Both sources profiled Moth as an independent, fearless woman who was always looking for challenges and who never complained--even after enduring a gunshot wound to the face and surviving. The Star Tribune said she changed her name from Margaret Wilson to Margaret Gypsy Moth because she said she wanted to have her own name, not one determined by her father.

The Star Tribune said Moth started with CNN in 1990 and covered the Israeli invasion of the West Bank in 2002, the rioting following Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984 and other world conflicts, including some in the Middle East.

The CNN obituary focused more on Moth's personality than her job. They included quotes that peg her as humorous and fearless, whereas the Star Tribune portrayed her more like a female role model.

Both obituaries work, but together they complete the picture of who this woman was. She was a local character to those who worked with her and to us who may have seen her coverage on TV. The obituaries both said Moth said it was important for her to know she had lived her life to the fullest, and when she died she felt she had done that.

Obituary of Chester Simmons

Chester Simmons, a pioneering sports broadcaster, died Thursday at the age of 81.

According the to the New York Times, Simmons began broadcasting with Sports Programs, Inc, in 1957, which later became ABC Sports. He became president of NBC Sports and later ESPN, and he was also the founding commissioner of the USFL.

This obituary works because it tells a story of Simmons' life. It focuses mainly on his work, which is appropriate because he was so influential to so many people in his field. There are quotes from the current president of ESPN, an ESPN anchor, and Simmons himself.

It seems odd though, that there isn't more information about his family included in the obituary. The New York Times said he is survived by his wife and four children, but there are no quotes from any of them.

The Los Angeles Times also had an obituary of Simmons on their website. Their obituary was very similar to the New York Times--it even used the same quotes. However, there are a few different details. According the the New York Times, the family announced Simmons' death; according to the Los Angeles Times, ESPN announced the death. Both sources said the cause of death was not disclosed.

Both sources give a summary of Simmons' work-related activities and achievements. The New York Times chose to name Simmons' surviving children; The Los Angeles Times did not. Both sources mentioned he was the founding commissioner of the USFL, but only the Los Angeles Times explained that stands for the United States Football League.

The Los Angeles Times chose not to include any quotes from Simmons and also does not include information about where services will be held, which the New York Times said are being completed with the Gamble Funeral Service, Inc., in Savannah, GA.

Miss Manners profiled with daughter

A Chicago Tribune article on the Star Tribune website profiled what the writer called an "odd couple"--a mother/daughter pair who seem, at first glance, to be absolute opposites, but who actually admitted they share some similarities.

The Chicago Tribune said Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, is the queen of American Etiquette. In the interview, Martin touched on the meaning of a dignified wedding, the proper way to address people (by last name until invited into the personal realm of a first-name basis), and the story of how she was banned from Tricia Nixon's wedding and then crashed Julie Nixon's.

The article went on to say that Martin said she didn't actually crash Julie Nixon's wedding because she did, in fact, have press credentials, which she said she believed entitled her to have access to the wedding anyway.

On the other hand, the Tribune said the daughter of Miss Manners, Bina Martin, is the founder of an all-female Chicago improv group called Jane. The article said she seems to be more reserved than her charismatic mother, but that together the two make a "proper pair."

This profile works because it shows a fairly well-known person--Miss Manners--with her seemingly opposite daughter. The article has an interesting angle (the idea of opposites) and uses a couple anecdotes to show the personality of each person. There are a lot of good quotes, especially back and forth between the mother and the daughter. However, I feel like the profile could have been strengthened by more narrative information given by the reporter in addition to all the quotes. I would have liked to know more about Miss Manners as an individual and Bina Martin as an individual rather than just the two of them as a pair.

As President Barack Obama looked for support this week for his health care reform plan, he has been met with mixed opinions from both Republicans and Democrats.

Obama criticized former Republican office holders Monday in an appearance in which he said former Republicans have ignored health care problems in the past; he said today's Republican critics of the health care reform say they want to do something about rising health care costs, but failed to act when they held power, MSNBC reported.

MSNBC also said that Republicans dismissed Obama's goals for health care reform-including extending coverage to millions who don't have it, banning insurance practices such as denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and cutting costs- almost instantly because they claimed the American people had already heard this argument and voiced that they did not want a government takeover of health care.

This health care decision will not only affect the American public, but it could also impact the future of Obama's presidency, The New York Times reported.

Obama claimed the issue of health care should not rest on politics but instead on what is right for the public, the New York Times said; however, the Times also said that with an issue as important as this, politics never stray very far.

Because Obama has spent more than 14 months trying to battle the current health care situation, losing could mean damaged credibility and inability to pass other important legislation, the New York Times said.

However, the Times said passing the bill has its risks, too, because Republicans who do not approve of the legislative procedure Democrats are using to pass the bill will be less likely to cooperate with other major legislation this year.

Even so, failure to pass the health care bill would be worse for Democrats than passing it, Thomas M. Davis III, a former Republican congressman, told the New York Times. The New York Times said Davis said that if the Democrats pass nothing, everyone who supported the Obama campaign-including college professors, African-Americans, and other voters- will just walk away, so he said Obama should at least try to pass this extensive bill, even if in the end he can only pass a narrower version of it.

Even some Democrats are skeptical, MSNBC said. The bill cost $1 trillion and addresses the controversial issue of abortion funding, and some House of Representatives members are uneasy about the promises made by the Senate to work out differences in the bill.

Fargo residents prepare for Red River flooding

Fargo officials reported Saturday that the Red River in Fargo had risen to a minor flood level, the Pioneer Press said. They also said Mayor Dennis Walaker urged Fargo resident's to believe the potential for flooding was real, and he said they should not procrastinate on taking preventative flood action.

Although putting up clay levees is a must in vulnerable parts of the city, The Pioneer Press said Fargo contractors said the soil there is too wet to use their equipment yet, so sandbags are being filled. However, according to the Pioneer Press, City Administrator Pat Zavoral said the city needs more volunteers to fill all the sandbags.

The Star Tribune reported Sunday that hundreds of volunteers are coming forward to help fill those sandbags (close to million) as the Red River keeps rising.

About 740,000 sandbags have been filled after two weeks of work, with 81,000 of those sandbags being filled by 400 volunteers on Saturday, the Star Tribune said.

The Star Tribune also said the Red River is expected to hit major flood stage (30 feet) on Thursday. They reported the river hit a record last spring of 40.84 feet, and that people all over the nation's midsection are preparing for flooding this spring where rivers like the Red, the Mississippi, and the Missouri flow.

Earthquakes shake Chile as new president is inaugurated

A 6.9-magnitude earthquake and its strong aftershocks shook Chile Thursday as a new president was inaugurated.

President Sebastian Pinera's inauguration in a congressional building in coastal city Valparaiso lasted just a half hour before the building was evacuated, according to the Associated Press. They reported that there were no more deaths (than last month's 8.8-magnitude quake, which killed almost 500 identified victims and potentially hundreds of others), but that Chile's important north-south highway suffered extensive damage, along with some coastal cities.

MSNBC reported that Thursday's 6.9-magnitude aftershock was the strongest since the 8.8-magnitude quake, and they said it occurred along the same fault line as last month's quake. They also said that Chile is expected to suffer multiple aftershocks and that Chile's navy issued a tsunami warning.

Pinera urged citizens to seek higher ground after the tsunami warning was issued, then met with other presidents for a short before boarding a helicopter to visit disaster areas in the south, the Associated Press said.

MSNBC reported that Pinera, a billionaire investor, Harvard-trained economist and airline executive, is making reconstruction his top priority as Chile's new president.

Both sources reported that Pinera is Chile's first right-wing president in 52 years. The Associated Press said Pinera won office by promising to improve the economy, but because of the recent quakes, he said he is focusing more on the reconstruction of the country.

Pinera said on election night he would accelerate economic growth, create more jobs for citizens, and combat crime, among other things, MSNBC reported.

The Minneapolis public school district went into a Code Yellow lockdown Wednesday after a shooting threat against an unspecified school.

The Pioneer Press reported that Cretin-Derham High School in St. Paul also underwent a partial lockdown after they received an email saying that a shooting would happen at the school. They reported that even though the email was very nonspecific and the source clearly came from outside the school, the school is taking the matter seriously and doing what they can to ensure student safety.

The Pioneer Press also reported that a second email message was sent to the 311 communication center early Wednesday morning threatening to shoot up a Minneapolis public school and then shoot themselves. The Press said that Minneapolis and St. Paul Police are working together to see if the two shooting threats are related.

The Star Tribune stressed that there is a strong likelihood the two threats are related. They said there are about 34,000 students in the district and officers have been sent to schools to protect students. The Star Tribune then said police are investigating Facebook and MySpace sites to try to identify a suspect and mentioned that district officials are also working with police on the issue.

The schools would stay in lockdown and parents were instructed not to pick up their children, according to the Star Tribune. Classes were to continue as usual, even though the students would be confined to the classroom as the school was searched, the Star Tribune said.

World Food Program to investigate its operations in Somalia

The World Food Program, the branch of the United Nations that deals with food aid, is investigating its operations in Somalia because, according to a new Security Council Report, about half of the food aid sent to Somalia is actually ending up in the hands of corrupt authority figures.

United Press International reports that the food aid has been diverted for military uses and has wound up in the hands of powerful leaders who channel the profits and/or the aid itself. They then mention that Somali authorities have also been cooperating with pirates who hijack ships along the coast.

The New York Times gives more attention to the issue of Somali authorities' collaboration with pirates. They say Somali government ministers have auctioned off diplomatic visas for trips to Europe to the highest bidder- sometimes $10,000-$15,000-- and sometimes that bidder is a pirate who then goes to Europe and never returns.

According to both sources, the World Food Program deputy executive director Amir Abdulla said officials have not yet seen the report but are investigating the allegations anyway. The New York Times also added that the report has not been made public but was shown to them by diplomats.

Some of the report's authors have even received death threats, the New York Times reports, and had to be moved from Kenya to New York for safety reasons.

Both sources also said that the United States is providing Somalia with military aid to help reclaim their capital, Mogadishu, to combat Al Qaeda connections. The New York Times adds that although the United Nations is trying to roll back two decades of anarchy in the country, it may be an "uphill battle" because of Somalia's corrupt and disorganized security forces.

So far, the Somali authorities have denied the visa problem, and the World Food Program said it would investigate the report further once it was presented to the Security Council on March 16, the New York Times reports.

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