March 2012 Archives

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a bill Friday that would allow beer to be sold at TCF Stadium, right on the tail of a similar Senate bill passed earlier this week, the Minnesota Daily reported.

It passed in the house with a 107-16 vote, MPR reported. TCF Stadium is currently required to make alcohol available to at least two-thirds of the stadium, though ambiguity in the law has resulted in alcohol not being sold at all, MPR reported.

The school's Board of Regents originally wanted to only sell alcohol to luxury suites, the Star Tribune reported, but a university spokesman said is still supportive of the change.

Analysis: Numbers

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In a New York Times story called "Private Schools Mine Parent's Wallets, and Data", the reporter uses numbers in three ways. First, he lists a number of monetary figures, to give people an idea of how much some parents are paying in the first place to send their preschoolers to private school ($21,000 a year) and how much money private schools are trying to fundraise outside of that tuition. He also used the percent increase equation to show how much donations to private schools had increased, saying that "median amount of annual giving raised per school increased 268 percent over the last decade, to $1.7 million from $462,341". He also used percents in a more traditional way, pointing out that tuition only provided 80% of the cost of educating the student.

I think that the reporter keeps the numbers from being overwhelming most of the time. While I was reading, I never got lost or had to go back and figure out what I had just read. If we took away too many numbers, and we wouldn't have enough numbers in this story, which is really all about money and percents. There is one paragraph that seems a little messy, where twice in a row he uses the format "increased 260 percent over the last decade, to $1.7 million from $462,341", which strikes me as confusing. Not only could he have switched around the two monetary figures ("from $462,341 to $1.7 million" would have confused me a lot less), but he could have simply left the original, smaller figure out.

I think that the reporter used math to crunch the numbers and get the percentages that would really tell the story. He cited his figures from data from the National Association of Independent Schools, but he used those raw numbers and found the percentages he needed himself.

Best Buy said Thursday it plans to close 50 of its U.S. big-box stores, cut 400 corporate jobs and trim $800 million in costs, all in an attempt to revamp the struggling chain, Mercury News reported.

It is testing a smaller store model, closer to what Apple is already doing, in both Minneapolis, one of its densest markets, and San Antonio, Texas, one of its least dense markets, to see how customers react, the Star Tribune reported. How many other big-box stores will shut down will ultimately depend on the success of its "Connected Store" remodels, the Star Tribune reported.

Best Buy is not the traditional big-box store to start focusing on smaller stores, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Wal-Mart is building around 100 small-format stores this year, and Target is opening five CityTarget locations, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must begin proceedings to ban the use of common antibiotics in animal feed after a ruling by Judge Theodore H. Katz of the Southern District of New York on Thursday, the Inquisitr reported.

Environmental and public health groups have for years condemned the use of antibiotics in animal feed, saying that this concentration of antibiotics is bad for humans, and has helped breed antibiotic resistant "superbugs" like MRSA, KARE 11 reported.

Most of the time antibiotics are not fed to sick animals to treat infections, but are given to healthy animals to give them more bulk and make them look healthier, the Examiner reported.

Police chased 15 to 20 youths around Nicollet Mall Friday when they simultaneously attacked a group of bikers, the Star Tribune reported.

They have been nicknamed "flash robs" because of their resemblance to "flash mobs", where people will simultaneously start dancing in a public place. The difference here is that instead of dancing, these youths are attacking then fleeing in bulk, KARE 11 reported.

There have been six similar incidents since February, usually centering around Nicollet Mall, KARE 11 reported. In Friday's incident, one man flew off his bike and broke his jaw while another was surrounded and beaten, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Four people from that Friday's attacks have been captured and charged: three juveniles, ages 15, 16, and 17, and Antonio D. Jones, 20, with felony fifth-degree drug possession, gross-misdemeanor third-degree riot, and misdemeanor fifth-degree assault, the Minnesota Daily reported.

In an act that leaves the U.N. half hopeful and half skeptical, Syria has accepted Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan for ending the year-long conflict, Voice of America News reported.

Opposition members accuse President Bashar Assad of agreeing to the plan to stall for time while his troops prepare for another large-scale attack, Seattle PI reported.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told MSNBC Assad's decision to accept the plan was only a first step. "We will continue to judge the Syrian regime by its practical actions, not by its often empty words," he told MSNBC.

Analysis: Obituaries

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I chose to analyze the New York Times obituary of David L. Waltz, an influential pioneer in computer science who was responsible for some of the work that lead to today's search engines.

None of the information such as "he went to this school and was taught by this person" was directly cited, presumably because it is easily verified. His wife, Bonnie Waltz, confirmed his cause of death as brain cancer. Two other prominent people in the world of computer science, Brewster Kahle (director of the Internet Archives) and Peter Norvig (Google's director of research), talked about his contributions to their respective fields.

The story made use of a standard obituary lead, stating his full name, summarizing who he was and why he was significant, then stating where and when he died. A single, short sentence stating his age when he died follows.

David L. Waltz, a computer scientist whose early research in information retrieval provided the foundation for today's Internet search engines, died on Thursday in Princeton, N.J. He was 68.

The lead works very well, in my opinion, and I think using an alternative might not have worked as well. Then again, perhaps a different journalist with skills that far surpass my own could have come up with an alternative style lead that worked even better than the standard.

Obituaries are sort of like resumes in many ways, but they are subtly different. Resumes are sort of a list of the things you've done and your abilities, where obituaries are more reflective -- they think about what a person did with their life and what their legacy is. It's a little broader and a little more artistic, in many ways. It also could contain many things that would seem very out of place in a resume, such as personal reflections about the deceased from close friends and family.

Kahn Wins DFL Endorsement

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For the 20th time in her 40-year career as state representative, Rep. Phyllis Kahn won the DFL endorsement at the convention Saturday, the Minnesota Daily reported. She was challenged by Mike Griffin, a 26-year-old University of Minnesota grad, who kept her from achieving the necessary 60% majority for two rounds of voting.

Mike Griffin has been heavily campaigning in the University of Minnesota district for more than a year, and was able to bring a lot of young people to the convention who, in previous years, might not have shown much interest in Minnesota house elections, the Minnesota Daily reported.

The Minnesota Daily reported both Griffin and Kahn as being happy with how Griffin's campaign brought students to the polls, but students at the event said that Kahn's demeanor told a different story. After the first round of voting did not work out, she went around to the Griffin students and told them that by voting for Griffin a second time, all they were doing was slowing down the process and causing division in the party. "Up on stage she seems sweet, but one-on-one I found her whole attitude to be very rude and abrasive and dismissive towards students, so I could not vote for her in good conscience," student Kim Thompson said.

A student working in Kahn's campaign, who preferred to remain nameless, had to say of her boss, "Kahn can be nice when she wants to be."

On Wednesday, the "Voter ID Act" passed through the Minnesota House of Representatives, the Minnesota Daily reported. On Friday, it passed through the Senate, the Star Tribune reported.

Now, Minnesota citizens will get to vote on the issue themselves when it goes on the ballot this November, the Minnesota Daily reported. The Daily said that voters will be asked, "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification on election day and that the state provide free identification to eligible voters?"

This issue is sharply divided across party lines, with most Republicans voting for and most Democrats voting against, the Star Tribune reported. Democrats worry that the measure will disenfranchise certain groups of voters such as the very old, the homeless and, above all, students -- groups that generally tend to vote for Democrats, the Star Tribune reported.

Florida is one of at least 20 states which has a law that allows the use of deadly force as self-protection in public spaces, and completely removed the duty to retreat in the face of a perceived threat, the L.A. Times reported. Now, thousands across the country are rising up against these laws that they say may allow a killer to walk free, the L.A. Times reported.

Ever since the deadly shooting of 17-year-old Treyvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, by a self-proclaimed "neighborhood watch captain", even those in favor of 2nd Amendment rights have been calling for reform, the L.A. Times reported.

The shooter, George Zimmerman, claimed that not only did Treyvon, who is black, looked "suspicious" but that the shooting was not racially charged, since he is hispanic, the Chicago Tribune reported. He has still not been taken into custody, something that has further enraged those protesting the law.

President Obama himself even weighed in on the situation, calling for the nation to do some "soul searching" and saying, "If I had a son, he would look like Treyvon", according to another L.A. Times article.

1988's Wasteland is one of the most revered computer games of all time, and is renowned for its influence and wonderful (for the time) gameplay and storyline. Now, almost a quarter-century later, it's original team -- once split up by corporate fighting shenanigans -- has reunited with the goal of creating a long-awaited sequel, Forbes reported.

Unable to get funding from big studios, series creator Bill Fargo and his company InXile Entertainment took their plans to the public and set up a Kickstarter account on Mar. 13 with the goal of reaching $900,000 in 35 days, MarketWatch reported. They hit that goal on the second day, Thursday, and now, a week later, they have broken $1.4 million, DigitalTrends reported.

InXile told MarketWatch that this signifies a new era in gaming "where the developer gets to work directly with the fans to build the type of product that the fans want". The game will be fan funded with fan input and use digital distribution methods to bypass both publishers and retail, MarketWatch reported.

Violence in Syria has surged in the past 48 hours, particularly in previously untouched, upscale areas such as the al-Mazzeh neighborhood in the capital of Damascus, CNN reported. The neighborhood housed various security buildings embassies, and some of the president's inner circle, CNN reported.

This comes just two days after a large attack in Damascus on Saturday, where two suicide car bombers detonated explosives near two important government buildings, killing 29 civilians and security personnel and wounding 140 others, CapitalFM reported. The Syrian administration calls this yet another example of proof of their claim that the rebels are nothing more than terrorists, while the rebels maintain that they did not orchestrate that attack, rather, that the administration sent the suicide bombers to kill their own supporters and frame the rebels to gather more support, CNN reported.

Even Russia, Assad's longtime ally in the UN, has urged both Assad and the rebels to agree to daily truces, so as to allow international Red Cross workers into the war zones to provide needed aid to civilians, the Montreal Gazette reported.

British UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos became the first senior international figure to visit the Baba Amr district of Homs Wednesday since the government first launched its assault there against opponents of the government, Gulf News reported.

"I was devastated by what I saw in Baba Amr yesterday," Amos told Reuters TV Thursday. "The devastation there is significant, that part of Homs is completely destroyed and I am concerned to know what has happened to the people who live in that part of the city."

Rebel leaders fled Homs over a week ago after nearly a month of shelling from Syrian forces, Reuters reported.

Syria originally refused to grant Amos access to the country, but relented after China and Russia joined the rest of the international community in rebuking them, Gulf News reported. Amos' goal is to secure aid access to the heaviest conflict zones, which have previously been off-limits, Gulf News reported.

Gopher's football wide receiver Ge'Shun Harris was charged Wednesday with credit-card fraud after racking up almost $800 in charges from an American Express card he lifted from a bag at the airport, the Star Tribune reported.

Gopher's head football coach Jerry Kill dismissed Harris, saying that he had violated team policy, the Pioneer Press reported.

This is not Ge'Shun's first run in with the law -- he pleaded guilty to petty misdemeanor theft in Hennepin County in December, and is still facing a pending charge of theft at the St. Paul Walmart, the Pioneer Press reported.

The University of Minnesota Men's Hockey Team, for the first time in five years, won outright the MacNaughton Cup in a match against Wisconsin, the Star Tribune reported.

We have had to share the cup a few times before with other schools, but this year, we emerged the sole victors in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), the Minnesota Daily reported.

In a year when other Gopher sports have been less than awe inspiring, this victory on the part of the men's hockey team is very welcome.

Mitt Romney won 6 states this Tuesday, though lost North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to Rick Santorum and Georgia to Newt Gingrich, Politico reported. Between those and all of his wins in previous caucuses, he is looking to be the definite frontrunner in the Republican nomination, Politico reported.

Still, Santorum took enough votes to raise some concern among Republicans about whether Romney will be able to rouse the sort of enthusiasm out of voters that he needs to defeat Obama in 2012, CBS News reported.

CBS News called Romney's victory "weak", and pointed out that he has yet to really connect with super conservative, born again and evangelical voters. Santorum and Gingrich, though long shots at this point, are still definitely in the race, reported CBS News.

A man was arrested Tuesday after his homemade cannon blasted through his mobile home in a remote community outside of San Diego, killing his girlfriend and narrowly missing three other adults and a 4-year-old child, Fox News reported.

He was first taken to the hospital to receive treatment for shrapnel wounds, then was taken to jail, the Pioneer Press reported.

Police are still unsure whether the incident is an accident or whether some sort of motive is involved, Fox News reported. A neighbor, John Arnold, told U-T San Diego that "He liked experimenting with guns, and it looks like this experiment went bad."

Find a news report based on a public meeting, a speech or a press conference by a governmental organization. (If possible, get the agenda or the press release or a copy of the speech. If not, don't worry about that.)

What choices did the reporter make in crafting that news story?

The reporter used a lot of statistics and facts from the government report in the beginning, making the article feel very numbers heavy. For example:

Among the report's more alarming findings are that "more than 47 million people live in places where it is difficult to access dental care," "17 million low-income children received no dental care in 2009," "25 percent of adults 65 and older in the U.S. have lost all of their teeth, and lower income adults in the U.S." "are almost twice as likely as higher-income adults to have gone without a dental checkup in the previous year."

The article got smoother as he or she continued, still stating facts like more dentists retire each year than are hired to replace them, and pointing out that most dentists around the country will not accept medicare patients, making it quite difficult for those with low incomes to get the dentistry help they need.

The author was also quite sure to include the story of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver, a young boy who died of a tooth infection about five years ago because his mother could not find adequate dental care. It helped to get the true gravity of the situation across to a nation that largely ignores it in favor of freaking out about other epidemics.

How has the reporter gone beyond the event itself to help the reader understand its importance?

The reporter sought out an expert in public health and oral health related disparities, professor Nancy Drexel, to shed even more light on the subject. The professor gave the reporter some great quotes, and was able to state the issue in a different, slightly less formal but still authoritative and reliable way.

She also made sure to end her article with a statistic from another source, informing the audience that only 14% of water in New Jersey has access to fluoridated water -- far less than the national average!

Toddler Stabbed in Home

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A toddler was targeted and stabbed early Thursday morning in a home invasion in Rochester, MN, the Post-Bulletin reported.

The intruder, who was a boyfriend of the child's mother until about a month ago but who was not the boy's father, also left two men who tried to intervene injured, one critically, KARE 11 TV reported.

The child is still in the hospital critical condition, along with one of the men who tried to stop the attacker, Police Capt. Brian Winters told the Post-Bulletin. The other man involved in the altercation sustained only minor injuries, and the suspect was briefly hospitalized with injuries sustained by police dogs, but is now in prison, KARE 11 TV reported.

A University of Minnesota Police Employee is accused of stealing and reselling thousands of dollars of University textbooks, KAAL reported.

27-year-old Kyle Bongers has been police security monitor at the University of Minnesota for over seven years, and worked in Diehl Hall Biomedical Library -- the library most of the books were stolen from, the Minnesota Daily reported.

The online retailer originally contacted the University when they noticed that five of the books Bongers had sent to them had marker and white out on them, apparently hiding the university logo, the Minnesota Daily reported.

The University obtained Bonger's PayPal statements to discover that he had recieved $68,733.53 since April 2010. He is in custody, though he has not been officially charged yet, KAAL reported.

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

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