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April 26, 2009

5.5 Seconds

Cheryl W. Thompson writes about the shooting of DeOnté Rawlings, a teen who was suspected of stealing a minibike in D.C., in the story 5.5 seconds that was printed in the Washington Post. The incident is controversial because the 14-year-old boy was shot and killed by two police officers that were on the scene and were responding in self-defense after being shot at by Rawlings. It has recently come to light, however, that Rawlings might not have been the one who shot at the officers and that his death was in fact unjustifiable.

Thompson uses a number of computer-assisted reporting skills to help her create the story. Thompson reports in this story that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier had publicly promised a thorough and open investigation, something that Thomspon must have either looked up online or listened to on the television. Also, as Thomspon describes how neither the mayor nor the police chief supported their promise to keep the case open to the public; Thompson most likely tried to access public records and found that this was impossible or tried to report on the incident and found it difficult to access records that had earlier been deemed open to the public. Thompson could only draw the conclusion that the case was not open to the public if she herself could not access the files and databases she should have been able to, something that requires reporting.

Also, Thompson references the Washington Post, which means she must be keeping updated with news either online or in print; since it is easier to track the history of stories online (see if there are follow-ups or different “chapters” in a story), she most likely was paying attention to what other publications were saying about the story.

Thompson references police records in the story, which justifies the fact that she most likely accessed the records either online or in person. She also references a sensor system known as ShotSpotter, which detects and locates gunshots. Thompson accessed the ShotSpotter reports for this particular incident in order to help her report the story.

There is also a reference to Rawlings’ police records, which are from D.C. Thompson has also likely accessed court reports regarding the lawsuit that was brought against the city and the two officers in U.S. District Court.

Lastly, Thompson clearly references the initial incident report regarding the shooting throughout the story, proving that she had accessed this report.

The computer skills that were needed in order to create this story were the ability to access a variety of public records, whether it is via computer or in-person. Thompson clearly accessed numerous records such as court, police, and incident records, among an assortment of others. Without her ability to access such records and know where and how to find them, Thompson would have been unable to do much of the required reporting for this story.

Minneapolis Man Left Dead, One Other Injured after Mississippi Rescue

One Minneapolis man has died and another has been left injured after rainwater flooded the tunnel they were exploring under the Marshall Avenue bridge, carrying them into the Mississippi River, reported the Star Tribune.

Rescue crews were informed at 10:19 a.m. Sunday that two men who had been photographing and exploring a tunnel south of the Marshall Avenue bridge had been swept into the Mississippi River. The tunnel had flooded with rainwater after a thunderstorm broke out, reported the St. Paul Fire Department.

One man was able to make it to the river’s edge, while police officers and two University of St. Thomas rowing club students rescued the second man and brought him to shore.

There, paramedics administered CPR and the man was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. He was identified as Ian William Talty, 30, from Woodbury. (Pioneer Press)

Talty died from injuries sustained in the flood.

The incident is currently being investigated.

April 25, 2009

St. Paul Woman Sentenced to Three Years for Stabbing Boyfriend

A St. Paul woman was sentenced to more than three years in prison for stabbing her boyfriend in the heart after he flirted with another woman, reported the Star Tribune.

Corinna Jo Hernandez, 31, of Morton, Minn., pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree assault in February.

The incident occurred at a home in the 800 block of Sherburne Avenue in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood after Hernandez and her boyfriend went to a SuperAmerica store on May 4.

A woman allegedly told Hernandez’s boyfriend, Theodore James Warren, that she found him attractive; Warren responded by saying he wished he could give her his number.

Hernandez later stabbed Warren at the home. Warren collapsed on the front lawn.

According to the Pioneer Press, when the police arrived on the scene, Hernandez reportedly said, “I killed him. I killed him, didn’t I? Can I have a cigarette before I go to prison for life?”

According to a Ramsey County District Court complaint, Warren had to be revived on the operating table. He survived the attack.

Hernandez was sentenced to three years and three months in the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee. She has currently credited 355 days of jail-time.

According to the Pioneer Press, she will serve her full time after completing her sentence for a previous Redwood County assault.

Body of Missing Anoka Man Found in Golf Pond

Anoka County authorities say that the body of a man who has been missing for one month was discovered dead Saturday in a golf course pond.

According to the Pioneer Press, the sheriff’s office said the body of Jelani Brinson, 24, was discovered at the Greenhaven Golf Course in Anoka after an employee reportedly saw a body floating in the course pond.

Brinson was last seen April 17 after leaving a friend’s home. Friends and family who had been looking for him had found his shoes along a railroad track nearby.

Police have not said whether there were any signs of foul play involved in Brinson’s death and that the cause of death is currently under investigation.

A brief dog hunt for Brinson that ended at a bar in Ramsey County turned up no evidence.

Ryan Wagner, who is an employee of the Greenhaven Golf Course, said that the pond is located between the 10th and 11th holes. Nine holes of the course in Anoka had been closed for most of the afternoon. (Star Tribune)

Pentagon to Release New Prisoner Abuse Photos

The Pentagon Defense Department will release dozens of photographs depicting the abuse of prisoners at U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, reported the New York Times on Friday.

The pictures were first ordered by a federal judge in June 2006 to be released no later than May 28, said the Defense Department and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The controversial photographs show incidents in "at least seven different locations in Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to court records. (Wall Street Journal)

According to the New York Times, there were early reports that some of the new pictures showed detainees being intimidated by American soldiers, sometimes at gunpoint, although these reports could not be clarified.

The photographs follow in the wake of the 2004 Abu Ghraib debacle, which included the release of pictures depicting the mental, physical and sexual abuse of prisoners by American soldiers. The incident caused an immediate uproar and criticism of the U.S. military.

Although those soldiers who were involved in the Abu Ghraib case have since been punished, whether by demotion or termination of contract, members of the A.C.L.U. say that the new pictures need to be released.

“These photographs provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib,” said Amrit Singh, an A.C.L.U. staff attorney. (New York Times)

Although the Wall Street Journal says that there are a total of 21 pictures, the New York Times reports that the exact number of new pictures is not known. Lev. L Dassin, the acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York said that the Pentagon agreed to release 44 photographs involved in the case.

Amrit Singh said that the release of the pictures would make the need for independent investigations into the abuse of prisoners clearer, so that the “public can see for itself the offenses committed in its name.” (New York Times)

University Professor Suspected in Shooting of Wife, Three Left Dead

Three people were killed Saturday in a community theatre after a University of Georgia professor opened fire, said police officials. (New York Times)

Police identified George M. Zinkhan III, 57, a marketing professor at the university, as the suspected gunman. They were responding to an emergency call that was placed around 12:30 p.m. from the Athens Community Theatre in downtown Athens. Three people were found dead while at least one other person was left injured.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution identified one of the victims as Marie E. Bruce, 47, the wife of Zinkhan, as well as the president of the theatre’s board of directors. The other two victims, Ben Teague, 63, and Tom Tanner, 40, who were also board members. (New York Times)

Zinkhan is currently at large.

According to Athens-Clarke Assistant Police Chief Alan Brown, there is “some indication he may have had multiple weapons.” (USA Today)

According to the New York Times, Zinkhan had dropped his children off with a neighbor either immediately before of after the shooting.

Josh Gurley, 21, a student who was in Zinkhan’s course on consumer behavior at the university also said that the professor had suddenly canceled class last week and told students they didn’t need to take the class final exam. (New York Times)

April 19, 2009

Bloomington Man Charged with Sexual Assault of 8-Year-Old Girl

A Bloomington man has been charged with first-degree criminal sexual assault after molesting two girls who played for a youth sports team that the offender coached.

Randy Lee Ronning, 36, was charged last week with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual assault after a witness saw Ronning inappropriately touching a young girl at a Bloomington Days Inn. (Star Tribune)

Ronning also allegedly assaulted another girl on the team at the hotel. The girls were aged nine and 10.

Ronning had been babysitting the girl, who was part of a floor hockey team he helped coach in early 2008. The team, which was comprised of girls aged eight to 10, was part of the Bloomington Athletic Association (BAA), an organization that Ronning had coached for since 2006 when he was a softball volunteer coach. (Pioneer Press)

According to the Star Tribune, the BAA said it did not go a background check on Ronning, who had been convicted in 1992 of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct in Hennepin County.

Bloomington Police have since requested the rosters of teams Ronning’s had coached in the past, as well as have sent letters to the families so that they are aware of the incident. (Pioneer Press)

Ronning had been hired in June 1999 by the Bloomington public schools system as a school bus aide.

Though the sexual assault conviction had been on Ronnings’ record since 1992, his conviction “slipped by,” said Bloomington Schools spokesman, Rick Kaufman. (Star Tribune)

“Had that conviction shown up, I can guarantee you he would not have been hired to work in the district,” Kaufman said. (Star Tribune)

Instead, Kaufman said that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension performs the school’s background checks and that no offenses by Ronning were found at that time.

Police said they would continue to work with the BAA to ensure that background checks are made on its employers and volunteer staff members.

Ronning is being held in the Hennepin County jail Thursday in lieu of $150, 000 bail and is unavailable for comment.

Defamed Woody Allen Sues American Apparel $10 Million

Distinguished film director Woody Allen has sued the clothing company American Apparel $10 million for using his image in one of their advertisements last year without his consent, reported USA Today.

The company, which is known for its provocative and somewhat controversial advertisements that often depict women in see-through or no clothing, used a still shot of Allen depicted as a Hasidic Jew that was taken from the movie Annie Hall. The film, which Allen directed, garnered him a best-director Oscar.

Allen, 73, sued the company on grounds of damaging his reputation and using his image to sponsor their product, something that Allen did not authorize. The lawsuit said that the billboards that were put up over the course of one week last year falsely implied that Allen had endorsed and associate him with the company.

American Apparel lawyer, Stuart Slotnick, argued that Allen’s reputation could not have been damaged by the company’s advertisements since Allen had long ago ruined it himself.

According to the New York Times, Slotnick told the Associated Press that at a May trial date, the company is preparing to bring up Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi Previn, the woman he is now married to. At the time of the affair, Previn was the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, who was Allen’s companion at the time.

“Certainly, our belief is that after the various sex scandals that Woody Allen has been associated with, corporate America’s desire to have Woody Allen endorse their product is not what he may believe it is,” Slotnick said. (New York Times)

Allen’s attorneys said that the company’s attempts at relating the incident to past sex scandals were “vexatious, oppressive, harassing,” and not relevant. (USA Today)

Allen’s relationship with actress Mia Farrow ended in 1992 when she discovered that Allen was having an affair with her oldest adopted daughter, Preven, who was 22 at the time. Allen and Previn married in 1997.

April 18, 2009

Craigslist Casual Encounters Cast Under Spotlight

Craigslist, the online classifieds website, has come under scrutiny once more for its “Casual Encounters” section which allows users to search for anything from casual sex partners to one-night-stands.

According to Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, the Casual Encounters section of the website “was created in response to user demand for a section that allowed for a wide range of personal meeting and relationship options.” (New York Times)

Basically, the users asked for it so Craigslist delivered.

The forum, which was introduced in 2000, provides users to choose from personal advertisements posted by gay, straight, male and female members. Ads in the Casual Encounters section make up 2 percent of all Craigslist postings.

Questions and concerns regarding the legitimacy and legality of such personal advertisements, however, have placed the Craigslist Casual Encounters section under the spotlight once again.

On March 5, Sheriff Thomas Dart of Cook County, Ill., said at a news conference that the site was the “largest source of prostitution in America,” and filed a civil lawsuit to get Craigslist’s erotic personals shut down. (Wall Street Journal)

“They’ve actually catered their site so it facilitates (prostitution), where you can actually and more specifically and quickly get to what you want,” Dart said. “How is that different than somebody who’s aggressively and actively working with a pimp to try and get the words out about the women working for him?” (Wall Street Journal)

Prostitution on the site is a reality that no one is arguing with. According to the New York Times, in 2006 Nassau County set up a prostitution sting on Craigslist that routinely arrested prostitutes who were using the site. Craigslist responded to the investigation by charging a $5 fee and required the posting of phone numbers for anybody offering erotic acts. A statement released by the company said that the change resulted in an 80 percent drop in postings to that section.

So who should be held responsible for the posting of such advertisements in the first place? Since Dart’s news conference in May, a federal court has ruled that the site is immune to any liability for what a third party posts, so long as the site doesn’t directly help to create the content.

In a blog post by chief executive of Craigslist, Jim Buckmaster said that the site does not tolerate illegal activity and supported the fact that Craigslist has taken steps to try and reduce the amount of illegal activity that is currently taking place. (Wall Street Journal)

Although solicited sex online will continue to cause controversy until regulations ban the offerings of such acts, the Casual Encounters section of Craigslist will continue to function and flourish, constantly under the spotlight.

Maple Grove Man Charged with Animal Murder

A Maple Grove man has been charged with the mistreatment and abuse of his girlfriend’s cats after one cat had to be euthanized by veterinarians.

The Dakota County District Court charged Ryan J. Wolcott, 24, with the "abandonment of one or more cats, which is a misdemeanor, and with mistreatment of an animal, a felony.” (Star Tribune)

Two of the cats belonging to Wolcott’s girlfriend, who remained unnamed in court documents, disappeared after Wolcott moved in with her in early 2008. A third feline, a kitten was also allegedly mistreated by Wolcott when court documents state that Wolcott put pepper spray on his fingers and then rubbed the kittens’ eyes. (Pioneer Press)

The kitten also disappeared.

A fourth cat named Mayzie was brought to an Eagen veterinary clinic by Wolcott’s girlfriend when she found the cat unresponsive several days after a brutal beating in November that left the cat with severe head and abdominal injuries and bruising.

The incident, which resulted in the animal’s euthanization, prompted an investigation by the Eagen Animal Control Office after Wolcott’s girlfriend told the veterinary clinic she thought her boyfriend might be responsible.

Wolcott has since admitted to squeezing and hitting the cat against the side of the bathtub and possibly the faucet. (Star Tribune)

“I gave a cat a bath. Maybe I did it too hard. It wasn’t intentional,” Wolcott says. (Pioneer Press)

Wolcott’s next court appearance is May 18 in Hastings.

April 16, 2009

Law Allowing for “Marital Rape” Causes Hundreds to Protest

A new law that was passed by Parliament saying that husbands have the right to demand sex from their wives without the risk of refusal sparked a protest Wednesday that included around 300 women. Sound crazy? For the Shiite women and wives living in Afghanistan, this is the new reality they must face.

According to the New York Times, the law was approved by both houses of Parliament and was signed by President Hamid Karzai. It only applies to the Shiite minority and prevents a woman from resisting her husband’s sexual advances.

Two other provisions of the law state that a woman requires permission from her husband if she wants to work outside the home or go to school and that it is illegal for a woman to “dress up” if it is against her husband’s wishes.

Women’s rights activists scheduled a demonstration that found more than 300 female supporters walking the streets of Kabul in protest of the new “Taliban-like restrictions.” (New York Times)

“Whenever a man wants sex, we cannot refuse,” said Fatima Husseini, 26, a protester. “It means a woman is a kind of property, to be used by the man in any way that he wants.” (New York Times)

Some critics are saying that the law basically allows for the legalization of “marital rape.”

The protesters were met with resistance from counter protesters, many of who shouted support for Islamic law. Some counter protesters threw gravel and stones, while groups of men refused to let some women join the demonstration. (Wall Street Journal)

President Karzai responded to the situation by looking at removing some parts of the law and asked his justice minister to look it over.

Homayun Hamidzada, President Karzai’s spokesman, said in an interview on Wednesday that “we have no doubt that whatever comes out of this process will be consistent with the rights provided for in the Constitution – equality and the protection of women.” (New York Times)

Some Shiite women who support the new law believe that it is only controversial to those who are Westerners and others who are anti-Islam, and that the law is being “misinterpreted.”

“We don’t want foreigners interfering in our lives,” said Mariam Sajadi, 24. “They are the enemy of Afghanistan.” (Wall Street Journal)

April 13, 2009

Religious Tradition Highlight For Mexico

In the New York Times story “A Mexican Tradition Runs on Pageantry and Faith,” which was written by Larry Rohter and published April 11, 2009, Rohter describes the weeklong Passion Play that takes place annually in Mexico.

The Passion Play, which is held in the city of Iztapalapa on the outskirts of Mexico City, is a real-life depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Candidates are chosen based on specific requirements that state those who wish to play Jesus must adhere to a “proper state of purity.” This means that no dating, drinking, smoking or partying can take place from the moment they get the role. Candidates must also have the economic means to purchase the costumes they need to wear.

Another requirement that candidates who want to portray Jesus includes the physical ability to withstand the role. The real-life depiction of Jesus in the Play includes being able to take a ritual whipping in the square, the ability to carry a cross weighing more than 200 pounds three miles and up a steep hill where the candidate has to endure a brief but real crucifixion in which they are bound to the cross for about 20 minutes.

I feel that the way this story is written is such a way that it moves beyond racial and cultural differences in American literary depictions of indigenous peoples. At the end of the story, Rohter writes about the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude regarding the play and that since the event is put on by the local community, largely of indigenous descent, rather than the Church, the hierarchy has come to view the pageant as an effective tool for anchoring Mexican Catholics in their religion in the face of a growing Protestant challenge.

The fact that Rohter includes this information appears to be more educational than derogatory or stereotypical. The description of the community as primarily consisting of indigenous peoples and referring to them as “Mexican” Catholics makes me think that any stereotyping might come on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church.

Rohter writes a piece that discusses this community’s religious traditions and does not pay much attention to the fact that they are Mexican peoples or that the tradition itself of re-creating a live crucifixion might be perceived as controversial. Instead, he focuses on the tradition and profiles the community’s involvement in the Play, which attracts more than two million people annually. He talks to people who are involves in this year’s Play and some who have been involved in the past. The reader learns what type of preparation and dedication goes in to such an event.

For those who are not religious and who do not understand much regarding Jesus and the crucifixion, this article may be confusing for some. Rohter provides some background detail regarding the Play and when/how it started. However, information regarding certain biblical characters is not provided which may lead to some confusion (if you are not religious, what are the chances you will know who the high priest Caiaphas is?).

The story is informative to me in that I didn’t know such an event existed, nor did I know why it started and what it took to be a part of it. I find it really interesting the amount of dedication and personal sacrifice it takes to play the role of Jesus. Rohter used quotes from those who are participating and have participated in the Play and also profiled Diego Villagrán Villalobos, 18, the boy who would be playing Jesus for this year’s Play. Also, Rohter provides a lot of background data on how the Play formed and its history in Mexico.

April 12, 2009

Usain Bolt Tries to Race into History – Again

Usain Bolt, the Jamaican track superstar who ran his way into spectator’s hearts and onto their television sets during last summer’s 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, has announced he wants to become the first track star to earn $10 million a year in prize money, appearance fees and endorsements.

Bolt, 22, was the winner of three gold medals in Beijing in the 100, 200 and 4x100 meter relay. Each race was also a world record, as Bolt put up times of 9.69 seconds at 100 meters, 19.30 at 200, and 37.10 in the 4x100 relay.

As reported by the New York Times, Bolt’s London-based agent, Ricky Simms, said that track stars do not earn as much as top stars in more visible professional sports, such as soccer and golf.

“David Beckham, Tiger Woods, he’s go to look at that being his target,” Simms said.

Bolt, has already signed a $1.5 million a year contract with the shoe company Puma, and has endorsements for Gatorade and Digicel, a Caribbean mobile phone company. Cummulatively, Bolt’s income could rise above $3 million for 2009.

Bolt is not satisfied with this amount, however. Bolt will begin asking for $200,000 in race performance fees, which is double that of what some other stars earn.

“My main goal is to be a legend in my sport,” Bolt said.

In order to do so, Bolt knows that he needs to continue putting up top performances and times.

Sponsor appearances, post-Olympic celebrating and other distractions prevented Bolt from staying on track with his early-season training. He ran a slow 9.93 wind-aided 100 last month in Spanish Town, Jamaica, and left the competition “infuriated.”

“You have to stay on top every year. You can’t be fast this season and the next two not be there,” Bolt said. “I didn’t feel like myself.”

After returning home, Bolt has decided that his drive will continue to push himself to the edge of human performance. Breaking he 9.5 second barrier in the 100 is a goal Bolt’s coaches have begun to talk about. (New York Times)

Bolt understands that he will now be training and racing under far greater pressure and scrutiny since he has become a world phenomenon and star.

Michael Phelps, the American swimmer who won a record eight gold medals in Beijing has recently come under attack since he was pictured at a party inhaling from a marijuana pipe. Phelps has since been placed under a three month competition suspension and the loss of a commercial deal with Kellog.

“That was stupid,” Bolt said of Phelp’s behavior. Bolt had recently admitted to a German newspaper that as a child, he too had experimented with marijuana, but hopes he can provide a better example for young children and other athletes. (Winnipeg Free Press)

“There is a responsibility for me to help the sport,” Bolt said. “It’s no problem. I will have fun all the time. It’s just going to be me being me.” (New York Times)

Thousands Protest in Bangkok, State of Emergency Called

Thousands of anti-government protestors took to the street of Bangkok Sunday, forcing the cancellation of a 16-nation Asian summit meeting and creating a state of emergency.

According to the Wall Street Journal, several hundred protestors had crowded into the seaside town of Pattaya where an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit was being held to discuss the global financial crisis.

The attack forced Thai authorities to cancel the meeting and call in helicopters to evacuate some of the Asian world leaders.

Crowds of protestors had gathered around Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s office, after demonstrating for days and calling for the dissolution of the government. As Abhisit tried to leave the Interior Ministry after calling a state of emergency that bans gatherings of five or more people, protestors attacked his car. (New York Times)

Police and army officials took to the streets in military vehicles and tanks, although doing little to disband large groups of protestors.

The Wall Street Journal reported that police estimated an approximated 30,000 demonstrators had participated in the riots around the city. 70,000 more protestors are believed to have joined the rally by Wednesday.

The protestors, who wore red shirts, demonstrated in support of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a coup in 2006 and has been moving from country to country in the hope of escaping extradition and imprisonment on a corruption conviction.

Thaksin threatened to return to Bangkok and lead an uprising. He called for a revolution and urged soldiers to turn against the government.

“Now that they have tanks on the streets, it is time for the people to come out in revolution,” he said in a telephone message. “I will closely monitor the situation. If there is any violence I will return to Thailand immediately.” (New York Times)

Political turmoil has plagued Bangkok ever since the country’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 82, fell ill in health in recent months. Although holding no direct political power, King Bhumibol’s illness leads a sort of uncertainty over who would be the country’s royal successor should he pass on.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, says that “we need reconciliation and I don’t see any sign that it is coming.” (New York Times)

Instead, Thitinan predicts that “we’re witnessing the birth of a new phenomenon here and there’s no telling where it will end.” (Wall Street Journal)

University Chairman Wins Suit After Controversial Comment on 9/11 Victims

A Denver jury has decided Thursday that Ward Churchill has been wrongfully dismissed from his job at the University of Colorado after causing national pandemonium when he referred to Sept. 11 terrorist attack victims as “little Eichmanns.”

Churchill, who was the chairman of the ethnic studies department at the university, was fired from his job in 2005 after the university launched an investigation into whether or not an essay written by Churchill was protected by free speech.

During the investigation, allegations arose saying that Churchill had committed plagiarism and academic misconduct in other writings that launched a second investigation. Churchill was then fired when a faculty report concluded that he had “plagiarized and falsified parts of his scholarly work on the persecution of American Indians.” (New York Times)

According to the Denver Post, Colorado University counsel Patrick O’Rourke said that the decision to dismiss Churchill from the university was based solely on the findings regarding Churchill’s plagiarism and academic misconduct and had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 essay.

“You cannot plagiarize, you cannot falsify, you cannot fabricate,” said O’Rourke. (Denver Post)

A Denver jury believed that the reason for Churchill’s firing had been for other reasons, however, when it agreed last week that the reason for Churchill’s firing was because of his political views. Churchill was awarded $1 in damages.

The decision to reinstate Churchill at the University of Colorado will be made sometime in the coming months as Judge Larry J. Naves of Denver District Court will either reinstate Churchill to his respective position or order the university to pay Churchill an annual salary for a period of time. (New York Times)

The essay, titled “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” criticized American economic and foreign policies. Churchill compared some of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack victims to Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who constructed the extermination of the Jews during World War II.

Suspect charged with Attempted Murder of Couple

An Eagan teen has been charged Friday with assault and attempted murder in connection with the stabbings of a Burnsville man and woman earlier this week, reported the Star Tribune.

The Dakota County attorney’s office charged 18-year-old Taylor Pass with two counts of second-degree attempted murder, one count of first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault in the stabbings that took place around 11:45 p.m. Tuesday. (Pioneer Press)

A criminal complaint filed in Dakota County District says that Pass stabbed Tina SanRoman, 35, and Odai Al-Refo, 24, in their backs and necks multiple times at a townhouse in the 1600 block of Riverwood Drive.

Both victims are at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis where SanRoman is in critical condition and Al-Refo is in stable condition.

Al-Refo, who told police he pays SanRoman to sleep on her couch, emerged from the shower to find the attacker assaulting SanRoman in the garage. As Al-Refo approached the scene, the attacker stabbed him in the neck before going to the kitchen to get another knife. The attacker returned and stabbed Al-Refo in the back. Al-Refo shielded himself with a child’s scooter before the attacker fled the scene in a green Ford Explorer. (Star Tribune)

Savage Police took Pass into custody within 20 minutes. A 9-year-old who was asleep in the house during the attack was not harmed.

Although police say they have not discovered a motive for the attack, the two victims are both acquainted with Pass.

Pass is currently being held in the Dakota County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for May 4.

Body Found in River, Student Still Missing

As the search for missing University of St. Thomas freshman Dan Zamlen continues, Ramsey County authorities say they have discovered a body in the Mississippi River early Saturday morning.

According to the Pioneer Press, police said that the body is not Zamlen. Instead, an unidentified black female’s body has been recovered from the Mississippi River after being found caught in debris around 8:30 a.m. by employees of a barge company near the intersection of Childs and Shepard Roads.

St. Paul police spokesman, Peter Panos, said that the body matches the description of a woman who jumped from a nearby bridge a couple weeks ago. Her body has been sent to the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office for identification.

A friend last heard Zamlen, 18, on his cell phone one week ago as he left a party early Sunday morning. During the conversation, Zamlen suddenly said “Oh my God, oh my God,” before his phone cut out.

Zamlen is believed to have been at the intersection of Mississippi River Boulevard S. and St. Clair Avenue.

Police have stopped looking for Zamlen after searching the Mississippi River by boat and helicopter.Volunteers continue to look for Zamlen. (Star Tribune)

April 6, 2009

Unemployment Rates Hit Highest Amount Since 1983

In the story “Jobless Rate Hits 8.5%,” by Sudeep Reddy that was printed in the Wall Street Journal, writes about the increasing rate of unemployment in America and how it is affecting the economy. He used numbers in three different ways: percents, relational values and straight figures.

Reddy uses straight figures to describe the number of jobs that have been lost since March (663,000) – a fact that is best described using this style. He uses percents to explain the change in jobless rates (8.5% up from 8.1%), and what changes these rates will see in the future as predicted by forecasters (surpass 10% later this year). Lastly, he uses relational values to describe values in the same paragraphs as other percentages, thus making it easier for readers to follow along (two-thirds of job cuts have occurred since November).

The numbers used in this story are not overwhelming because the writer limits the use of numbers per paragraph and uses different styles of numbers if there are more than two values in a paragraph (e.g., the use of relational values and percentages in one paragraph so it is easy to keep each topic description distinct from the next).

I feel that the reporter used numbers in a way that effectively added to the story. He did not use an excessive amount, but used numbers to highlight what they were meant to highlight – unemployment rates and comparisons, as well as future predictions and changes.

Reddy sources one of his number uses – the Labor Department. Other number uses appear to have come either from the same Labor Department report or from his personal analysis and research. Since this is the only source listed, and it is only listed once, this story might raise red flags for readers in terms of its correctness and credibility. I personally feel that Reddy uses numbers to enhance the story and that they sound realistic and are used appropriately, so I think that the numbers are most likely correct; however, a little more sourcing could have been beneficial.

St. Thomas Freshman Missing After Walk Along River

A University of St. Thomas freshman is missing after last talking with a friend around 3 a.m. Sunday as he walked along the Mississippi River in St. Paul.

Daniel Zamlen, 18, who is from Eveleth, Minn., was talking to friend via phone when he suddenly said “Oh my God, oh my God,” and was heard from no more, according to family members.

Sally Zamlen, Daniel’s mother, said that the exclamation persuades family members to believe he might have fallen into the river.

University spokesman Jim Winterer said that it was unclear where Zamlen had been earlier in the night, but that “there’s some concern he might be in need of medical attention.” Zamlen, who has diabetes, wears an insulin pump. (Pioneer Press)

St. Paul police spokesman Pete Panos said that a police helicopter searched along the river while family and friends walked through the area with no results. A few vehicles from the St. Paul Fire Department arrived on the scene to help aid with the search.

According to the Star Tribune, Daniel’s father, Dale Zamlen, said that friends had told him his son had been at a party and left possibly upset about something, although what is currently unknown.

Panos said that there is no immediate reason to suspect foul play and that as an adult Zamlen has the right to be out of touch from family and friends.

“He’s a grown man and if he doesn’t want to talk to people, he doesn’t have to,” said Panos. “So we have to be careful.” (Pioneer Press)

Family members said that Zamlen’s phone had been accepting calls and messages until this morning, so it was still working for a while although no one answered.

Zamlen is described as being 6 feet tall and 175 pounds. He has blue eyes and blond hair and was last seen wearing blue jeans and a blue jacket. (Pioneer Press)

The University is asking that if anyone knows anything about Zamlen’s whereabouts or has any information on the situation that they contact its public safety department’s emergency line at 651-962-5555.

April 5, 2009

Three Officers Fatally Shot in Pittsburgh Standoff

The Wall Street Journal reported that a gunman fatally shot three police officers Saturday morning in Pittsburgh after they responded to a domestic dispute between the gunman and his mother over a dog urinating in the house.

The argument that took place between Richard, 22, and Margaret Poplawski, 41, intensified to the point that she threatened to kick him out of the house and called police to help, according to a 12-page criminal complaint and affidavit filed late Saturday.

The episode began around 7 a.m. in the Stanton Heights neighborhood when a 911 call was placed to the Pittsburgh police. Officers Paul Sciullo III, 37, and partner Stephen Mayhle, 29, arrived on the scene where Margaret Poplawski opened her door and invited them in. Unbeknownst to her, Richard was standing behind her with a rifle.

Officer Sciullo was “immediately met with gunfire” and was fatally shot in the head, said Chief Nathan Harper of the Pittsburgh police. Another shot hit Officer Mayhle in the head, also killing him. Margaret Poplawski locked herself in the basement.

A third officer, Officer Eric Kelly, was arriving on the scene to aid both Sciullo and Mayhle after ending his shift minutes before. Kelly, 41, lived in the neighborhood just four blocks from the Poplawski home.

Officer Kelly was shot in the street as he exited his car. According to the New York Times, Kelly, who was critically wounded, managed to call for assistance and a SWAT team. The next officer to arrive, Timothy McManaway, was shot in the hand as he went to help Officer Kelly.

For the next four hours, neighbors reported hearing broken gunfire as both sides exchanged shots. At some point during the standoff, Mr. Poplawski’s mother left the house.

Around 11 a.m., police led Richard Poplawski from the house in handcuffs and has currently been charged with three counts of criminal homicide and nine counts of attempted homicide – one for each of the eight officers who were shot at in an armored SWAT vehicle, plus the injury of McManaway.

Poplawski is also being charged with possession of an instrument of crime: the bulletproof vest he wore during the gun battle. The criminal complaint doesn’t state where Poplawski obtained the vest although Police Chief Nate Harper Jr. said that the vest kept Poplawski from being seriously wounded.

It has now been confirmed that Poplawski was armed with an AK-47 rifle, a .22 long rifle and a pistol, weapons he had collected after the collapse of the economy.

According to neighbors, Poplawski had been kicked out of North Catholic High School and was dishonorably discharged from the Marines three years ago and had worked a variety of short-term jobs over the last couple years. (New York Times)

Five Children Shot Dead Near Washington

Five children were found shot to death and might have been murdered by their own father who later committed suicide, said Washington state investigators Saturday.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the children, who were between 7 and 16 years old, had been found dead in a Graham area home.

Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, said that all children had died of gunshot wounds. Names are not being released.

Police found the father, 35, dead from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in his care, at a casino in King County, about 20 miles from the home.

Troyer said that the episode was being considered as “domestic violence and a murder-suicide.” (New York Times)

Deputies said that they were called to the home to check on the welfare of the children after discovering the father’s body.

The mother of the children was not at home, said Troyer. It is believed that the husband and wife are not estranged.

Dozens of investigators are currently in the process of reconstructing the crime and trying to find a motive.

North Korea Launches Missile, Violates Security Resolution

North Korea has prompted the United Nations Security Council to organize an emergency meeting Sunday after launching a long-range missile that may or may not have been successful.

According to USA Today, the North Koreans say that the Taepodong-2 missile that was launched from the Musudan-ri base on their northeastern coast, “successfully put into orbit a civilian satellite that transmitted scientific data.”

The United States Northern Command issued a statement that the missile’s three stages had all fallen into the Pacific Ocean and that none had entered orbit.

Yoo Ho-yeol, a North Korea expert at the University of Seoul, said “after having built nuclear weapons, North Korea has now demonstrated that it is a means to deliver them for a long distance with a fair amount of accuracy, as well as its ability to proliferate such technology.” (New York Times)

The Taepodong-2 has a range of more than 4,000 miles, the distance from North Korea to Alaska. Analysts doubt the missile’s accuracy and military threat to the U.S., especially given the failed attempt and the fact that the missile needs several days of open pad preparation before it can be launched.

Still, the launching was quickly condemned around the world and occurred in the same week as Obama’s first speech on how to counter proliferation threats in Prague. The U.S., Japan and South Korea say that the launch is a violation of a 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution barring North Korea from firing ballistic missiles. (USA Today)

U.S. President Obama said Sunday that with the launch, “North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint and further isolated itself from the community of nations,” reported the New York Times.

The launch is popularly believed to be a quest for attention from the Obama administration in order to gain leverage for bargaining more aid and improved diplomatic relations for the isolated, insolvent nation.

Andrei Lankov, a North Korea watcher at Seoul’s Kookmin University, believes that there are few other alternatives to international aid in stopping the progress of the North’s nuclear weapons system.

“My advice: pay,” he says.

April 1, 2009

Craigslist Killer Convicted, Sentenced to Life Without Parole

A judge has sentenced Michael John Anderson this morning to life in prison without parole for the murder of a Minneapolis woman after he lured her to his parents’ house with a fake ad on Craigslist and shot her.

District Judge Mary Theisen gave Anderson, 20, the required sentence by law for first-degree murder convictions when a Scott County District Court jury found Anderson guilty of first- and second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter late Tuesday night, reported the Pioneer Press.

Prosecutors argued that Anderson had placed an ad on Craigslist for a nanny so that he could lure a woman to the home in order to kill her.

Katherine Ann Olson, 24, was the woman who answered Anderson’s ad.

Anderson’s attorney, Alan Margoles, said that Anderson “expresses his deepest regret for his actions.” (Pioneer Press)

Prosecutors felt differently. Theisen told Anderson that he had “shown no remorse or empathy,” and that she had no sympathy for him or his situation. She also said that she believed Anderson was a “coward” when he shot Olson as she was running away from him. (Star Tribune)

Margoles said that his client suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. He believes that the ruling would have come out differently if jurors had been allowed to hear testimony on the illness. Before the trial, Theisen cited a state law that does not allow “diminished capacity” defenses and rejected the request.

Olson’s family said that the death of Katherine would forever mar their lives but it was something they would need to let go.

“I refuse to carry him around with me,” said Olson’s mother, Nancy Olson, of Anderson’s influence on her. “He is air to me. Others will have to pray for him.” (Pioneer Press)

On Oct. 25, 2007, Olson showed up at Anderson’s home in Savage in response to what she thought was a babysitting job. After Anderson shot her, he placed the body in the trunk of a car.

In addition to the life sentence, Theisen ordered that Anderson pay restitution of $6,500 from his prison wages to cover Olson’s funeral expenses.