May 3, 2008

Convention loophole gives lobbyist perks

Ken Dilanian of USA Today reported Thursday that both Republicans and Democrats are using convention loopholes to give perks to special interest groups.

A new ethics law reduced the amount of influence that big donors can have to a political party, but the law states nothing about fundraisers at party conventions.

As a result, both parties are giving perks to donors who give large amounts of money to either party. The Democrats are listing a meeting with Nancy Pelosi and rooms at hotels during the convention in Denver. Similarly, Republicans are giving away rooms at hotels in Minneapolis and other perks for their big donors.

Dilanian used records to see how much money a donor would have to bring in to get the perks. He found out the cheapest donation is $100,000 and that only really special interest groups can afford this sum of money.

In addition, Dilanian used his computer skills to figure out what perks donors were going to receive. However, he was not able to find all the perks because the Democrats did not disclose all of their perks.

In the end, Dilanian uses information he gathered through computer-assisted reporting to tell how lobbyist are contributing to political parties even though there is an ethics law that is suppose to stop it. He talks about how the loophole exists and though he doesn’t suggest it, he indirectly tells about how the loophole needs to be fixed.

May 2, 2008

Man dies after jumping from Disneyland hotel

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday a man jumped from the 14th floor of the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., police said.

The body of the man, thought to be in his 30s or 40s, laid below the south tower of the hotel at 1127 Magic Way, said Anaheim police Sgt. Rick Martinez. Martinez added that officers arrived at the scene at 11:04 a.m.

Reuters reported Martinez said that the man committed suicide. Martinez said the man left evidence suggesting so, but would not elaborate if a note was left or not.

“He was sharing a room with another male associate and for some reason he went out on the balcony and all the indications are that it was an intentional act, a suicide,? Martinez said. (Reuters)

No other information was given about the case. The Disneyland Hotel has almost 1,000 rooms in three towers that look over the park.

Blast hits Yemen mosque

The New York Times reported Friday a blast shook a mosque in the city of Saada in northwest Yemen, near the border with Saudi Arabia, local officials said.

Officials said the cause of the blast came from a car bomb, but did not express how many people were killed. However, they did say that most of those who died were worshippers leaving from Friday prayers.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the region is known for violence from Zaydi rebels.

Since 2004 Zaydi rebels have carried out a religious movement motivated by the Shiite branch of Islam. In addition, Sunni extremist also operate in the area, where journalists are not allowed to enter.

Saudi Arabia claims that the Zaydi rebels are being assisted by Iran, which Iran has denied.

On the other hand, some analysts have claimed that Saudi Arabia is helping the tribesmen in the area in order to keep leverage over Yemen.

The BBC reported Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the leader of a Shia rebellion, has denied responsibility for the blast.

“We deny completely any role in this incident,? al-Houthi said. “It is not part of our ethics to target any mosque or any worshippers at all.? (BBC)

The Yemeni government says that al-Houthi’s rebels want to overthrow the government in the region and impose Shia religious law. However, the rebels say they are only defending their community against discrimination.

A BBC correspondent in Yemen said the mosque is often used by members of security forces, making it a potential target.

May 1, 2008

Twins headed on the right path

The Star Tribune reported Thursday the Minnesota Twins ended the first month of the season on the right path.

Even though things have not gone according to plans, the Twins (13-14) sit 1.5 games behind the leaders, the Chicago White Sox.

Francesco Liriano was expected to be the ace of the Twins since Santana left, but was sent to the minors after posting a record of 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA. Furthermore, young slugger Delmon Young has yet to hit a homerun and Mike Lamb is batting .203.

However, expected AL Central front-runners Detroit and Cleveland struggled in April, giving the Twins an early advantage in the standings.

“Everybody said Detroit and Cleveland have slumped, but I think it’s just a credit to how good this division is and how good this league is,? Twins closer Joe Nathan said. “Teams are going to beat each other up. If you can keep your head above water, stay in the race, who knows what can happen if it comes down to the last couple of months?? (Star Tribune)

The Pioneer Press reported the Twins young players have progressed through the first month of play.

It helps that Coach Gardenhire has kept an identical lineup card from spots 2-8 for five consecutive games.

One reason is Carlos Gomez and Young are batting .265, both of whom are 22-years-old.

“We expect very good things out of him,? Gardenhire said of Young. “We’re just not trying to put too much pressure on him that he has to hit 40 homeruns. Just play the game the right way, and he’s done that.? (Star Tribune)

Yet, there is one problem the Twins are facing. Currently, they lack a fifth started, but Kevin Slowey is working to fulfill that spot.

April 30, 2008

Former Viking arrested for domestic assault

The Pioneer Press reported Wednesday former Minnesota Viking defensive end Darrion Scott was arrested in Eden Prairie on suspicion of domestic assault.

Scott, 26, was booked into Hennepin County jail on the charges of suspicion of assult, domestic assault and malicious punishment of a child. Authorities have not released any additionally information due to the case remaining under investigation.

The Star Tribune reported Scott was a third-round pick by the Vikings in 2004 and spent the last four seasons in Minnesota before becoming a free agent. He led the team in sacks with 5.5 in 2006 and played in a total of 28 games. Last season Scott broke his foot and the Vikings expressed little interest in bringing him back.

In addition, this isn’t Scott’s first run in with the law. Last December, Scott was charged for a misdemeanor marijuana possession and was ticketed for failing to signal when being pulled over. The incident occurred in Charleston, W. Va.

Scott’s agent, Tim DePiero, could not be reached for comment.

April 29, 2008

Ex-UCLA worker indicted for celebrity snooping

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday a former administrative specialist at the UCLA Medical Center was indicted by a federal grand jury for probing into medical records of celebrities patients at the center and selling the information to a national media outlet, according to documents unsealed today.

Lawanda Jackson, 49, was indicted on the charge of obtaining health information of celebrities for commercial gain on April 9. The indictment came days after the Los Angeles Times reported about snooping at UCLA.

Jackson had an agreement to give information on celebrity patients in exnchange for money, the indictment said. Checks were made to her husband, Victor Jackson, and she at least received $4,600 from the outlet.

Representatives for the actress Farrah Fawcett claim Jackson leaked the actress’ personal information about her battle with cancer to the National Enquirer. Jackson would not comment to the Los Angeles Times when they asked her if she had been involved with the National Enquirer.

In addition, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that Jackson snooped into the private medical records of California First Lady Maria Shriver, as well as others. However, Jackson denies these claims.

“Clearly I made a mistake; let’s put it like that,? Jackson said. “I didn’t leak anything or anything like that. It wasn’t for money or anything. It was just looking.? (Los Angeles Times)

The Associated Press reported Jackson worked at UCLA Medical Center from 2006 until she quit, upon leaning she was going to be fired, on May 21, 2007.

“We are deeply troubled that a former employee may have illegally received payments from a news organization in exchange for providing personal medical information,? UCLA Hospital System CEO and Interim Vice Chancellor Dr. David T. Feinberg said. “Meanwhile, we continue to take steps to improve our staff training and information systems to further strengthen the confidentiality of patient records.? (AP)

If convicted, Jackson could face up to 10 years in prison. Her arraignment is scheduled for June 9.

April 20, 2008

Palestinian militants attack Gaza crossing

The New York Times reported Sunday Palestinian suicide bombers drove three bomb-laden vehicles into the Kerem Shalom goods crossing on the border with Israel, detonating two cars, the Israeli military said.

Three bombers were killed in the blasts and 13 Israeli solders were wounded. Three soldiers are in moderate condition, while the others were injured lightly, the military said.

Hamas, who controls the Gaza Strip, claimed responsibility for the attack, which came on the eve of the weeklong Passover holiday in Israel. This was the fifth attack along the border in the past 10 days.

The attack on the Kerem Shalom terminal, where goods are transferred into the Gaza, appeared to be part of a campaign by Gaza militants against border crossings. Hamas officials have issued threats of explosions along Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt because Israel has limited the movement of people and goods out of Gaza, since Hamas took over power.

The Gaza’s border with Egypt is mostly closed, which means that the Gaza’s population of 1.5 million is reliant on goods allowed in from Israel. The military said about 200 trucks of essential food and medical supplies pass through Kerem Shalom each week.

Israel said that the border attack is Hamas’ plan on trying to create a humanitarian crisis in Gaza that would put international pressure on Israel.

In addition, former President Jimmy Carter was in Damascus with exiled Hamas leader to talk about a potential cease-fire and a prisoner exchange.

Hamas is holding an Isreali soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, prisoner and wants the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israel in exchange for the corporal. The United States and other international countries are angry with President Carter because they have marked Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The Los Angeles Times reported the attack occurred around 6 a.m. Saturday morning, an Israeli army spokeswoman said. Three vehicles approached the crossing, including two modified jeeps that looked like Israeli army vehicles and an armored personnel carrier, she added.

Mortar rounds came down and at least one jeep exploded near Israeli soldiers, the army spokeswoman said. Several men emerged from an armored vehicle and began to open fire, Maj. Avital Leibovich said.

“It could have been much worse,? Leibovich said. He went on to add that the soldiers’ rapid response and protection by Isreali armored vehicles helped prevent large numbers of casualties. (Los Angeles Times)

April 18, 2008

Orioles cruise past Yankees

The Associated Press reported Friday the Baltimore Orioles put together a seven-run sixth inning to beat the New York Yankees 8-2.

Daniel Cabrera (1-0) guided the Orioles to the victory by taking a four-hitter into the seventh inning. In addition, Jay Payton and Melvin Mora both had two RBIs in the sixth inning to help gave the Orioles a huge lead.

Yankees starter Phil Hughes had only given up one run before the Orioles slammed Hughes for 7 runs in the sixth inning that saw 11 men step up to the plate. Baltimore got seven hits with all of them being singles.

Nick Markakis started the sixth with a single that was followed by singles by Kevin Millar and Luke Scott. Aubrey Huff popped out and Adam Jones followed with an infield single that drove in a run.

Orioles’ second baseman Brian Roberts grounded out, but Melvin Mora came up with a two-run single off of Yankees’ reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Markikas came up to bat again and hit another single.

Hughes (0-3) gave up a career-high five runs and has lost his last three starts in a row.

MLB.com reported the Yankees dropped the opener of a 10-game, 11-day road trip.

Hughes is hyped to be New York’s top pitching prospect, but has failed to live up to the status.

Chad Moeller hit his first homerun of the season and had two RBIs.

April 17, 2008

Praying passenger removed from flight

The Associated Press reported Thursday a man was removed from a plane after he went to the back of the plane to pray, while the plane was at John F. Kennedy International Airport, a witness and United Airlines said.

An Orthodox Jewish man, who had a black hat, long black hair and a long beard moved to the back of the plane where he began to pray. The Wednesday Night flight was being boarded and the flight attendants told the man to sit down, fellow passenger Ori Brafman said.

Two friends of the man said that he could not be interrupted because he was in the middle of praying, Brafman said.

By the time the man stopped praying guards had come to take him off the flight. The man said he wasn’t being rude and only wanted to finish his ritual, Brafman added.

Robin Urbanski, a spokeswoman for United Airlines, said the man was taken off the plane, but later put on a flight for San Francisco the following morning.

The New York Times reported Urbanski said that flights cannot depart until all passengers are in their seats and that passengers must follow the flight crew’s orders.

“Even when the doors of the plane are not closed, if the crew says you should take your seat, you have to, so they can proceed with preparing the flight for takeoff.? Urbanski said. (New York Times)

Ephraim Sherman, a Torah student at the Chabad at New York University, a Hasidic group, said that the man was probably saying the pray of the Amidah. Sherman said that it is an all-encompassing prayer that religious Jews say three times a day. He went on to add that the prayer lasts usually around three to four minutes and is not to be interrupted.

Timberwolves win in overtime

The Star Tribune reported Wednesday the Timberwolves won their final game of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks 110-101 in overtime at the Target Center.

With the victory, Minnesota finished with three wins in their final four games and 22 overall. The win tied the Wolves with Memphis for the league’s third-worst record.

“We need to win games,? guard Randy Foye said. “If we lose games, what does that say?? (Star Tribune)

Foye led the Wolves in scoring with a career-high 32 points, which included 10 of the Wolves’ 16 overtime points.

However, the victory diminished Minnesota’s chance of winning the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. The Wolves moved from a 15.6 percent chance to either a 13.8 or 13.7 percent chance, which could either be third or fourth best, depending on the blind draw with Memphis on Friday.

The Pioneer Press reported fans gave the Wolves a standing ovation for their effort, even after a 60-loss season. However, in the last 22 games, Minnesota went 10-12, which may be signs of a better season next year.

“It was an up and down season,? Minnesota’s Al Jefferson said. “I look at this season as a learning process.? (Pioneer Press)

Yet, six of the Wolves’ roster will be free agents in the offseason and Minnesota will most likely have a high draft pick in the coming draft.

For most of the game the Timberwolves trailed the Bucks. However, Minnesota tied the game twice in the fourth quarter, which stayed the same after Rashad McCants missed a potential winning shot before the buzzer sounded.

Afterwards Foye dominated the game and led the Wolves to the victory.

Minneapolis man charged with 2005 killing

The Star Tribune reported Thursday a Minneapolis man was charged for the killing of a Minneapolis woman in 2005, through the use of the state’s DNA database.

Antonio Medina, 33, who had lived in Minneapolis, was charged with a count of second-degree, intentional murder for the death of Laura Lynn DeMeules, 33, in November of 2005. DeMeules had been strangled and her naked body was found in a ditch near Interstate Hwy. 35, just west of Northfield.

Medina was arraigned and bail was set for $1 million by Rice County Judge Gerald Wolf, court officials said.

DeMeules case had gone unsolved for two years before Medina was convicted of a felony DWI in Hennepin County. A DNA sample was taken from Medina and sent to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in December 2007, where it was matched with a fingernail from DeMeules’ body.

In February, police interviewed Medina and he admitted to picking up DeMeules, while he was drunk and on either crack or cocaine. Medina told authorities the woman “freaked out? and he choked her to death in his pickup.

The Pioneer Press reported Medina told officials the woman had scratched his face and that he does not remember taking off her clothes. Afterwards, Medina returned home to his apartment.

April 13, 2008

San Francisco’s Japantown holds festival

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday the city’s Japantown held a Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend in order to promote Japanese culture.

The festival will go on until April 20 and one of the major events at the festival is the Blossom Queen.

The reporter described the life of one of the contestants. The reporter detailed how Miwa Natsuki is having trouble identifying herself as a Japanese American. The reporter used quotes from Natsuki to describe her life and how she has an American-style life and a Japanese-style life.

In addition, the reporter put in quotes from the festival’s organizers to describe how young Japanese Americans are not affiliating themselves with the Japanese culture. An example they gave is how only five women signed up to compete for the Blossom Queen, when in the 1980s dozens would.

The story informed me about how young Americans of Japanese decent are losing their family’s culture. I knew that older ethnicities such as Germans and Italians have already lost their family’s original culture, but I did not know Asian cultures were having the same problems.

So, the reporter used the detailing of the problem of culture loss in order to tell the significance of the festival. The festival is to preserve Japanese culture and the reporter does a good job of getting this message across without using stereotypes.

Dodgers defeat Padres 11-1

The Associated Press reported Saturday the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Diego Padres 11-1 with the help of homeruns by Rafael Furcal and Andre Eithier at Dodger Stadium.

Furcal and Matt Kemp both hit their first homeruns of the season, while Eithier went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer to help the Dodgers snap a four-game losing streak.

Derek Lowe (1-0) took the mound for the Dodgers and allowed one run and four hits in over eight innings of work. In addition, Lowe struck out six batters and did not give up a walk. Lowe improved his record against the Padres to 4-0 at Dodger Stadium, but is 0-3 in seven starts at Petco Park.

“The last couple of years has been kind of tough on him with the run support from our offense, but tonight we gave him a little breathing room and he just took care of business, Dodger catch Russell Martin said. “He was locating really well, got a lot of ground balls and mixed a couple of Ks with his slider.? (AP)

Chris Young (1-1) pitched for the Padres, but did not fair as well as Lowe. In three-plus innings of work, Young gave up seven runs, seven hits and four walks. Young only retired nine of the 21 batters he faced and only one of his runs was unearned. However, it was a result from his own fielding error.

Furcal started off the scoring for the Dodgers with a leadoff homerun for the Dodgers. Later on in the inning, Martin added another run with an RBI single.

The Dodgers increased their lead to 5-1 in the third inning when rookie Blake DeWitt drove in two runs with the first of his two doubles.

The Los Angeles Times reported the Dodgers had season highs in runs (11), homers (three) and hits (13) to help their ailing offense.

By the end of the game, every Los Angeles starter reached base at least once and eight of nine of them contributed to either a run or an RBI.

“You know we were too good to continue not scoring runs,? Dodger manager Joe Torre said. “When Furcal all of a sudden tied the game up, it certainly puts us in a better frame of mind.? (Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers and Padres will finish their series tomorrow at Dodger Stadium.

Nine die in Iran bombing

The New York Times reported Saturday a bomb went off in a mosque in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, which killed nine people, according to Fars news agency.

Around 9 p.m. a bomb exploded at the Shohada mosque while the city’s Friday Prayer leader gave a talk about Wahhabi faith, a austere version of Sunni Islam and Bahaism. The religion is condemned by the Iranian government, the news agency reported.

Many were wounded and in critical condition after the bomb went off in the men’s section, the news agency added.

Bombings are rare in Iran because the government harshly punishes those involved in severe attacks. Iran is predominately a Shiite country and most bombings are done by Iranian Sunni militants.

The Los Angeles Times reported the blast damaged buildings a mile away and city hospitals were flooded with wounded civilians. No one had claimed responsibility for the attack, Iranian authorities said.

The area is known to have a mix of Sunni and Shiite Arabs and both have rebelled in the past. Between 2005 to 2006, Arab separatists set off about a dozen bombs, killing almost 26 people and injuring more than 200.

"There are numerous ethnic and/or religious minority groups within Iran and in neighboring countries with grievances against Iran's fundamentalist clergy," Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said. "Whomever the true culprits, the authorities in Tehran will likely claim that they were acting in concert with the United States and Israel." (Los Angeles Times)

The blast is still under investigation, but authorities said the blast was not a bombing and did not give any other alternatives.

April 9, 2008

Protesters force torch to be re-routed

The New York Times reported Wednesday the Olympic torch was re-routed, protected by security and evacuated to the airport, after protesters tried to extinguish the flame.

The torch made its only North American stop in San Francisco and was met by thousands of protesters who waiting hours to see the torch.

However, officials change the route of the torch from the announced Waterfront Avenue to Central Avenue. The torch proceeded to go on a stop-and-go path until it hit the Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco authorities took elaborate precaution due to problems in London and Paris, where protesters made the situations messy. Authorities hired hundreds of law enforcement officials and set up miles of barricades to protect the flame from protesters.

“It was a simple decision,? San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said. “Do we cancel the event or do we change the event to assure the safety and security of the torchbearers.? (New York Times)

After the torch passed through San Francisco it hopped on a plane to Buenos Aires, which is the next stop on the torch’s international journey.

The Los Angeles Times reported at least three torchbearers dropped out of running due to fears of violence.

On the other hand, some protesters were angered by the re-routing of the torch. The protesters were there to demonstrate against China’s actions in Tibet and Darfur, as well as some other issues.

Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition, said the protesters still got their point across about their displeasure with China. He went on to say that even though the torch was hidden for the day, China cannot hide their “torturous policy of aiding and abetting genocide.? (Los Angeles Times)

“The city should have made known the torch route rather than be deceptive,? Yan Ko, a San Francisco retail worker, said. (Los Angeles Times)