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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.