August 2, 2007

Other bridges have also collapsed

Along with the I-35W river bridge collapse, there have been three other major bridge and overpass collapses this year in the U.S.

The 35W bridge was 40 years old when it collapsed Aug. 1. The day before, an overpass in Oroville, California collapsed and crushed a delivery truck and severely injuring a construction worker who fell. In April, a section of freeway that directed traffic off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed. A gasoline tanker had tipped over and caught fire right before the bridge collapsed.

As Minnesota and the rest of the world takes in the recent events, stories of other bridges collapsing resurface. Fox 12 in Oregon covered the story and listed the number of bridge collapses from 1980-2007. While the 35W bridge collapse is tragic, it is certainly not a new story for the world as many of them have collapsed during the past couple decades.

In dealing with the issue, the Oregon site questioned whether or not Portland would be ready if a bridge collapsed there.

A New York site covered a bridge collapse years ago that killed 10 people near Amsterdam, New York.

A similar story was also written on a website called The Age about a Montreal overpass that collapsed in 2006.

Over the past couple hours, news agencies have covered the most recent bridge collapse, those it affected as well as other similar situations that have occurred in other areas throughout the world. The coverage is all very similar, talking about the tragic situations but finding a news story that reports a solution proves rather difficult.

I-35W Bridge Collapse

Just after 6 p.m. Aug. 1, the I-35W bridge crossing the Mississippi River collapsed sending the bridge and cars down in to the river and along the shoreline.

It has been determined there are four confirmed deaths at this time and as many as 80 people injured. There are also still 20-30 people missing at this time.

Rescue efforts continued until late evening Thursday, trying to recover those who had not been able to climb out on their own. Efforts on Thursday are now recovery efforts as those involved say they do not expect to find anyone alive.

Structural engineers as well as government officials have been called out to begin investigating the collapse. At this time, the Department of Homeland Security has concluded it was not terrorism but a structural issue. This comes after a 2002 report from the University of Minnesota that reported problems with the bridge. A 2005 report given by the Minnesota Department of Transportation did not report the same issues.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, Governor Tim Pawlenty and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak gave a press conference along with other local, state and federal government officials discussing the event and what steps will be taken from here on out.

The coverage for this event was widespread and very complete as it was on almost every news website and channel available. There were reports on news websites in Australia, England and throughout the U.S. Even sources that most Americans would consider unlikely, such as Al Jazeera, covered the story as it was updated.

The BBC also covered the story, pulling pictures from the Associated Press and updating their story every time new information was available. The story was also covered by CNN, the Star Tribune, the New York Times. Each story reported essentially the same information although some report more deaths then others. This is most likely due to proximity. Australia has a smaller chance of reporting the correct number of deaths because they most likely do not have a reporter right at the scene.

July 25, 2007

FBI looks for 2 credit union robbers

Two separate bank robberies in Eau Claire, Wis. and Burnsville, Minn. are being investigated by the FBI after both credit unions reported being robbed by an unidentified white man.

According to the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune, a man robbed a credit union in Burnsville around 11:30 a.m. Monday. In another incident, a man robbed a credit union in Eau Claire around 2 p.m. later that same day.

The stories report that around 11:30 Monday, a man approached a teller at the U.S. Federal Credit Union and demanded money. He was later seen running away towards an apartment complex. Later that day, around 2 p.m., a man approached a teller at Royal Credit Union in Eau Claire, produced a pistol and demanded money.

The FBI is investigating both incidents and is currently looking for information.

In the Pioneer Press, only the Burnsville robbery was covered. The information in this story was concise and direct but there was not enough information. This could have been due to time constraints or simply availability of information to the reporter.

The Star Tribune included a lot more information about both robberies as well as a surveillance photo from both banks. This story was more interesting, more detailed and much more well written compared to the story in the Pioneer Press.

Cycling hit by more doping charges

The Tour de France and the entire sport of cycling took another hit Wednesday when it was announced that a second rider in the past week had failed a urine test that looks for high testosterone levels as well as banned performance enhancing drugs.

Cristian Moreni, 34-year-old rider for Cofidis, failed the test he took last week after last Thursday's stage from Marseille to Montpellier. The test revealed testosterone levels that were higher than normal, indicating doping. Another rider, Patrik Sinkewitz, was also revealed as having high testosterone levels earlier on in the Tour. He had already left the race after a crash when the results were announced.

Earlier in the week, Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping as well. After testing positive, his entire team was asked to withdraw from the Tour.

These latest doping charges come after 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis was revealed as also having high testosterone levels, putting his first-place finish in question. Other riders have been under scrutiny as well.

At the start of the 16th stage today eight teams, including Cofidis, protested the surge in doping charges by delaying the start of the stage. They asked for all teams to abide by a charter passed in 2005 that asks all teams to avoid riders that have been implicated in doping charges.

This chain of events has been covered constantly by many news media websites. The BBC covered the development with Vinokourov as well as today's story about Moreni. The coverage, although somewhat short, was complete and discussed pass doping charges so any person who reads the story is well aware of how much of an issue this really is for the sport. A site that specializes in cycling news also covered the story. Velo News was the quickest to cover the story, most likely because cycling is their only focus. The New York Times covered the Vinokourov story as well but as of now had not updated its site on the latest developments.

July 17, 2007

Gunman killed at Colorado governor's office

A gunman who declared "I am the emporor" was shot and killed by a state trooper Monday when he refused to put down his gun, officials said.

The man, who is currently unidentified, walked into the reception area of Gov. Bill Ritter's office and was escorted out before he pulled out a gun. He said "I am the emperor and I'm here to take over state government" and refused to put down his gun. He was then shot by the state trooper.

CNN and USA Today reported the incident. CNN wrote the article more like a feature than hard news while USA Today stuck to the normal hard news form.

The CNN story made it easier to visualize the scene from the governor's eyes by providing more detail. The story also interviewed a woman who may have rented the man a tuxedo earlier on in the day. This version of the story was easier to read and much more interesting than the USA Today story, which simply stuck to a typical news story structure.

USA Today did not include many sensory details and did not seem to provide as much information even though the stories may have been the same length.

Gopher cornerback charged with rape

Dominic Jones, star Gopher cornerback, was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct Monday after a cell phone video of the alleged incident was discovered. The video, which was uncovered by investigators after it had been deleted, showed Jones having sex with an 18-year-old woman who was physically helpless. According to the criminal complaint, the victim had a blood-alcohol content of about 0.30 percent. At that level, the ability to walk or stand is completely lost.

The charges come after the arrests of three other teammates in April who were released days later. Alex Daniels, 20, Keith Massey, 20, and E.J. Jones, 19, were arrested in April in connection with the case. They were released but still remain suspects at this time.

The complaint states that the victim and a female friend arrived at the apartment of former player Robert McField at University Village, where McField challenged the victim to a drinking contest. Daniels, Jones and Massey took turns having sex with the woman in a bedroom. She later passed out on a couch.

When McField arrived back at his apartment he saw Jones having sex with the woman while Daniels recorded the act on a cell phone. The video showed her to be unresponsive.

This investigation has been in the news since the arrest of the three men months ago. This particular story was covered by the Star Tribune and the Minnesota Daily. Both stories gave the background on the case as well as discussing the most recent developments. They also included input from the head coach, the athletic director, attorneys and other officials involved in the investigation of the case. The coverage was complete and could be understood by anyone, even someone who had not followed the story from the beginning. In the story by the Minnesota Daily, links were also included to previous stories dealing with the same investigation which can be helpful if someone wants to read about specific details along the way.

July 12, 2007

Threat of al Qaeda high

New government analysis concludes that al Qaeda is the strongest it has been since September 11, 2001, said a senior government official who had seen the analysis.

While al Qaeda has regained strength and remained safe in the tribal areas of Pakistan, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said it was not at that level although the "level of intent on the part of the enemy remains very high."

Top intelligence analysts told Congress Wednesday that the terrorist group's activities have increased as they settled into remote areas of Pakistan.

Recently, counterterrorism authorities said they were concerned about the risk of another attack in the United States and that terror plots like those in Britain have them very alert.

Reuters focused its story on MIchael Chertoff and his outlook on al Qaeda while CNN focused on what the report said according to officials. By reading both stories, a more complete picture of the situation is drawn. Simply reading one of these stories leaves a person with a one-sided issue that doesn't explain the opinions of enough people. This particular issue highlights the importance of getting news from multiple sources instead of focusing on one.

South Dakota carries out first execution in 60 years

South Dakota carried out its first execution in 60 years Wednesday night. Elijah Page, 25, was executed by lethal injection for torturing and killing a 19-year-old acquaintance. There was little protest to the execution as the case finally came to a close.

Page along with two others tortured and then killed Chester Poage in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Page and two others had stolen electronics from Poage's home and then killed him to cover up the theft. By the time Poage's body was found, Page was in Texas and Briley Piper, another defendant, was in Alaska.

Page and Piper both pleaded guilty and were sentenced in 2001. The third man was sentenced to life in prison. Currently, Piper remains on death row along with two other men.

As Page was executed Wednesday, a small group of protestors and a small group of supporters stood outside the penitentiary. Inside, the execution went smoothly as Page was injected and died over a period of about 10 minutes.

The story was covered by the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio. While there were some grammatical errors in the public radio article, both covered the story with the same amount of dignity. The stories did not attack the protestors or supports of the death penalty as has been seen in other execution articles in the past. Instead, it stated the facts and included quotations but did not give opinions or sound biased in any way. The coverage of this particular execution was well done and as complete as it should be.

July 5, 2007

Children used as shields at Pakistan mosque

Militants who took control over a mosque in Islamabad are using women and children as human shields, the Pakistan government said Thursday. The government has been putting pressure on the hundreds of people inside to surrender since militant students took over the Red Mosque. The students who took over the mosque demanded Sharia, or Islamic Law. The students are blamed for recent kidnappings, including those of civilians, Chinese nationals and Pakistani police.

The student militants' leader was caught trying to escape wearing a woman's burqa. Cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz said that 850 students remained inside the mosque, including 600 women and girls. Aziz said that they were not being used as shields and chose to stay. He also appealed to the students to either leave the mosque if possible or surrender.

Pakistan's Deputy Information Minister Tariq Aziz Khan said that people who have surrended have said they were telling women and children inside that as long as the women and children were inside, the army would not attack the militants.

According to Ahmed Aftab Khan Sherpao, Pakistan's interior minister, there are 50 or 60 militants inside who are armed with weapons, grenades and petrol bombs.

Police and soldiers have surrounded the mosque and imposed an in definite curfew surrounding the area. Supplies to the mosque have also been cut off.

The story was covered by both Reuters and CNN. The stories were almost identical in content and differed only slightly in style. The only major difference that helped the Reuters story was the background information that explained why the Pakistan government into action against the mosque.

Edina girl undergoes surgery

A 6-year-old girl from Edina, Minnesota was still hospitalized in serious condition Wednesday after the suction from a swimming pool drain pulled out several feet of her intestine.

Abigal Taylor was injured Friday at the Minneapolis Golf Club in St. Louis Park when her some of her intestine was pulled out by the suction from an uncovered pool drain. The protective cover had come off and Abigail was able to pull herself from the drain without calling for help, said Abigail's parents, Scott and Kathryn Taylor. When it was realized that she had been injured, she was taken to Children's Hospital for surgery.

Doctors had to remove the part of Abigail's intestine that remained and it is likely she will have to be fed intravenously from now on.

Since 1990, there have been three incidents similar to Abigail's and 13 other peole, mostly children, have died because of underwater drains.

Abigail's injury comes as Congress is looking at new pool safety regulations. The new regulation would require pools to have multiple drains with less suction instead of only one drain. Owners of pools could also install sensors that would turn off the suction if the drain became blocked.

The bill can be viewed here.

Currently, doctors are deciding what further course to take with Abigail to treat the injury.

The story was very well covered in the Star Tribune. The story was very complete, with input coming from different sources to help the reader understand what happened to Abigail as well as what is happening on a larger scale to further prevent this type of problem. The only lacking information was about the removal of comments from a website by the parents. That update was covered in the Pioneer Press.

The Pioneer Press also covered the story online, although their story was very compact and lacked detail. The story in the Sunday edition of the paper had written a better story which makes me think the shorter story was posted online to save space and prevent redundancy.

June 26, 2007

Supreme Court looks at case involving Medtronic

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday to consider whether Medtronic Inc. and other manufacturers of medical devices are shielded from product liability lawsuits by federal regulations.

The justices agreed to hear an appeal from a man who had a Medtronic-made catheter burst during an angioplasty, causing him permanent injury. Charles Riegel says he had to undergo emergency bypass surgery after the catheter burst and caused an immediate blockage during the procedure.

In this and other similar cases, lower courts have ruled that companies like Medtronic are shielded from such lawsuits. Courts have previously said that companies like Medtronic cannot change products once on the market without Food and Drug Administration's approval.

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York noted that it is "almost impossible" for a device to stick to both FDA standards as well as jury verdicts.

The Fridley-based company defends itself in this case, stating that the catheter was inflated beyond restrictions by the physician. The catheter in question is no longer made by the company.

The coverage by the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune was very similar although both went about the story in a slightly different manner. The Pioneer Press put a larger focus on the person involved in the appeal while the Star Tribune's story seemed a bit less personal and a little more professional.

June 25, 2007

Supreme Court limits student free speech

The U.S. Supreme Court limited student free speech Wednesday when it ruled against a student who opened a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a 2002 school event in Juneau, Alaska.

Joseph Frederick said he opened the banner as a prank to get himself on television while his school was watching the Winter Olympic torch relay pass by.

Frederick was suspended for 10 days after the incident because school officials said the banner promoted illegal drug use.

With a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that schools have the right to limit free speech when it is viewed as promoting illegal drug use.

The ruling, which was the first case in 20 years dealing with student free speech, was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Center for Law and Justice as well as many conservative groups who fear the ruling would allow schools to limit students' rights to express religious views, especially those on abortion and homosexuality.

Covered by the British Broadcasting Corporation, Reuters and the Star Tribune, coverage of the ruling was very complete in the media.

One of the more interesting points was the difference in coverage between the local paper and the two larger news services. The local paper focused more on the student as a person, giving background information about his life since the event as well as plenty of direct quotes from him.

The two national news services focused more on the ruling and the message from the Supreme Court.

Between the two larger news services, Reuters seemed to be the most objective as it included quotations from both liberal and conservative justices.

June 21, 2007

Bush vetoes stem cell bill

The debate over embryonic stem cell research continued to rage Wednesday as President Bush vetoed a bill that would have expanded federally funded embryonic stem cell research.

The issue has been in the news often since Bush first restricted funding for embryonic stem cell research to current cells where embryos have already been destroyed. This is the second bill Bush has vetoed that would have lifted restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The first veto came when the Republicans introduced a similar measure last year.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives would need a two thirds vote in order to override the veto and make the bill law although Democrats were skeptical and said they did not think they would get enough support. This most recent veto will also most likely push the issue into the 2008 presidential campaigns.

Embryonic stem cell research is constantly a source of debate. The stem cells are of interest to scientists because they have the potential to give rise to any type of cell or tissue and possibly treat diseases.Critics claim it is morally wrong to destoy human embryos to derive stem cells. Advocates point out that the embryos used are left over from fertility treatments and are destined to be destroyed anyway.

Bush pointed out that scientists reported in tests with mice that progress had been made in research considering other ways of deriving stem cells. Scientists cautioned that this was not guaranteed and urged passage of the bill.

The coverage of the recently vetoed bill was covered by both the New York Times and Reuters. The New York Times gave more background for the debate that has raged over stem cell research so the reader is more informed about previous events and what led up to this most recent veto. The New York Times story also gives the responses of possible presidential candidates so the reader knows where some of them stand on the issue.

Reuters gave more direct quotations in the story, so the reader knew what each side was saying about the issue but it lacked in amount of background material.

Minnesota Vikings buy land for stadium

The Minnesota Vikings continued their attempts to secure a new stadium when they signed an intent to purchase agreement Wednesday, buying the land from Avista Capital Partners, the new owners of the Star Tribune. Avista Capital Partners sold land surrounding the current location of the Star Tribune to the Minnesota Vikings for an amount that has yet to be confirmed. Although sources put the amount at close to $45 million dollars, neither side would confirm it.

Zygi Wilf, owner of the Vikings, purchased the land near the Metrodome and added it to the $5 million purchase he made last month. Wilf wants to bulid a $1.6 billion retractable roof stadium to replace the Metrodome after the Vikings lease is up in 2011.

The story, covered by both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press, has been in the news over the last few years when the Vikings first tried to secure a similar deal in Anoka County. The deal fell through and county officials blamed the Vikings, saying they refused to stop looking at the site in Minneapolis.

The coverage on both sides is fairly complete on this issue although there does seem to be a difference in attitude between the two stories. While the Star Tribune quotes those who made more positive remarks, the Pioneer Press quoted people from both sides of the story. The Pioneer Press story, therefore, sounds less biased about the deal.

Neither story answers all questions, leaving the price tag hanging with quotations from those simply referred to as "sources" who were close to the deal. This raises quite a few questions about the story and the motives behind the sources who reported the information.

June 13, 2007

Gun control bill passed in The House

The House Wednesday passed a bill that, if enacted into law, would improve state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in order to stop gun purchase by people who are not allowed to possess firearms.

This bill, which was passed on a voice vote, could become the first major federal gun control bill passed since 1994. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Rep Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y. drafted the bill with the help of the National Rifle Association.

The legislation comes in response to the Virginia Tech attack in April. Va. Tech student Seung Hui-Cho killed himself and 32 others. He had been ordered to undergo mental treatment and should not have been allowed to buy the two guns he used for the shooting, however his records were never passed on to the background check system.

Currently, legislation states that anyone found to be mentally defective cannot possess a gun. The legislation also prohibits felons, fugitives, drug addicts and wife beaters from purchasing firearms.

According to Reuters, certain laws and restraints have deterred states from fully reporting these records to the NICS.

Both Reuters and USA Today reported on the number of states currently providing mental records to the NICS. Reuters reported that number to be 23 states while USA Today, who attributed their information to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, reported that number to be 22.

The new bill would improve these numbers by requiring states to share disqualifying records with the NICS database. It also provides $250 million in funding to help states meet goals outlined in the bill and imposes penalties for states failing to meet these goals.

In order for the bill to be enacted into law, the Senate must approve it. USA Today reported that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the chances of Senate passing the bill were "very strong."

The bill can be viewed here.

The two different news stories both reported essentially the same basic information on the new bill, however USA Today was more thorough with quotations from senators and legislators as well as background information to help the reader understand the story. Reuters' story was more basic but still covered the important details of the story and got the point across effectively.