April 2012 Archives

Billionaire Commissions "Titanic II"

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Australian Billionaire Chris Palmer has announced plans to build a 21st century version of the Titanic, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Almost exactly a century after the doomed maiden voyage of the original Titanic, the mining magnate announced plans to build a new ship that would be ready to sail in 2016. the Titanic II would be build as close to the specifications of the original as possible, but with 21st century amenities and technology.

"It is going to be designed so it won't sink,'' Palmer told the BBC. ''But, of course, if you are superstitious like you are, you never know what could happen.''

The attention-grabbing new boat is just a part of Palmer's recent expansion into tourism, which also includes a luxury resort and other cruise ships.

UN Head Arrives in Syria

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The head of a UN observation mission arrived in Syria on Sunday and urged government and resistance forces alike to end the violence that has rocked the country for more than a year, according to the Washington Post.

Maj Gen Robert Mood arrived in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Sunday to assist the 30 unarmed UN observers already deployed assist in ending the conflict in Syria. 30 more of the approved 300 observers are slated to follow.

Ten unarmed observers, 30 unarmed observers, 300 unarmed observers, even a thousand unarmed observers cannot solve all the problems," Maj Gen Mood told the BBC. "To achieve the success of Kofi Annan's six-point plan, I call on all to stop the violence and to help us on a continued cessation of armed violence in all its forms."

Violence has gone down in some neighborhoods where observers have been stationed but activists group say that at least 28 more civilians were killed on Sunday.

Gingrich to Suspend Campaign

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Newt Gingrich has announced that he will suspend his campaign for the republican presidential nomination next week, according to CNN.

According to campaign staffers, the former Speaker of the House is dropping out of the race due to logistical purposes, and will formally concede the race in a speech on Wednesday. He is expected to endorse likely nominee Mitt Romney.

Gingrich originally appeared to be the chief rival to Romney back in December, when early poll numbers showed the speaker making double-digit leads over the former Massachusetts governor. Astring of primary losses, staff departures, dwindling funds and a number of campaign trail gaffes soon pushed Gingrich towards irrelevance, although he pledged to stay in the race until the republican national convention.

The New York Times reports that Gingrich's campaign is $4.3 million in debt, but Gingrich is pressing on into next week, still attending promised campaign stops with his third wife, Callista.

State OK's Beer at TCF Stadium

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The Star Tribune reports that lawmakers have approved the sale of alcohol at TCF Bank Stadium, making the University of Minnesota the first school in the Big Ten to sell beer at football games.

A bill signed into law this week by governer Mark Dayton will allow beer to be sold at Gopher Football games from tents through at least half time. Alcohol had been banned at the stadium since it opened in 2009. The beer sales are expected to help attendance and make TCF Bank Stadium better suited to host the Minnesota Vikings, should they need to use TCF for a season while a new stadium is built.

"This is absolutely fabulous," Bob Hughes, president of the Goal Line Club, a Gophers football booster organization, told the CBS Sports. "It makes it that much more of a festive experience. It will set us apart. We'll be the only Big Ten stadium that will actually have a beer garden of that nature."

Vikings Running Back Arrested

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Caleb King, a rookie Vikings running back, has been arrested on suspicion of assault, according to the Associated Press.

King has not yet been formally charged, but was arrested under suspicion of third degree assault after an altercation outside of a party in Oak Grove left a 22-year-old man with skull and facial fracture as well as a potentially serious brain injury.

a release from the Anoka County Sheriff's Office obtained by the Star Tribune described an incident in which the alleged victim was pulled out of his car by King and beaten after teasing him earlier at the party.

King was arrested at the scene and denied that he had assaulted the man, saying that he fell when they were talking in the parking lot. The Anoka County attorney's office will decide whether or not to charge King next week.

King is a rookie running back for the Vikings practice squad. He joined the team last year as a free agent and has not yet played in a game.

Stadium plan limps forward in senate

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Fox News reports that the Minnesota Vikings stadium deal was brought back from the brink on Friday following a visit from the NFL commissioner.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell visited the capitol on Friday to voice his support for the stadium plan and keeping the Vikings in Minneapolis. After his visit a senate committee approved the deal in an 8-6 vote.

"We think it was a very productive session today," Goodell told Fox. "Obviously, I think our presence here is a signal how important it is to the National Football League that the Minnesota Vikings continue to be here in this community and be successful. We believe that after many, many years the time has come to pass legislation, to move forward."

KARE 11 reports that although the stadium plan was initially approved by a House committee, the plan died in front of a Government Operations panel last week. This makes the senate all the more crucial in the coming week.

"I still think the odds are against it at this point, but again, in the last week strange things can happen in terms of momentum, in terms of how things shift," Hamline University Political Science Professor David Schultz told KARE 11.

"Arrested Development" creator Mitch Hurwitz announced that the revival of the cult TV show would arrive on Netflix all at once at a press event on Wednesday, according to the AV Club.

At the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas, Hurwitz and "Arrested Development" cast members answered questions about the show's upcoming fourth season, which was picked up by Netflix last fall, five years after the sitcom was canceled by Fox.

Hurwitz and co. said that the ten-episode season will film over the summer and premiere all at once on Netflix's streaming service on a yet-to-be determined day next year. Any talk of the rumored movie was sidestepped, although Vulture reports that Hurwitz expressed hope that season four would "be the first first of many visits."

Bakdash Sentenced to 40 Years

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Timothy Bakdash, who was found guilty last month of a fatal hit-and-run in Dinkytown, was sentenced to 40 years in prison by a Hennepin County judge on Tuesday, according to the Minnesota Daily.

Bakdash, 30, was convicted of second degree murder and two counts of attempted murder last month. After he drove on a sidewalk in a drunken rage after leaving the Library Bar in Dinkytown. He struck three people including University senior Ben Van Handel, who died six days later.

According to the Star Tribune, Hennepin County District Judge Daniel Mabley said that he was touched by the case, and leveled a harsher sentence than expected. The prosecution asked for 38 years in prison, while Bakdash's defense sought 19.

"When I graduate in May and walk across the stage, I'm going to be walking for my brother," said Van Handel's sister, Rachel, though tears after the sentencing.

Zimmerman Released on $150k Bail

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CNN reports that George Zimmerman, who is currently awaiting trial for the February killing of Trayvon Martin, was released from a Florida jail Sunday night on a $150,000 bond.

The 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer exited a Sanford, Fla. jail in front of reporters on Sunday night. He got into an white BMW with another man and drove off to an unknown location.

Zimmerman was formally charged with second degree murder six weeks after he fatally shot Martin, 17, in a gated community in Sanford. Zimmerman claimed that the teen attacked him and that he killed Martin in self-defense, citing Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, which allows citizens to use deadly force if they feel threatened.

The delay in charging Zimmerman lead to widespread national outcry and sparked protests all over the United States. Because of the high-profile nature of the case, Zimmerman's location is being kept a secret, and may even be outside of Florida. He will be fitted with an electronic tracking device and given a 7 p.m. - 6 a.m. curfew.

The Associated Press reports, however, that Zimmerman's safety might not be a concern.

"The mood in Sanford has calmed down tremendously," said Sanford Commissioner Patty Mahany. "I think now that people are able to see the justice system taking place, even though they understand it's going to be quite slow, people are willing to just remain calm and really we're all getting back to our daily routines."

Iran claims they have cracked downed US drone

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The Iranian government claims to have pulled secret information out of an American spy drone that crashed back in December, and plan on reverse-engineering the craft to build their own copy, according to the BBC.

Military Aerospace chief Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh told the Iranian press on Sunday that military scientists had hacked computers aboard the RQ-170 Sentinel and extracted secret data, including information on past missions spying on Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan weeks before his assassination.

According to the New York Times, Hajizadeh also suggested that Iran would began reverse-engineering the drone to create their own copy, a claim that American experts have dismissed.

"It's hard for me to imagine no self-destruct or erase mechanism was embedded in the drone to destroy sensitive systems, including software," said Dennis M. Gormley, a drone expert from the University of Pittsburgh. "As someone who does monitor Iranian aerospace and missile claims closely, let me simply observe that they are preternaturally disposed to exaggeration."

The White House and American Intelligence officials would not comment on the claims Sunday, but some US officials offered skepticism at Iran's claims.

"I think there is a history here of Iranian bluster, particularly now when they are on the defensive because of our economic sanctions against them," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman on Fox News Sunday. "I don't have confidence at this point that they are really able to make a copy of it. It's a very sophisticated piece of machinery and has served our national security well."

Julian Assange launches talk show, teams with MIA

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will debut a new talk show called on Russian TV on Tuesday, according to the Huffington Post.

A press release from Wikileaks said "The World Tomorrow" will feature interviews from "iconoclasts, visionaries and power insiders," and will debut online and on the english-language Russian network RT.

"A lot of the things that we have been trying to report have not been carried accurately in the mainstream press," Assange said. "There are many, many fine exceptions but when we look at international networks there's really only two that are worth speaking about, and that's RT and Al Jazeera."

Twelve episodes of "The World Tommorrow" have been shot in Assange's home in Britain, where he is under house arrest.

Pitchfork reports that controversial rapper M.I.A. has, fittingly, penned the theme for the program

Minneapolis Teachers Approve New Contract

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MPR reports that Minneapolis teachers approved a new two-year contract with the school district on Saturday.

83 percent of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers voted to approve the new contract. The two-year agreement adds four more days to the school year and fifteen more minutes to each official school day, which increases annual salaries by just over $3,000.

"We're excited," union president Lynn Nordgren told the Star Tribune. "We have a lot of good things that will be good for students, for teachers, for schools and for the district overall."

The school board is scheduled to vote on the new contract, which is projected to increase district costs by $17.1 million, on Tuesday.

The Brick announces renovations

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The Star Tribune reports that the new downtown music venue The Brick has announced numerous renovations and relocated four sold-out shows.

The changes were announced in a statement by general manager Jeff Kehr on Tuesday. Among the changes are a reduction of sellable tickets, a new riser system to improve sightlines in the venue's upper level and a renovation of the entry area to reduce long lines.

To accommodate the renovations, which will be rolled out gradually over the next two months, the Brick also announced that sold out shows by Incubus, Marilyn Manson and Shinedown will be moved to St Paul venue The Myth and the June performance by the Shins has been relocated to the nearby Orpheum Theater.

The Brick has been licking its wounds after a disastrous sold-out opening show by Jane's Addiction. Fans took to Facebook and Twitter in a fury over long lines, overbearing security, poor sightlines, over crowding, and beer selection. The Pioneer Press reports that some fans even created a website, thebrickmnsucks.com, after the show. The public outcry caused the venue, which is owned by promotions giant AEG, to offer full refunds for the show.

Tony Wagner of the Minnesota Daily visited the venue in advance of its opening and late last week. In his initial assessment of the Brick, Wagner noted many of the problems that would end up infuriating Minneapolis concertgoers.

Kim Jong-un makes first speech as N. Korean leader

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New North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gave his first public speech Sunday, emphasizing military strength as a continued priority for the North and unveiling a new rocket, according to the Associated Press.

The twenty-minute speech was the best glimpse North Korea and the rest of the world has had of Kim since he assumed power after his father's death in December. He addressed assembled Koreans and a military parade on the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung, Kim's grandfather and founding North Korean president.

"Superiority in military technology is no longer monopolized by imperialists, and the era of enemies using atomic bombs to threaten and blackmail us is forever over," Kim said.

Kim reinforced the country's pursuit of military strength, pledging to continue his father's long-standing conflict with the United States and its allies. Kim also unveiled a new long-range rocket during the address, although it is unclear whether the rocket was real or a mock-up. North Korea has been struggling to save face after a costly and embarrassing launch on Friday, when a similar rocket broke apart in flight.

The North Korean state media and other analysts have noted strong similarities between Kim and his late grandfather, citing their similar demeanor and gregariousness.

"Kim Jong-il inspired awe and dread among his people and was never a leader friendly with the public," Cheong Seong-chang, a South Korean researcher told the New York Times. "Like his grandfather, however, Kim Jong-un has so far tried to look more willing to communicate with his people. We may see him speak in public more often."

Santorum Suspends Campaign

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Rick Santorum announced Tuesday that he is suspending his campaign for president, the Associated Press reports.

Santorum has long held a distant second in the race for the republican presidential nomination. He showed unexpected momentum early in the year, positioning himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney and pushing former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich into irrelevancy. However, the former Pennsylvania senator has won less than half of the delegates of his main rival, Mitt Romney.

With Santroum's exit, Romney is on track to win the Republican nomination in the coming months, although Gingrich and Texas senator Ron Paul are still active in the race.

"Senator Santorum is an able and worthy competitor, and I congratulate him on the campaign he ran. He has proven himself to be an important voice in our party and in the nation," said Romney in a statement. "We both recognize that what is most important is putting the failures of the last three years behind us and setting America back on the path to prosperity."

ABC News reports that influential GOP leaders such as George H.W. Bush and Sen. Jim DeMint have been encouraging Santorum to suspend his campaign and pledge support to Romney.

North Korea readies rocket launch

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North Korea is moving forward with plans to launch a rocket with an observation satellite onboard, despite threats of sanctions, the BBC reports.

The Unha-3 rocket is in position at the Sohae Satellite Station in northwestern North Korea and is set to launch next week. If successful, could indicate that North Korea possesses the long-range rocket capabilities to launch nuclear attacks on the United States and other countries.

The UN has banned North Korea, which already had nuclear weapons from any rocketry experimentation, and has concerns that the rocket launch is actually testing a nuclear missile, but the Korean government denies this.

"Our country has the right and also the obligation to develop satellites and launching vehicles," Jang Myong Jin, general manager of the launch facility, told the AP. "No matter what others say, we are doing this for peaceful purposes."

60 Minutes Reporter Mike Wallace Dead at 93

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The New York Times reports that Mike Wallace, a journalist known for his long career as a "tough but fair" interviewer on died Sunday. He was 93.

CBS reported that Wallace died in a care facility in Connecticut after a long history of heart problems.

The Times called Wallace "a reporter with the presence of a performer" in their four page obituary. Earning 21 Emmys in his career, Wallace was a fixture on CBS's "60 Minutes" from its debut in 1968 to 2006, although he returned to the program to interview Mahmoud Ahmadinejad months later.

His interviews more resembled interrogations, often saying "forgive me..." before nailing an interview subject. His blunt questions were often more interesting than the answers he received. In an interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin Wallace said "This isn't a real democracy, come on!" and dared to bring up accusations that Ayatollah Khomeini was a "lunatic" in a 1979 interview with the Iranian leader.

"Many people who weathered a Mike Wallace interview grew to respect him greatly and, you know, have great regard for him because I don't recall anybody ever saying to me, 'He took a cheap shot' or 'He did the obvious,' or that he was, you know, playing some kind of game," Fox News Channel Chairman Roger Ailes told the Associated Press. "He actually was trying to serve the audience, and that's what made him great."

Though his hard-boiled, sometimes assulting reporting style came under some heavy criticism, Wallace leaves behind a legacy as a master interviewer and great journalist.

Gophers linebacker found dead

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Senior Gopher linebacker Gary Tinsley was found dead in Roy Wilkins Hall Friday morning, the Minnesota Daily reports.

Tinsley, 22, was found by his roommate Friday morning and appeared unresponsive. First responders performed CPR for 30 minutes before declaring Tinsely dead. The death is being treated as suspicious by police, but there were no signs of foul play or substance abuse.

Tinsley had problems both with grades and the law during his four seasons playing for the University, but he successfully turned his life around in recent years, and was set to receive his BS in business and marketing in May. He will be awarded the degree posthumously.

Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi flew back from the Frozen Four tournament after hearing the news of Tinsley's death, and joined the grieving Gopher football team, coach Jerry Kill, and University president Eric Kaler for an emotional news conference Friday afternoon.

The Gary that I knew always made me feel good," he told the Star Tribune. "I think he made others feel good as well."

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