December 7, 2008

Analysis of CAR

Mexico Under Siege, an ongoing story from theLos Angeles Times Web site, is an example of Computer-assisted reporting.

This multimedia presentation features an interactive map, multimedia gallery, question and answers section and a substantial list of links to related stories.

Computers have played a significant role in the creation of this story. Without them, the eye-catching and moving graphics would not be possible. Someone had to possess the skills to create such graphics, as well as update them as the ongoing story unfolds.

For example, if someone else were to die in relation to the story, the ticker counting the numbers of death would have to be increased. Also, the interactive map and the corresponding graph would need to be updated.

The map is an example of the extensive research that has been done on this topic. A computer was likely used in order to categorize and determine the cities in which drug related death occurred.

Without the use of computer software, it would be extremely time consuming and difficult to determine and accurately represent the exact number and location of all 6,836 deaths over the past two years.

Cruise Shipped Stranded Near Antarctica

CNN reported Thursday that a cruise ship carrying 122 people struck ice and was stranded on the coast of Antarctica.

A naval boat and plane were dispatched to evacuate the passengers, 89 passengers and 33 crew members, of the Ushuaia as a precaution Mariano Memolli of the Argentina Antarctic Directorate said.

Television C5N reported that the ship was losing fuel and taking on water but was not in danger of sinking.

Adm. Daniel Martin, head of the naval base in Ushuaia, Argentina, said the passengers were "in a perfect state of health," and were awaiting the arrival of a nearby cruise ship.

According to a National Geographic News report , the ship was stranded in the same spot where a ship sank in 2007.

All the passengers and crew were rescued Friday from the ship by the Chilean Navy. All were in good condition.

The ship stills appear to not be in danger of sinking. The Chilean navy did position a ship near the now-abandoned Ushuaia in an attempt to prevent any environmental damage from leaking fuel.

A boom in Antarctic tourism may be an "accident waiting to happen," Jon Bowermaster, a National Geographic Expeditions Council grantee and writer, told National Geographic News in 2007.

Wal-Mart Employee Killed in Black Friday Rush

CNN reported that a temporary Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death Nov. 28 by a crowd of early morning shoppers as he and other employees attempted to unlock the doors at a Long Island store, police said.

The Seattle Times reported that the victim, Dimytai Damour, 34, died by asphyxiation.

"This was utter chaos as these men tried to open the door this morning," Nassau County police Detective Lt. Michael Fleming said.

According to Fleming, "several minutes" passed before others were able to reach Damour and attempt to help him. When police arrived, Fleming said the officers were also "jostled and pushed."

Damour was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A cellphone video of the incident has been placed on Youtube. The video shows a police officer crouching by the victim man near the entrance of the Wal-Mart. Shoppers can be seen peering through the glass, some making jokes and laughing at the situation.

Hecker Released From Hospital

Denny Hecker, a local auto dealership owner, has been released from the hospital Friday following a car accident ,the Star Tribune reported.

Hecker crashed his 2008 Range Rover in Plymouth on County Road 6, west of Hwy. 101 at approximately 8:15 p.m. Wednesday.

The crash remains under investigation. Police have declined to answer questions regarding alcohol and drug tests, as well as whether or not Hecker was wearing his seat belt.

Tim Thornton, Hecker's attorney, said Hecker was heading home from his headquarters at the time of the crash. He was only a block from his home.

In a Pioneer Press report on the crash, Hecker's spokesman had said Thursday that his injuries from a car crash Wednesday night are "extensive enough to require hospitalization, but not anything that's been characterized as life threatening."

Last month, Hecker sued Chrysler Finance, accusing it of wrongfully pulling funding. A week later, Hecker closed six dealerships and sold three others.

Local Couple Aboard Ship Targeted by Pirates

The Pioneer Press reported that a Minnesota couple was aboard the cruise ship attacked by pirates Nov. 30 in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia.

Charles and Loretta Sprado, of Sandstone, Minn., were on the ship when two small pirates skiffs came racing towards the ship. The pirates fired eight shots at the crusie liner before the ship fired two flares in return and outran the pirate ships.

"It's pretty incredible that that happened," Amy Prose, Sprados' daughter, said. "The rest of the trip has been very enjoyable and fun for them."

Prose received an e-mail from her parents the day of the incident.

The e-mail started with "Today, we had a run-in with pirates," before going on to explain the day's events.

"That was just scary," Heidi Sprado, a daughter-in-law of the couple, said. "Now I know they're safe. It's kind of a nerve-racking trip."

According to an Associated Press report, the ship was carrying 656 international passengers and 399 crew members.

All passengers and crew are safe and there was no damage to the vessel, a statement from the cruise liner company said.

Skater Falls Through Thin Ice

An ice skater was pulled from Medicine Lake in Plymouth Thursday the Star Tribune reported.

The skater, whose identity has not been released by authorities, was taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. The man was not responsive to resuscitation attempts and had no pulse.

The skater was found in open water at approximately 2 p.m. after a fellow skater spotted a hat floating in the water and called police, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Water Patrol reported.

According to a WCCO report, the man's condition is currently unknown. Authorities are unclear how long the man was in the water.

The man, who was wearing ice skates and a camera around his neck, is believed to be an out of town visitor, Sgt. Chris Mathisen of the Sheriff's Department said.

Mathisen reported that the area of the lake where the man was found had open water Saturday night that froze overnight. The overnight snowfall may have made the ice appear thicker.

The Star Tribune ran a story Tuesday warning locals to take ice thickness into consideration before venturing out onto the partial frozen lakes.

In that report, officials urged fishermen to use caution.

"Anglers are still advised to exercise extreme caution when traveling on the ice,'' Duke Broughten, a conservation officer for the Department of Natural Resources, said.

November 23, 2008

Opposition to California's Prop 8

According to CNN, California's Supreme Court said last week that it will hear the appeal of a challenge to the measure outlawing same-sex marriage, Proposition 8.

The court said in a written statement that they will not implement or enforce the law until the appeal has been decided.

The measure, known as Prop 8, earned 52.5 percent of the vote in California in the November 4 elections.

California had previously been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since May, after a state Supreme Court had legalized the unions.

Soon after the proposition's passage, thousands of protesters filled the streets Los Angeles and other major cities in protest.

Protesters gathered in Sacramento Sunday to rally against the proposition and gain support to fight for rights if the appeal does not pass, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Although numbers were smaller than the predictions of 10,000, over 5,000 people gathered in the lawn in front of the Capitol, waving homemade signs with messages like "What's so scary about our love?" as vendors walked through the crowds, selling buttons and flags.

More than 100,000 people have agreed to carry petitions for a new ballot measure, said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, one of the leaders of the "No on Prop. 8" effort.


Volcanic Landslide in Colombia

CNN reported that a volcano erupted Thursday in southwest Colombia, causing landslides and killing at least six people.

The Nevado del Huila volcano erupted at approximately 9:45 p.m.

Gas and hot ash melted snow on the mountain peak, causing debris to rush down the River Paez. The landslides have destroyed at least 20 homes and washed out five bridges, the presidential office said in a statement.

According to the government, all of the victims were native Indians. Much of the affected region is populated with Nasa indigenous communities.

Nearly 300 people have been evacuated from homes surrounding the volcano and the River Paez, government officials said.

According to an AP report, President Alvaro Uribe flew over the volcano Friday. President Uribe has instructed the air force to create an "air bridge" to supply cut off towns along the Rio Paez.

Pets Suffer During Economic Downturn

Over the past several months, shelters across the country have seen an increase of animals turned in because their owners have lost their homes or jobs, CNN reported.

A spokesman from the Humane Society of Douglas County in Georgia said the abandonment rate has sharply increased from what it was two years ago. With the large increase of animals coming into shelters and and fewer people financially stable enough to adopt pets, nearly all shelters in Douglas Country have been overrun.

"People lose their homes and have to move to apartments that don't accept pets, so they give them up," Cheryl McAuliffe, a spokeswoman for the Georgia State Humane Society, said.

Shelters are also facing difficulties with the sudden increase of requests from people who are unable to provide food for their animals, Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for the Humane Society of the United States, said.

However, no all pets are surrendered to shelters when their owners can no longer care for them. According to Miami-Dade Animal Services, workers are regularly called foreclosed properties where neighbors have reported seeing pets left in backyards or locked inside the vacant houses.

Pet abandonment is also on the rise in the Twin Cities area. In Lakeville, the increase is also being blamed on the economic crisis, according to the Pioneer Press.

Bard Maxwell, Lakeville's animal-control officer, said the first dog abandonment in the city happened January 2006. In 2007, 20 dogs were abandoned in Lakeville. This year alone, nearly 30 dogs have been left in the city.

Most of the abandoned animals are given to shelters or rescue groups, Maxwell said.

In Eagan, animal-control officer Karen Grimm said several people have recently claimed they are unable to pay the reclaiming fee necessary to retrieve their animal from impound.

Mike Fry, the executive director of the no-kill shelter in Hastings Animal Ark, said shelters are seeing an increase in "foreclosure pets."

"When people suffer any kind of economic setback, their animals suffer right along with them," Fry said.

Senate Race Ballot Recount

With nearly two-thirds of the nearly 3 million ballots counted, officials hope to finish the recount in the U.S. senate race before Thanksgiving the Pioneer Press reported.

The recount has been ordered to determine whether Republican U.S. Senator Norm Coleman will retain his senate seat or if Democratic candidate Al Franken will replace him.

The post-election tally had Coleman leading by 215 votes. At last count, Coleman's lead has been reduced to 167.

These margin, however, does not include roughly 1,893 rejected ballots currently being challenged by both sides.

According to the Star Tribune, both sides are fighting over whether or not to reexamine these ballots.

On Wednesday, both sides will meet at a state Canvassing Board hearing in order to determine if the rejected absentee ballots are in or out.

If the Canvassing Board decides to allow the review of the previously rejected absentee ballots, many still unexamined votes could be added into the race.

St. Louis Park Man Pleads Guilty to Five Robberies

A 27-year-old St. Louis Park man pleaded guilty Wednesday to a series of bank robberies in the Twin Cities area, the Star Tribune reported.

Suresh Harlan Small plead guilty to five counts of armed robbery in federal court in St. Paul for robberies that spanned from Nov. 2, 2007, to March 28.

According to an FBI affidavit, Small's last incident occured when he he robbed a TCF Bank on Silver Lake Road in St. Anthony. Fleeing the scene, Small lead officers on high speed chase. Gunfire was exchanged with officers before Small was stopped at Interstate 494 and Hwy. 55 in Plymouth.

Small also was responsible for two earlier robberies at the same TCF bank, as well as incidents at another TCF Bank in St. Louis Park

A Fox 9 News report said that Small stated that he robbed the banks by force, violence and intimidation, and took an undisclosed amount of money .

Small faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison for each robbery account.

November 16, 2008

Blogger in Myanmar Jailed

According to CNN, a court official reported that courts in Myanmar have sentenced a blogger, a poet and several dissidents to several years in jail for anti-regime activities on Monday and Tuesday.

Blogger Nay Phone Latt, 28, was sentenced to more than 20 years in jail due to illegal Internet activities, the court official said. The government has strict control over Internet use and media outlets in the country.

Latt was a "major source of information for the outside world" in the military-ruled country, The Irrawaddy, an online newspaper published by exiles from Myanmar, said.

Poet Saw Wai was sentenced to a two-year jail sentence for a poem he wrote for Valentine's Day. The first words of each of the poem's eight lines spelled out the phrase "Senior General Than Shwe is crazy with power," which was directed at key leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe.

A dozen members of the pro-democracy group known as the '88 Generation Students received their sentences Tuesday. Members of the group were involved in the anti-government demonstrations that ended with the death of as many as 100 people last year.

A report from the International Herald Tribune offers greater detail on the charges.

Nay Phone Latt, was given 15 years in jail under the country's Electronics Law, two years for "creating public alarm," and 3 1/2 years under the Video Act, his mother, Aye Than, said. One of his offenses included that possession of a banned video.

Saw Wai was sentenced for creating public alarm, a colleague, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said. His poem was published in a popular weekly entertainment magazine.

Ethnicity Analysis

First Puppy

In an interview with CBS news, Barack and Michelle Obama touched upon the puppy issue, clarifying a few misconceptions.

The Obamas plan to wait until they are settled before selecting a dog.

"I don't think it would be good to get a dog in the midst of transition," Michelle Obama said. "So when we settle, get in a routine, we think about late winter, early spring, we're gonna get the dog."

While the Obamas stressed that selecting their pet was a family affair, Michelle Obama said that they were considering suggestions.

"Boy, I mean the people are sending suggestions. And we're taking it all under advisement," she said.


Since the news of a possible puppy broke, the news media have been flooded with stories surrounding the future first puppy. An opinion piece from the Los Angeles Times chronicles some of the surge of puppy advice being offered to the new president-elect and his family.

In response to the claim that the Obamas' were seeking a hypo-allergenic dog, the Friends of Peruvian Hairless Dog Assn. offered the family a hairless 4-month-old pedigreed Peruvian H.D. named Machu Picchu.

A survey hosted by the American Kennel Club last summer determined that a poodle would be the best dog for the Obamas.

An online card from Humane Society of the United States to the family currently has over 4,000 signatures praising the family for considering pet adoption.

Missing Marine Arrested

According to the AP, a Marine accused of faking his own disappearance to avoid service in Iraq has been arrested in Washington state.

Lance Hering, 23, was arrested at the Port Angeles airport Sunday, police said. Hering is being held on a warrant for contempt of court on a burglary charge and a Marine Corps warrant for desertion.

A Denver Post report reveals that Hering's father, Lloyd Hering, was also arrested. His father faces a misdemeanor charge of aiding and abetting a criminal.

Hering, a lance corporal and Iraq war veteran, was on leave from California's Camp Pendleton when he disappeared in 2006.

At the time, Steve Powers, a friend of the Marine, told authorities Hering fell in the Eldorado Canyon in Colorado. More than 600 people were involved in an extensive search for Hering.

Powers later admitted it was a hoax.