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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.

Robbinsdale Man Sexually Assaulted Girl

A 39-year-old Robbinsdale man has been charged with molesting an 11-year-old girl he met online, the Star Tribune reported.

Dennis Roy White, who was convicted of criminal sexual conduct almost 10 years ago, was charged with one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in Dakota County District Court.

Investigators spoke with the young girl who said she met White at an Apple Valley park after chatting with him online, the charges said. The girl told police that White kissed her and touched her chest and inside her pants while at the park.

According to the charges, White told police he had agreed to met a female online and went to the park to meet her, but drove away when he saw the girl's age.

White was convicted of the same charge in 1999. White is currently in the Dakota County jail in lieu of $400,000 bail. According to a second report, White faces up to 25 years in prison, a $35,000 fine, or both, if convicted.

Authorities used White’s e-mail address to locate and arrest him.

Fridley Football Player's Death Declared Accidental

Emmanuel Bartuoh, 18, died of a gunshot wound at his Fridley home Friday, the Pioneer Press reported.

Bartuoh, a defensive back for the Fridley High football team, had been watching the state high school football tournament on television when Samuel Keleih Dennis, a 20-year-old graduate of Fridley High, pointed a semi-automatic gun at him, and pulled the trigger, authorities said. Bartuoh struck once in the chest and died shortly after the incident.

A Star Tribune story offers a more detailed look at the crime. Dennis called 911 and when police arrived at the Rice Creek Townhomes in Fridley, they found Dennis, sobbing and blood-soaked. Dennis turned himself in and confessed to investigators.

Dennis was unaware that the gun was loaded at the time. He was booked into the Anoka County Jail on suspicion of second-degree manslaughter, authorities said.

Bartuoh had been in scholarship talks with a Midwestern college earlier in the day.

"Wherever I need to go to play and get an education, I'm going to go," Bartuoh had told his coach, Lambert Brown.

Family members, students and faculty gathered at the high school for a candlelight vigil Saturday to grieve for Bartuoh, known as "E-man" to those close to him.

"It doesn't make sense. Oh, God, could this really be happening?" his older sister, Marthaline Bartuoh, said. "I can't say it was his time to go, because it's not. It was not his time to go."

November 9, 2008

Numbers Analysis

Numbers Story

The above AP report about Hurricane Paloma is from one of the blog stories. This report uses numbers in a variety of ways and it a good choice for demonstrating the differing ways of incorporating numbers in news stories.

Firstly, the reporter uses numbers to detail the strength of the hurricane. Winds have died down from over 145 mph to 30 mph. By using these numbers, it helps readers to grasp just what it might be like near the storm. The height of the waves and amount of homes wrecked are also given, helping to convey the amount of damage Cuba has sustained.

I do not find the numbers overwhelming, in fact, I think they are helpful and necessary.

There are several instances were the reporter has done some math and presented the numbers in an easy-to-understand format. For example, readers learn that "1.2 million people were evacuated" and "about one-fifth of those were taken to shelters in schools and government buildings." By using "one-fifth" it is easier for readers to grasp how many people were taken. It is simple and to the point.

Most of the numbers are attributed to Cuban authorities or the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Paloma Hits Cuba

Despite destroying hundreds if homes, Paloma has been downgraded to a tropical depression by the National Hurricane Center, CNN reported.

At around 4 p.m. Sunday, Paloma's center was 15 miles south-southwest of Camaguey, Cuba. The winds have weakened from 145 mph to around 35 mph.

While damage reports have been limited, the Cuban state media has reported that the storm destroyed a major communications tower, has disrupted phone and electricity services, and caused major flooding.

No storm-related deaths have been reported.

Over 220,000 people had been evacuated from the low lands of the Camaguey providence and were moved to higher ground in anticipation of the storm. Another 170,000 people were moved in the eastern province of Las Tunas.

"This is a really hard blow," Aida Perez, a resident of Santa Cruz del Sur, said. "What's important is that we are alive."

The AP reported that waves more than 10-foot-high washed away nearly 50 modest houses in Santa Cruz del Sur, submerging houses, and flooding local crops. In total, 435 homes in the community were destroyed Civil Defense authorities said.

Paloma was a Category 4 hurricane when it hit Santa Cruz del Sur, but rapidly lost strength.

Young Boy Kills 2 Men

The Washington Post reported that an 8-year-old Arizona boy has been charged with killing his father and another man, police said.

The boy was charged as a juvenile with two counts of premeditated murder, Police Chief Roy Melnick said.

Police are investigating the possibility that the child had been abused.

"I'm not accusing anybody of anything at this point," Melnick said. "But we're certainly going to look at the abuse part of this. He's 8 years old. He just doesn't decide one day that he's going to shoot his father and shoot his father's friend for no reason. Something led up to this."

Earlier this week, a judge determine there was probable cause to show that the boy killed his father, Vincent Romero, 29, and a renter, Timothy Romans, 39, with a .22-caliber rifle.

Melnick said officers arrived at Romero's home minutes after the shooting took place Wednesday in the small community of St. Johns, located 170 miles northeast of Phoenix. Police found one victim just outside the front door and the other in an upstairs room.

Members of the Arizona town have reached out to offer support to the victim's families, according to an AP report.

Romero and Romans are being remembered as a well-liked and a well-known members of the community.

"I don't think this church is big enough to handle it all," said the Rev. John Paul Sauter of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

St. Johns resident Flynt Smith said Romero and Romans were "the best neighbors we've ever had." They helped out when he was installing sprinklers in his yard and when his roof needed repairs, he said.

"We're still in shock," said Carl Hamblin, Romero's former Little League coach. "This is so out of the norm, and to this day, I don't believe it could happen again."

Local Reporter Charged with Drunken Driving

The Star Tribune reported that a KMSP-TV reporter has been charged with careless driving, drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

According to a complaint filed in Hennepin County, Beth McDonough, 40, had a blood-alcohol reading of .24 percent. She refused a blood-alcohol test at first but later agreed.

McDonough previously had her driver's license revoked in December after she was convicted of third-degree drunken driving.

A Pioneer Press reported offered more details on the accident. According to the complaint, after the driver of the car was hit, the man called police and followed McDonough. A state trooper began following McDonough and arrested her after she arrived at her Minnetonka home.

Trooper Patrick Miles noted the "strong odor of an alcoholic beverage," bloodshot and watery eyes and slurred speech McDonoughhad when she spoke, State Patrol Sgt. Randy Anderson said.

"The defendant kept falling and using her vehicle to keep herself upright," Anderson wrote in the complaint. "On two occasions, the defendant used Trooper Miles to keep her balance."

McDonough has been suspended, KMSP-TV news director Bill Dallman said

Girl Dies Three Days After Car Crash

The Star Tribune reported that one of two girls injured in a car accident Wednesday has died, according to a statement released Saturday by the girls' parents.

Kayla Jo Borgerson, 17, suffered "multiple, traumatic injuries" as a result of the accident" her parents, Keith and Sue Borgerson, said in a statement. Her organs will be donated.

"This was Kayla's wish, and now her legacy of caring for others will live on," the statement said.

According to the Pioneer Press, Kayla was flown by helicopter to Hennepin County Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. Her sister, Katie Borgerson, 15, is currently in serious condition at Hennepin County Medical Center.

The sisters were injured when the Toyota Camry they were driving collided with a pickup truck around 6 p.m. Wednesday in Lakeville, Police Chief Tom Vonhof said. Kayla was driving and making a turn from Juniper Path onto 205th Avenue when the crash occured.

The driver of the truck, Brandon Pekel, 25, was not seriously hurt and is not facing charges.

Men Plead Not Guilty

Two me pleaded not guilty Thursday to conspiracy and firearms charges in what authorities have described as a plot to assassinate President-elect Barack Obama, the Washington Post reported.

Daniel G. Cowart, 20, of Tennessee, and Paul M. Schlesselman, 18, of Arkansas, are currently being held without bail in a Tennessee prison. The men, thought to be affiliated with the white supremacy movement, were arrested last month.

Both men could face over a decade behind bars if convicted for involvement in the alleged conspiracy.

Cowart and Schlesselman had planned to steal weapons, attack a predominately African American school and then assault Obama at a rally, while wearing white top hats and tails, federal agent Brian Weaks said in a sworn statement.

Though not operational, Government officials said the plot raised alarms about the possibility for violent threats against Obama.

As the AP reported earlier, Weaks, told a Memphis court last month, after the arrests, that the pair had met over the Internet through a mutual friend and soon began talking about murder.

The men had discussed "going on a 'killing spree' that included killing 88 people and beheading 14 African Americans," Weaks said.

November 2, 2008

Obituary Analysis

Merl Saunders Obituary

This obituary, found on the New York Times website, begins with a standard obituary lead. It states who had died, what they were known for, when they died, and then ends with the short sentence, "he was 74."

The cause of death is sourced to Saunders' son.

Partly because of the length of the obituary, the standard "frame" is deviated from slightly as the story then progresses directly into the chronology section. His major accomplishment, such as playing with the Grateful Dead’s lead guitarist and singer, Jerry Garcia, are then blended into this section.

The piece ends with information about the surviving family.

Overall the obituary follows the outline given in class with only slight difference. It provides a small snapshot of a man's life. It is impossible to include everything, so the writer has chosen Saunders' most notable and recognizable accomplishments.

This selectivity is a major difference between obituaries and resumes. Resumes often include all the details, as much as possible in an attempt to impress. Obituaries try to condense things down into the most basic details. So instead of listing all of Saunders' musical accomplishments, the story simply lists the highlights.

Skeletal Remains found near Fossett crash site

According to CNN, two large bones and a driver's license with adventurer Steve Fossett's name were found Wednesday, near the site where Fossett's plane crashed in eastern California.

The bones appear to be human, and DNA testing will determine whether they belonged to Fossett, Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said.

"We talked to the family and advised them that we possibly, most likely, found the remains of J. Stephen Fossett," Anderson said.

Animal chew marks were found on the driver's license and the shoes, Anderson said, indicated that animals may have moved the body.

Along with the bones and ID card, searchers found a pair of shoes and a $100 bill Anderson said.

The discovery site was a little more than a half-mile from where Fossett's plane wreckage was found on Oct. 1 in a remote area of the Sierra Nevadas. Fossett, famous for his record-setting adventures, was last seen on Sept. 3, 2007, when he took flew out of Minden, Nevada.

The site is also about a quarter-mile from where a hiker reported finding aviation identification cards with Fossett's name and $1,000 in cash in late September, Anderson said.

The Los Angeles Times also reported this story, offering a few more details.

The large bones were discovered by sheriff's deputies and volunteers who searched Wednesday in what authorities said was their last attempt to find additional clues to Fossett's disappearance before winter. Authorities have no released what bones were found.

Preston Morrow, 43, an employee at a sporting goods store in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., is the hiker who found several identification cards and 10 $100 bills in late Sept. He was walking with his dog in Red's Meadow at the time.

3 Killed in Car Crash

Police identified Wednesday the three people killed and one injured after a car went off the road in rural Wright County the Pioneer Press reported.

Stephen Dooher, 22, the driver of the car, was found inside the Chevrolet Corvette by police. Dooher was taken to St. Cloud Hospital and was in fair condition Wednesday authorities said.

Authorities also released the names of two men and one women who were apparent thrown from the car and killed: Andrea Northern, 23, of South Haven, and Michael Demars, 22, and Derek Kammerer, 22, both of Maple Lake.

A Star Tribune story offers a look into the ongoing conflicts between the victims' families.

Dooher was charged Friday with two counts of criminal-vehicular homicide for each of the three victims.

Dooher admitted to drinking and results from tests to determine his blood-alcohol level should be available to county authorities in 30 days, Wright County Attorney Brian Lutes said.

Michael DeMars family placed "absolutely no blame" on Dooher for the crash, and stated that "nothing will be gained by sending him to jail."

"Steve's a phenomenal kid, and we'll do everything we can to help him," Howard Kammerer, Derek's father, said.

However, Andrea Northern's mother, Shelly Lidster, said that "somebody had to pay."

"There was no reason for four people to be in that car," she said.

Fake Anthrax Sent to Local Newspapers

The Pioneer Press is the latest media outlet to receive a package containing hoax anthrax.

According to a Pioneer Press report, the newspaper discovered an envelope Saturday containing a small package labeled "anthrax."

Initial tests later determined the substance to be sugar, St. Paul police spokesman Pete Crum said.

The package contained a CD with a photo of Colin Powell labeled "Anthrax Shock and Awe Terror" and a package containing a white powder taped to the top labeled "Anthrax" and "Biohazard."

On Wednesday, Marc M. Keyser, 66, of Sacramento was arrested on suspicion of sending over 120 hoax letters labeled "anthrax" to scores of media outlets, the FBI said.

Minneapolis' Star Tribune also reported on the hoax package they received on Thursday.

Preliminary tests on the contents of the package sent to the Star Tribune were also negative for hazardous material Minneapolis police said.

More packages will probably be received over the next few dayssaid FBI agent Steve Dupre. Any recipients were instructed to contact their local FBI office.

Madison "Freakfest"

The number of arrests at this year's Halloween Freakfest are down, Madison police said in a Star Tribune news story.

As of Sunday afternoon 77 had been made, with many being for relatively minor offenses police said.

38,300 people bought tickets for this year's event, up from last year's 34,000 attendees.

An article from the Wisconsin State Journal gave a more detailed account of the festivities.

Last year, police made 125 arrests.

Due to the reduced arrest rates, city officials are declaring this year a success.

"This is the third year in a row that we were able to end the event peacefully," Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said. "I can really say that we have truly turned the event around."

Party-goers began gathering at Madison's State Street early Saturday morning. Around midnight, the large crowds on State Street required police to close the block off for about 15 minutes and bring in mounted officers. The officers were then able to manage the large crowd of people near the main music stage.

Over 400 members of law enforcement were assigned to handle Freakfest and approximately 120 private guards also were on hand.

"If arrests remain low this year, next year, I think we'll be able to reduce our police presence," Mayor Cieslewicz said.

Landslide in China

CNN reported Sunday afternoon that a landslide southwestern China left at least 15 people dead and 34 missing.

The landslide hit Chuxiong city in the Yunnan province on Sunday after days of heavy rainfall. This preliminary report had very few other details.

A report from Reuters Africa gave a bit more information in the situation.

According to their report, state media now confirmed 22 dead, with 45 people missing.

The Xinhua news agency reported that the landslide destroyed or damaged nearly 1,000 houses, mainly built directly on the steep slopes of the terrain.