December 7, 2008

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.

November 23, 2008

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.

November 16, 2008

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.

November 9, 2008

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."

November 2, 2008

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.

October 26, 2008

Police Identify Body Pulled from Mississippi

As covered in a previous blog entry, on Oct. 10, a body was found in a submerged car in the Mississippi River.

On Sunday afternoon, Police identified the body as Kathleen May Spangenberg, 60, of St. Paul, the Pioneer Press reported.

Police were able to identify Spangenberg through DNA, as well as personal papers and a license plate, police spokesman Peter Panos said.

The cause of death is still unknown, but it appears the victim drove into the river as either an accident or suicide, Panos said.

Spangenberg was not close to her family and it was common for her to go years within speaking to them, Panos said.

October 19, 2008

The Real Sarah Palin on SNL

Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin made an appearance on "Saturday Night Live," sharing the stage with Tina Fey, the former SNL cast member who bears a striking resemblance to the Alaska governor, Reuter's reported.

Opening with a mock press conference, featuring Fay mocking the candidate, before switching to a backstage view which featured Palin speaking with show's producer Lorne Michaels.

The skit played on Fey and Palin's resemble when actor Alec Baldwin seemingly mistook Palin for Fey, greeting her with a casual "Hey Tina."

Due to the real Palin's appearance, SNL enjoyed its highest ratings in 14 years.

According to an LA Times blog, the final Nielsen figures will be out later this week, but estimates put the average audience at 14 million with the largest number at 17 million for the show's first half-hour.

October 12, 2008

Chemical Leak in Western Pennsylvania

2500 residents were evacuated Saturday when a chemical leak caused a toxic cloud to form and float through Petrolia, a town north east of Pittsburgh, the Associated Press reported.

A material called oleum, similar to sulfuric acid, leaked from a tank at the Indspec Chemical Corp. plant , plant manager Dave Dorko said.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said that authorities were concerned that the toxic cloud had the potential to cause respiratory damage and skin burns.

Residents within three miles of the plant were evacuated and allowed to return home on Sunday.

Authorities tested the air determined that no traces of the toxic chemical remained, Freda Tarbell, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said.

"It's about as dangerous as you can get," said, Ed Schrecengost, a former Indspec employee. "It's a very fuming acid. A quart bottle of this material could fill a household in two seconds."

October 5, 2008

UW-Madison Band Suspended for Hazing

The Associated Press reported on Friday that all 300 members of the University of Wisconsin-Madison marching band have been suspended indefinitely amid allegations alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct.

The band was not allowed to play Saturday during a U.S. college football game between the Badgers and Ohio State at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.

Mike Leckrone, band director since 1969, said he made the decision to suspend the band after he received a tip with allegations of hazing. It was the first time in his career that the entire band has ever been suspended and prevented from playing at a game.

Local publication, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gave additional details on the UW marching band's situation.

As part of the investigate on the hazing allegations, University of Wisconsin officials began interviewed band members individually Friday night.

“They’re trying to do it as quickly as possible to get to a resolution,? UW-Madison spokeswoman Amy Toburen said. “Hopefully, it can be a resolution that can bring the band back.?

In 2006, the university band was put on probation for seminude dancing, sexualized banter and hazing that occurred during a road trip to Michigan. Officials said the most recent allegations are similar to those brought against the band in 2006.

September 28, 2008

22 animals die after a kennel fire in Beaver Dam

The Pioneer Press posted an AP story on a kennel fire that killed 21 dogs in Beaver Dam, Wis., on Saturday.

The Beaver Dam Fire Department says about 31 dogs were at Everafter Kennels when the fire was reported at 6:40 p.m. Friday.

Using information from a Web site, the kennel was reported as a family-owned operation that breeds Doberman Pinscher and Chinese Crested dogs.

Officials said the fire damaged two sides of the structure, and caused a cave-in on one end of the roof.

The Dodge County Humane Society was contacted to help in recovering the dogs.

A local news source, the Beaver Dam Citizen Daily, offered more specific information on the story.

The boarding kennel, Moa's Everafter Kennels, was owned by Margarita Files. 22 animals were reported to have died, 21 dogs and one cat.

This article states that only 25 animals were in the kennel at the time of the fire, as opposed to 31.

Kennel records were destroyed, so Files has been unable to contact all of the animal owners.

The kennel provided dog and cat boarding, grooming and daycare services.

September 21, 2008

Travis Barker and DJ AM expected to make full recovery

Musicians Travis Barker and DJ AM are expected to make a fully recovery after suffering burns during a South Carolina plane crash that killed four people, CNN reported.

The former Blink 182 drummer and DJ AM, real name Adam Goldstein, are being treated at the Joseph Still Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia. They sustained second and third degree burns in Friday night's crash, Barker to the torso and lower body, Goldstein to the face and arm, said Dr. Fred Mullins, the center's executive director.

Both musicians are expected to make a full recovery, though they could be hospitalized for weeks, Mullins said.

Investigators found evidence that one of the jet's tires may have blown moments before takeoff, Debbie Hersman, the spokeswoman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said.

Several entertainment and gossip sources has also been frequently posting updates on this story.

MTV News reported that Mullins would not comment on the types of treatment Barker and Goldstein were undergoing at the center. Mullins also refused to answer a reporter's question about what percentage of their bodies were burned.

During the press conference, Mullins also read a statement from Barker's and Goldstein's families.

"The families wish to thank fans all over the world for their prayers and concern. Deepest sympathy is expressed to the loved ones who perished in the crash. As the two recuperate and mourn this loss, privacy for them, their families and friends is requested at this time."

September 14, 2008

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

"Saturday Night Live" alum Tina Fey made a brief return for the show's season premier to portray Republican vice presidential Sarah Palin.

The general consensus for the opening sketch, as seen in Tom Shales column for The Washington Post was positive. As Shale put it, Fey "killed" in her portray of Palin. Her impression was "dead-on" and was aided in the fact that Fey and Palin share a strong resemblance.

According to Executive producer Lorne Michaels, Fey wasn't even sure she would be able to make Saturday's taping, due to scheduling conflicts with the taping of her own television show, "30 Rock". "She came by Friday night and we rehearsed," Michaels said of Fey.

According to Scott Conroy's Blog for CBS News', Sarah Palin's spokesperson, Tracey Schmitt, said that real Sarah Palin had a good laugh along with the press corps in the back of the plane and millions of Americans at home.

“She thought it was quite funny, particularly because she once dressed up as Tina Fey for Halloween,? Schmitt said.