April 26, 2009

Girl Scouts Help Aveda Recycle Caps

Local Girl Scouts have joined with beauty products company Aveda to help recycle an often-overlooked product.
The scouts have collected over 100,000 plastic bottle caps to be recycled into packaging for skin and hair care products, the Pioneer Press reported.
Aveda began the program last September when they learned that recycling companies either discard or cut the top quarter off bottles turned in with caps.
The Girl Scouts participated as a part of overall efforts to promote green living and a "reduce, reuse, recycle" mentality.
The program was the second annual opportunity for scouts to participate in service learning. Last year the girls collected pajamas and books for children, program director Shelly Burzinski told the Pioneer Press.
Thirteen-year-old Alice Szeliga collected 300 caps in one week for her Girl Scouts chapter.
"That's how many bottles were saved from being thrown out at the recycling company — that's a lot," Alice told the Pioneer Press. "Those caps find their way into oceans and all sorts of things that are detrimental to the environment."

Michigan Family Lives off the Land

In the midst of trying economic times, one Michigan family has taken a fresh approach to getting by.
Patrick and Melissa Wojtowicz, along with their 15-year-old daughter Gabrielle, have changed their entire way of life in Alma, Mich. in an attempt to break from the downward economic cycle.
When Patrick Wojtowicz, 36, began to lose ground financially with his job as a trucker, he and his wife, Melissa, 37, decided to reexamine the way they were living.
They decided to cut back on extra expenses and work to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Patrick quit his job and they began to garden and raise their own animals for food.
They also began, like many American families, to can their own food, buy clothes at resale shops, and checking out books and movies from the library.
Living off only the salary of Melissa, who is self employed, has been difficult, but the family has grown closer through working to meet their own needs.
"The earn, spend, earn era has come to an end for us," USA Today quoted from the family's blog. "The idea of living a fuller, more satisfying life seems simple to us now. ... Money, cash, credit, maybe they don't matter. Maybe, just maybe, it is those things that impede our ability to be truly happy."

Hitler's Paintings Sold in Auction

Fifteen pieces of art by Adolf Hitler Thursday raised almost $120,000 at an auction Thursday held by anonymous sellers.
The auction, held by the Mullock's of Shropshire auction house, included several watercolor paintings along with an oil painting that sold for about $20,000.
One watercolor of a figure rumored to be Hitler himself sitting a bridge sold for almost $15,000- over six times what was expected, CNN reported.
The watercolor paintings came from a collector who forgot about the paintings until he found them in his garage, Richard Westwood-Brookes of Mullock's told CNN.
Though many were unaware of Hitler's artistic leanings, he spend several years painting water colors to support himself.
In addition to artwork, the auction included various paraphernalia from Hitler's reign, including concentration camp documents, CNN reported.
The auction offended many who oppose the supposed celebration of the dictator. Westwood-Brooke, however, defended the sale.
"It's just as much as part of the Second World War as photographs of (Winston) Churchill," Westwood-Brooke told CNN. "It's something that happened and you can't ignore it."

UCLA Student Takes on Planned Parenthood

A 20-year-old California student has given a new look to the antiabortion campaign with a series of undercover videos filmed in Planned Parenthood clinics across the country.
Lila Rose, a student at the University of California- Los Angeles, has received national attention for the videos, which are posted to the website of her non-profit organization, Live Action.
In the videos, Rose poses as an underage girl who is pregnant with her adult boyfriend, an implication of statutory rape. In most states, clinics are required to report all such cases to authorities.
Rose's videos show clinic workers in various locations telling her to lie about her age or say that her boyfriend is also underage. Some advised that she cross the border to other states with less strict laws.
Though many of the workers recorded in the videos have been fired, Planned Parenthood has launched counterattacks, charging Rose with breaking state privacy laws by secretly taping the encounters, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Rose said she hopes the videos will draw people's attention. In a speech at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit, she told the audience that she is honored by Planned Parenthood's negative reponse.
"When I walk into Planned Parenthoods across the country, I am flattered to see my picture on the wall," the Los Angeles Times reported Rose as saying. "It is because to Planned Parenthood, I am -- quote -- a 'known anti-choice extremist.' This is one of the better compliments I have received."

April 19, 2009

Indian Girl Dies After Hours in Sun

A Dehli, India girl died Friday after fainting and slipping into a coma following several hours spent outdoors in the sun.
Family of Shano Khan, 11, say the girl was forced to stand several hours outside in the midday sun for incorrectly reciting the alphabet, BBC reported.
Khan died in the hospital, though medical tests are still being conducted to determine exactly what caused her death.
According to BBC, Renuka Chaudhary, India's minister for women and child welfare, called for investigation and the arrest of Khan's school teacher.
School officials deny the family's account, and say Khan died because of her frequent seizures.
"She has been irregular with her classes because of fits. On Wednesday too, she had fits, following which her parents were informed," a school official told The Times of India.
Nonetheless, both the teacher and principal at the municipal school have been suspended pending further investigation.
According to BBC, Delhi's private schools forbid corporal punishment.

Last Living Survivor of Titanic Holds Auction

The last living survivor of the Titanic, which sank in the icy waters of the Atlantic in April 1912, held an auction Saturday, selling her keepsakes of the ship to cover the cost of her nursing home care.
Millvina Dean, who is now 97, was only 9 weeks old when the ship made its first and last voyage.
The auction was held to help Dean pay her over $50,000 in yearly charges for nursing home care.
One notable item that was set to be sold at the auction was a large bag that was among items Dean's mother and brother brought with them back to England.
"Historical documents say she was lifted from the lifeboat onto Carpathia, the rescue ship, in a mail sack," Alan Aldridge of the auction company Henry Aldridge & Son told CNN. "There is speculation that this would have been the bag. It's a leather and canvas bag. You would easily get a child or infant in it."
Aldrich said they hope to raise around $4,500 for the bag, though that would be multiplied tenfold if they could prove it was the bag she was rescued in.
Many of the other 16 items up for sale were memorabilia from the Titanic signed by Dean, though most were not from the ship itself, CNN reported.
Dean hopes to stay in her current nursing home for as long as possible.
"When she runs out of money, the state will pay fees for her, but while she can pay her fees, she decides where she gets her care," Aldrich told CNN. "When the state pays, they decide."

St. Charles Residents in Limbo After Fire

Residents of St. Charles, Minn., are facing an uncertain future after a fire destroyed the town's cornerstone business, a large-scale meat processing plant.
The fire broke out Friday afternoon at North Star Foods, a plant that handled beef, pork, and poultry and employed 150 of the town's little over 3,000 residents.
The town was evacuated overnight because the flames were nearing anhydrous ammonia tanks, which would have posed a significant danger to residents if ruptured.
The fire was extinguished by 6 a.m. with the help of 70 firefighters from St. Charles and neighboring towns. According to the Star Tribune, the plant was considered a total loss.
Now residents are questioning whether they can remain in the town after one of its largest businesses and utility customers has been destroyed. The plant's owners told the Star Tribune that it could take up to two years and $75 million to rebuild.
State fire marshals have not yet determined the cause of the fire.
For now, residents can only wait to see what the future holds for the town.
"Most of the workers are waiting to see what happens," Rogelio Molina, a father of two and five-year employee of the plant, told the Star Tribune. Molina is reluctant to leave St. Charles with his family.
"This town is good for my sons," he said.

Coon Rapids Residents Divided Over Proposed Community Center

Residents of Coon Rapids are divided over the proposed construction of a multimillion dollar community center that would replace the city's aging Cook Ice Arena.
A community meeting was held at the Crooked Lake Library last week, the latest of several sponsored by city officials to discuss the site's future.
The most grandiose proposition suggests the construction of a 152,000-square-foot community center with a gym, meeting areas, and outdoor ice skating trails, the Star Tribune reported.
Though economic conditions do not merit the center's immediate construction, city officials see it as a part of a future development plan for the city.
City Council member Denise Clint told the Star Tribune that phone and email contacts have shown a 10-to-1 ratio of residents in favor of the community center.
However, many have also adamantly spoken out against the construction, noting the increased property taxes that it would involve. The center could cost the city as much as $60 million.
Some residents have asked that the proposal go to a referendum to better gauge the public's sentiments. The issue will be discussed by City Council later this month.
Klint told the Star Tribune that the issue could have been better presented to Coon Rapids residents.
"I would have presented it as, this is something we have been talking about for years," she said of the most expensive plan. "I would have made it more clear that... it is our wish list if we had unlimited funds, that this is what we would want, and then we would explore that after we listen to everyone."

Man Kills Wife and Three Children in Maryland

A family of five is dead in Middletown, Md. after a 34-year-old man killed his wife and three children before taking his own life.
Christopher Alan Wood shot himself after inflicting "traumatic cuts"on and shooting both his 33-year old wife, Francis Billotti Wood, and the couple's three children, ages 2, 4 and 5, USA Today reported.
Police said Christopher Wood left five notes behind before committing the crime, including an apology to family members. The notes also hinted that he may have suffered from psychiatric problems, according to USA Today.
The scene was discovered Saturday morning by Francis Wood's father, who visited the family's home concerned that he had not heard from them in several days.
Authorities are not yet sure when the killings took place. Jane Durant, the director of the school the Woods' 4-year-old son attended, told USA Today that he was not in class on Friday.
Residents of Middletown, a town of fewer than 3,000 people, are shocked and disturbed by the killings.
Francis Wood, who taught catechism at Holy Family Catholic Community Church, was known as a loving, energetic woman.
"I just talked to her every day and she's just one of those people you fell in love with right away," Durant said.

April 12, 2009

Diversity

The Pioneer Press recently published an article on the Surenos, a Latino gang that the city of St. Paul is attempting to ban from Cinco de Mayo celebrations next month. The article profiles Jorge Vargas, one of the supposed 10 most dangerous members of the group, who would be banned from the festival. It presents him as a victim, quoting him saying that he has cleaned up his act since high school and that the actions by the city are "defamation." It also looks into the crime records of the other "most dangerous" members, showing a notable lack of serious criminal activity. Thus, the author did a lot to break stereotypes about gang members as well as prejudices people may hold against Latinos in general. It gives a background on the gang and presents information many people likely did not know about them.

Portland Food Shelf Helps Pets in Need

A Portland, Ore. woman is helping bring aid to an often-ignored group of individuals suffering from the effects of the recession: our pets.
Joni Taylor, 53, is the head of FIDO, which stands for Friends Involved in Dog Outreach. The group raises support to provide dog food to pet owners in need.
Donations come in from pet shops and animal food makers, among others. On the the third Saturday of each moth, the food bank hands out a month's supply of dog food to anyone who asks.
On a recent Saturday, FIDO handed out over 3,000 pounds of food, the Los Angles Times reported.
The program comes as a welcome relief to many who are forced to choose between meeting their own needs and those of their pets.
Pat Foss, a 47-year-old who shares her home with seven rescued stray dogs, was able to receive 24 pounds of dry food, two cans of wet food and a gallon-sized bag of dog treats.
Eric Gateley lost his job as a construction manager in June, and says his dog, Bella, is someone he doens't have to put on a front for. Gateley has been living with his wife and 9-year-old son in a motel since January.
FIDO also provides dog food for shut-ins and senior citizens through its food delivery program.

April 11, 2009

Spain Sees Widespread Debate Over Abortion Law

A fierce debate rages on in Spain over a proposed law that would make early-term abortion legal and virtually unrestricted in the country.
Religious officials across the nation have used Holy Week services to publicly oppose the legislation, which would legalize consensual abortions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The law would also allow women from the age of 16 to seek an abortion without parental consent. It would legalize abortions up to 22 weeks into a pregnancy in the case of congenital disorders.
Supporters of the legislation cite the nation's progressive policies in many other areas as evidence for their cause.
"How can it be that in Spain we allow transsexuals to get a sex change, that gay people can marry, but we don’t allow a woman to abort a child who has a severe disorder?” Gemma Botifoll said in the New York Times.
Botifoll recently crossed the border from Spain to France to abort her 34-week pregnancy after doctors told her the baby would have severe disabilities at birth and would likely die within a year.
Spain's current laws allow abortions within 12 weeks of a pregnancy in the case of rape and 22 weeks for congenital disorders.
However, 97 percent of the nation's abortions take advantage of an exception that allows abortions at any point if a woman's physical or mental health is in jeopardy, the New York Times reported.
Anti-abortion groups and conservative government officials have joined the church in opposing the legislation, saying that abortions are not only morally wrong, but also harmful to women.
“This government likes to say it defends women’s rights,” Ignacio Arsuaga, president of the conservative advocacy group HazteOir, said in the New York Times. “But women who abort suffer physically and psychologically.”

Search Called off For Missing Student

Police have called off the search for a University of St. Thomas student who went missing early Sunday morning.
Daniel Zamlen, whose 19th birthday passed on Wednesday, has not been seen or heard from since early in the morning on April 12.
Zamlen, a diabetic, had been at a party where he was seen drinking, St. Thomas spokesman Jim Winterer told the Minnesota Daily. Winterer said Zamlen left the party after an argument, and his friends had called him, intending to pick him up.
When the friends could not find Zamlen, whose phone had died, they contacted the police. For the next several days, intensive searches were conducted throughout the St. Paul neighborhood where he was last heard from and along the Mississippi River.
The search, which involved neighborhood canvassing by friends and family, water and helicopter patrols and the use of a bloodhound dog, was called off on Thursday.
Zamlen's Type I diabetes likely intensified the effects of his drinking, and the lack of insulin could have quickly caused him to enter a coma.
Daniel Zamlen's father, Dale Zamlen, told the Minnesota Daily that his friends and family will continue searching for Daniel. “We got to find him,” he said.

Chaska Bakery Closes after 125 Years

After 125 years of selling baked goods in the same building in downtown Chaska, the historic Chaska Bakery will close its doors on Saturday.
Owner Dave Blackowiak said the recession, as well as fuel costs and competition from chain stores such as Rainbow Foods nearby, contributed to the bakery's decline. Blackowiak told the Star Tribune that it was one of the last from-scratch bakeries in the Twin Cities area.
Many loyal customers are sad to see the store go.
"It's a shame," Chaska Mayor Gary Van Eyll told the Star Tribune. "I know they tried to keep it open. I feel bad for them and for Chaska."
The Chaska Bakery was founded by Gottlieb Eder in 1884, just 13 years after Chaska was incorporated as a village.
Blackowiak said he is disappointed to see the bakery come to an end.
"It's always been a family operation." Blackowiak told the Star Tribune. "I'm second generation. I always thought my kids would be the third generation to take over. That's not going to happen."

California Woman Arrested in Murder of 8-year-old Girl

A California woman was arrested Friday in connection with the death of an 8-year-old girl in the northeastern town of Tracy.
Melissa Huckaby, 28, drove herself to the police station and is now being held without bail,
Sgt. Tony Shenema of the Tracy Police Department told USA Today.
Huckaby is suspected in the death of Sandra Cantu, whose body was found in a farming irrigation pond on April 6 in a suitcase belonging to Huckaby.
Both individuals lived in the same mobile home park in Tracy. Huckaby told the Tracy Press that Sandra had visited her home the day she went missing to play with her daughter, but she had turned her away, USA Today reported.
Huckaby's grandfather, Clifford Lawless, is the pastor of the Clover Road Baptist Church where Huckaby taught Sunday school. The church, as well as the family's home and property, has been searched by police in connection with the case.
Sandra disappeared on March 27, and police believe she was already dead by the time she was reported as missing.
Barbara Sokoloski, a neighbor in the mobile home park, told USA Today that Sandra was "a friendly sweet little girl who always went around trying to find somebody to play with."