March 2012 Archives

Number use analysis

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In the story done by USA Today about the Mega Millions jackpot, the reporter uses various facts and figures to get his point across.

The article talks about the total jackpot winnings and how much each of the three winners gets once the money is split and divided by taxes. It also goes on to discuss the odds of winning the $640 million jackpot. The reporter also incorporates how much money was spend on the lottery tickets and how that money will be divided by the lottery, state, stores, etc.

The numbers aren't very overwhelming because the reporter rarely uses more than one figure in a paragraph. It is also easy to read and interesting because everyone loves to hear about money and fantasize what they would do if it was their own.

From what I can tell it doesn't seem like the reporter did much math on his own but rather got his information from other sources. A lot of people throw numbers at the reporter, from the lottery officials to people talking about how much they spent. At one point it does state how much lottery ticket buyers spent across the country and I imagine the reporter did do some math to figure out the number.

Minnesota's first crossword puzzle championship

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Minnesota's first crossword puzzle championship was held Friday night, at the James J. Hill Reference Library in downtown St. Paul, with competitors vying to be the fastest grid-filler in the Gopher State, the Pioneer Press reported.

The contest featured four original crossword puzzles specially created for the tournament by Times crossword editor Will Shortz. Scoring was based on accuracy and speed, the Associated Press reported.

The Minnesota Crossword Tournament was sponsored by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library. According to the Pioneer Press, the group was inspired to set up the event after watching a 2006 documentary, "Wordplay," about the brainy, competitive people, such as Bill Clinton and Jon Stewart, who are addicted to crosswords and the surprisingly intense drama that the national crossword puzzle tournament can create.

It took less than four minutes for the finalists - Victor Barocas, a University of Minnesota biomedical engineering professor from St. Paul; Amy Ketterling, an administrative assistant from Minneapolis; and Andrew Ries, a professional crossword-puzzle creator from St. Cloud, Minn. - to finish. Barocas then went on to win the tournament.

Mega Millions jackpot split three ways

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Lottery ticket-holders in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland each selected the winning numbers and will split a $640 million jackpot that was believed to be the world's largest such prize, USA Today reported.

Mike Lang, spokesman for the Illinois Lottery, said each winning ticket was expected to be worth more than $213 million before taxes.

Had one person won the whole pot, and invested the $300 million conservatively, Steve Fazzari, an economics professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said you could have expected to collect a nice "salary" of about $7 million "after taxes every year for the rest of your life and the rest of the life of your heirs," the Washington Post reported. Put another way, that's $19,000 a day - forever.

According to USA Today, the Illinois ticket was purchased in the small town of Red Bud, near St. Louis, using a quick pick to select the numbers. The Maryland tickets came from a retail store in Baltimore County and the Kansas ticket was purchased from a store in northeast Kansas.

The Hunger Games breaks records

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The Hunger Games surpassed the wildest industry expectations to debut to $155 million, according to Entertainment Weekly.

That's the third-biggest opening weekend ever, behind only Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 ($169.2 million) and The Dark Knight ($158.4 million). The movie also had the best debut ever for a non-sequel, beating out 2010′s Alice in Wonderland ($116.1 million), and it represents the top opening weekend for any picture outside the summer movie season.

The Hunger Games soundtrack also debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, having sold 175,000 copies in its first week according to

The movie went on to break records for Lionsgate, which spent $80 million to produce The Hunger Games and $45 million to market it, according to Entertainment Weekly. Up until this weekend, the studio's top grosser was the Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which earned a total of $119.2 million. The Hunger Games reached that figure in just two days.

Prince Harry moves in with royal newlyweds

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Prince William and Duchess Kate won't have to worry about getting to know their new neighbor - Prince Harry has moved in at Kensington Palace, CBS News reported.

According to The Daily Mail, the 27-year-old, who just returned from his first royal tour, moved his bags out from his old room in Clarence House last week and into a one-bedroom apartment inside Kensington Palace.

Royal commentator Dickie Arbiter told ABC News that there's plenty of room at the palace, saying, "they will see each other in passing or they will see each other when they come knocking but they won't be on each others' doorstep."

William and Kate currently live in Nottingham Cottage but will take over Princess Margaret's old apartment towards the end of next year and Harry will move into their two-bedroom cottage.

"The princes are very close, and Harry is also very close to the duchess," a palace source told People magazine. "They have all been thinking about this for a while, and when the opportunity came up they grabbed it."

Graduate student workers deny union

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Graduate student workers at the University of Minnesota voted against forming a union, the Minnesota Daily reported.

According to the Daily, about 62 percent of voters decided against forming the union. About 68 percent of the 4,400 eligible graduate student workers cast votes during last week's election.

For the past two years, graduate student workers have been organizing on campus. They collected signatures from more than 30 percent of graduate workers in order to put the union to a vote.

This was the state's largest public union election in years and the fourth try at unionizing the U's graduate assistants since 1990. The last two elections, in 1999 and 2005, were closer calls, the Star Tribune reported.

According to the Star Tribune, University administrators said in a statement that they were "pleased" with the outcome of the election. They said the vote "allows the colleges continued flexibility to offer packages that are most appropriate for their individual employee groups."

Obit analysis

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I read the obituary of Arlene Anderson an educator at Minnehaha Academy. The reporter talked to her son, David, and Minnehaha Academy president Donna Harris. Harris also gathered a group of longtime academy educators to talk about Anderson including teacher Jan Johnson, teacher Phil Erickson and Jim Wald, finance and operations.

It has the standard obituary lead. It states her name, what she was known for, when and where she died and how old she was. I think the lead works just fine because the rest of the obituary is structured like a standard obituary.

The obituary is different from a resume because not only does it include her family history but also comments from people that knew her during her lifetime. The reporter uses theses comments to paint a picture of what kind of person Anderson was like in real life. Someone reading a resume wouldn't get that aspect.

Whitney Houston's official cause of death revealed

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The L.A. County Coroner's office issued a toxicology report Thursday that said the official cause of Whitney Houston's death was "drowning and effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use," the Washington Post reported.

Houston, 48, was "found submerged in bathtub filled with water" and "no trauma or foul play is suspected," the coroner said.

The toxicology tests also found other drugs in her body, including marijuana, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, the muscle relaxant Flexeril and the allergy medicine Benadryl, but these drugs "did not contribute to the death," CNN reported.

According to CNN, the final coroner report is expected to be made public within two weeks.

Houston died in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on February 11, the day before the music industry gathered for the annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

Obama selects college president for World Bank Chief

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On Friday The White House named Jim Yong Kim, the president of Dartmouth College and a global health expert, as its nominee to lead the World Bank, the New York Times reported.

The decision makes Kim the front-runner to take the helm of the multinational development institution on June 30, when its current president, Robert B. Zoellick, will step down at the end of his five-year term.

Kim, 52, is an anthropologist and a physician who co-founded Partners in Health, a nonprofit that provides health care for the poor, and a former director of the department of H.I.V./ AIDS at the World Health Organization, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Kim earned a M.D. from Harvard University in 1991 and received a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1993. He was the first Asian-American to head an Ivy League institution when he took the Dartmouth post in 2009, the New York Times said.

Voter ID bill moves forward

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The Minnesota Senate's rules committee approved the proposed voter ID law in a 72-62 vote hours after the House passed a companion measure Wednesday, the Minnesota Daily reported.

If the bill passes the Senate floor on Friday, a conference committee would need to resolve the two versions, Majority Leader Dave Senjem told The Pioneer Press.

According to the Daily, if both chambers approve the bill, the amendment would be on November's ballot, asking voters whether a photo ID should be required at polling places. Minnesota would provide eligible voters with free IDs.

Republicans argue the amendment is meant to combat voter fraud, but Democrats argue voters like college students, the elderly and the homeless would be disenfranchised by the law.

Several states have enacted voter photo ID laws since the start of 2011 including Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas and Pennsylvania, though the U.S. Justice Department has blocked the Texas law and a state judge has blocked the Wisconsin law, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Zero snow emergencies for the first time in 25 years

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The city of Minneapolis announced Wednesday that there were no snow emergencies declared during the traditional plowing season, KARE 11 reported. The lack of snow emergencies made the winter the first time in 25 years none were called in.

According to KARE 11, the last snow emergency-free winter in Minneapolis was back in 1986-87, when only 16 inches of snow fell on the the city.

This winter, Minneapolis saw 22 inches of snow, but there is no official amount of snowfall that would automatically trigger a snow emergency, the Minnesota Daily reported.

According to the Daily, city officials use factors such as expected future snowfall and previous accumulation when making the decision. Last year, the city called a record eight snow emergencies.

Man dies after jumping from 35W bridge

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A man became the second bridge-jump suicide near the University of Minnesota in the past week after jumping from the Interstate 35W bridge into the Mississippi River just before 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Witnesses reported seeing the man climb over the rail after pulling his car over to the side of the road.

Minnesota State Patrol sent out a helicopter to search the area around 7:15 p.m. but it eventually became to dark to continue. Emergency workers also used sonar to search the river downstream from the bridge, the Star Tribune reported.

The far right lane of 35W southbound was closed for a few hours Tuesday, but the rest of the bridge remained open.

Last Friday, the body of a 60-year-old man was discovered in the Mississippi River three days after he jumped off the Franklin Avenue Bridge.

Minneapolis couple receives $25,000 surprise

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A Minneapolis couple on the verge of losing their home to foreclosure may have gotten a reprieve, thanks to their appearance last week on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," the Star Tribune reported.

Carrie Agnew and Rebecca Johnson received $25,000 on behalf of Fujifilm Medical Systems. while appearing on a segment of the show that aired Friday.

Agnew told the Star Tribune she and Johnson didn't know they were going to be on camera. The show had offered to fly them out to Los Angeles to watch a taping after she wrote to its website explaining the couple's history and their troubles.

The couple was presented with two gigantic cardboard checks. The first check, for $10,000, is meant to cover what they owe on the mortgage of the south Minneapolis house, and the second check, for $15,000, is to give them a financial cushion until Agnew can get a job.

"It's such a relief," Agnew said of the money. "Our lives are changing."

Great Lakes ice at lowest in decades

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A published report says the amount of ice covering the Great Lakes has declined about 71 percent over the past 40 years, a drop that the lead author partly attributes to climate change, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

The report, published last month by the American Meteorological Society, said only about 5 percent of the Great Lakes surface froze over this year.

The study's lead researcher, Jia Wang of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab in Michigan, said the decline is because of several factors like broad climate change and smaller cyclical climate patterns like El Nino and La Nina.

He told WBEZ-FM in Chicago that diminished ice can accelerate wintertime evaporation, causing water levels to fall. The lack of ice could also lead to earlier and increased algae blooms that can damage water quality, and could speed up erosion by exposing more shoreline to waves.

Indianapolis Colts release Peyton Manning

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The Colts formally announced on Wednesday that Peyton Manning is leaving the franchise, with owner Jim Irsay getting choked up as he gave a heartfelt speech about what Manning has done for his team, NBC Sports reported.

"It's an incredible blessing," Irsay said. "As difficult as this day is, it's made difficult because of the greatness and the things Peyton has done for our city, for our state, for our franchise. There will be no other Peyton Manning."

Manning, who turns 36 on March 24, missed all of last season after his third neck operation in 19 months. He was owed a $28 million payment by Friday if the Colts chose to retain him, USA Today reported.

Manning took Indianapolis to the playoffs 11 times in his 13 seasons, including two Super Bowls. He was named MVP in a 29-17 win against the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI in 2006, but the team fell short vs. the New Orleans Saints three years later.

Super Tuesday split

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As votes rolled in across America on Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich split Republican support between themselves, with Romney and Santorum poised to win several contests each and Gingrich set to win in his home state in Georgia, CBS news reported.

Romney narrowly edged out Santorum in Ohio but Santorum did well in Tennessee and Oklahoma among the nearly 75 percent of primary voters who identified as evangelical Christians, according to exit polls.

Romney had hoped that a string of Super Tuesday victories in contests from Vermont to Alaska would effectively bring the Republican race to a close, the New York Times reported.

None of the candidates have reached even half of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination, and new questions arose about Romney's ability to piece together an alliance necessary to move closer to a general election fight with President Barack Obama.

Kony video gains recognition and critics

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A video gaining international attention is trying to use the power of the Internet to stop Joseph Kony, the head of a small but infamous militia that has terrorized northern Uganda the Los Angeles Times reported.

The video depicts the Lord's Resistance Army which has reportedly been abducting children to fight as soldiers and suffer as sex slaves, as well as for mutilating its victims since the 1980s. The video has has been circulating the internet and now has over 70 million views after it was posted last week.

Many young people have joined together in support but the video has also been the subject of various criticism.

The Washington Post reported, some experts argue that the crimes of the LRA "have been exaggerated and the attention they are receiving is disproportionate." The New York Times reported the video and the campaign represent a "white savior" approach to the problems of Africa. The Huffington Post also said the campaign should be a lesson in critical thinking.

Speeches/meetings analysis

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Stepping away from the formality of the news blog, can I just point out how perfect this worked out to have the speeches/meeting analysis the same week as the State of the University speech? Perfect planning.

The Minnesota Daily reporter chose to focus primarily on the year-round academic calendar portion of the speech because that is what will affect (and interest) their readers the most. I heard many students talking about the proposed calendar this week and there are mixed reviews. However, no matter how people feel about the plan, I'm glad that it got people talking and interested in the politics that go on at the University. The reporter also got opinions from other people around campus which added to the story because it included audience reaction.

The Star Tribune article also primarily focused on the proposed calendar change but included other elements as well. Kaler also discussed "ineffective academic centers," previewed the budget for fiscal year 2013 that he will present to the U's Board of Regents in May and announced a new "entrepreneurial leave." Star Tribune readers are more likely to be interested in more than an academic calendar change. While that was still the bulk of the article, the Star Tribune brought up other key points as well to keep readers informed.

Kaler suggests year-round academic calendar

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In his first State of the University address Thursday, President Eric Kaler suggested the university consider moving to a year-round academic calendar, with three 14- or 15-week periods.

The proposal was met with mixed reactions from students and faculty. But Kaler said the benefits would outweigh the costs, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Kaler said the different calendar would allow students to earn 120 credits in less than three years which would make it easier to graduate in less than four years.

This calendar would work around the religious holidays in December and and the 10-day Minnesota State Fair, and include an extended winter session in January. The plan would also allow students to study abroad in a longer winter session or work under a new calendar, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Kaler also urged more robust state support as a way to minimize or eliminate tuition increases, previewed his upcoming budget and pointed out processes that ought to be speeded up and places where things can be cut, the Star Tribune reported.

"I was surprised to find out -- and you may be surprised, too -- that we have 265 academic centers and institutes," he said, "and they have budgets totaling more than $200 million."

Vikings stadium plans announced

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Stadium negotiators announced a deal Thursday to build a new Vikings stadium near the current Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis.

The stadium would open for the 2016 season and the Vikings would be required to play 30 years there.

Under the proposal, the state would pay $398 million, the city would pay $150 million and the Vikings would add $427 million in upfront costs for the $975 million stadium. The city would also have to contribute $6 million in annual operating expenses and $1.5 million for capital improvements, the Minnesota Daily reported.

Under their deal, the team would collect all stadium revenue raised as a result of football games there. But the stadium would be owned by a new public entity that would keep all other profits, from other sporting events to rock concerts and the like, the Washington Post reported.

Minnesota expects $323 million surplus

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The updated state budget forecast shows that Minnesota will have a $323 million surplus in its current two-year budget, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

The forecast helps lawmakers decide how to spend state funds. By law, an additional $5 million needs to go to the state's reserves.

Last year's the disagreement between Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers over how to close the deficit led to the longest state shutdown in history. The budget forecast showed a $5 billion deficit at the time.

The state jobless rate is now 5.6 percent, down from 6.8 percent a year ago, the Pioneer Press reported. The number of unemployed Minnesotans for each job vacancy is now 3.2 to 1, down from 5.8 to 1, where the ratio stood a year ago.

North Korea will suspend nuclear weapons tests

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North Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and tests on nuclear weapons and allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to return to the country, the New York Times reports.

The U.S. will give 240,000 metric tons of food aid to North Korea as a part of the agreement. Though North Korea insists to be a part of the agreement, President Barack Obama said food aid would be given on purely humanitarian grounds.

New leadership could mean different ideals for the country, which has been isolationist. American officials are watching the leadership transition to leader Kim Jong-un, whose father, Kim Jong-il, died in December.

North Korea also agreed to a moratorium on launching long-range missiles, which have raised tensions in South Korea and Japan.

In the past, North Korea has backed out of agreements to alter its nuclear program. The North Korea Central News Agency's statement on the agreement said the country would carry out the agreement "as long as talks proceed fruitfully," the Boston Globe reported.

The Artist wins big

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The Artist and Meryl Streep took home the big prizes at the 84th Oscars Sunday night.

The Artist took home the prize for best picture making it the second silent film in history to win the award, the Los Angeles Times reported. The movie was the hit of the night with its five wins, including Best Actor and Best Picture.

Hugo was the only other film to take home five statues. But all the awards for Hugo were in technical categories.

The biggest surprise came from the Best Actress category which went to Meryl Streep.

"When they called my name I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, 'Oh no. Come on,' " Streep joked of her third Oscar win. "But whatever."

The award was Streep's third oscar of her 17 nominations, the Washington Post reported.

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