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September 30, 2007

On Structures

In The Associated Press article on the sixth U.S. death this year from a brain-eating amoeba, the story is not told in the style of a hard-news story. The lead sentence creates an interesting scene, mentioning a 14-year-old boy asking his dad if he was going to die after he came down with a headache that wouldn’t go away. With the next anecdote, in which his dad says, “And here I am: I come home and I’m burying him,?the reader is effectively sucked in to reading further. The reporter goes on to answer the “what,? detailing what it was that was bothering the boy. The greater scope of the problem is brought up next, transitioning to the larger issue of the rise in cases of this amoeba. Many of the known details are then fleshed out: where the known cases have been, where the amoeba comes from, what it does to its victims, how to avoid it, and what’s being done to deal with it. The reporter then returns to the focused story that was introduced in the lead involving the 14-year-old boy, ending with sad anecdotes from his father. This part is told in chronological order, detailing the events that unfolded from the time that the boy went swimming to when doctors figured out he had been infected with Naegleria.
This story could have been written differently, with the side story of the boy told in chronological order after (or before) discussion of the larger issue, but this seemed to be the most effective way in which to relay the message. By starting out with the sudden death of the boy, the reader’s interest is piqued. A father and family lost their son and brother to a hidden evil. We want to find out what that evil is, how to avoid it, and why so many have been affected. And by the end, when we already know that the boy was killed by Naegleria, the events can effectively be told in chronological order. We know what’s coming, and so the suspicion continues to build until the heartbreaking end quotes from a grieving father.

21.7 million pounds of beef recalled

Topps Meat Co. expanded a recall of ground beef from about 300,000 pounds to 21.7 million pounds on Saturday due to E. coli concerns, one of the largest meat recalls in U.S. history.
The New Jersey company said in a statement that the hamburger patties may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7, a bacterium that can cause severe diarrhea, cramps and, in extreme cases, kidney failure. It can be fatal for the very young, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
According to CNN, a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 25 illnesses are under investigation in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Associated Press said three cases of E. Coli from Topps products are confirmed.
The company had announced a recall of about 331,000 pounds of hamburger meat on Tuesday, according to the USDA.
The products, all ground beef patties and hamburgers sold under various brand names, were distributed mainly in the northeastern United States, but went to retailers in many other areas of the country as well, said Topps spokeswoman Michelle Williams.
The recall represents all Topps products with either a “sell by date? or a “best if used by date? between Sept. 25 this year and Sept. 25, 2008, with all recalled products also having a USDA establishment number of EST 9748.
CNN reports that production in the ground beef area of the company’s plant has been shut down while the company works with the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in conducting an internal investigation, according to Williams. The Associated Press adds,
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday it had suspended the grinding of raw products at the Topps plant after inspectors found inadequate safety measures at the Topps plant,? which the USDA declined to detail the inadequate safety measures.
Two other companies have been involved in larger meat recalls. Pilgrim’s Pride recalled more than 27 million pounds of poultry in 2002, and in 1997, Hudson Foods recalled 25 million pounds of ground beef.


The Associated Press:

September 29, 2007

Maldives bomb wounds 12 tourists

A homemade bomb exploded Saturday outside a bustling city park in the Maldives, wounding at least 12 people, a government official said.
Officials said they did not know who was behind the attack that hit the crowded park in the capital, Male, in the Indian Ocean archipelago. United Press International said the blast occurred outside the main mosque in this “popular and peaceful tourist destination.?
Reports The Associated Press: ‘“The Maldives has never had something like this before. We are taking this very seriously because tourism is our life blood,? government spokesman Mohamed Shareef said.?
The injured included eight Chinese, two Britons and two Japanese, all with burns, said Shareef.
He said it was still not known whether the bomb targeted the tourism industry or whether an Islamic Jihadist organization was involved.
According to The Associated Press, Western diplomats have voiced concern about the potential for violence in this Sunni Muslim country, where half the population is under 18 and with few job prospects. Some have embraced a conservative strain of Islam that had been almost unheard of on the islands just a few years ago.
The wealthiest and most orderly country in south Asia, the Maldives has a population of about 350,000 and attracts about 600,000 tourists each year, with tourism accounting for one-third of its economy, said The Associated Press.

The Associated Press:

United Press International:

Sixth person dies from brain-destroying amoeba in lake waters

A 14-year-old Phoneix boy died September 17 after picking up a killer amoeba while swimming in the warm shallows of a lake, the sixth death this year, reports The Associated Press.
The microscopic amoeba, Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER-ee-uh FOWL’-erh-eye), enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain to feed, destroying brain tissue.
Attacks such as these are extremely rare but usually fatal. The Associated Press says six boys and young men have died this year in three states, with three cases in Florida, two in Texas and the most recent in Arizona.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Naegleria has killed 23 people in the United States from 1995 to 2004. The CDC knows of only several hundred cases globally since its discovery in Australia in the 1960s.
Naegleria grazes off algae and bacteria in the sediment of lakes, hot springs, even dirty swimming pools, living almost everywhere.
People become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom, according to Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the CDC. If the stirred-up water shoots up the nose – by, for instance, doing a cannonball off a cliff – the amoeba can latch onto the olfactory nerve.
Infected people tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers, showing signs of brain damage such as behavioral changes in the later stages, said Beach.
There is no good treatment, and people who have been attacked rarely survive, said Beach.
“Usually, from initial exposure it’s fatal within two weeks,? Beach said.
Some health officials have put their communities on high alert, telling people to stay away from warm, standing water.

The Associated Press:

September 28, 2007

Anoka man charged with burning cross on his own lawn

A 47-year-old Anoka man was charged Friday with falsely reporting a crime after reporting a burned cross on his lawn Wednesday. He had previously told police that he woke up Wednesday morning to a charred outline of a cross burned in the lawn of his house. He set the blaze himself in “a search for sympathy and money,? said The Star Tribune.
De’Andre June was charged with falsely reporting a crime. He also was charged Friday with disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process in a different altercation with police.
The incident had been treated by police as a racially biased attack.
Inmates at the Anoka County Jail told authorities that June had planned the incident. June had told the inmates last week that he was going to burn a cross in his yard and blame it on his neighbor, reports the Star Tribune.
Anoka County Jail inmates saw the story about the incident on TV and recognized June, according to Capt. Phil Johanson of the Anoka Police Department as quoted by The Associated Press. When he was in jail with them last week, they said “he had made comments that he was going to do something like this to get sympathy from the community and the church for financial gains and otherwise.?
According to the Star Tribune, Johanson said he had no reason to believe that the attack had been a hoax when police responded early Wednesday morning.
Johanson said his office received numerous calls from people offering their support to June and his family. “It’s been moving this week,? he said.
Neighbors and supporters in Anoka who had been planning a community prayer rally at June’s home Sunday were surprised and dissapointed to hear the news about June.

The Star Tribune:

The Associated Press:

School gay rights group wins ruling

A Minnesota federal judge ruled Tuesday that a gay-straight student group at Maple Grove High School deserves the same privileges as other groups.
U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen ruled that the school had violated the federal Equal Access Act by allowing other extracurricular groups the chance to use school bulletin boards or the public address system, rights denied to the Straight and Gays for Equality (SAGE) student group.
The legal case was initiated just shy of two years ago by two former students and SAGE members who sued the Osseo School District in 2005.
The district has argued that SAGE had been denied broader communication access not because of the group’s popularity or moral judgements, but rather because its purpose and activities are unrelated to the school’s curriculum. School officials claimed to favor “curricular? groups in providing communications access.
But as Ericksen outlined in her ruling, the district’s definition of several groups as “curricular,? goes against federal law.
The Associated Press said the group was limited to posting posters only on a community bulletin board and outside their meeting places ahd was prohibited from using other forms of school communication, according to the ruling.
As of Wednesday, reports The Star Tribune, school officials had not had time to fully review Ericksen’s decision, said Lawrence Hayes, an attorney for the district. He said the district will consider all its options, including appealing the ruling.

The Star Tribune:

The Associated Press:

September 23, 2007


In the Pioneer Press' story on the man who ripped the head off a duck at a St. Paul hotel, the only sources were a police report and the statements of a police sergeant and hotel manager. Since the incident happened just hours before the story was written, the number of possible sources was limited due to time constraints. The incident is explained according to what the police report said. After this section, a police sergeant is named and quoted. A quote is also given from an assistant manager at the hotel where the incident took place, although their name is not given.
The information is attributed at the end of the sentences, which is an effective way of doing so. The reader reads the most pertinent information first, while the attribution assures us of the sources.

Guest rips off head of hotel’s duck

A guest at the Embassy Suites hotel in St. Paul could face jail time and a $5,000 fine for tearing the head off a tame duck early Saturday.
The 26-year-old Denver businessman is in jail on suspicion of felony animal cruelty. The Pioneer Press mentions the man’s name, Scott D. Clark, while the Star Tribune did not, following general policy to not identify suspects until they are formally charged.
About 2:30 a.m. Saturday, the man abruptly chased down and killed one of the ducks the hotel keeps in an ornamental pond inside the lobby and atrium, according to police.
The Star Tribune said that one of the hotel’s security guards saw the man corner one of the ducks and rip its head off from its body, quoting Sgt. John Wuorinen.
The man reportedly told astonished onlookers that he was hungry, with the Pioneer Press reporting that he said, “I’m hungry. I’m gonna eat it,? according to the police report.
“It sounds like there was quite a bit of alcohol involved,? Wuorinen said.
The man was detained by hotel security guards and then taken into custody by police. He spent Saturday night in the Ramsey County Jail and was scheduled to appear in court on Monday. According to the Pioneer Press, police said they were not aware of the man having any criminal record.
The Pioneer Press also reports that the man declined a request for an interview on Saturday.

Star Tribune:

Pioneer Press:

Girl shot in head

A 12-year-old Minneapolis girl was shot in the head on Friday night in Minneapolis as she walked home from a party.
The girl was in grave condition at Hennepin County Medical Center on Saturday afternoon.
The girl, whose name was not released by police, was shot in the head at the intersection of 18th Street and Oliver Avenue North in North Minneapolis around midnight Friday.
WCCO reports that police said a group of children walked out of a nearby house party when someone fired multiple shots from down the street. One of them hit the child.
“We don’t believe that she was the intended victim,? said Lt. Dean Christiansen of the Minneapolis Police Department.
According to WCCO, among Minneapolis’ 60 homicides in 2006, 11 victims were younger than 18. Eleven juveniles were charged with homicide or related offenses. But Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said Saturday that overall criminal activity among youths has declined.
The girl’s family didn’t want to talk about the shooting or her condition when reached Saturday afternoon, WCCO reports.
No arrests had been made by Saturday evening. Police said they have descriptions of two suspects, although no names have been released. The investigation is ongoing.

Star Tribune:


September 22, 2007

Bush plans to veto children's health bill

President Bush said on Thursday he would veto a bill that would expand a children’s health program, calling it a step toward government-run health care.
At stake is the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a state-federal program that expires Sept. 30. It subsidizes health coverage for low-income people, mostly children, in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private coverage.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced a proposal Friday that would add 4 million people to the 6.6 million already participating by adding $35 billion over five years to the program. The addition would be financed by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack.
The Associated Press reports Bush as saying the measure is too costly, unacceptably raises taxes, and extends government-funded insurance to children in families who could afford private coverage. Instead, he has asked for an increase in funding for the program by $5 billion over the current $25 billion funding level for five years.
Bush’s threat of a veto drew criticism from Democrats and angered some Republicans who said his request was not sufficient, according to Reuters. The Associated Press reports that the bill’s backers reject Bush’s claim it would direct public money to families that can afford health insurance, with their goal to cover more of the millions of uninsured children. Financial incentives for states to cover their lowest-income children first would be part of the bill, they said.
While the bill has strong bipartisan support, Reuters reports that it is uncertain whether there are sufficient votes in both chambers to override a presidential veto.


The Associated Press:

September 21, 2007

Aid agencies appealing for flood help in Africa

United Nation agencies are seeking millions of dollars for the more than 1 million Africans affected by deadly floods across the continent.
According to the Associated Press, the United States announcing $100,000 for Uganda, one of the hardest hit countries, with the European Commision and the Netherlands each planning to send more than $15 million in aid.
The International Red Cross has rushed relief workers to Ghana, Togo and Uganda to raise money and deal with the crisis.
The floods have killed at least 200 people and displaced hundreds of thousands since the summer across central and eastern Africa, affecting 17 countries.
The British Broadcasting Corp.: “The floods are said to be the worst in many countries for decades.?
According to the AP, medical officials said illnesses are spreading despite UNICEF distributing basic disease-prevention kits. A nurse at a health clinic close to a school, Florence Asega, said she sees children increasingly suffering from malaria and diarrhea.
The BBC reports that there will be a long-term need for food aid in Northern Ghana, because the annual maize crop has been destroyed just before harvesting season.



September 17, 2007

Fed cuts interest rate half point

The Federal Reserve reduced its benchmark interest rate by an unusually large one-half percentage point on Tuesday in an effort to stop the slump in the housing and financial markets from bringing down the overall economy.
The interest rate change, to 4.75 percent from 5.25 percent, was the Fed’s first rate reduction of any kind in four years, the steepest in almost five years and its most abrupt reversal of course since January 2001, when policy makers sharply cut rates just before the last recession during an unscheduled emergency meeting.
For consumers, the rate cut could mean lower borrowing costs for mortgages and automobile loans. But the impact may be muted, because investors remain concerned about the credit quality of mortgages and other long-term loans.
The move, which analysts describe as a brazen attempt to restore confidence, is Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s first major test since taking over from Alan Greenspan in early 2006.
According to the New York Times, policy makers warn that they still have lingering concerns about inflation, which would weigh against further stimulation of the economy with cheaper money. But CBS reports: “Analysts believe the Fed has room to cut rates even further because inflation pressures have been easing.? CBS mentions the Labor Department’s report Tuesday that wholesale prices fell by 1.4 percent in August, the biggest drop in 10 months and much larger than the 0.3 percent fall that had been expected.
The New York Times reports that, “Many Wall Street economists place the odds of a recession at about one-in-three or somewhat higher,? while Greenspan has placed the odds at slightly more than the one-in-three that he estimated earlier this year.


New York Times:

September 16, 2007

Shot fired inside Target Center

According to the Pioneer Press, “Minneapolis police are looking for a man who allegedly fired a handgun at another spectator in the Target Center stands Saturday night as thousands watched a mixed-martial arts competition.?
No one was shot or injured during the incident, which was not a random shooting.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Tammy Dietrich said the suspect, who fled the arena after the shooting, fired one round at the intended victim while the two men were fighting in the seating area. Police have the name of the suspect, and according to the Pioneer Press, officers interviewed the intended victim - a 27-year-old Minneapolis man - at the scene.
The shooting occurred about 10:45 p.m. during a break between bouts at the “World Fighting Championships - Downtown Throwdown, an event showcasing kickboxing, wrestling and martial arts.
According to the Star Tribune, “Police spokeswoman Sgt. Tammy Diedrich said it is the first shooting inside the Target Center in her 20 years on the force.?
The Pioneer Press quotes Sandy Sweetser, Target Center senior director of marketing and event services: “The event resumed after a half-hour delay, Sweetser said, and ended shortly before midnight.
Sweetser also said that off-duty Minneapolis police officers and Target Center in-house security provided security for Saturday’s event, and spectator’s bags were checked at the building’s entrance, which is a standard policy used before Timberwolves games.

Star Tribune:">

Pioneer Press:">

On leads

Says the Pioneer Press' lead on a recent shooting incident in the Target Center, "Minneapolis police are looking for a man who allegedly fired a handgun at another spectator in the Target Center stands Saturday night as thousands watched a mixed-martial arts competition." This is an example of a hard-news lead, giving the reader the vital information immediately while grabbing the reader's attention. From this lead, the reader learns the what (a shooting), who (involved are a male suspect, a spectator victim, Minneapolis police and the thousands of other spectators), where (the stands of the Target Center, a major events arena in our area), and when (late Saturday during a competition), A large amount of detail is given in the lead, although the "why" is left out. The vagueness of saying "another spectator" creates a sense of alarm in the reader who wants to know if the victim was a random spectator or if there was a relationship between suspect and victim.

September 15, 2007

White House's latest report on Iraq shows lack of progress

According to CNN, the White House report released on Friday to U.S. lawmakers on progress in Iraq “showed meager gains on benchmarks that Congress established for the Iraqi government,? while the New York Times calls the report “decidedly mixed.?
The report found that Iraqi leaders had satisfactorily met nine of the 18 “benchmarks? mandated by Congress this year over whether to finance an increase in the U.S. force in Iraq.
According to the New York Times, “The White House report declared that eight other benchmarks had not been met or had only partly been met. Progress in two other areas could not be fully assessed,? with CNN noting that the two benchmarks “are not rated because the necessary preconditions are not yet present.?
CNN details more specifics of the benchmarks of the report. The report gave the Baghdad government mixed marks, saying that while military commanders were given more independence to effectively work with U.S. commanders, political intervention in the chain of command continued.
According to CNN, the report also shows improvement in ensuring the Iraqi security forces provide evenhanded enforcement of the law, although police forces continue to fall short.
The New York Times reports that “the Iraqi police ‘still act with a sectarian bias,’ that political leaders had interfered with efforts to crack down on Shiite militias and that those militias, not the government, controlled neighborhoods and even entire regions.?
CNN says the White House based the latest report on consultations with the State and Defense departments, Central Command commander Adm. William Fallon, Gen. David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker. Meanwhile, the New York Times says,? An administration official said on Friday that the White House hopes to scrap the benchmark exercise altogether and simply rely on the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and the ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker to make a new progress report to Congress in March.?
The New York Times notes that the administration has “repeatedly played down the significance of the benchmarks as it became clear they would portray Iraq’s central government as paralyzed? in the weeks leading up to the release of the report.


New York Times:

Minneapolis Bicyclist's Death Investigated as "Apparent Homicide"

A man killed while on a night time bike ride in south Minneapolis has been identified, according to WCCO.
Mark Loesch, 41, a Minneapolis computer specialist, was discovered around 7 a.m. Thursday not far from his home in a front yard in the 3700 block of Elliot Avenue South. According to the Star Tribune, it is not clear how long the victim was in the yard before someone found him. Officers arrived to find Loesch suffering from “severe trauma? and called for an ambulance, the Star Tribune reports.
According to WCCO, Loesch e-mailed a friend saying he’d finished putting a new tire on his bicycle after working on it before 10 p.m. Wednesday night. Then Loesch watched the late news with his wife, who went to bed afterwards. Friends think Loesch perhaps went to show off his new tire on a quick night time ride.
There have been other recent incidents of violence in the neighborhood where Loesch was found, according to WCCO. Three African-American teens suffered gunshot wounds on the same day Loesch was found.
The Star Tribune is reporting no suspects have been arrested in a case the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide unit is investigating as an “apparent homicide.?


Star Tribune:">

Al-Qaeda sets bounty for cartoonist's murder

The purported head of al-Qaeda in Iraq has offered a reward for the murder of a cartoonist over his drawing of the Prophet Muhammad, according to an audio available on Islamist websites Saturday.
In August, a Swedish newspaper published drawing of the Prophet Muhammad’s head on the body of a dog sculpture.
Groups with ties to al-Qaida have denounced the drawings and placed a $100,000 bounty on the head of the cartoonist and a $50,000 reward to anyone who kills the newspaper’s editor.
Muslims think any visual representation of the Prophet is blasphemous, and many Muslims regard the dog as an impure animal.
According to an AP report available on USA Today’s website, the reaction to this cartoon has been “muted, in contrast to last year’s fiery demonstrations that erupted in several Muslim countries after a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons of Muhammad that were widely seen in the Islamic world as insulting.?
The AP reports that al-Qaeda is not known to have any kind of presence in Europe.

USA Today:


September 12, 2007

Attack on Mexican natural gas pipelines

In Mexico on Monday, six explosions blew apart natural gas pipelines, cutting off oil and gas supplies and causing the evacuation of 15,000 people from the surrounding area.
Mexico’s Pemex national oil and gas monopoly operates the pipelines. The blasts prompted Pemex to close down at least four pipelines and caused federal officials to close two major roads. No injuries were reported, according to
While the Los Angeles Times reports the attack as “an apparent case of politically motivated sabotage,? Reuters says that this comes “just weeks after leftist rebels set off a string of pipeline bombs.? In July, a leftist guerrilla group took responsibility for a string of bomb attacks on energy pipelines which cut natural gas supplies to thousands of businesses.
Reports the L.A. Times: “Although no group claimed resposibility for Monday’s attacks, political analysts here said they bore the hallmarks of the EPR or a similar group, and probably were intended as a message against President Felipe Calderon and his policies.?
Mexico is the sixth-largest oil producer in the world and a major supplier of petroleum to the U.S. According to the L.A. Times, “The outages drove the price of oil about $78 a barrel in futures trading Monday.?

Los Angeles Times:,1,1844583.story?coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=1&cset=true

Reuters: &rpc=22&sp=true