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October 28, 2007

President's wife wins Argentina presidential election

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the wife of Argentina’s president, Nestor Kirchner, claimed victory late Sunday, becoming the first woman to be elected president of the country.
Kirchner, 54, the center-left Peronist party candidate and a senator, made the claim after early official results, based on 15% of ballots being counted, gave her 42% of the vote, with her nearest rivals ex-Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna with 21% and former beauty queen Elisa Carrio with 18%.
The New York Times said that Kirchner is the second woman to be elected leader of a South American nation in two years, after Michelle Bachelet, who became Chile’s president in 2006.
In her victory speech Sunday, Kirchner said she felt a responsibility to lead her country and also to her gender. The BBC quotes her as saying, “We have repositioned the country, fought poverty and unemployment, all these tragedies that have hit Argentines,? referencing the country’s recovery from their economic crash in 2001.
According to The New York Times, voters appeared to favor a continuation of Kirchner’s husband’s policies, but the next president has the challenge of taming inflation and a looming energy crisis.
Kirchner was nicknamed “Queen Cristina? by other politicians early in her career, according the Times. She did only light campaigning for this election, which had a fractured opposition, spending a large part of the past two months traveling in Europe and the United States trying to win over foreign investors.

The New York Times:

BBC News:

On obituaries

The New York Times’ obituary for Luciano Pavarotti, published Sept. 7, 2007, was written in the traditional obituary style, with a lead that is pointed and effective. His cause of death is given in the second paragraph. His manager, who announced his death, acts as one source, with the writer also quoting other publications, such as Pavarotti’s interview with Opera News, a review from The New York Times of one of his operas and an article from Music Magazine. While Pavarotti’s obituary covers the basic highlights of his professional life, much like a resume, the writer treated his subject with more of a human touch. It seemed the writer had followed his subject’s career closely for many years and didn’t need to rely on many other sources. He recalled Pavarotti’s “disarming charm? during interviews. It was also interesting to me that writer included several of Pavarotti’s more uncomfortable and embarrassing recent career moments. He didn’t shy away from recalling Pavarotti’s low points, and I think this is especially important in notable public obituaries. Readers want to know (and should know) the many facets of public personas, whether these facets are flattering or not.

Pavarotti's obituary

October 27, 2007

Colbert's "Facebook flock"

More than one million people have joined the Facebook group of Stephen Colbert, the comedian and host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,? more than any other presidential candidate.
A student from Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School in Montgomery, Ala., started the group “1,000,000 Strong For Stephen T. Colbert? on Oct. 16 after Colbert announced on his satirical news show that he wanted to be on the South Carolina primary ballot as both a Democrat and a Republican.
The group reached its goal Friday and continues to gain members, with 78 more reportedly joining every minute, according to The Associated Press. It’s by far the most popular political group on the networking site. The group “Stop Hillary Clinton: (One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary)? more than eight months to make half a million.
According to The New York Times blog “The Caucus,? the high volume of group members joining placed such a strain on Facebook’s server capacity that the group had to be forced offline temporarily.
Because Colbert continues to host his show while soliciting votes, he could face problems with Federal Election Committee laws. The FEC prohibits corporations from making contributions in connection with a federal election, including airtime. And while news programs can be exempt, they are only as long as a political party, political committee or candidate doesn’t control the show’s content.
The Associated Press said a report from the Rasmussen polling organization found that Colbert would get 13 percent of votes as an independent candidate against Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani. He would get 12 percent with Fred Thomspon as the GOP candidate.

The Star Tribune:

The New York Times:

24-year-old woman murdered after responding to Craigslist ad

A 19-year-old Savage man is suspected in the homicide of a 24-year-old woman after she responded to an ad for a nanny job on Craigslist.
The suspect is being held in the Scott County jail on Saturday pending charges. While authorities did not release the suspect’s name, they said charges could be filed as soon as Sunday.
According to the Star Tribune, Katherine Ann Olson was found dead in the trunk of her car at a Burnsville park late Friday night. This came one day after she told her roommate she was going to meet a family who posted on the Web site.
The Pioneer Press provided more information about the murdered woman and the case. Olson was a 24-year-old Minneapolis resident.
The Press also said police were tipped off that Olson was missing after someone called officials at the Rudy Kraemer Nature Preserve to report a purse in a garbage can in Pacer Park in Savage.
Olson’s roommate later called police to report that her roommate hadn’t been seen since 8 a.m. Thursday and that she had left the house to respond to a Craiglist ad.
Savage police Capt. David Muelken said in a press conference today that officers found a plastic bag containing a “significantly bloody towel? in a garbage can.
Hours after, a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter spotted Olson’s vehicle in the Bursnville park.
Muelken said it is unclear where Olson died, but that she was murdered.
The investigation is “focused? on the 19-year-old man being held in custody. He was arrested Friday night at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where he is an employee, Muelken said.
According to the Star Tribune, Olson attended high school at Park of Cottage Grove and graduated from St. Olaf College.

The Star Tribune:

The Pioneer Press:

October 24, 2007

Minnesota man dies of rabies

A 40-year-old man from Monticello died from a rabies infection Saturday at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester. Minnesota Department of Health officials said they think the man was infected after being bitten by a bat sometime in mid-August.
The Star Tribune reported the man as Randy Hertwig, a 46-year-old father and machinist who loved the outdoors. He was bitten after swatting at a bat while stacking firewood and felt only a “pinprick? on his hand. Since there was no blood or puncture marks, he didn’t realize that he had been bitten at the time.
According to the CaringBridge.org website on which Hertwig’s wife, Michele, and son and daughter, his symptoms began four weeks later with tingling in his hand where he had been bitten. A short time later Hertwig lost his ability to talk or move, and by mid-October, he “lay in a deep coma, beyond reach of even the best medicine.?
The cause of his illness remained a mystery until last week, when relatives recalled the incident after a doctor asked if he had been bitten by a bat, reports the Pioneer Press. Doctors then followed required guidelines to notify the state of a potential rabies case.
The state then notified the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted tests and confirmed that Hertwig had rabies two days before he died. Hartwig died at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
The Minnesota Department of Health is working with several health care facilities where the man was treated to assure that health care workers were not directly exposed to infected saliva, according to a Minnesota Public Radio report.
The man is the fifth person to die of rabies in Minnesota in the past century, with the other deaths in 1917, 1964, 1975 and 2000.
Most recent cases of rabies in rabies in humans in the United States have been because of bat bites that went unrecognized or unreported.
Two to three people contract rabies in the United States each year, down from more than 100 each year in the early 1900s, according to the state Health Department.
Most cases of rabies are transmitted by bats, skunks or raccoons.

The Star Tribune:

The Pioneer Press:

Minnesota Public Radio:

October 23, 2007

Third day of California fires

Harsh winds, unstable thermal conditions and strained firefighting resources left firefighters in Southern California conceding defeat Tuesday to the blazes that continue to rage on.
The fires have displaced more than 500,000 people in the area, which continues to experience harsh Santa Ana winds that aren’t expected to subside for at least another day.
On Tuesday, more than 400 square miles in 7 counties had been overtaken by some 16 fires, with their flames driven by high desert winds and hot temperatures that overwhelmingly resisted air attacks, garden hoses and fire retardant.
On Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Times reported 429, 862 acres burned, 1,235 homes destroyed and 1,682 structures (including homes) destroyed. This is the biggest evacuation in California history.
The fires, blazing from the Simi Valley north of Los Angeles to the Mexican border, caused two deaths, and possibly four others, related to evacuation in San Diego County, authorities said. At least 25 firefighters and civilians were reported to have suffered burns.
In San Diego County, authorities placed evacuation calls to 346,000 homes, according to Luis Monteagudo, a spokesman for the county’s emergency effort. The county estimates, based on census data, that about 513,000 people were told to leave.
The Los Angeles Times said the damage is likely to reach at least $500 million in insured losses, according to the Insurance Information Network of California.
Weather conditions only grew worse on Tuesday, with temperatures across Southern California about 10 degrees above average. Temperatures were in the 90s by mid-afternoon and wind gusts up to 60 mpg were expected in mountains and canyons.
The Los Angeles Times: “Officials said containment was days away at the earliest.?
President Bush, who planned to visit the area Thursday, declared a federal emergency for seven counties in a move that will speed disaster-relief efforts.
The Associated Press said the massive devastation brought to mind the blazes that ripped through Southern California in 2003, killing 22 and destroying 3,640 homes. But San Diego’s Union Tribune reports that the current winds are “far more powerful than the Santa Anas that fueled the historic Cedar and Paradise fires of 2003.?

The Associated Press:

The Los Angeles Times:

(San Diego) Union Tribune:

October 21, 2007

On event coverage

The Star Tribune ran an Onstage story about the Orpheum’s second staging of “The Lion King.? The angle of the story relied on the numerous roadblocks that came up in producing a grandiose and internationally recognized production for the second time. In the article, the reporter gives several details about difficulties the production team faced along with quotes from the team involved to prove his points. Included in the quoted are an operations coordinator and technical director at the Orpheum, the technical director of “Lion King? and the president of the group that produces Minneapolis’ Broadway season. Instead of simply listing the who, what, where, and when, the reporter created a piece that both informs and interests the reader about the large amount of work put into the show by its creative and technical team. Numbers that detail the show’s popularity and impact in its first Minneapolis production in 1997 (a payroll of more than $1 million for involved workers, a direct economic impact of $11 million in Minneapolis) and in its run across the world (the show has been seen be more than 43 million people and has grossed $3 billion to date) give the story factual “oomph?. The reporter could have called the show “high-grossing? or “widely-seen,? but numbers like these say more than words could and give the story added interest and intrigue value.

The Star Tribune:

Suicidal boy, 15, fires 100 shots in police standoff

A standoff between an armed teenage boy and police ended without serious injury Saturday morning after the suicidal boy fired about 100 shots in a home in Hudson, Wis.
The standoff began about 9 p.m. Friday in an upscale neighborhood about five miles south of Hudson, according to the Pioneer Press.
After his parents left to see a movie, the 15-year-old boy called a couple of his friends and made suicidal threats, said St. Croix County Sheriff Dennis Hillstead, who declined to name the boy. The ninth-grader was alone in the house when he called his friends.
The friends called police after hearing gunshots in the background.
When officers arrived at the house, they also heard shots being fired from inside the home, Hillstead said. Police took shelter and called for reinforcements as a precaution. Several nearby homes were evacuated.
Police contacted the youth by having his friends call the house, Hillstead said. Officers convinced him to surrender about 12:30 a.m.
The teenager likely will face felony charges for reckless endangerment and criminal damage to property, Hillstead said.
The standoff lasted more than three hours, while the boy fired shots from inside the house. He was armed with two shotguns, a .22-caliber pistol and plenty of ammunition, according to the sheriff’s office.
Of the 100 or so shots fired, police believe 30 to 50 went through the home’s windows, although none of the neighboring homes were hit.
Officers did not return fire.
The shots caused extensive damage to the interior of the home and shattered most of the main floor windows. A damage estimate was not available Saturday.
Paramedics rushed the teenager to Hudson Hospital after officers discovered he had cuts on both his hand and feet. He was later transferred to the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, Wis., for a 72-hour emergency hold for mental evaluation.

The Pioneer Press:

October 20, 2007

FCC Plan Would Ease Regulations on Media Owners

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has circulated a plan to relax media ownership rules, including repealing a rule that forbids a company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city.
Kevin Martin, chairman of the commission, wants to repeal the rule in the next two months. The proposal would allow for public comment on the proposed regulations in mid-November and a commission vote on Dec. 18.
If successful, the plan would be a big victory for some executives of media conglomerates.
Among them are Samuel Zell, the Chicago investor who is looking to complete a buyout of the Tribune Company, and Rupert Murdoch, who has lobbied against the rules for years in order to continue controlling both The New York Post and a Fox television station in New York.
Agency officials said the proposal seems to have the support of a majority of the five commission members, although it is not certain that Martin would proceed with a deregulatory approach on a vote of 3-to-2, which his predecessor tried without success.
According to officials, the commission would consider loosening the restrictions on the number of radio and television stations a company could own in the same city.
Right now, a company can own two television stations in the larger markets only if at least one is not among the four largest stations and if there are at least eight local stations. The rules also limit the number of radio stations that a company can own to no more than eight in each of the largest markets.
According to The Associated Press, Martin confirmed the details of his proposal in an interview with them Wednesday. The plan he is considering is “far more open and involves far more public input than the process followed by then-Chairman Michael Powell in 2003, Martin said.?
But media consolidation opponents said Wednesday that the chairman may be acting too fast.
A previous attempt to loosen ownership rules in 2003, in which Martin was in the majority, ended in a 3-to-2 vote, but the decision was invalidated by a federal appeals court. The New York Times says the court decided that the commission had failed to adequately justify the new regulations.
There was intense criticism from both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill and a public outcry after the 2003 decision.
According to The New York Times, the deregulatory proposal is likely to put the agency once again at the center of a debate between the media companies, which view the rules as “anachronistic,? and civil rights, labor, religious and other groups that maintain the government that argue the government has let media conglomerates grow too large.
The New York Times also reports that industry executives had not expected the agency to move forth with proposals again so soon.
The proposed schedule calls for a public hearing in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 31; another hearing on Nov. 2 in Seattle; publication of the proposed rule on Nov. 13; and a commission vote on Dec. 18.

The New York Times:

The Associated Press:

Three killed in collision near Lakeville

A Mound woman and her son, along with the son’s friend, died Friday in a crash involving a car and two semitrailer trucks south of the Twin Cities.
The victims, all of whom were in the car, were identified by the State Patrol as driver Jayson Ceaser, 20, of Minnetonka, and passengers Tamara Ceaser, 46, of Mound, and Nicholle Oseland, 22, of Mound.
Tamara Ceaser and Jayson Ceaser are mother and son; Oseland is a friend of Jayson Ceaser’s, the State Patrol said.
The collision occurred about 2:15 a.m. on Interstate 35 in the Lakeville-New Market area, the State Patrol said.
The victims were driving north when their car struck a semi in the rear on Interstate 35. Authorities said Jayson Caesar lost control and crossed the median into southbound traffic, where the car was hit by another truck.
The truck drivers were not injured.
The Star Tribune said authorities closed a 5-mile stretch of the highway between Scott Count Road 2 and Dakota County Road 70 for about four hours as investigators reconstructed the accident.
The freeway was open again by mid-morning.
According to The Associated Press, road were wet at the time of the crash.

The Star Tribune:

The Associated Press:

Two marines to face Haditha trial

Two U.S. marines will face court martial in connection with the killing of 24 civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha two years ago, the military said Friday.
The US Marine Corps said in a statement that Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani would stand trial for failing to properly investigate the deaths while Lance Corporal Stephen Tatum faced trial on manslaughter charges.
The two soldiers will be the first to be sent for court martial in connection with the case, the most serious allegations of war crimes made against U.S. troops Iraq in the four-year conflict.
No date for the courts martial has been set.
Prosecutors allege that the marines shot unarmed civilians in retaliation for a roadside bomb attack that killed one of their comrades.
Twenty-four Iraqi civilians, including three women, seven children and several elderly men, died at Haditha, west of Baghdad in Anbar province, on November 19, 2005.
According to Agence France-Presse, a lack of forensic evidence and witness statements made several months after the events in question have created enormous difficulty for military prosecutors in making the charges against the soldiers stick.
Two of the marines facing murder charges had the allegations dropped earlier this year, while two officers accused of failing to conduct an inquiry into the deaths were also cleared.
The U.S. military initially reported that the Iraqis had been killed by the improvised explosive device (IED) or in a subsequent gunfight with insurgents, reports the BBC.
But according to Iraqi witnesses, the U.S. troops shot dead five unarmed men in a car when they approached the scene of the bombing in a taxi.
They were then accused of killing 19 other civilians in three houses nearby over the next few hours.
Despite the accusations, it took until January 2006 for a full U.S. investigation, when video footage emerged of the aftermath taken by a local human rights activist.
A preliminary investigation was begun after an investigative report in Time magazine showed flaws in the initial marine investigation. The inquiry confirmed civilians had been shot in their homes but called the deaths “collateral damage.?

Agence France-Presse:


Lawsuit reinstated for man wrongly suspected in Sept. 11 attacks

According to The Associated Press, a federal appeals court in Manhattan reinstated a lawsuit against the F.B.I. on Thursday that was brought five years ago by an Egyptian student wrongly suspected of assisting the hijackers from the Sept. 11 attacks.
The ruling, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, overturned a lower court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit by the student, Abdallah Higazy.
Higazy was detained for 34 days shortly after the terrorist attack, suspected of aiding the hijackers with a sophisticated aviation radio in his hotel room.
According to Higazy, an F.B.I agent coerced him into saying that the radio, which a security guard at the Millenium Hilton Hotel had said was in his room, was his when it was not during an interrogation.
Higazy came to New York from Cairo in August 2001 to study computer engineering at the Polytechnic University in Brooklyn. The son of a former Egyptian diplomat, he was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development, which put him up in a 51st-floor corner room of the hotel, across the street from the twin towers.
When the towers were attacked, Higazy fled the hotel along with the other guests, taking only his wallet and the clothing he was wearing.
Three months later, he was arrested by the F.B.I. after he returned to retrieve his belongings. The F.B.I acted on a material witness warrant after the security guard said he had found the radio, capable of communicating with nearby airplanes, in Higazy’s hotel room.
Within days, Higazy was administered a lie-detector test and interrogated by Special Agent Michael Templeton of the F.B.I. According to Higazy, Templeton coerced him into claiming ownership of the radio by making threats against his family in Egypt.
During Higazy’s detention, an American airplane pilot returned to the Hilton to retrieve the radio, which he said he had unintentionally left in his 50th-floor room.
Higazy was released, and the security guard, Ronald Ferry, pleaded guilty to making false statements to the F.B.I. An internal inquiry cleared Agent Templeton and others of any wrongdoing connected to the false confession.
In December 2002, Higazy filed his lawsuit in Federal District Court in Manhattan, claiming that his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination had been violated. The suit was dismissed in a June 2005 decision by Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.
It its own ruling, the appeals court sent the question of whether Higazy’s Fifth Amendment rights had been violated back to Judge Buchwald for reconsideration and a potential trial.
According to The A.P., the F.B.I. declined to comment.

The Associated Press:

October 14, 2007

Press conference analysis

In the Pioneer Press' article covering the revealing of the new 35W bridge design at a press conference, the reporter incorporates richer details about the design than the press release gives. MnDot's press release focuses on primarily boasting of the merits of the project , praising the project firm hired for the project. The press release consists of many quotes from people involved with the new project, like Lt. Gov. and Mn/DOT Commisioner Carol Molnau and project managers and designers. Its main goal seems to be convincing Minnesotans that the best team possible was picked for the new bridge. The reporter chose to use the important details released in the report -- the firm's past construction projects and design details -- while adding more to the story. He mentions some of the controversy created by the firms who unsuccesfully bid on the bridge, which the release doesn't address. The details of the design are also more clearly described by the reporter, who probably compiled information from multiple sources.

I-35 replacement bridge design unveiled

The design of the new Interstate 35W bridge was revealed during a news conference at the state Capitol on Monday.
Unveiling of the new Minneapolis bridge, a 1,216-foot concrete span, came after state officials signed a $234 million contract with a joint venture led by Colorado-based Flatiron Constructors. Designed with the theme of “Arches, Water, Reflection,? the bridge will have observation decks around the main piers, sculptural elements near the approaches and twin stylized arches of decorative lighting along the roadway.
The bridge, slated for completion by Christmas Eve 2008, will also have two parallel spans with five traffic lanes in each direction.
Flatiron won the contract after a controversial bidding process that brought protests from two of the three unsuccessful bidders.
Investigators with the Minnesota Department of Administration sided with the Minnesota Department of Transportation on Monday, urging that the state approve the award after finding to flaws with how MnDot scored the proposals, despite Flatiron’s bid being $57 million more than the lowest bid.
According to Flatiron’s manager of the project, Peter Sanderson, local workers will be used to build the bridge, and most of the construction will take place in Minnesota. Prefabricated parts will be assembled in St. Paul and then floated on barges to the bridge site as part of an accelerated construction process known as “design-build.?
The bridge designer, Figg Engineering, is known for its aesthetically pleasing bridges. According to the Pioneer Press, the design “offers clean, simple lines and a minimalist look.?
While debris is still being cleared from the collapse site, the initial site preparation will begin immediately. Sanderson said he hope to begin construction in earnest no later than Nov. 1.
The new I-35W bridge will not be “fracture critical,? meaning it won’t collapse if one component fails, unlike the old steel-girder bridge that collapsed on Aug. 1. The cause of the collapse that killed 13 remains under investigation.

Pioneer Press:

October 13, 2007

Truck pile-up in California freeway tunnel

According to The Associated Press, a rain-slicked Southern California freeway tunnel crash turned into a chain-reaction pileup on Friday that wrecked 15 trucks, killed at least two people and shut down the busy north-south route as the wreckage burned for hours.
Authorities warned more bodies might be found. One truck driver was still unaccounted for, and 10 people were injured.
The two dead were found in the tunnel after the flames died down.
While the tunnel is designed to carry truck traffic through a mountain pass area, passenger cars may also use it, causing concerns that some might be trapped inside, Fire Inspector Jason Hurd said.
Two trucks collided about 11 p.m. inside a southbound truck tunnel on Interstate 5 in Santa Clarita, California, triggering the pileup, according to Hurd.
Twenty people fled the tunnel on foot, including the 10 injured, Hurd said. The injured were taken to hospitals and treated mainly for burns and neck and back injuries.
Flames shot out of both ends of the tunnel, rising as high as 100 feet into the air, firefighters at the scene said.
The key route between Los Angeles and San Francisco remained blocked Saturday, and the wreckage was still smoldering more than 14 hours after the wreck. The highway is also a major commuter link connecting Los Angeles to its northern suburbs, and huge traffic jams are likely in the area if the route is still closed when the work week starts Monday.

Man's ear bit off by burglary suspect

An attacker broke into a Long Island man’s home, beat him with a karaoke machine and bit off his ear, police said. The man’s injuries were not considered life threatening, but doctors were unable to reattach the ear of the victim, said Nassau County police Officer Mary Verna.
The 64-year-old Uniondale, New York resident attempted to protect himself with a vacuum cleaner hose.
The 27-year-old attacker, punched and kicked him in the head and face before using the karaoke machine as a weapon, police said.
New York-based Newsday reports: “This guy just randomly picked this house,? said Sgt. Anthony Repalone, a police spokesman. “Obviously, his behavior was such that there may have been some drug involvement.?
Also according to Newsday, the victim was listed in satisfactory condition Friday, hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said.
The attacker, Luis Hidalgo, also of Uniondale, pleaded not guilty to charges of burglary and assault. He was being held at the Nassau County jail on bail of $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond, prosecutors said.
Newsday said responding officers found Hidalgo crouched in a hallway, noting that nothing was stolen from the house.
Police are investigating whether Hidalgo was high on drugs during the incident or mentally ill.

The Associated Press:


October 12, 2007

Police kick out street vendors in Mexico City

More than 1,000 police officers in riot gear blocked street vendors in Mexico City from setting up stands Friday, clearing the city’s clogged historic center for the first time in more than a decade.
The removal of vendors selling knockoff purses and pirated DVDs from 87 downtown streets was peaceful.
Leftist Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has promised to take back public spaces and improve the quality of life in the city of 8.5 million, like many mayors before him.
According to the BBC, the vendors have been involved in a long-standing dispute with successive local administrations about the right to trade in the city.
Vendors warn they will be back when the holiday shopping season begins in November.
While the city will grant vendors a brief break at Christmas, allowing them to return to sell to holiday shoppers, they will be asked to leave after the New Year and relocate to government-subsidized properties nearby.
Many vendors, represented by large and sometimes violent unions, say they won’t go. They claim the designated properties offered by the city will fail to attract customers.
The Mexico City Chamber of Commerce estimates there are 35,000 vendors in the downtown area alone.
Jose Angel Avila, Mexico City’s government secretary, said about 15,000 street vendors were removed from the heart of downtown Friday. It was unsure if the city would clear out street markets in the poor neighborhoods surrounding downtown.
Many vendors chose to set up their stalls on streets on the edge of the no-vendor zone, which was briefly cleared of markets stalls once before in the 1990s, reports Reuters.
Street vending is a tradition dating back to pre-Hispanic times in Mexico.
According to Reuters: “Millions of Mexicans are forced to sell cheap goods or food on the streets partly because there are not enough traditional office or factory jobs. And many salesmen prefer the tax-free profits they earn in their stalls.?
The New York Times spoke with Elena Ramirez, 79, who was selling sweet bread for 25 cents a piece and said she didn’t plan to stop selling her merchandise outside the metro exit.
“The politicians have their salaries, but if I don’t sell, I don’t eat,? Ramirez said.

The Associated Press:



October 9, 2007

Lakeville mom charged in infant drowning

A Lakeville mother was allegedly surfing the Internet when her 11-month old daughter drowned in a upstairs bathtub in August.
The Dakota County Attorney’s office charged Katherine Renae Bodem, 38, with two counts of second-degree manslaughter today in connection with her daughter’s Aug. 25 drowning.
Bodem left her daughter in the bathtub with her 2 ½-year-old brother for almost 20 minutes while she went downstairs to look up shopping items on the Internet, according to the criminal complaint.
Bodem told police she had left the child in the tub with her brother for only a couple of minutes and could hear the two children splashing and laughing.
Bodem’s 10-year-old daughter, who was downstairs playing with her two other brothers ages 7 and 8, told authorities that after about 20 minutes, the boy came downstairs and indicated something was wrong, according to the complaint.
The Star Tribune, whose story on the case has greater detail, reports that the girl said her mother was on the computer searching for shoes to replace a pair she had damaged.
Bodem said she rushed upstairs and attempted to revive the baby by hitting her on the back and blowing into her mouth, and the girl vomited, according to the complaint. The Star Tribune said police found the tub was nearly full of water, with toys inside and outside the tub.
Also report the Star Tribune: Lakeville police arrived at the home in the 20500 block of Jupiter Avenue and found two women outside trying to revive the child, who the paper identifies as Cecilia.
A forensic examination of the computer, examined by police using a search warrant, indicated she had been online looking for shoes for 19 minutes before the 911 call was placed.
According to the Star Tribune, Bodem apparently hasn’t had any contact with child-protection officials and has no criminal record, officials said.
Bodem was the only adult home at the time.
Bodem’s other children will remain at home under the father’s custody, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said.
Bodem made her first court appearance on Tuesday in Dakota County District Court in Hastings and bail was set at $60,000.
Her next court appearance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 in Hastings.

The Star Tribune:

The Pioneer Press:

October 7, 2007

On first day/follow story

A Friday Star Tribune article outlined the guilty verdict of a federal jury for a Brainerd woman, Jammie Thomas, for violating the copyrights of recording companies when she allegedly illegally downloaded music. The lead was definitely constructed as hard-news – it had a detailed account of who, what, where, and when. The story that followed in the Star Tribune on Sunday references the woman’s plight in the lead but also hints at the bigger picture, saying, “The music industry may have won a symbolic battle with a Duluth jury’s $222,000 judgement against Jammie Thomas of Brainerd, Minn., but it has lost the war against music piracy, according to industry analysts, copyright lawyers and information technology experts.? This second story advances the news by offering a greater amount of context to the issue on a larger scale. Saturday’s story goes on to mention different music-sharing services and what they consist of as well as commentary from experts within the music and technology industries. The reporters also interviewed young college students, placing their comments within the story as well to add perspectives from the larger community.
The story has a couple of comments from an interview Thomas and gives more background on her – her career, family life and her salary. It also contains a block of text detailing a sample of the songs whose copyrights she was found by the jury to have violated.
The additional information on the second-day story fleshes out not only the readers knowledge of Thomas but of the greater meaning of the guilty verdict and its impact on the public and the music industry.

Poll: Minnesotans do not support gas tax or special session

There is more opposition than support for a new state gas tax to pay for transportation repairs, says a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
The poll found that 50 percent opposed raising the gas tax, while 46 percent were in favor. Even more respondents opposed a special session to deal with transportation problems in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, with 53 percent calling it unnecessary.
Forty-two percent said they thought there should be a special session.
The poll surveyed 802 adults in Minnesota between Sept. 18 and 23. It has a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage point plus or minus.
It also found that sixty-eight percent approved of the way Gov. Tim Pawlenty handled the disaster, and 58 percent approved of the DFL-led Legistlature’s handling of it.
A majority, by 53 percent to 42 percent, says the matter can wait until next year’s regular session.
Minnesota’s gas tax is among the lowest in the nation, at 20 cents on the gallon. According to the Star Tribune, it was last increased in 1988, when it had the buying power of 35 cents. The average state tax is 28.5 cents, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
Responses varied most by education and party affiliation, said the Star Tribune. Fifty-seven percent of college graduates approved of raising the gas tax, compared with 45 percent of those with some college education and 39 percent of those with none.
Support split along party lines as well, with 56 percent of Democrats willing to pay a higher gas tax and 41 percent of Republicans willing to do so.

The Star Tribune:

Shooting rampage in Wisconsin

An off-duty sheriff’s deputy killed six young people and critically injured one person early Sunday at a gathering at a home in Crandon, Wisconsin before authorities brought him down, officials said.
The gunman, 20-year-old Tyler Peterson, worked full-time as a Forest County deputy sheriff and part-time as a Crandon police officer, said Police Chief John Dennee.
The survivor was hospitalized in nearby Marshfield, Denne said. A Crandon police officer who fired back at Peterson was treated for minor injuries and released.
Dennee said the state Department of Criminal Investigation will handle the case because the suspect was a deputy and officer.
The rampage happened in a white, two-story duplex about a block from downtown Crandon where the young people had gathered for pizza and movies, according to Denne. According to the Guardian Unlimited, a witness told local radio station WTMJ that the shooting happened just before 3 a.m.
Three of the victims were recent graduates of the small town’s high school, and three were students, Crandon High School Superintendent Richard Peters said.
Peterson was not working at the time of the shooting, Sheriff Keith Van Cleve said.
Gary Bradley, mayor of the city of about 2,000, said Sunday that the suspect had been taken down by a sniper, but Van Cleve would not confirm that officers shot the suspect.
According to The Associated Press, it wasn’t immediately apparent what the gunman’s motive was, but the mother of a 14-year-old victim said the suspect may have been a jealous boyfriend.
Crandon is about 225 miles north of Milwaukee. The Crandon School District called off classes Monday.

The Associated Press:

Guardian Unlimited:

October 4, 2007

Brainerd woman found guilty of illegal music downloading

A U.S. district court jury found a Brainerd woman liable for illegal music file sharing Thursday afternoon in the first such lawsuit to go to trial. The jury found that Jammie Thomas had willfully committed copyright infringement by downloading and sharing all 24 songs for which the record companies had sought damages, awarding them $222,000.
The companies accused Thomas of downloading the songs without permission and offering them online through a Kazaa file-sharing account. Thomas denied wrongdoing and testified that she didn’t have a Kazaa account.
Thomas and her attorney, Brian Toder, declined comment as the left the courthouse.
According to the Star Tribune, when asked if they planned to appeal, Toder said “we haven’t talked about it.?
The Associated Press calls the ruling a win in a “key fight.? Record companies have filed about 26,000 lawsuits since 2003 over file-sharing, which has hurt record sales because it allows people to get music for free instead of buying it in stores. Many defendants have settled by paying the companies a few thousand dollars.
Copyright law sets a damage range of $750 to $30,000 per infringement, or up to $150,000 if the violation was “willful.? Jurors ruled that Thomas’s infringement was willful but awarded damages of $9,250 per song.
The RIAA says the lawsuits have slowed down illegal sharing, even though music file-sharing is rising overall. The group says the number of households that have used file-sharing programs to download music has risen from 6.9 million monthly in April 2003, before the lawsuits began, to 7.8 million in March 2007.
The record companies involved in the lawsuit are Sony BMG, Arista Records LLC, Interscope Records, UMG Recordings Inc., Capitol Records Inc. and Warner Bros. Records Inc.

The Star Tribune:

The Associated Press:

October 3, 2007

North Korea will disable nuclear complex

North Korea agreed to disable all of its nuclear facilities by the end of the year, according to a joint six-nation statement released by China in Beijing today, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.
The agreement sets a timetable for North Korea to disclose all its nuclear programs and disable all facilities in exchange for 950,000 metric tons of fuel oil or its equivalent in economic aid.
Negotiators reached agreement on a draft plan in Beijing on Sunday after four days of six-nation talks.
The announcement in China today by Wu Dawei, head of the Chinese delegation to the talks, gave final approval by the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia
North Korea will complete the disabling of its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon as part of the agreement.
The Yongbyon complex has been in the middle of North Korea’s weapons programs for decades. It’s believed to have produced a nuclear device detonated a year ago by Pyongyang to prove its nuclear capability.
North Korea has also been asking for an agreement that would include a written reference to being removed from a United States list of countries that sponsor terrorism. According to the New York Times, the senior administration official said on Tuesday that “we’ve agreed on a way forward on that,? while declining to elaborate further.
The American official asked to remain unnamed because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue. The New York Times also reports that a second senior administration official said the United States has told North Korea that it must disclose the details of whatever nuclear material it has been supplying to Syria. American and Israeli officials have indicated that a recent Israeli airstrike in Syria was directed at nuclear material supplied by North Korea.
According to CNN, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said Wednesday that the goal in the next phase is complete dismantlement, but that could take as long as five years

The New York Times:


October 1, 2007

Boy charged in arson deaths of family released

A 10-year-old Greenville, Ohio boy charged with arson and murder in the deaths of five people, including his mother, was released to the custody of his grandmother Monday.
The child denies all the charges, the boy’s attorney, David Rohrer, told Darke County Juvenile Court Judge Michael McClurg on Monday morning. Rohrer also said that the boy’s age prevented him from fully understanding the situation.
According to CNN, Darke County Prosecutor Richard Howell told the Dayton Daily News last week that he was certain the boy was behind the fire. The boy, however, didn’t give investigators a clear motive.
The Associated Press reported September 22 that the boy had confessed to setting the fire, according to authorities. But CNN currently reports that his supporters say he gave in under three days of questioning.
The boy is now under house arrest and staying with grandmother Tammy Reed.
A forensic and psychological examination was planned for Friday.
The judge upheld the charges against the boy Monday: one juvenile court of arson and five counts of murder. The arson count carries a minimum of one to three years in detention. The murder counts could keep the boy in custody until age 21.
The boy could also be labeled a serious youth offender under Ohio law, which could lead to imprisonment for life.
Byer’s mother, Chanan Palmer, 31, and his sister, Kaysha Minnich, 8, died in the fire that roared through the two-story wood-frame duplex Sunday morning.
Also killed were Kayla Winans, 6, JeShawn Davis, 5, and Jasmine Davis, 3. They were the children of Christy Winans, 31, who escaped the fire.
Escaping the fire were Palmer’s son and Winans’ boyfriend.


The Associated Press: