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The local police blotter has always been something from which I can't look away. Particularly in smaller towns, there's no better way to get the temperature of a community.
Years ago, MPR carried a segment with the police chief of Bovey reading a sample of his department's calls, based on the good chief's newspaper column. The late Terry Wilkey started each column, as former MPR reporter Catherine Winter recalled, "with a suggestion that know-it-alls should not read his words because they might overtax their minds. Each column ended with the advice, 'Lock that door and get that license number.'"
I think often about Chief Wilkey when I read some of the blotter items from either the Woodbury Bulletin or the Woodbury Patch. These two come from the latter. What would Chief Wilkey do?
Police were called about a dispute between neighbors--one accused the other of shoveling snow onto her yard. An officer made contact with both and tried to mediate the situation. One appeared willing to do so; the other did not. The officer noticed that the person who was unwilling to make amends had a sign in a window that read: "Merry X-Mas Ass" with an arrow pointing to the other home.
Sometimes, the shortest items can be too revealing about a community:
Police were called about an individual who did not appear to be a "normal clean-cut Woodbury person" in the Ashley Furniture parking lot. Police found no issues.
Maybe you've seen the TV crime episode when a jury is hopelessly deadlocked but the judge tells them they have to reach a verdict.
A judge's instruction to them might sound like this:
Members of the jury, I received your note from . . . your foreperson. "We have reached an impasse, how should we continue." I have discussed that with counsel as well as Mr. Olsen. How should you continue? You should continue. I don't believe you have deliberated long enough and I'm going to send you back to continue your deliberations reminding you of the instructions I gave you. And I'll remind you once again you are the finders of fact. There are twelve of you and you are to make a decision on this. It's what I have discussed with counsel, and this is being done with their approval as well but it's ultimately my call. Back to the room. If you go into the noon hour give us a half hour, forty five minutes to get you something to eat.
What you don't see on TV is a Court of Appeals overturning a conviction because of those instructions.
It happened today in Minnesota when the Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of a Chaska man, who was charged with sexually assaulting his girlfriend's child.
In September 2011, a jury convicted the man, just a few hours after the judge told them they had to reach a verdict.
"A hung jury is a legitimate outcome to a trial," the court said today. "Telling a jury that it must reach a verdict may cause jurors holding a minority viewpoint to surrender their honest beliefs in order to reach a unanimous verdict."
Travis Olsen will get a new trial.2 Comments)
I'm generally not a huge fan of Gangnam Style parody videos but this latest one seems to confirm that sometime, somehow, rocket scientists became the cool kids.
Oh, by the way, these folks are going to crash two spacecraft into the moon today, which is -- you know -- cool.
When the media is the story, the media often has a different approach to covering that.
We saw that from the New York Times kept a lid on a story about its reporter's kidnapping in Afghanistan. David Rohde was kidnapped by the Taliban in in 2008. Not until he escaped did news organizations, who knew about the situation, report it. That sparked a debate on whether there's an inconsistency with the approach of news organizations to similar situations not involving a reporter.
"I think that is a weak spot in the underbelly of the decision making in these cases. We show a preference for one of our own in journalism generally by holding back a story or elements of a story compared to how we might cover the kidnapped oil field worker or diplomat or tourist. In those cases, we might not bring as serious a deliberative process to how we're going to cover it," the Poynter Institute's Bob Steele told the Christian Science Monitor after Rohde escaped in 2009.
The debate is sparked anew today after Gawker reported that NBC reporter Richard Engel is missing in Syria, or at least hasn't checked in since Thursday. Gawker agreed to keep the situation secret, but has now spilled the story after it was printed in a Turkish newspaper.
But NBC News has been asking every reporter who inquires about the report to participate in a news blackout. It has also taken to Twitter and asked people who repeated the Turkish reports there to take them down. You can see here a screengrab of the Twitter account @NBCComm asking a Twitter user who had mentioned the reports to urgently call a cell phone number (that account has since been taken down).
NBC News declined to comment for the record about Engel's whereabouts, but asked Gawker not to report what it characterized as "rumors" about Engel's current status.
In 2002, Wall Street Journal officials chose to publish details of the kidnapping of reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. He was beheaded.
Update 12/18 7:35 a.m. - Engel has been freed from captivity.(0 Comments)
The Mississippi River is at some of the lowest levels we've seen in years. In Saint Paul, the Mississippi is only at about 3 1/2 feet, a good 8 feet below what we might normally see, and it's about 15 feet below the spring flooding level that swallows Raspberry Island.
It's not a huge deal this far north; the river was closed to shipping for the winter on December 3.
But it's created quite a panic downstream.
The Army Corps of Engineers is blasting the bedrock, hoping to create enough room around Illinois to prevent a shutdown of river shipping.
Some agriculture interests fear that farmers in the Heartland won't be able to get fertilizer for next spring's crops. Half of the country's fertilizer comes from U.S. plants, most of which are located near the Gulf Coast.
It costs about $10 to transport a ton of fertilizer on a barge, $25 by train, and $50 by truck.
How much rain would it take for the problems to disappear?
Wired.com's Dot Physics blog has figured it out the usual way ... with formulae that blog writers couldn't understand if you gave them the answer.
But the answer is surprising: Only a half inch of rain per month over the entire Mississippi River watershed, which consists of most of the Midwest and Southern states.
In November, however, it only rained .02 inches. It'd have to rain every day of the month at that rate over the entire region.(3 Comments)
As relayed on 5x8 last Friday, someone sent this treasure of Indiana Jones artifacts to the University of Chicago, where the fictional Indiana was a professor of archaeology (and where his fictional father was a professor of geology).
University officials had no idea why they were getting the package of Indiana Jones material.
Now they do.
The U.S. Postal Service acknowledges that a package was damaged, its contents spilling out, including the famous Indiana Jones "diary" with the University of Chicago address on it.
According to the university's Tumblr ...
According to Paul, this package was en route from him in Guam to his intended recipient IN ITALY (registered mail confirmation attached) when it must have fallen out of the package in Hawaii. Our address had originally been put on the manila wrapping of the journal just for cosmetic effect. We believe that the post office wrote on our Zip code on the outside of the package and, believing the Egyptian postage was real, sent it our way. From Guam to Hawaii en route to Italy with a stopover in Chicago: truly an adventure befitting Indiana Jones.
(h/t: Matt Wells)(0 Comments)
Sen. Daniel Inouye has died. Although many people know him as a 50-year veteran of the U.S. Senate, he was much more, including a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
IInouye dropped his premed studies at the University of Hawaii and enlisted in the Army after the nation of his parents attacked Pearl Harbor.
Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 21 April 1945, in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. While attacking a defended ridge guarding an important road junction, Second Lieutenant Inouye skillfully directed his platoon through a hail of automatic weapon and small arms fire, in a swift enveloping movement that resulted in the capture of an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to within 40 yards of the hostile force. Emplaced in bunkers and rock formations, the enemy halted the advance with crossfire from three machine guns. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Second Lieutenant Inouye crawled up the treacherous slope to within five yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying the emplacement. Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized a second machine gun nest. Although wounded by a sniper's bullet, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade shattered his right arm. Despite the intense pain, he refused evacuation and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions. In the attack, 25 enemy soldiers were killed and eight others captured. By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance, and was instrumental in the capture of the ridge. Second Lieutenant Inouye's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
With Inouye's passing, there are only two veterans of World War II left in the U.S. Senate -- Frank Lautenberg and Daniel Akaka.(1 Comments)