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a silent salute: The audience "claps" at Joke Night during Deaf Awareness week. Click Arts&Life for a link to story. / Photo by Leah Lopshire

Today's word on journalism

December 15, 2008

As part of my own personal "war on Christmas" (which a Utah state senator has offered legislation to outlaw), the WORD celebrates the season by going on hiatus until January. May all out days be merry and bright, and here’s to a safe, healthy and saner New Year. HoHoHo!

Empty Minds: "Of all the people expressing their mental vacuity, none has a better excuse for an empty head than the newspaperman: If he pauses to restock his brain, he invites onrushing deadlines to trample him flat. Broadcasting the contents of empty minds is what most of us do most of the time, and nobody more relentlessly than I."

--Russell Baker, Pulitzer-winning columnist

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Investigation continuing into death of USU student

By Tim Olsen

November 24, 2008 | Tragedy struck Utah State University early Friday when police responded to a 911 call at the Sigma Nu fraternity, at 800 East and 700 North. An 18-year-old freshman, Michael Starks, was found unresponsive at the scene and was later pronounced dead at Logan Regional Hospital.

Medical personnel arrived shortly after 4 a.m. and immediately took over CPR efforts that had been started by a friend on the scene, said Capt. Jeff Curtis of the Logan City Police Department.

Starks was reported to have been involved in an initiation ceremony to become a member of the fraternity's Epsilon Upsilon chapter during the night of the incident.

"He was transported to a house down in the central part of Logan, some alcohol was consumed down there at the house and then he was brought back up to the frat house where he later stopped breathing and we were called," Curtis said.

Though the official cause of death is still under investigation, it is believed that alcohol poisoning is the reason.

Curtis could not confirm the cause of death as he was still waiting for the results of the medical examiners report, but he did say that the victim had a "very high" blood alcohol level at the time of death.

"There's still several people we want to interview, need to interview and we're in the process of meeting," Curtis said. "We're waiting for the ME's office to get us a report which confirms the cause of death.

USU Vice President of Student Services Gary Chambers said this incident is the first of its kind at Utah State.

"Our frequency of these kinds of problems is very, very small," said Chambers. "But we do disseminate a lot of information to students pertaining to being wise and being safe in many of their dealings, whether it be alcohol or other areas."

Brad Beachum, executive director of Sigma Nu Fraternity Inc., said all activities at the USU chapter have been suspended by the fraternity.

Starks was a resident of Salt Lake City and lived in the Mountain View towers while attending USU.

"We will be meeting with the Cache County Attorney's office Monday to look into what direction we're going to go with this," Curtis said.

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