Friday, July 3, 2015

Photo Essay: Relaxing At Lake Malawi

David Joseph Kapito /
Early morning at the Sunbird Nkopola Lodge at Lake Malawi in Mangochi district in the southern part of Malawi. Locals and tourists come to play beach soccer or relax during holidays and festivals or just for leisure.

David Joseph Kapito /
Lake Malawi is the third largest and deepest lake in Africa. It's a freshwater lake and is about 500 meters above sea level. Because it is so large, it touches different regions and districts in Malawi. Some of the lake is part of the Lake Malawi National Park. Many different fish live in the lake, making it also a place for research.
David Joseph Kapito /
A guest houses near the beach is a clean and quiet place to rest.

David Joseph Kapito /
While delicious foods like this chicken and chips, or fried potatoes are available at Nkopora, many people visiting Malawi like to try tasting a rare fish called chambo, which is only found in Malawi.

David Joseph Kapito /
In the morning, the water gets warm from the sun, so people like to swim early in the day.

David Joseph Kapito /
Visitors to Nkopora can take a boat ride to explore the lake. Everyone on board is advised to take a life jacket.
David Joseph Kapito /
For those who are tired of beach soccer, there's volleyball, too.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help
support David Joseph Kapito
and other students at this nonprofit at

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Greeks Divided With Economy In Ruins

Eleni Grigovits /
A homeless man's blankets on Kolonaki Street, in the center of Athens. Since the first years of the economic crisis, Greece has seen a vast increase in the number of people living on the street.
By Eleni Grigovits
Junior Reporter
ATHENS, Greece – Greece is again facing a huge economic crisis. This time, it’s probably facing its biggest one in modern history.
Last week, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras – elected only January 26 – announced that Greece would have a referendum to decide whether to take a new deal proposed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Greece has been struggling with this economic crisis for several years and people are upset.
Since May 2010, when George Papandreou served as Greece’s prime minister, the IMF and European countries using the euro have been providing financial support to Greece.
This economic adjustment program is in the context of the sharp deterioration of Greece’s financial condition.
The aim was to support the Greek government's efforts to restore fiscal sustainability and to implement structural reforms to improve the competitiveness of the economy. The plan was supposed to lay the foundations for sustainable economic growth.
As the years passed, governments changed, but the economic agreement turned into an endless sequel.
Greeks have now endured five years of austerity – which in real terms, means poverty, high unemployment in all age groups – but especially in the younger workers between 20-25 and those over 45.
In the meantime, Greeks may be working for more than 12 hours for only 300 euros, or about $333 USD.
Taxes are high and all people, no matter how much they earn, pay lots of money to the government.
Health and education funds have been cut, and pensions for retired people, too.
Basically, the country has been taking loans for the last five years and struggling to pay them back.
Eleni Grigovits /
In this June photo, a sign written by the class trade union movement PAME (ΠΑΜΕ), which means "Let's go," hangs on the Ministry of Economy in Athens. The banner states that the new government will sign a new agreement that will lead to new cuts and austerity measures.
By electing a new government in January, Greeks believed there was hope for better days to come.
Five months later, Greece has no money, is unable to pay its debt to the IMF, and its citizens – facing an uncertain future – are divided.
At ATMs, people are standing and waiting patiently to take their pension. But there is capital control and some days, the banks have been closed.
Since June 29, they’ve only been allowed to take out 60 euros per day.
On Sunday, Greeks have to decide if they say “yes” to an agreement with the European Union. A “no” vote rejects the proposed agreement and asks the government to negotiate for a better deal.
Greeks are worried. If the nation votes no, will it mean an exit from the euro and probably from the EU?
Will a yes vote mean more years of poverty and austerity to come?
One thing is for sure: Greece is once more in the spotlight, but for all the wrong reasons.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support Eleni Grigovits
and other students at this nonprofit at

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

People Helping Each Other Through Pakistani Heatwave When Government Fails

Arooj Khalid /

It's warm on a residential road in Lahore, Pakistan, but the city is not enduring the kind of brutal heat that has people in Karachi dropping dead on the street.
By Arooj Khalid
Senior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – When a heatwave claims lives, people take matters into their own hands. 
Though lately the weather where I live in Lahore has been normal, a massive heat wave claimed more than 1,000 lives in the southern part of Pakistan last week.
From news reports, friends and relatives, I know that Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, was gravely affected with many people, especially the poor and the elderly, falling victim to heat stroke.
Despite the brutal heat, air conditioners, electric fans, and water pumps were out of the question in this dire situation because there wasn’t enough electrical power to run them.
As the temperatures rose, so did the people’s frustration with the government.
Arooj Khalid /
A local shopping area in Lahore with many
stores, but no one walking outside in the heat.
Officials refused to take responsibility and did little more than blame K-Electric, Karachi’s electricity providing company, for the lack of power.
The lack of electricity, power shut offs and outages are all well known to Pakistanis. In Karachi, the reports are that some people are limited to just eight hours of power a day.
While the water and electricity authorities were busy blaming each other, the death toll kept rising.
Hospitals filled up and morgues overflowed. The city was at loss for funeral vans and tragically, mass graves were dug.
Arooj Khalid /

On the side of a Ramadan Bazaar in Lahore, which looks deserted because of the heat. This photo was taken from under the tent where shoppers were. On the wall in the distance are photos of Pakistani politicians, mostly images from members of the current provincial government, reminding citizens of the great job they're doing.

Arooj Khalid /

Outside of the Ramadan Bazaar near the intersection with a main road in Lahore, a man stands in the street waiting for customers so he can earn money by carrying their goods.

The phrase “dropping dead” took on a literal meaning as many of the victims of the heat wave met their ends by collapsing on city streets in the scorching heat.
It didn’t help that the heat wave came during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when nearly everyone in Pakistan is fasting, which means no food or drink from sunrise to sunset.
Religious scholars clarified that people in the areas affected by the heat wave were certainly allowed to skip fasts at these exacerbated circumstances. Islam allows Muslims who are ill, pregnant, or unable to keep fasts for any other reason to stop fasting and do so at another time. It applies to situations such as this, when keeping a fast could be life-threatening.
Even so, many people were dying.
Citizens, disappointed in the government response, took it upon themselves to handle the situation.
People from all walks of life and ages distributed cold water bottles on streets, helping the patients in whatever way they could in hospitals, streets and markets.
Every other social media post here had something to do with the heat wave. Doctors and trained officials made posts and videos on how to effectively help a heatstroke patient.
Even when the temperatures dropped, the number of deaths continued to rise.
This is said to be the most severe heat waves in Karachi in the past 30 years – and another one is expected next week.
This is an alarming situation for all of us, but the tragedies have certainly ingrained among the citizens the desire to help others.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the government authorities. 
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support Arooj Khalid
and other students at this nonprofit at

Monday, June 29, 2015

Take A Deep Breath And Do Some Yoga
YJI reporter Dawit Leake, in the center in the black shirt, takes part in a yoga session at International Yoga Day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this month.
By Dawit Leake
Junior Reporter
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Yoga experts joined practitioners and newcomers to stretch and breathe during the capital city’s celebration of the world’s first International Yoga Day.
Around the globe, yoga fans marked International Yoga Day in almost 200 countries. The event, recognized by the United Nations, took place June 21, the longest day of the year.
A yoga practice session with four instructors on stage and one going around helping people was the centerpiece of the day.
Migbar Ayalew, a certified international yoga instructor, explained the importance of the breath.
“What is the first thing we do when we come to this world?” she asked. “We breathe in. What is the last thing we do when we leave this world? We breathe out. So the breath is the most important thing in our lives.”
The five-hour event in Ethiopia, organized by the Embassy of India, took place at the Hilton Addis Ababa and began with a video message about yoga from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Participants do yoga exercises at the International Yoga Day in Addis Ababa.

Later, participants viewed other short videos about yoga and its history. Raffle prizes for non-Indians included a trip to India and meals at a local Indian restaurant.
Practicing yoga in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for
International Yoga Day.
A writing contest with the prize being a trip to India, sought the best quote, slogan or feeling expressed in answer to the questions,” What does yoga mean to you?” and  “How does the UN’s recognition to yoga contribute?”
After the yoga session ended, people handed out International Yoga Day magazines and CDs with subtitles in Amharic, the national language in Ethiopia. Local yoga institutes had booths with sign-up sheets for yoga sessions.
Organizers provided yogurt, Indian sweets and vegetable stews, fruit, small sandwiches, tea, milk and water outside of the hall for participants, who seemed happy, motivated and energized after their yoga session.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support Dawit Leake
and other students at this nonprofit at

Obama Inspires With Charleston Eulogy

By Garret Reich
Junior Reporter
GLENWOOD, Iowa, U.S.A. – President Barack Obama delivered an inspiring eulogy at the funeral for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney last week that may resonate for years to come.
Pinckney, the pastor at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was leading the Bible study group June 17 when a man who was welcomed as a visitor shot and killed him and eight people in his congregation.

Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man, is charged with killing nine American citizens.
Besides Pinckney, victims were the Rev. Shronda Coleman-Singleton, the Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor and the Rev. Daniel Simmons, Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Tywanza Sanders and Myra Thompson.
The murders are being investigated as a racially-motivated hate crime.
Obama, who knew some members of the church, including its pastor, gave Pinckney’s eulogy.
The crowd applauded and frequently offered harmonized yells of acceptance during the president’s moving speech.
He spoke of peace and harmony, the symbolic history of the Emanuel AME Church, and the solutions Pinckney wanted to see to bridge America’s racial divide.
“It would be a betrayal of everything Rev. Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again,” said Obama.
Our nation’s history should show the change that has gotten us to where we are today.  However, it seems that for every two steps we take forward toward making history, we take one step back.
Another racial issue is addressed in our community and one or more residents have to pay the price.  
The president’s speech inspired me and my family to act on the changes that society often discourages.
Nearly every day, it is not difficult to hear, yet again, the shootings of unarmed black citizens and the lack of justice that follows, but that hasn’t stopped many Americans from being willfully ignorant about race.
At the closing of his eulogy, Obama’s words lifted the crowd inside the church – and the many of us watching the recorded video.
Impressively, the president included the name of every individual murdered and concluded that they each found grace “through the example of their lives. They’ve now passed it onto us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift as long as our lives endure.”
This is the perspective the U.S. and its citizens must take if we want the change to make a difference.

Your tax-deductible contribution can help support Garret Reich
and other students at this nonprofit at

Friday, June 26, 2015

America Lives Up To Promise Of Equality With Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling

By Mugdha Gurram
Senior Reporter
WEST HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Today is a day that has been long awaited in America, and one that will be long be remembered in history books as one where the United States truly lived up to its promise of freedom and equality.
In a ruling announced today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of reversing the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, making same-sex marriage legal in every state.
Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy were the majority that ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.
In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated, “Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.”
This is a huge victory for activists who have been fighting for these rights.
People everywhere are celebrating, taking to social media with the hashtags LoveWins and EqualityForward.
Of course, there are those who disagree with the ruling.
In Justice John Robert’s dissent, he wrote that the ruling had nothing to do with the Constitution, and that for “those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening.” He continued, saying that “stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”
On the contrary, it seems very clear that for many, the legalization of same-sex marriage is a sign of encouragement for many people that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans may finally be able to achieve equality.
However, even as we celebrate, it’s important that we recognize that the fight for equal rights is not over. Gay rights took a great stride today, and while the legalization of same-sex marriage is a huge victory, there is still a long way to go.
Many states, like Indiana, still don’t have legislation banning companies from discriminating based on sexual orientation, while states like Louisiana have laws preventing the advocacy or discussion of homosexuality in sex education.
This kind of legislation threatens the equality that this country is beginning to reach.
The United States has shown once again today that this is a country full of people who are dedicated to fighting for justice.
Hopefully, it is a country that can continue to show that through its support for more legislation that supports equal rights for all people. 
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support Mugdha Gurram
and other students at this nonprofit at

Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Ruling Reflects National Mood On Gay Rights

By Eli Winter
Senior Reporter
HOUSTON, Texas, U.S.A.  – A U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states caps off an historic time for the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
In a decision released Friday, justices voted 5-4 that gay marriage is legal nationwide. Media coverage generally reflected American society's increasing support of LGBT issues, but remained sharply divided in some circles.
Evidence of the gradual acceptance of transgender Americans' into mainstream society emerged earlier this month when Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender on the cover of the June issue of Vanity Fair.
The magazine cover, which shows Jenner wearing a short dress, makeup and a wig, was met with both acclaim and animosity. Laverne Cox, a transgender actress on the TV series Orange Is The New Black, wrote that Jenner's appearance in the magazine was a watershed moment for transgender Americans, but that much work needed to be done in the face of the widespread discrimination they face daily.
Meanwhile, Matt Walsh, a blogger for The Blaze, a conservative website, argued that Jenner was delusional, a modern-day wolf in sheep's clothing.
Shortly afterward, a jury in New Jersey ruled that so-called “conversion” or “reparative” therapy, which attempts to change gay and lesbians' sexual preferences, was consumer fraud – the first such ruling to be made in court.
But the victory for LGBT activists in the Supreme Court's ruling that gay marriage is a constitutionally protected right overshadowed the other advances.
Like media coverage of Jenner's coming out, most columnists accepted the decision. Conservative websites questioned its constitutionality, whether doing so directly or referring to marriage with quotation marks, as to suggest that gay marriages are invalid.
Support of gay marriage has been growing leading up to the decision. In 2010, the Pew Research Center reported that for the first time, more Americans supported gay marriage than opposed it.
The victory comes at a fitting time.
Saturday, June 27th, will see LGBT Americans and allies marching in pride parades across the nation. The annual parades mark the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, which were a watershed moment for gay Americans, provoking them to mobilize and become increasingly vocal about improving their rights. 
Progress on gay rights has been steady, but slow. In 1972, the American Psychiatric Association removed the term "homosexuality" from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The next year, an arson during a meeting of Los Angeles' Metropolitan Community Church, known for its large number of LGBT congregants claimed 32 lives. 
Recent years have seen the Supreme Court rule the Defense of Marriage Act invalid and take small steps towards legalizing gay marriage nationwide.
Progress has been even slower for transgender Americans, who only saw the term "gender identity disorder" replaced with "gender dysphoria" in the most recent edition of the DSM, which was published in 2013.
Even though the decision will likely widen the gulf between those who oppose legalizing gay marriage, primarily on religious grounds, and those who support legalizing it for the economic and human rights benefits they argue gay couples deserve, some activists are trying to bridge the gap.
The most notable such activist is Matthew Vines, an LGBT rights activist from Kansas known for his work to make churches more inclusive of LGBT Christians.
Vines wrote a book, God and the Gay Christian, and started the nonprofit organization The Reformation Project.
Conservative Christians argue that his writings are invalid, but the Pew Research Center reports that, in the last decade, religious support of gay marriage has gradually increased at the same time fewer people attend church on a weekly basis. More and more Americans, according to the Center, also think religion is becoming less influential to Americans.
But even as LGBT Americans are becoming more accepted and gaining more rights, discrimination against them remains high in many areas, in large part due to disagreements over religious doctrine.
LGBT Americans are more likely to be homeless, impoverished, and have poorer health than other Americans and much of the reason can be traced back to lingering discrimination in housing, employment and health care.
Discrimination is especially high among transgender Americans, who experience much more severe and frequent discrimination than sexual minorities.
Decisive action needs to be made to reduce and eliminate such discrimination. The Supreme Court's ruling, along with Jenner's coming out, shows that – now more than ever – society supports taking such action.
We can only hope that such progress will be actual, not illusory.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support Eli Winter
and other students at this nonprofit at

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Photo Essay: Checking For Cracks At The Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site

Nischal Kharel /
Outside of Kathmandu is one of Nepal's most sacred Hindu sites, the Pashupatinath temple. It's part of the Kathmandu Valley World Cultural Heritage Site in Gausala, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Nischal Kharel /
Cracks in the walls at the Pashupatinath temple compound in Gausala, Kathmandu.

Nischal Kharel /
An ancient stone lion outside the Pashupatinath temple in Gausala, Kathmandu.

Nischal Kharel /
A stone water tap in the Pashupatinath temple area of Gausala, Kathmandu.

Nischal Kharel /
Buildings in the Pashupatinath temple area in Gausala, Kathmandu.
Nischal Kharel /
Earthquake damage to a roof in the Pashupatinath temple compound.
Nicshal Kharel /
A pedestrian in Kathmandu passes a home destroyed by the earthquakes that hit Nepal this spring.

Nischal Kharel /
Buildings in Kathmandu damaged in the earthquake.

Nischal Kharel /
Homes in Chahabil, Kathmandu damaged in the earthquakes

Nischal Kharel /
A large Kathmandu housing complex damaged in the earthquakes, now empty.

Nischal Kharel /
Large cracks in the exterior walls show serious damage to this residential building in Kathmandu.
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support Nischal Kharel
and other students around the world at this nonprofit at

Friday, June 19, 2015

America Can't Be A Nation Of Bystanders While A Racist Murders Nine Innocents

By Garret Reich
Junior Reporter
GLENWOOD, Iowa, U.S.A. – As it is, does there happen to be a context to pulling a gun on innocent people?  Or a context for pulling one in a church prayer circle because of the race of the worshippers?  
In Charlestown, South Carolina this week, there was what many would call a “church massacre” when a gunman killed six women and three men.

Police arrested 21-year-old Dylann Roof for the murders. According to various media reports, Roof announced at the church that his intent was to kill black people.
This alone is a matter that must be discussed.  What is being taught in schools and households that white youth of America have the desire to shoot African Americans?
Putting aside the inclination youth might have towards guns and automatic weapons, what is happening in the United States that one citizen terrorizes others?
While Roof’s own mental health and personal background must be investigated, attacks like these also reflect back on the country and community where Roof was raised.  
Over the past few years, racial issues have been a topic in our political arena.  Many in the Democratic Party claim that racial discrimination is still a problem, while many in the Republican Party say it is mostly non-existent.
But genocidal episodes such as these point to the conclusion that racial discrimination presides today.  And it’s not simply within those old enough to have a say in national party politics, but in our youth.  
Despite the pain that overwhelmed Charleston, people in South Carolina did not fail to come together to support one another.  
Alas, while a journalist has to stay unbiased in many conditions, days like these leave many a writer speechless.
The graceful beauty in the history of an African American church and the kindness the congregation offers to any man or woman who enters is extraordinary.  Despite the pain and sorrow that African Americans feel from the severe mistreatment and enslaving of their ancestors, many of them welcome strangers in with open hearts.
The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston was one of these congregations, as they received the gunman into their small prayer group with love.
The comfort that was once felt in African American churches before last Wednesday is now violated.  The natural human reactions of doubt and fear to any extremist attack such as this will no doubt be left in churches and other places of religion.
Just as slavery and racial discrimination was finally becoming an issue that could be discussed on a respectful level between two parties, it now becomes another matter entirely.  
No longer can the people in the United States stand by to watch, absentmindedly, the pain that comes from senseless killing.  
As a white teenage girl in a small Caucasian town in Southwest Iowa, the news from Charleston leaves me astonished and slightly dumbstruck.
I hear plenty about attacks like these and the impact they have on the families involved.  However, this has never happened to me personally, which leaves me looking on as a bystander at what I consider a terroristic strike.
This alone scares me because, as bystanders, most citizens in the United States get used to witnessing these shootings with a lack of feelings one way or another.
Further, to deny that the majority of those killed by guns are members of racial minorities is to be actively ignorant of modern issues.
The murder of these nine innocent people warrants action. In all honesty, there is never a context for a racist killing spree, whether it be in a street, a park, or a prayer circle of a welcoming church.   
Your tax-deductible contribution can help support Garett Reich
and other students at this nonprofit at