Friday, January 20, 2017

Senseless violence in Australia leaves some young people feeling vulnerable

By Jack Ward
ARARAT, Australia – In Australia, people are stunned after a man, seemingly struggling with mental health issues, ran down dozens of people in the Melbourne Central Business District.

Around midday Friday the shocking news came through that there had been an incident in the center of Melbourne, and of course my first thought – and I’m sure I wasn’t alone – was terrorism.
The horrific incident – seen in footage shared on social media – started with the offender doing burn outs in what is one of the busiest intersections in Melbourne, with onlookers even approaching the car and hitting it with a bat.
The 26-year-old man then drove towards the Bourke street mall which was at its busiest, with it being school holidays and around lunch. He then drove down the mall, plowing through innocent shoppers, workers, tourists and children.
Police arrested the driver at the bottom of the mall with an unsettling empty pram on the car’s bonnet. The business district then went into lockdown and the investigation began.
These dreadful events caused speculation of suspected links to terrorism, but that police from Victoria dismissed that.
It’s unclear what was the motive behind this attack that left a man and woman in their 30s and a child dead and at least another 15 injured, including five critically. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t excuse this man for taking three lives away.
The future doesn’t look very positive for young people with more and more attacks occurring, whether it’s related to terrorism or drugs, as this is expected to be.
Are we safe anymore? The emergency services do a great job responding, but what is being done to prevent these events from happening in the first place? Youth are starting to feel unsafe, summing up this action as devastating and tragic.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gambia's empty streets and military checkpoints reflect fears of the people

Lama Jallow /

Serrekunda, a busy seaside city in The Gambia, is typically bustling, but with the president unwilling to cede power after losing the national election last month, people are fearful of political violence and are staying off the streets.

By Lama Jallow
Senior Reporter
SERREKUNDA, The Gambia – Deserted streets in this busy seaside city are one indication that citizens here are fearing war.
The sitting president, Yahya Jammeh, remains unwilling to step down after losing the Dec. 1 national election to challenger Adama Barrow, who leads a coalition party. Barrow is supposed to take office Thursday, Dec. 19.
Intervention by other African leaders has so far failed to convince Jammeh – who has ruled for 22 years – to take part in a peaceful transfer of power. Immediately after the election he conceded, but since then has rejected the results.
Two countries, Nigeria and Morocco, have offered him refuge in exchange for accepting defeat, but he remains here.
But still there are no signs of peace and soldiers are positioned with armored vehicles at military checkpoints here.  

Barrow's representatives have said no one should go out after midnight tonight. A spokesman for Senegal's army told Reuters that its troops will enter The Gambia at midnight if Jammeh doesn't leave power.

U.S. State Department map
The Gambia, on West Africa's coast, is surrounded on three sides by Senegal.

On Tuesday, Jan. 16, Jammeh declared a state of emergency in The Gambia. After that, terrified people ran to close their shops.
On Wednesday, local news and international media reported that the nation’s parliament had accepted the state of emergency and extended Jammeh’s rule for 90 days.
In Serrekunda, big stores were closed Wednesday and many usually crowded streets are empty.
The city’s large market, however, was full of people hurrying to stock up, much like they did before the election when people feared that unrest would follow.

Lama Jallow /
On Wednesday morning, people rushed to buy food at the market in Serrekunda, fearing that violence could keep them inside.

Those who can are buying food so if anything happens they will not be found wanting.
Most of the shops that remained open Wednesday are owned by foreigners from the northern part of Africa. People who were late in buying food for their homes are happy the shops are still open.

Lama Jallow /
Vehicles lined up at a Serrekunda garage to be picked up after repair. But with people fearful and fleeing, no one is picking them up, causing a loss of income to those who did the work.
Tourists were ordered early Wednesday by their own countries to leave The Gambia.
Some people are adamant that Jammeh will step down before the planned inauguration. It's a sign of hope, but not enough to convince people to stay.
Jammeh is showing no sign of stepping aside and Barrow making no indication that he will wait.
According to a report Wednesday in The New York Times, a multi-national military force from West African nations is “ready to intervene” if Jammeh doesn’t leave. In addition, the newspaper reported that a Nigerian warship is on the way to Gambia, though Nigerians are calling it a training exercise.
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Iowa: natural beauty after an ice storm

Garret Reich /

Gettys, a 25-year-old Arabian horse who belongs to the photographer, makes her way through the remains of the ice after a recent storm at her home in Glenwood, Iowa. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Garret Reich /

A classic Iowa sunset, with light reflecting off the last of the melting ice after a recent winter storm in Glenwood, Iowa.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Smog chokes Iran, sickens citizens

Frida Zeinali /
Smog chokes Tabriz, Iran.

By Frida Zeinali
Junior Reporter
TABRIZ, Iran – When you have chronic asthma, air pollution statistics are more than just numbers.
Negin Golizade is 16 and a student at Danesh Amuz High School in Tabriz whose life is made worse by smog.
Iran’s air pollution problem has forced her to miss school and stay indoors, she said.
The smog makes her asthma worse and increases the number of attacks she suffers during a day, Golizade said.
The absences from school have dramatically affected her grades as well as her health.
She’s not alone. Iran’s health ministry announced that 80,000 people lost their lives in 2012 due to air pollution-related diseases.

Photo provided
Negin Golizade of Tabriz, Iran, struggles with the smog even more because she suffers from asthma.
Polluted air has a significant impact on the general health of Iranian citizens. It’s common to see people walking around outdoors wearing masks.
“Everything is connected like chain links,” said Dr. Behzad Mafie, a pharmacist and drugstore owner. “Patients used to ask for antibiotics every year on this time and influenza was the most common illness among them, but nowadays we are dealing with a huge demand for respiratory disorder medications.”
The government is making efforts to minimize air pollution, but there is a long road ahead.
The smog forces authorities to close schools and kindergartens to reduce car traffic in cities and protect children from adverse health risks of air pollution. 
Frida Zeinali /
Smog hangs over the city of Tabriz, Iran.
 “Without Car Tuesdays” is a widespread campaign to reduce smog that was started by Mohammad Bakhtiari, an Iranian architect. Tuesdays are the middle of Iranian week and it is the day that pollution peaks. 
Despite these efforts, the smoke continues to choke people.
Decades of industrial growth spurred a rise in air pollution. Smog reaches dangerous levels in Iran’s major cities each winter, according to an official municipal website in Tehran dedicated to air quality, http://ai
A thick layer of smog covers the sky during this period, causing life-threatening health problems and environmental damage, according to the website.
According to experts, geography, temperature inversion, uninspected cars and low-quality fuels are among the main reasons for this dire situation.
Official statistics say cars produce 48 percent of Tehran’s pollution and motorcycles 22 percent. Uninspected cars add more pollutants to the air by incomplete combustion.
A layer of warm air above the city traps pollution from vehicles and causes air inversion. In this case, the topography of cities can have a crucial effect. Because of this, Tehran is the most exposed city to air pollution and suffers the worst results.
Pollution also affects other cities, including Ahvaz, Isfahan, Tabriz, Mashad and Karaj. 
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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Tension in The Gambia as president refuses to allow democratic transfer of power

Lama Jallow /
Foreigners pack up their things on top of vehicles ready to leave The Gambia, fearing political unrest.

By Lama Jallow
Senior Reporter
SERREKUNDA, The Gambia – People here who have never experienced war will witness a huge moment in the country’s history on January 19, when Adama Barrow, our new president, is supposed to take office.
The trouble is that President Yahya Jammeh, who lost the December 1 election to Barrow, is refusing to step down after holding power for 22 years.
Jammeh initially accepted defeat, surprising Gambians given that Jammeh had once said he would rule for a billion years.
But sadly, he went back on his decision to step down by nullifying the results and strongly rejecting the election outcome, claiming some abnormalities at the polls.
This caused a stir and prompted other African leaders to intervene while citizens are growing fearful of what could happen if there is no resolution when Jammeh’s term expires Thursday.
Lama Jallow /
Belongings of foreigners who are preparing to leave The Gambia, packed in bags ready for transport out of the country.

Delegates from the West African regional bloc, known as the Economic Community of West African States, arrived in the country January 13 with a hope of settling the problem.
The delegates were African heads of states: President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, President Ellen Sir Leaf Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and former President of Ghana John Drahami Mahama, who accepted defeat in the Ghana elections in December 2016.
The national leaders initially gathered last month in The Gambia to try to help settle the problem, but failed to persuade Jammeh to hand over power peacefully.
An official letter from Barrow said that meeting had no “productive results.”
After that, Barrow was invited to attend the summit that just ended in Mali with French and African leaders. Among other issues, they were to discuss Gambia’s situation. Gambians are eagerly waiting for what their president-elect will say after the summit.
Lama Jallow /
Vans that will take people out of the country.

Jammeh wants the a new election, but Barrow and supporters of his coalition party strongly reject this idea.
The elections have divided the country along ethnic lines. The Jola ethnic group, which includes Jammeh, fears an attack from the Mandinka ethnic group, which includes Barrow and many supporters of his incoming coalition party.
Gambians hope for a peaceful transition but the country is filled with weird speculation about the future.
Lama Jallow /
People prepare to leave The Gambia.
Foreigners, including those from Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, are going back to their respective countries, fearful of a similar situation that befell them in the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Gambians are also on the move but mostly not out of the country. They're seeking refuge in their home villages where they have relatives.
Serrekunda – the busiest city due to its big market– is witnessing a drastic decline in its busy population, which includes many foreigners.
"It's a terrible situation and am disappointed if at all Jammeh will prefer fighting than peacefully stepping down, to be frank,” said Mahmoud Balde, who was at the market and preparing to go to Conakry, the capital of Guinea. “Gambia is a very peaceful country and Jammeh should consider that."
Nigerian officials recently approved asylum for Jammeh if he prepares to leave, but with Jammeh not appearing in any way ready for change, Gambians are worried about war.
In his efforts to stay in power, Jammeh has implemented his old methods of instilling fear within the Gambian climate to control every single thing that people do.
The national election commissioner is now in exile in neighboring Senegal, probably after fleeing Jammeh’s notorious secret thugs and the official election results have vanished from the national website.
Jammeh also closed down media outlets, notably the popular Paradise FM, Teranga FM, which is known for its turbulent relationship with the government and others, too. The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Gambian authorities early this month to lift the broadcast ban on three independent radio stations.
He didn’t stop there, but also arrested activists associated with the #GambiaHasDecided campaign. Others had already flee the country fearing for their lives as Jammeh and his associates continuously hunt activists, journalists and anyone speaking bad against his government.
Gambian musicians continuously showed their complete dissatisfaction about the current situation in their recent songs and urged Jammeh to step down.
The African Union, known for supporting members against rebels or any challenge to their democracies strongly demanded Jammeh resign before January 19.
Jammeh is not alone. His ministers and followers are right behind him, putting pressure on for him to stay in power.
Why is this all happening? Perhaps Jammeh committed unspeakable crimes against the Gambian people during his many years in power and fears being arrested immediately after stepping down.
If the world will sit idle and watch a tiny country being destroyed by someone who willingly rejected the will of the people, then that is against the ideology of democracy.
What will happen is still unknown, but anything is possible as the clock ticks towards the deadline.
Will Jammeh surprise Gambians and the world once again by stepping down peacefully, or will he prefer to go to war with anyone willing to remove him by force?
Only he has the power to settle this national crisis in a peaceful way – by stepping aside for the good of the nation to let the new president take office.

Journalism is under siege - in The Gambia and elsewhere.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Yale Young African Scholars program proves life changing for Ethiopian student reporter

From left: Whitney Green, then an admissions officer from Columbia University, YJI Reporter Dawit Leake and Stanford University Assistant Dean of Admission Olufemi Ogundele at the Yale Young African Scholars program in Rwanda last summer.

By Dawit Leake
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Being part of the Yale Young African Scholars program last year was the most incredible experience I’ve had in my life.
I found out I was accepted for the program on April, 30, 2016 which happened to be Ethiopian Easter. I couldn’t control my excitement, knowing I was going to travel to Rwanda for this amazing program organized by Yale University.
As the days passed by and my flight date got closer, I grew more ecstatic.
On my flight to Kigali in July, I met other Ethiopians who were also part of the program, and we quickly shared our excitement. After landing, a bus picked us up and took us to Green Hills Academy, which hosted the program.
From the time I arrived, it was one exciting experience after another for the whole week. The program was comprised of lectures, seminars, workshops, test prep sessions and more. We also spent time in small groups and talked about campus life. In each lecture there was always great knowledge to take away.
Throughout the program I learned many things and had incredible fun. I also got to know about different African countries and their cultures. One thing I learned from my Nigerian friends was the Shoki, a Nigerian dance move.
In a week’s time, I learned a lot at the Yale Young African Scholars program. I gained so much information, grew my network and made long lasting friendships.
I actually realized afterward how much exposure the program gave us. I met many great people, including Whitney Green, who was then a Columbia University Admissions officer.
Once I was back in Addis Ababa, I got information from a friend about a college information session in the city.  Four U.S. colleges took part, including Columbia University, and Green was there, too. I attended, along with some others who had been part of the Yale Young African Scholars program.
At the end of the session, we approached the stage. She remembered us and took the time to say hello. This is when I realized how much exposure our program had given us.
Yale Young African Scholars in total is a great life experience for anyone, and I truly feel lucky to have been selected to take part in it. 
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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Year's Eve pro-democracy protest planned at Polish Parliament

By Joanna Koter
TORUŃ, Poland – Will you spend New Year’s Eve in front of the Parliament?
Most of us will be spending New Year’s Eve with family and friends. This is because we probably believe that it is important to start 2017 with someone special and close to us.
But some protesters in Poland will be spending New Year’s Eve away from their homes, and fireworks will not be the most important thing to them on that night. 
A group of Members of Parliament, belonging to the opposition political party, have already spent Christmas in the Parliament building in Warsaw, the capital.
They have been occupying the room since December 16, the most recent sitting of the Parliament, and are planning to stay there until the next meeting on January 11.

Members of the opposition say their protests are in response to the leading party in the Polish Parliament, Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS; Law and Justice party), continuously enacting new laws against the national constitution or any democratic principles.
Press freedom is an issue at the heart of it. In mid-December when Member of Parliament Michal Szczerby’s microphone was turned off while he was speaking about media access to information.
The Law and Justice party is proposing to restrict media access to government information so that only journalists chosen by the government can report on discussions in the government, so politicians only have to answer questions that they want to answer.
TVP information service, the Polish government’s television station as well as the right-wing news platform – Niezalezna means “independent” – portrays the protesting MPs as lunatics and accuses them of coming up with funny excuses to block the auditorium.
A Facebook event for a Citizens’ Strike (Strajk Obywatelski, SO; more information on invites all Polish citizens to spend New Year’s Eve in front of the Parliament.
According to the event page, organizers want to “keep the protesting MPs company,” and are calling for people’s help with peacekeeping, serving food, taking pictures at the event and more. 
But Citizens’ Strike organizers have some strict rules: no drinking alcohol, bringing flags or chanting slogans. They are encouraging people to spend that evening in a “warm atmosphere” with “human interactions.” 
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Remembering author, advocate, actor and leader of the rebellion, Carrie Fisher

By Alyce Collett
MELBOURNE, Australia – We here in Australia woke to the horrible news Tuesday morning that actress, author and mental health advocate Carrie Fisher had died at the age of 60.
Although she is most famous for her role as leader of the rebellion – Princess Leia in the Star Wars films – this was only one facet of her working life.
Carrie Fisher, in a photo from
her official Facebook page.

Fisher is most famously known as an actor, playing many roles over her illustrious career. Her role as Princess Leia, a strong, determined, no-nonsense woman, was one that all women could admire.
But this was not her only role on the big screen. She was in dozens of films, including The Blues Brothers, Drop Dead Fred and When Harry Met Sally. She was also on the small screen, playing herself in “The Big Bang Theory” as well as other roles.
What is less known by the general public is that Fisher was also an author. She wrote many books, including an autobiography and both the book and screenplay for the film Postcards from the Edge. This year's book, The Princess Diarist recalls her memories of what happened behind the scenes on the Star Wars set. 
She was also a mental health advocate, using her fame to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Fisher had an unfortunate end to her life, suffering a heart attack only a few days ago and dying Dec. 27.
Her talents were adored by thousands and will be missed around the world. Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher.
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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Signs of Christmas in a shopping mall in Iran

Frida Zeinali /
A store display in the Laleh Park shopping mall in Tabriz, Iran Christmas has an official recognition for religious minorities in Iran, but it is not included as a national holiday. Iranian Christians mostly celebrate Christmas on December 25 every year. The Christmas celebration in Iran is quite similar to other celebrations that take place around the world, with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, gifts and many more traditions.

Frida Zeinali /
Another store window in the shopping center in Tabriz, Iran.
You can be Santa, wherever in the world you are.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Celebrating Christmas in Belgrade

Milica Cvetkovic /
Belgrade dressed up for Christmas.
By Milica Cvetkovic
Junior Reporter
BELGRADE, Serbia – Christmas is around the corner. While some are planning how to spend the happiest holiday season ever, others are cramming over their books, trying to pass their final exams.
But, honestly, no one is really thinking about college or their poor salary on the job right now. According to some optimists, Christmas time is one of the happiest seasons of the year. Some people were so overexcited about it that the celebrations began in the fall.
When you live in one of the best cities in Europe for having fun and partying, it’s more than normal that your hunt for presents and Christmas euphoria starts extra early.
Milica Cvetkovic /
Lights brighten up Belgrade, Serbia.
This is a benefit because life is about having fun and enjoying every second.
So if you have the opportunity to come to Belgrade, Serbia this season, don’t be surprised if you see a New Year’s atmosphere.
Milica Cvetkovic /
Candy canes for Christmas!
This year’s holiday season started back in October, which was a surprise even for the Belgradians. Although Belgrade is the city of generous people, endless partying and having fun, it was kind of unusual to see Christmas decorations above Knez Mihailova’s street or Republic Square – one of the most popular destinations in Belgrade – months in advance.
Milica Cvetkovic /
Christmas lights in Belgrade, Serbia light up the night.
The Christmas season is a time when the university campus becomes the main spot for hanging out instead of studying about Roman law. If you walk there by accident, you can see a lot of young people drinking cola and hanging out while listening to music.
If you’d rather not revive your college memories by walking across the campus – and probably getting lost multiple times – you can always go to Knez Mihailova’s street, one of the main pedestrian zones in the city. When you’re there, take a selfie at the Republic Square, or sneak into the park of Parliament and take a New Year’s photo of one of the beautiful buildings there.
Of course, if you are coming to Belgrade, don’t miss the opportunity to buy something in a Belgrade shop or enjoy some of Christmas-themed parties because when you are in Belgrade, do what Belgradians do: have fun and forget your problems at home!
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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

College Christmas tree lights up Lahore

Arooj Khalid /
A Christmas tree decorates the campus of Forman Christian College University in Lahore, Pakistan.
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In Geneva, protesting Congolese leader

Selvaganeshamoorthi Balakrishnan /

A protest in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday urging Joseph Kabila, leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo to step down. People in the Congolese capital of Kinshasha are also demonstrating against Kabila.

Selvaganeshamoorthi Balakrishnan /

Protesters hoping to see Joseph Kabila ejected from his role as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo the "carton rouge" or "red card" on a sign they held at the protest in Geneva on Tuesday.
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