Monday, October 17, 2016

Teen draws inspiration, hope from Michelle Obama's speech on sexual assault

Official White House photo
First Lady Michelle Obama
By Garret Reich
Senior Reporter
GLENWOOD, Iowa, U.S.A. – At a Hillary Clinton rally in New Hampshire last week, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed one of the primary conflicts in our 2016 presidential election: sexual assault.
“This is not something we can ignore,” she said.
Both U.S. citizens and many others around the world are aware of the controversial comments by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.  
As a result, it was a personal relief to hear the First Lady speak out. She said that she would like to give her regular campaign speech but that “it would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to just move on to the next thing.”
As not just a woman but as a human being, I was cheering inside to watch her address Trump’s comments about women caught on tape, whether a decade or a day old. In the recording, he tells another man that he “can do anything” he wants to a woman because he is famous, including grabbing them by the genitals.
“It is cruel. It’s frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts,” Obama said.
Every person has a voice, whether spoken or written.  But it helps to create change when respected men and women speak out.
For teenagers and young adults, the First Lady started or helped to start many programs to initiate change that gained her the respect of people across the globe, including Let Girls Learn, Reach Higher and Let’s Move.  
My fear of a Trump presidency has been misconstrued by my classmates and my community. It was a consolation to hear that Michelle feels the same way.
Too many are treating this as just another day's headline, as if our outrage is overblown or unwarranted, as if this is normal,” said Michelle. “Just politics as usual.”
But it’s not.  
Our First Lady’s speech generated new hope in me.
It spurred hope that not all presidential candidates say rude and misogynistic comments behind the backs of women and girls. It made me hope that that we do have government officials who care for the people the country.
But the speech was not only addressing Trump’s statements. Obama finished with a call to attention. Those who can vote, must, she urged.
The First Lady encouraged those who are unable to vote to “get on social media.”
I am inspired.  And thanks to our First Lady, I know that when “they go low, we go high.”
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Friday, October 14, 2016

Authors offer pro tips at writing festival

Jack Ward /
Writers Clementine Ford and Amy Gray talked about opinion writing with a moderator at the Melbourne Writers Festival.
By Jack Ward
MELBOURNE, Australia – Some of the world’s top authors gave tips and shared life experiences at the Melbourne Writers Festival, held recently in Federation Square in Melbourne.
John Marsden, the author of the Tomorrow series and Meg Rosoff, the author of How I Live Now spoke about how their books – both published in 2006 – had been adapted into movies.
Marsden said he wrote Tomorrow, When the War Began in eight months. It sold more than five million copies worldwide and won every major writers award for young fiction.
Marsden had more than 65 offers to turn his book into a film, but said, “Hollywood shouldn’t be able to buy everything.”
It was, however, such a good opportunity that he didn’t turn it down. Now the film, which came out in 2010, is in the past and ABC’s TV series of the book is the newest edition to the story.
“We are all writers and musicians; we can do anything we put our minds to,” Marsden said, advising young writers, “Learn by reading other writers work.”
Graeme Base, author of picture books such as Animalia stopped to chat outside the pop up bookshop at the Melbourne Writers Festival with Youth Journalism International Reporter Jack Ward.
Rosoff’s journey to the big screen started when she wrote a screenplay for How I Live Now for a filmmaker and received great feedback. But an unrelated tragedy befell the filmmaker and derailed the project.  It was 2013 before director Kevin Macdonald brought the film to the theater.
All forms of writing aren’t the same, according to Rosoff.
“Just because you can write one type of writing doesn’t mean you can write all types,” she said.
Her latest book, published this year, is a novel called Jonathon Unleashed and involves some doggy situations.
Suzy Zail, author of fiction and non-fiction books based on the Holocaust, told the audience at the writers conference about how her writing adventure began.
She quit her job as a solicitor, she said, to spend more time with her father, who had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.  Doctors said he might have just six months to live.
Author Suzy Zail with Youth Journalism International Reporter Jack Ward at the Melbourne Writers Festival.
She had one last conversation to have with her father, Zail said, and flew to his house. He had an interesting story to tell. After 10 days of talking, he had told her everything about his childhood Holocaust experience – something they’d never before discussed.
Zail then decided to share his story of survival and that’s when her writing career began with the book The Tattooed Flower: a Memoir.
That, however, wasn’t enough. She then wrote The Wrong Boy, which was her first fiction book. She said she wrote the book as a way of keeping her dad close – its main character is based on his stories.
Zail ended by saying how important research is and to make sure the story you are telling is true because that’s what the reader expects.
Two opinion writers, Clementine Ford and Amy Gray explained how their writing careers began and how hard it is to crack into the industry.
Gray said she started by blogging for years, while Ford, who was the editor at her university newspaper, began by giving herself a column. These first opportunities were great learning experiences for both of them.
Author Meg Rosoff at the Melbourne Writers Festival with Youth Journalism International Reporter Jack Ward.
Since then both women have written articles for many big name companies. Ford’s latest is her new book, Fight like a Girl. Both writers said that when it comes to opinion writing, people like personal stories and sometimes it is good to be hot headed, other times not.
Gray and Ford offered a few key point for aspiring writers to remember. The work is not about perfection, they said, but could be viewed as an exercise.
A writer should consider what he or she is trying to say, and make sure the reader can understand the point.  Most of the work – about 60 percent – is about the story, they said, while the writing itself takes up the rest.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Exploring my favorite neighborhoods in Addis Ababa for Ethiopian New Year

Dawit Leake /
Spices in the market in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
By Dawit Leake
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – While celebrating Ethiopian New Year last month, I got a rare chance to go around the city of Addis Ababa and visit some of my favorite places.
The Ethiopian New Year is based on the Ethiopian calendar which originates from the Orthodox calendar system and has a unique set of 13 months. Ethiopian New Year falls on the 11th of
September and once every four years it falls on the 12th.  This year, the new year fell on Sept. 11.
The last month of our calendar year is “Puagume,” which lasts only of five or six days but is quite special.
It is believed in the Ethiopian Orthodox faith that the rain that falls during Puagume is holy water. In this month people are encouraged to forgive and forget, accepting the New Year with joy and happiness. New Years in Ethiopia has always had a vibe of forgiveness and harmony.
During my adventure in the city this past New Year’s Eve, I saw people buying dresses in the markets of Shiro Meda, which is a popular and large traditional cloth market area. The set of different colors of Tibebs, which are traditional designs of colorful fabric put on the white cotton dresses, is a way to truly show the city’s diverse look.
Dawit Leake /
In the spice market of
Addis Ababa.
Following that I went through and around some neighborhoods where I got to see people rushing around getting things, going places and preparing for the holiday to come.
Next, I went to Piassa, one of my favorite neighborhoods. I adore its old Italian architecture. Here you can find people exploring their shopping options for the New Year.
Finally, I went to Bole, which is a newer neighborhood. Here I decided to take a long walk around while the people I was with finished getting ready. Walking in this neighborhood, I saw commercial buildings with music and dancing set up at entries to entertain people passing by.
Many people, especially women, were dressed up very traditionally. Some were young girls wishing people a happy new year.
“Melkam Addis Amet,” they would say in Amharic, which means have a pleasant new year.
Most of all I got to see the special feeling of a new beginning on people’s faces, a feeling that only a New Year can bring.
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Monday, October 10, 2016

Go out of this world at the Space Center

Mugdha Gurram /
At the Space Center in Houston a display designed to show what a space vehicle might look like as it is hurtling through space.

By Mugdha Gurram
Senior Reporter
HOUSTON, Texas – Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Apollo rockets.
Stepping into the Space Center, a space-oriented museum connected to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, visitors get a glimpse into these space missions and more. From a variety of movies, to the various interactive exhibits, people get an in depth look at NASA’s work in space, including the science, technology, and people behind it.
Exhibits show off mock-ups of vehicles such as the Orbiter, space suits worn by astronauts during various space missions, and collections of lunar dust and a moon rock visitors can touch.
There is a show that uses an audience volunteer to demonstrate how astronauts live in the space station, using a mock-up of the space station.
The center also has rides that simulate what it’s like to be on a space mission, which seemed very popular among the kids visiting.
Mugdha Gurram /
Exhibits at the Space Center include space suits
actually worn in space and re-create scenes so
visitors can imagine what astronauts actually did in
While some of the activities are obviously geared towards younger visitors, such as the “How to train like an astronaut” exhibit and the fairly large play area, the center has something for people of all ages.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Space Center museum is the fact that it offers access to where the magic happens.
Tram tours take visitors to the Johnson Space Center and offer a look into places like the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, where astronauts train to use the machines up in space, and NASA’s Building 17, where they develop and test space food. These tours offer people a one-of-a-kind chance to see the actual facilities that astronauts and NASA employees use to prepare for space.
Mugdha Gurram /
The space vehicle mockup facility, where astronauts come to practice using real equipment they might use in space.

Visitors also get a chance to hear real astronauts talk about their experiences in space, and get a chance to grab a picture with them.
Mugdha Gurram /
Astronaut Kenneth D. Cameron speaking to
visitors at the Space Center in Houston.
I had a chance to hear astronaut Kenneth D. Cameron speak about the three shuttle missions he was a part of, and the opportunities he had to help secure a good relationship between the United States and Russia when they were combining their efforts in space. He joked that what really sealed the deal was the U.S. team bringing ice cream up to the Russian space station.
Cameron emphasized the importance of teamwork.  
“In order to build a space station, first you have to build a team that can build it,” he said.
Working cooperatively is crucial, according to Cameron.
“We have built an amazing machine up in space. But we built an even better team that built that machine,” said Cameron. “In the end, it’s the team that carries it through.”
The Center also pays tribute to the teams lost in the Challenger and Columbia space missions, in an exhibit and in a memorial of trees visible from the tram tours.
The Space Center is a definite must for anyone who enjoys learning about the vast universe, the astronauts who explore it, and the technology that brings them there. 
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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pakistan must join the global war on terror

By Mohammad Awais
Junior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – Despite the enormous impact of 9/11, there are other events the world has witnessed in the 15 years since the attacks that had farther-reaching consequences, especially the global economic crisis, the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa and the financial rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
One nation, though, is still mired in the aftermath of 9/11 – Pakistan.
No other state equates with Pakistan in the monumental repercussions of 9/11. The BBC reported in 2011 that about 35,000 Pakistanis lost their lives in the aftermath. The loss of security personnel alone – according to a 2011 report in The New York Review of Books – totals more than the nearly 3,000 people who died that day on American soil.
The Pakistani government said its direct or indirect economic losses amounted to $68 billion in the first decade after 9/11, according to the report in The New York Review of Books.
That’s a figure far too great for a developing state to afford. Pakistan lost its sovereignty over a large territory in the northwest part of the country.
Most importantly, by harboring domestic and international terrorists, Pakistan plunged into a chaotic uncertainty where the very survival of the state is in question. As the economically devastated U.S. plans an exit strategy from Afghanistan, there seems no exit from terrorism and state failure in sight for Pakistan.
The heart of the matter lies in the simple question, ‘Is the war on terror our war?’
Religious parties and a significant section of the public declare it America’s war and argue for complete withdrawal of Pakistan from the ‘war on terror.’ Usually those associated with the corridors of power, along with some from the educated class, approve of the war as the better option because Pakistan is too weak to take the U.S. head on. The third category belongs to some politicians, liberal intelligentsia and political activists who not only own it as Pakistan’s war but consider it mandatory for Pakistan’s survival and prosperity.
Building a consensus on the ‘war on terror’ should be the highest national priority for Pakistan, which can afford no more delay.
Pakistan’s engagement with terrorism – and its struggle against it – has been in the pipeline for decades. It will remain after America’s exit from Afghanistan. For better or worse, 9/11 essentially brought us to the crossroads where the state had make a choice between supporting or abandoning militancy.
The question to be asked is, who decided to opt for using militancy as a proxy to achieve state objectives? What is the constitutionality of the policy of preserving militants as strategic assets? Consistently blaming others for the burns of our ideological contradictions and strategic shortsightedness has brought us damaging international alienation.
Today, the world is moving on from the post 9/11 era, but we in Pakistan don’t seem ready for this. The end of militancy in Pakistan is not only requisite for American troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan but also pivotal for Pakistan’s bright future.
Religious militancy has almost become a civilizational problem for us. The needed international consensus against militancy always seemed missing. Our commitment should mean nothing short of a national policy against all militants, disregarding the delusions of ‘strategic assets.
If not reason, the sheer urgency of the situation and the enormous losses we have suffered in the past decade should guide our thinking. Time is running out to act decisively against terrorism. Failing to do so could lead to more 9/11s, more wars, and immeasurable civilian strife for decades to come. 
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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Parents' stories bring 9/11 attacks to life

Jen Plonski, then a YJI student, drew this for the first anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
By Garret Reich
Senior Reporter
GLENWOOD, Iowa, U.S.A. – I’m too young to remember the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but that awful day left my parents with enough memories for them and me.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and those aboard Flight 93 who deliberately crashed the plane into a Pennsylvania field rather than let it be used as a missile against another national target.
I’m still grateful and relieved that my family did not lose anyone that day. At the time however, my brother was 17 days old and my father was serving overseas as a Navy pilot. I was a year and a half old.
My mom, my new baby brother and I were isolated, living in a small rural Minnesota town, hours away from extended family or friends.
When the planes hit the north and south towers of the World Trade Center, all my mom could do was watch the news unfold on television.  Years later, I watched the videos and they still almost don’t look real to me. We don’t often see attacks like this, except in the movies.
Moments after the second plane hit the south tower, my mom got an email from my dad saying he loved her – and that he didn’t know when he’d be able to talk again.
He hadn’t even met his son.
One of the scariest things for my mom was not knowing what would happen next.  There were cases of anthrax attacks in the offices of U.S. senators shortly after the terrorists struck.
She later told me that she would leave us in the house when she walked to the mailbox – and then stayed outside to open the mail, just in case.
Emma Bally /
A photograph from 2011
showing what was then a new
sign in the New York City
subway directing people to
the 9/11 memorial.
According to my dad, who was serving a six-month deployment, he was able to receive letters but it was difficult for him to write us regularly after the attacks. But he wrote letters to each of us that he set aside in case he didn’t return.
Last year, my family took a trip to New York. We were exploring the city when my mom said she wanted to show us where the Twin Towers collapsed. It is now more commonly called Ground Zero.
Where the towers once stood are two large, gaping holes.  The nearly 3,000 names of men, women, and children killed in the attacks are inscribed in bronze along the side of the memorial.
Within the original footprints of the towers are fountains where water falls endlessly into the smaller hole in the middle.
Being at Ground Zero is hard to explain to anyone who has not been there. Some people take photos and some touch the names, but nothing captures the monumental awe that you feel looking at where the buildings used to stand.  
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Saturday, September 3, 2016

How to have fun at the amusement park, even if you don't like rollercoasters
Ready to take off on the American Flyers at Lake Compounce are, from left, YJI reporters Shelby Saunders, Kiernan Majerus-Collins and Mary Majerus-Collins.

By Kiernan Majerus-Collins
Senior Correspondent
BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. – The first time I rode a rollercoaster, I broke my glasses.
I was on a trip to Lake Compounce, America’s oldest amusement park, with four fellow YJI students, all of whom were thrilled at the chance to ride the fastest, most exhilarating rides the park could offer.
“I live for the stomach flips,” one of them said.
But I didn’t share their enthusiasm. I had never ridden a rollercoaster, and so stayed behind as they tried out Phobia, the park’s new coaster that claims to make riders face their fears. Watching from the ground, the ride seemed impossibly scary, but when they were done they all seemed to have loved it, and were eager to try out the next coaster.
YJI reporters Kiernan Majerus-Collins
and Ruth Onyirimba before riding
the Boulder Dash wooden rollercoaster
at Lake Compounce. One of them liked
“Come on,” said Mary, my sister. She claimed that Boulder Dash, one of two wooden coasters at Lake Compounce, would be more my speed. You don’t even have to go upside down, she said.
Reluctantly I agreed, and climbed into a little car that would shortly take me on my wild trip through the Connecticut woods.
At the outset, the coaster moved slowly, climbing upwards. It didn’t seem so bad, but I told my fellow rider that I was nervous as we approached the top. I had no idea what was in store, however.
The coaster plummeted down, shaking violently, and never really stopped again. After the third or fourth drop, my face drenched with sweat from the heat, I could feel my glasses slipping down my nose. If they fell off on the coaster, in the best case scenario they would be lost forever in the forest. In the worst case scenario, they would be crushed to pieces.
I tried to reach up and grab them, but it was hard to do as I hurtled forward at speeds in excess of 60 mph. I eventually snatched them as they fell off my face, right before we went careening down a giant hill and around a bend to give riders a momentary view of the lake.
The coaster roared up and down as it sped back to the beginning of the track, and I stared down, just waiting for the ride to be over.
Alan Burkholder /
Friends can make a day at the park
even better. Reporters Alan Burkholder
and Kiernan Majerus-Collins.
Once I got my wish, however, I noticed that my glasses had broken apart. I resolved to henceforth take them off before going on any more rides, and to not ride any more rollercoasters, at least that day.
The good news for me was that there’s plenty to do at Lake Compounce even for coaster cowards like me.
I rode the American Flyers, a World War-II era ride where you sit in a small compartment that hangs off the arm of a central post. It spins you around so it feels like you are gently flying and as you ride, you control the rudder, which means you can steer the compartment to some degree. I liked that ride a lot, and went on it three or four times.
I also liked the Wave Swinger, which were a bit more intense but still fun. And I liked the chance to ride the park’s old trolley and miniature train, which when taken in succession given riders a pleasant view of the lake and the park.
I had hoped to go on the Sky Ride, a gentle 30-minute glide on a ski lift up to the top of a ridge overlooking the park and then down again. I remembered riding it in elementary school, and the views were beautiful.
Aside from rides, Lake Compounce is filled with food and drink, which is helpful on a hot summer’s day. The park gives all visitors unlimited free water and soda (although the machines are surrounded by bees seeking spilled Pepsi), and has a few restaurants.
We ate at the Crocodile Café, where the best thing I had was the waffle fries, which I would definitely get again. The worst thing was a massive cupcake, which was an $8 disappointment. Don’t get it.
Instead, try the Old-Fashioned Ice Cream shop, where a milkshake made from hard ice cream is $5. The shop is air-conditioned (unlike the Crocodile Café), which was a relief after hours in the sun, and the chocolate milkshake I got was delicious.
Before the day was over I also got a chance to see the Caterpillar Train, one of my favorites rides from when I was a kid. I got a picture for old times’ sake.
YJI reporter Kiernan Majerus-Collins is reunited with his childhood pal, the Caterpillar Train.
We ended our day with the most charming ride of all – the 1911 carousel.
The traditional music and graceful wooden horses were enchanting, and as the final ride ended, I felt myself wishing we could stay just a little longer. Despite my broken glasses, sweaty clothes, and fear of rollercoasters, Lake Compounce offered a fun-filled escape from the worries of everyday life. I look forward to my next visit.


If you DO want thrills, read this: In search of stomach flips and plenty of speed: testing coasters at Lake Compounce, by YJI Junior Reporter Shelby Saunders

Want more? Read "Phobia forces coaster fans to face their fears" from YJI Senior Reporter Mary Majerus-Collins.

And don't miss: "Please secure all loose items: a woman's guide to dressing for success and thrills" by YJI reporters Shelby Saunders, Ruth Onyirimba and Mary Majerus-Collins. 

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Stunning solar eclipse under African skies

David Joseph Kapito /
The September 1, 2016 solar eclipse as seen from Lilongwe, Malawi.

By David Joseph Kapito
Youth Journalism International
LILONGWE, Malawi – Today was another amazing day for skywatchers in Malawi and other parts of Africa as we observed the solar eclipse.

U.S. State Department
Click to enlarge map

The eclipse took some minutes in the late morning hours 11 a.m. to noon.

Skywatchers observed solar eclipse in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and other parts of Malawi.
There was a bit darkness in the sky, it was not normal. Clouds overhead foretold a sense of change in the atmosphere. The experience was amazing.
The dark cloud made it tough to observe the anticipated “ring of fire” look of the eclipse, but some zoomed pictures captured from the scene showed more.
According to National Aeronautics and Space administration (NASA), the next partial eclipse is expected to take place on February 26, 2017 in Africa and August 21 August on the American Eastern coast.

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