Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter Terror Attack - How Much More?

By Hafsa Ahmed
Youth Journalism International
LAHORE, Pakistan – The day began like any other normal Sunday. People all over the city relaxed after a tiring weekly routine. Christian families prepared for Easter celebrations. Hardly anyone could’ve guessed that the festive air would be tainted with the blood of innocents as the day came to a close.
It pains me to admit that the people of Pakistan are no strangers to seeing their young being brutally, cowardly murdered by terrorists. Our plight gained international recognition in 2014, when more than 140 lives were laid to rest at the behest of gunmen in Army Public School, Peshawar.
It did not stop there. The event replayed itself in 2015, when students were once again targeted at the Bacha Khan University, near Peshawar.
Sunday, March 27, 2016 marked yet another dark day in the history of mankind when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, barely meters away from the children’s playing area.
As I watched the horror of the evening’s events replay on television, I could not help but wonder this: what exactly is the worth of a human life? And how much further must we suffer before realizing it?
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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Miami Airport Bomb Threat: Running for our Lives, Finding the Kindness of Strangers

Googlemaps Street View
Miami International Airport Terminal H

Johanna Boedenauer
MIAMI, Florida – As  I sat sipping from a $7 Evian water bottle at Gate 5 in Terminal H beside my parents waiting for our flight from Miami to Atlanta, I looked up from my phone to see a herd of people galloping in our direction and screaming, “Run! Run!”
I looked to my mother, whose expression mirrored my own confusion and sudden fear.
Somehow, my feet had cemented themselves into the floor beneath me.

My survival mode kicked in instantaneously. As I pondered my next move, a million thoughts raced through my pulsating head: Is this it? Is this the inevitable moment of my demise?
Then my rational mind took over and I convinced myself it was merely a stampede of would-be fliers whose gate had spontaneously changed at the last second – until I noticed blue uniforms among those sprinting past while they frantically hollered the words I had dreaded in every middle school gym class: "Run! Run! Run!"
Oh, not a gate change then.
We quickly found ourselves running along with the crowd. I couldn't decide between the notion that ‘we’re gonna be OK’ and, well, insert every profane phrase provided by the English language.
We hustled through the airport, and out onto the runway, where couples held each other, children wept and everyone wondered what the hell was going on.
For a split second, I turned around to find my mother was missing. Then I spotted her kneeling on the asphalt, clutching a woman who was hyperventilating and sobbing uncontrollably.
It turned out the panicked woman was an elementary school principal from North Carolina who had been visiting her husband in Argentina. She had an understandable terrible fear of flying because her family died during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
A strange phenomenon occurs in situations like these. Yes, people cry and fear for the well-being of their loved ones, but they also rise to the occasion in unfathomable ways.
Strangers wipe the tears of strangers and hold each other’s hands and pour water into each other's mouths and tell each other, "You're going to get through this. You're going to survive and you're going home to your family."   
Whispers in the crowd now suggested a 'suspicious package' has been discovered, a bomb threat.
Since 9/11, and now with recent atrocities in Brussels, Belgium and other cities around the world, travelers constantly face an immense fear that the next act of terrorism might hit closer to home.
The ever-present, Darwinian fear of impending doom lurks within, yearning for moments like these to reveal its debilitating nature.
But moments like these also provide us with a choice.
We can – and I think you'll pardon the inherent cliché – choose to tune into our humanity and act out of our fullest compassion, in spite of a fearful gut reaction.
To paraphrase loosely Jon Stewart's monologue after the 9/11 attacks: destruction is easy. The true heroes are those who keep going and keep rebuilding.
Airport officials escorted us around the Miami International Airport building, to a different gate, where we waited for an "all clear" that eventually came, thankfully.
It was there that we were separated from the elementary school principal – whose name we never learned – and finally made our way back to a two-hour security check-in line.
Although the chances of the principal ever reading these words are slim, I want her to know I'm so sorry for the tragedy your family endured in 2001 and that we still live in a world in which such acts remain a possibility. I also hope and trust that you found your way home safely – now as an even stronger, more empowered woman who can emphasize the importance of peace and kindness in the education of her young students.
All I know – and I genuinely don't give a damn if this makes me sound naïve or overly-idealistic – is that love wins every time. It always will. 
As I write this, I'm boarding my plane home to Atlanta – exhausted, sweaty, humbled, and grateful as all hell to be sleeping in a safe bed tonight. 
Editor’s note: The terminal at Miami International Airport was evacuated late Monday afternoon after authorities found a piece of luggage abandoned. It proved a false alarm.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Terrorists Poisoned Lahore's Melting Pot

By Arooj Khalid
Senior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – Toddlers and children playing around the swings, people celebrating the joyous arrival of spring. It was Easter, a holiday widely celebrated in my city.
This seems like the description of a nice evening at the park.  Would that it remained so.
 A suicide bomber attacked a local park in Lahore around 7 p.m. on Easter Sunday.  More than 60 people lost their lives, more than 300 families are praying for the recovery of their injured relatives.
News channels are flashing footage of the rescuers. Ambulances are speeding by, loved ones are running here and there.
There’s an influx of social media posts, some condemning the attack and some blaming it on opposing organizations. Other posts show pictures of children who got separated from their parents in the rampage after the blast, and some are trying to identify the suicide bomber. Some even go as far as to say that the blast was nothing more than a distraction for the public from the recently captured agent of RAW, the Indian intelligence agency.
A faction of the Taliban recently claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in the park and openly stated the targets were the Christian minority of Pakistan – and that similar attacks would continue.
The Taliban are one of the well-known extremist groups who claim to fight for Islam but clearly go against it in every one of their actions.  To quote the Quran, Chapter 2 (verse 11-12), “And when it is said to them, Make not mischief in the land, they say: We are but peacemakers. Now surely they are the mischief-makers, but they perceive not.”
Most terrorist attacks that happen around the world are blamed on religion but it makes me wonder if religion even plays a part here or if it’s just being used as an excuse.
It is said that you need morality to know what is right and wrong, not religion. And even then, most religions of the world promote peace and coexistence.
Then, when these vicious extremists act upon other lethal and barbaric values, it makes all our attempts at coexistence feel trivial.
As a Muslim, born and raised in a Muslim family, in a city dominated by a Muslim population, I have a ton of Christian friends. I’ve been to church and not only am I taking a course in Christian ethics, but I also go to a Christian university.
If that doesn’t depict the unity between Muslim and Christian masses in Lahore, I don’t know what does.
If out of nowhere, these extremists come and drop bombs on our Christian brothers and sisters, we won’t sit calmly with our hands on our laps.  Our ancestors created Pakistan to liberate us and leave behind the savageness.
Now the responsibility falls on the Punjab government. Can it protect its citizens from a cruel stream of terrorism that may be in store for the future of Lahore and assert its potency despite the opposition?
Punjab’s leaders must show by their actions that they are capable of safeguarding the minority populations as well as any other.
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A Terrorist Struck my Neighborhood Park

By Amber Shakil
LAHORE, Pakistan – Near where I live is Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, a beautiful place with birds, lakes and swings for children.
It’s a popular public place for picnics, trips and family outings. I’ve been there several times. People who live in other cities come to see it when they visit Lahore.

Today, though, the park is filled with death and pain. A suicide bomber attacked the park, killing more than 60 people. Now ambulances are carrying the wounded out of the park.

Around 7 p.m. I heard a huge sound. At first I thought it was a transformer that exploded but then I realized that this explosion didn’t sound like a transformer. A most horrible thought crossed my mind.  I hurried towards the television and sadly, what I feared proved right. News reports said more than 300 injured, in addition to the more than 60 dead.
Googlemaps satellite image.
Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan.  
On every channel was the news about the blast in the park’s parking area. The bomber struck around the time when everyone was about to leave the park.
For the next few hours I heard the sound of ambulances and police cars. I have no words to explain my feelings. This was the first time I heard a blast and sounds of ambulances for almost three hours.
Today was Easter and I am sure that this blast was planned for this day. On holidays everyone visits their relatives and especially people go to parks. As it was Easter, many people went with kids to celebrate their festival. And what happened? People who were happy and enjoying their festival and kids who were playing died for no reason!
From Googlemaps 
Click on the image to enlarge.
The map shows the location
of the city of Lahore in Pakistan.
I live in a country where bomb blasts are regularly happening for the past few years and still I have no idea what is the reason behind all these attacks. I am really depressed and I have stopped watching the news.
I am helpless and so is everyone here. Innocent people are dying. Last time, terrorists attacked a school and now they’ve killed people celebrating their festival.
I can still hear the sound of that blast and the ambulance sirens in my head. It’s impossible to concentrate on anything right now.
People will not return to the park for days, at least.
Whatever the terrorists’ motive is, whether it is to kill people or put fear in people, they are getting too good at it.
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Easter Bombing Claims Many Victims

Googlemaps satellite image
Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan
By Irha Nadeem
Youth Journalism International
LAHORE, Pakistan – More than 60 have lost their lives and more than 300 more were hurt in an Easter Sunday terror blast in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, according to news reports here.
While the Christian community was celebrating Easter in Pakistan on what seemed to be a normal weekend, the country was going through unrest. 
On Sunday, there were protests in Islamabad, the capital city, resulting in a police clash. A media channel office was attacked in Karachi where two people lost their lives.
A large number of people turned out in the park in Lahore today due to the weekend and Easter celebrations. The suicide blast was reported to have happened around 6 p.m., when many of the people were leaving. The victims included many children and women.
News accounts said the bomber was young, about 21 years old. While much information has not yet been provided and official statement have not yet been issued, the authorities have condemned the attack and asked the citizens for blood donations.

A map of Pakistan with a red indicator showing the city of Lahore.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spreading Color and Joy - Holi in Nepal

Om Prakash Kandel /
Friends celebrating Holi in Newroad, Kathmandu, Nepal. These three are all studying computer engineering at Pokhara University. From left, Om Prakash, Kandel, Santosh Paudel and Bishwash Dahal. During Holi, a joyful Hindu festival celebrated by people of many faiths, people toss colored powder and colored water at each other. Children get excited to play with the colors and foreign tourists also join in the fun.
Om Prakash Kandel /
The students take a rest from the Holi activities in Tundikhel, a cultural area in Kathmandu. From left, Om Prakash Kandel, Bishwash Dahal and Santosh Paudel.
Santosh Paudel /
A Holi selfie in Kathmandu, Nepal.
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Monday, March 21, 2016

Welcoming Spring, and a New Year, In Iran

Frida Zeinali /
A Persian New Year holiday display on the street in Mashhad, Iran. The bearded figure is holding a Seven S table with items symbolizing growth, love, health, wealth, wisdom, patience and new beginnings for the coming year.
By Frida Zeinali
Junior Reporter
MASHHAD, Iran – Every year, March 20 marks a very important date on Iranians’ calendar – it’s the first day of spring, but it’s our New Year, too.
Iranian New Year, also known as Nowrouz (pronounced "no-rooz") is a major part of Iranian culture with its roots dating back a millennia.
Nowrouz, which means “New Day” in Persian, is annually celebrated on the first day of spring.
It’s the most cherished Iranian holiday. Millions of Iranians – both in country and abroad – consider Nowrouz an important part of their heritage and identity.
But we’re not the only ones. Along with Iranians, millions of people in Albania, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Turkey also celebrate this ancient holiday.
Preparations start weeks ahead of the big day. The most well-known ritual before Nowrouz is Red Wednesday. On the last Tuesday evening before Nowrouz, people set huge bonfires outdoors and jump over the flames, singing special poems and songs.
Spring cleaning, buying new clothes and decorating – family homes and city spaces, too – follow Red Wednesday.
An essential Nowrouz tradition is setting a “Seven S” table. No one knows exactly how far this ritual dates back, but Iranians have continued setting this table for centuries. This table contains seven items starting with the Persian /s/ sound. Each item on this table symbolizes a special quality in life.  These following items are a must:
Sabzeh: Sprouted seeds of wheat, lentil, mung bean or barley, which symbolizes growth.
Senjed: Dried oleaster fruit, symbolizing love.
Sib: Apples, symbolizing health.
Seer: Garlic, symbolizing care for a healthy life.
Samanu: A sweet pudding made from sabzeh juice and flour, symbolizing wealth.
Serkeh: Vinegar, symbolizing wisdom and patience in life.
Sumac: A spice made from crushed sour red berries, symbolizing new beginnings in life.
Families might put extra items on the table depending on their own preferences. The number of additional items varies by family. It’s common to have a bowl of water with goldfish and painted eggs for fertility, a mirror for honesty, candles and hyacinth flowers on the table.
Frida Zeinali /
The Zeinali family Seven S table, set with, from left to right, back row:  hyacinth, sprouted wheat, a mirror, sprouted lentil, a goldfish Middle row, from left: apple, eggs, candles, text from the Q'uran, garlic. In front, dried oleaster, coins (for wealth, a substitute for vinegar), samanu (sweet pudding) and crushed sumac. Click on the photo to enlarge.
The whole table is a tribute to God, giving thanks for all the blessings. People may also put a holy book on the table that corresponds to their religion. It would symbolize receiving help from God in the New Year.
Nowrouz corresponds with the vernal equinox and starts at the same moment as the equinox, not at the stroke of midnight.
The spring, or Vernal Equinox, occurs each year in the Northern Hemisphere between March 19 and March 21. At the same time, the Southern Hemisphere has the fall, or Autumnal Equinox.
This year in Iran, Nowrouz was observed at 8:27 a.m. on Sunday, March 20. It’s the time that the sun shines directly on the Equator and the length of the day is about the same as that of the night.
Frida Zeinali /
Haji Firouz, a figure from Iranian folktales, is part of the Persian New Year celebrations. Here he is holding a daf, similar to a tambourine in front of sprouted wheat and sprouted lentil. It's all part of a display on a Seven S table. Legend says that Haji travels the streets and alleys each year playing the daf to bring spring. After he leaves, the trees begin to bloom.

Nowrouz brings a 13-day holiday across the country for schools and universities as well as four days off for community workers. It gives everyone a perfect opportunity for traveling, family gatherings and resting.
At the beginning of the 13 days, families gather at the house of the oldest member to visiting each other and pay respect.
The last day has a special name, Sizdah Bedar. On the 13th day, families have a tradition of going on a picnic or somehow spending time in nature. At the end of the day, they leave their Sabzeh, the sprouted seeds, in nature and release their goldfishes into water if they are still alive.
During Nowrouz, family dinners also take place. Children usually receive fresh banknotes as gift. People forgive and forget the past, renewing relationships that had grown bitter.
So, it’s all about fresh beginnings.
There are many more traditions and rituals all across the country, depending on provinces; but these ones are the most well-known.
All these ceremonies share a lot of things in common. Wiping the sadness of the past, a desire for freshness and a deep respect for traditions are some of them. That’s the reason why the old traditions of Nowrouz are still highly admired and passionately followed.
Now I want to finish by saying “Happy Nowrouz” in Persian. So, “Nowrouz Pirouz!”
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Thursday, March 17, 2016

International Flavors Abound at Busy Gambian Market on Africa's West Coast

Lama Jallow /
A van makes its way through the crowded Serrekunda Market in The Gambia.

By Lama Jallow
SERREKUNDA, The Gambia – From producers to consumers, wholesalers to retailers, Serrekunda Market is one of the busiest markets in The Gambia.
People come from faraway places to sell their products and then go home and prepare for the next day.
Djula traders, who are long distance traders coming from the north and upper river regions, cross the River Gambia from Barra to Banjul and continue to Serrekunda where they will sell their goods.

Lama Jallow /
Vegetables for sale in the Serrekunda Market.
Lama Jallow /
Many people who sell goods in the busy Serrekunda Market use an umbrella to stay out of the sun.
The Serrekunda market on the tip
 of The Gambia. Traders cross
the River Gambia from Barra
to Banjul to reach the market.
Click on the map to enlarge.
The red pin marking Serrekunda in The Gambia shows
it in the context of northwestern Africa geography.
Click on the map to enlarge.

As one of the busiest markets around, food stuffs, clothes, furniture and other materials are in abundance.
Food is imported from Nigeria mainly from Gari. Some of this food has now become part of the Gambian dishes.
Lama Jallow /
Fresh local produce for sale at the Serrekunda Market.
Lama Jallow /
Fresh fish at a vendor stand.
Lama Jallow /
Dried fish for sale at the market.

Lama Jallow /
The rooftop of a building offers a perfect view of the bustling market below.
Lama Jallow /
Shoppers and vendors in the market.
Lama Jallow /

The market is mostly controlled by foreigner, mainly from Conakry, Guinea; Nigeria, Senegal and other places.
Many people come and buy food stuffs and sell them in their local markets. Goods are often cheaper in Serrekunda than in their regions.
Tourists from different countries visit the market often with their cameras to take pictures. Others buy African foods to cook and eat.
Religious differences do not mean people have to be separated at the market. Christians and Muslims interact and often buy goods from each other, which paves the way for an absolutely fantastic atmosphere in the market.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Shakespeare On Tour at Age 400

Mary Majerus-Collins /
A 1623 folio, or special volume, containing William Shakespeare's work "The Tragedie of Hamlet" was on display for a month at the Middlebury College Museum of Art in Middlebury, Vermont. As part of a celebration of Shakespeare's 400th year, this and other of the First Folios will be touring and on display at museums, universities, public libraries, historical societies and one theater. The tour includes location in all 50 U.S. states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. The tour ends in early January 2017. Find out when and where the First Folio will be near you.

Mary Majerus-Collins /
In the Shakespeare First Folio display at the Middlebury College Museum of Art during the month of February, enlarged versions of pages help explain the significance of the work to visitors.

Mary Majerus-Collins /
Admission to see the First Folio exhibit at The Middlebury College Museum of Art was free. Visitors were allowed to take non-flash photos. The single volume on display remained open to one page from "Hamlet" and was carefully guarded. Even touching the protective glass would set off an alarm, according to security.

Mary Majerus-Collins /
The First Folio, compiled by his friends seven years after Shakespeare died, contains 36 of his plays and half of them had never before been published, according to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., which owns 82 of the remaining 233 copies of the First Folio. The library's information on the First Folio says that researchers believe that there were 750 or fewer copies originally printed. Click here for more information on the First Folio and the tour.

Mary Majerus-Collins /
One of the First Folio pages of Hamlet that are on display.
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Monday, March 14, 2016

Can Republicans Stop Donald Trump?

By Max Turgeon
NEWINGTON, Connecticut, U.S.A. – The Republican Party is undergoing a renewal.
The rise of the “outsider” candidate has taken the GOP establishment by surprise. 
The leading Republican candidate for president, businessman Donald Trump, has seen his high poll numbers translate into votes and delegates that propel him toward the party’s nomination.
But the establishment of the party is banding together to defeat Trump.
I would be hesitant to call what is happening in the party the beginning of the end. After all, we've seen this happen before.
In 1976, when Ronald Reagan challenged President Ford as an anti-establishment candidate, the party ended up being stronger in the long run. Reagan lost that year, but the party benefited from his run in the following decades.
Still, the current situation facing the GOP is a little different, something we have never seen before.
Trump is the ultimate anti-establishment candidate, a man with no political experience besides a myriad of donations made to politicians of both parties.
He is not afraid to call out people he believes to be “weak” or “stupid.” Just ask Jeb Bush.
The Republican establishment – and Democrats, too – believe Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous and sometimes downright inappropriate.
But that is not what frightens many in the Republican Party. They worry that if Trump does prevail and is the party's candidate in November, they will have lost their control of the party.
And they are not helping their cause.
The party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, made things worse when he called Trump “a phony; a fraud” in a speech he gave recently that served no other purpose than to bash Trump and possibly leave space for a Romney redux at a deadlocked GOP convention this summer.
His words only helped Trump because Romney looked somewhat foolish. Even many former Romney supporters, including me, saw the attack as a publicity stunt.
So the question is: how can the party establishment defeat Trump?
First, Republican leaders need Romney and others who have attacked Trump from within the establishment to be quiet.
The party needs to let the candidates who have actually stepped up to run speak out instead. Establishment figures cannot beat Trump because they decided to sit on the bench rather than seek the presidency this time around.
That leads us to the answer, a simple one.
Candidates, too, need to realize they cannot attack Trump.
His voters are unlikely to switch their allegiance because they appreciate Trump’s brutal “honesty.” Attacking him personally is a waste of time.
Step two to defeat Trump would be for the establishment to rally behind one opposing candidate.
Some experts believe it would be better for more candidates to be in the running because some supporters of those that leave the race may go to Trump. But I find that unlikely.
Most people who support Ohio Gov. John Kasich, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz or U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio probably don't have Trump as their second choice, other than perhaps a fraction of those backing Cruz.
If it narrows to a one-on-one race, Trump is beatable. It remains to be seen, though, if any of the candidates are willing to drop out.
There is the convention as well, but unless Trump falls short of the magic number of 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the primary win, I don't see him losing there.
I hope the party would realize what a mistake it would be to block his nomination if he has the delegates to win.
If that occurred, “we the people” will have voted for Trump only to have our choice taken away by a convention. That would undermine the Republican voter.
A brokered convention would hurt the party and hand the election to the Democrats – a situation far worse than simply recognizing Trump as the Republican nominee.
However, if Trump fails to get to that 1,237 number, he is fair game.
I don't consider myself either establishment or anti-establishment. I am just a young conservative Republican.
I volunteered for the Rubio campaign in New Hampshire before the primary. I like Rubio and see him as someone who can appeal to both wings of the party.
However, I will support the Republican nominee no matter who it is, Trump included.
I agree with a lot of what Trump says, though not all of it, and I believe he captures a lot of anger people have with the political system.
I do not want to see another four years of President Obama, which is what a Hillary Clinton presidency would amount to.
I hope the rest of our great Republican Party will agree with me and support whoever the nominee is.
Republicans need to focus on defeating Clinton in November, not one of their own.
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