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. 

The best thrill? Changing lives by supporting young
journalists through your support of YJI. 
Your tax-deductible contributions take these students
on the ride of a lifetime. Thank you.

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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