Thursday, April 30, 2015

Avengers: Even Better In The Age Of Ultron

By Felicity Rodger
Junior Reporter
EDINBURGH, United Kingdom – After enjoying the latest installments from the Marvel Universe – last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and 2012’s The Avengers – I didn't think it would get any better, but it did.
Avengers: Age of Ultron, filled with all the usual characters, is an uplifting film that reinstates the desire to be a superhero.

I must give credit to the crew behind the cameras. Every scene had brilliant effects that kept me gripped to my seat.
Usually, I find films with lots of special effects too over the top and unbelievable but in this one, the filmmakers pulled it off, leaving the audience feeling as though they were right in the middle of the action.
I really enjoyed the slowed freeze frames every so often to break down the fast action when it was all a bit too quick. These slow motion shots allowed the audience to breathe and appreciate how the avengers were a team, and not just supernatural individuals.
The music, produced by Brian Tyler – who also produced music for Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3 – and Danny Elfman, was also outstanding throughout the movie and gave it a faster pace. The orchestrated pieces really gave the feeling that you were watching superior beings.
Marvel really does cast their characters very well. The originals such as Robert Downey Jr, who played Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson, who played the Black Widow and Chris Hemsworth, who played Thor, gave great performances as always.
More importantly, Marvel gave larger parts this time to Mark Ruffalo, who played Hulk, Jeremy Renner, who played Hawkeye and Chris Evans, who played Captain America, providing the audience with a lot more chances to bond with these characters.
The new editions, Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Scarlet Witch, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays Quicksilver, Paul Bettany, who plays Vision and Anthony Mackie, who plays The Falcon, proved fantastic companions to the Avengers.  I can’t wait to see them make more appearances in upcoming Marvel films.
New villain James Spader as Ultron gave an unusual approach to being evil by showing a sassy side, but I liked it. Instead of being completely destructive from start to finish, the character added comedy to each scene, which was nice to see from a villain. 
Overall, director Joss Whedon has done it again. He made an incredibly enjoyable film with a cast and crew that delivered a magnificent balance of both action and comedy. It’s definitely worth a watch.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is already in cinemas in the UK and will be released in America on Friday, May 1.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Book On Journalist Ethel Payne Highlights Critical Role Of The Black Press
From James McGrath Morris' presentation at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, a photo of the Stowe House and the cover of Morris' new book about trailblazing journalist Ethel Payne.
By Kiernan Majerus-Collins
HARTFORD, CT, USA – In writing a biography about pioneering black journalist Ethel Payne, author James McGrath Morris faced more than the usual hurdles for a biographer who’s made a career writing the history of journalism in America.
“Can an old white guy write a book about a black woman in the ‘50s?” Morris recounted asking himself.
Morris recently spoke about his new book, Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, and about Payne’s place in history at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford.
Payne, a largely forgotten trailblazer who covered the civil rights movement for The Chicago Defender, made her mark by asking tough questions and braving conditions that could often be foreign or hostile. Through it all, she blurred the line between journalist and activist.
“Ethel Payne said she couldn’t be objective,” said Morris, “but she could be fair.” He said he hoped he could do the same, even though he came from a wholly different background than Payne.
Many white Americans had no idea about Payne’s influence, Morris said.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
James McGrath Morris speaking at the
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center on April 22.
“I had to explain, even to my editors, the importance of the African-American press in 20th century America,” Morris said. Foremost among that press was The Chicago Defender, Payne’s newspaper for much of her career.
“Whites in the south feared The Chicago Defender” said Morris. Because receiving the Defender in the mail could be dangerous, southern blacks brought the paper in to local barbershops via railroad workers from Chicago.
“This was a newspaper with tremendous reach,” Morris said.
Morris said that Payne faced long odds when aspiring to a professional career. Seven in 10 black women in Chicago were employed as domestic workers.
But Payne had advantages, too. She went to the best high school in Chicago, and had the same English teacher as Ernest Hemingway.
Morris said that above all else, he admired Payne’s courage.  He cited the time Payne attended a White House press conference and confronted then-President Dwight Eisenhower about civil rights as an especially brave moment.
Payne was not only courageous, but willing to sacrifice. “She gave up her personal life to do this,” Morris said. He said men who expressed a romantic interest in Payne usually indicated she’d have to give up reporting to be with them.
Morris said it’s important that people learn about the “foot soldiers” of the civil rights movement, and not just the icons.
“Unless we include people like [Payne], we get the McDonald’s version of history,” said Morris.
But he said the book wasn’t only for the readers – it was for him, too.
“I would write this book if no one read it for this reason alone,” said Morris. “It changed me.”
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Monday, April 27, 2015

Rioting Over Police Use Of Force Will Only Keep America's Wounds From Healing

By Eli Winter
Senior Reporter
HOUSTON, Texas, U.S.A. – A sea of names: Trayvon. Michael. Tamir. Eric. Walter. And now, Freddie.
The list of black Americans killed at the hands of white policemen runs deep like a river through the country's consciousness.
The above list only shows those blacks who died in such brutal ways that national media saw fit to give their deaths coverage.
But the list is much, much longer, and cuts through the nation's heart like a knife. For many, the blade remains sharp. But only some have used it.
Police arrested Freddie Gray in Baltimore last week for owning a switchblade, which is illegal by city law. The officer who arrested him reported that he did so without fanfare.
But Gray died that day after flopping and slamming inside a police van so hard he fractured his spine. According to a statement from the Gray family’s attorney to The Baltimore Sun, his spine was "80 percent severed" at the neck.
Now, Baltimore's cup is running over with hatred, anger, and blood, after a name has, once again, become nothing but a number.
Freddie Gray, in a photo released
to the media by his family
Riots erupted Saturday outside of Camden Yards, the baseball stadium for the Baltimore Orioles from the ashes of a peaceful protest by citizens who wanted justice for Gray's death.
But the lava still flows: Tonight, riots intensified after Gray's funeral to the point that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency for the city and called in the National Guard to quell the protests.
The shadow of Little Rock, Arkansas looms.
The riots are entirely understandable. It is completely normal, as Victor Frankl wrote, to act abnormally in an abnormal situation. But these kinds of deaths are becoming all too normal in America. A black man was killed by a white policeman after committing a crime smaller than sidewalk chalk.
Unrest spread from the city to the nation; the policeman was, perhaps, lightly disciplined by his department, but still carried the belief that his actions did not condone police brutality.
These deaths, these murders, have become so commonplace that one's eyes merely glaze over the newspaper headlines, instead of taking the words to heart.
The last thing the nation needs is for these stories of police brutality to inspire such action in us that we do absolutely nothing to stop them.
But riots will only keep our wounds from healing.
And ending the riots will not be a sign that the blade has dulled. It will have grown sharper. The only way to take concrete action towards achieving the rioters' goal of securing justice for these deaths, is with nonviolent protest, civil disobedience, and the like.
These deaths are not to be avenged. Instead, let us channel our collective anger into a rod, and clear the sea of white men so burdened by their prejudice that they take peace away from those who only want to keep it.
Pass laws to ensure that policemen do nothing in excess of their duty. Teach everyone to love, even in times of anger, for love is unconditional, and the last thing America needs is for our collective back to break from hatred.
A red sea of names: Trayvon. Michael. Tamir. Eric. Walter. Freddie. And soon – God, please not so soon – at least one more.
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'Cinderella' Is An Absolute Ball To Watch

Official Cinderella movie poster

By Erin Ashby
Junior Reporter
AMPTHILL, United Kingdom – I’m a fan of all things Disney, so imagine my glee to discover that there would be a live action version of a film that I have loved since childhood. Cinderella is a world-renowned rags to riches story that is adored by millions.
Kenneth Branagh directed the remake with Downtown Abbey’s Lily James playing the lead. I had high expectations for Branagh’s directing, he’s one of the few people who has managed to impress me in everything he has made. He did not let me down.
I don’t know many films that could simply be described as beautiful – it’s a hard criteria to meet – but with stunning costume design and breathtaking scenery, it became something special.
James was absolutely striking in her both her ball gown and her peasant dress. An important part of being a princess is looking the part, and she certainly did. I’m a fan of costume design, so I was practically weak with pleasure every time a new outfit was displayed. The colors were extremely rich and vibrant, creating an exceptionally magical atmosphere.
Richard Madden, of Game of Thrones fame, played the handsome Kit, later revealed to be the Prince. His onscreen chemistry with James was spectacular and had me rooting for their romance to succeed from the moment they met.
I was pleased to discover that Branagh had decided to forgo the talking animals that appeared in the original Disney movie; it would have dragged down the professionalism of the filmmaking. Instead, Ella’s adorable animal friends lent a slightly comic relief to the otherwise serious storyline.
However, there are some fundamental problems with the Cinderella story. It’s essentially a tale about abuse.
Telling children, who will be making up a large portion of the audience, that the only way to get away from the mistreatment that they endure is to marry a complete stranger is not a positive message. We should be teaching children that they have the ability to get themselves out of the situation, that they are powerful and have the strength to do anything they want to. Husbands and princes don’t have to factor into this equation.
Another point is the fact that the main cast members are all white. Representation is important in media and an actress of African or Asian decent would have made the same impact, if not more, in the lead role.
Visualize the delight of a child who can never picture herself as a princess – because she’s never seen one who looks like her – finally finding a role model. This is more important than sticking to the actors whose race matches the original animation.
Overall, Branagh’s Cinderella is a fun and enjoyable piece of cinema. There are entertaining parts for all types of people and nobody will be left disappointed. Plus, the added bonus of the Frozen short beforehand makes it a must-see.
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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Children Sleep Outside In Nepal To Stay Safe From Earthquake Aftershocks

Arjun Paudel /

A field in the city of Pokhara, Nepal, where people have been spending the night. Expecting aftershocks or further damage from the major earthquake that rocked the region on Saturday, people didn't sleep indoors.
Amrita Dhungana /

Children who live at Our Children's Home in Pokhara are joining others in sleeping outside rather than risk injury from buildings that could collapse in an aftershock of the earthquake. From left is Arjun Paudel, and next to him in the front row are Samikshya Mahora, Laxman Shai and Amrit Dhungana. In the back row center are brothers Sanjay and Ajay Lamichhina, flanked by brothers Pascal and Aidan Dahal, who live nearby.
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New Dividing Line In Kathmandu

Photo by Santosh Paudel /
All rights reserved
A man stares at a crack that split a road in Kathmandu, Nepal on Saturday, April 25 shortly after a massive earthquake rocked the city. 
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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Massive Earthquake Strikes Nepal, Spares City Of Pokhara, But Terrifies Its People

Nischal Kharel /
Part of Pokhara, Nepal, where people felt a giant earthquake hours ago but were spared the damage suffered in other parts of the country.

By Nischal Kharel
POKHARA, Nepal – Shortly before noon, while I was working on something for college at my friend’s house, the book rack started shaking.
We immediately realized that it was an earthquake.

We thought it wouldn't last longer, but it went on and on. It just didn’t stop.
At first we stayed inside the home under a wooden door frame, then got frightened enough to run outside to some nearby open space.
Many others had also run outside. They were crying, shouting and scared.
Fortunately, the shaking stopped and we were all fine.

I called my parents at their home in the Morang District in Eastern Nepal, and my sister, who was at my aunt's house in the Dhulabari Jhapa District, also in the eastern part of Nepal.

My aunt told me that there was some flooding in her town after a large water tank, about 60 feet tall, collapsed.

Nischal Kharel /
A neighborhood in Pokhara Saturday evening after the earthquake.
Nischal Kharel /
Homes in Pokhara, Nepal, after the earthquake Saturday.
Pokhara, Nepal's second largest city, does not appear to have suffered any damage, though we are only about 100 kilometers from the earthquake’s epicenter.

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake killed at least 688 people in Nepal, authorities said. There was extensive damage in Kathmandu, the capital, and reports of a major avalanche on Mount Everest.

Nischal Kharel /
A view of the city of Pokhara, taken about a month ago.
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Friday, April 24, 2015

Grieving Ethiopians United Against ISIS

By Dawit Leake
Junior Reporter
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – The murderous attack on Ethiopians by ISIS terrorists shocked Ethiopians, who learned about it in a video released April 19.
The mood then quickly shifted as everyone started crying. There have been marches and the nation is an official mourning period until Saturday.
The beheading of our fellow citizens on a beach in Libya was not something that Ethiopians, including me, expected to see happening.
People here thought the terrorist killings were something that happened far away from Ethiopia and others didn’t even know about previous ISIS attacks. For them it was a brutal and satanic thing that they saw for the first time.
Most of the people I talked to were very sad and yet very angry at the killings of Christians by terrorists of the so-called Islamic State. Some said that they would fight against ISIS if they got the chance and that they would not tolerate any threats from ISIS.
The insulting way the terrorists killed the Ethiopian captives – by decapitation – made it even more upsetting. People saw it as slaughtering sheep at home, which is a holiday custom in Ethiopia.
On Tuesday, April 21, the national capital of Addis Ababa slowly turned quiet and that night, the government announced that three official days of grieving would begin Wednesday and end on Saturday.
On Wednesday, there was a rally, organized by the government, at Meskel Square, which is a large gathering place in Addis Ababa, where many local residents came to let out their grief.
The mood here is still sad and bitter. I believe that this is an act by ISIS to disturb the peace between Muslims and Christians in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is a country that has about an equal number of Muslims and Christians, with a longstanding culture of harmony and unity.
Some Ethiopians even have names that start with a Muslim name and end with a Christian name and vice versa, showing the long integration and harmony of the two religions.
People here believe that the ISIS killings are acts not of Islam, but of Satan.
For me, something that came out of this horrific misfortune is that despite the awful crime and that sadness it brought, everyone is even more united and standing strong against ISIS.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Excites Crowds Before UK Election

By Robert Guthrie
Senior Reporter
DUMFRIES, Scotland – In a recent visit, Scotland’s leader, alongside the nation’s most important group of politicians connected with voters in Dumfries and listened to the public ahead of next month’s general election in the United Kingdom.
In keeping her vow of being the ‘most accessible’ first minister ever, Nicola Sturgeon, the member of Scottish Parliament who leads the Scottish National Party and The Scottish Government, visited The Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries with her newly elected Cabinet.
The public meeting allowed constituents to hear about Scottish government policies, and gave them the chance to directly question Sturgeon and department ministers.
The new Scottish Cabinet is the most representative ever seen here, with 50-50 male-female representation and Member Humza Yousaf coming from a minority ethnic background.
Sturgeon replaced Alex Salmond, who stood down as Scottish National Party leader at the party’s November conference, with no competition for the post.
Throughout the day, Sturgeon and her cabinet members each visited numerous local institutions and businesses.
She made a forceful speech at the evening conference, attacking Prime Minister David Cameron’s UK government and its damaging cuts to public services.
The first minister was keen to highlight the advantages of the Scottish National Party government in the Scottish Parliament, securing a better future for the country’s people by reinvesting in public services, abolishing Trident nuclear weapons and building more social housing.
Sturgeon also spoke of last year’s independence referendum and that while Scotland had voted to remain part of the UK, independence was still one of her party’s major policies.
Following her speech, which was met with enthusiasm, Sturgeon took questions from the public. Visitors questioned the cabinet on a plethora of different issues, ranging from wind farms and the Social Education curriculum within schools to the prevalence of new housing around the region and independence.
Ahead of the May 7 general election, the Scottish National Party could hold as many as half of Scottish seats in the UK Parliament in Westminster, allowing for significant influence.
In the past three televised election debates, Sturgeon’s party has appeared top in the opinion polls, scoring high in the estimations of English voters who cannot vote for the party.
Sturgeon has strongly argued for progressive party politics and an end to the solid austerity plans of the current government.
Scottish members of parliament could never possibly gain the 326 seats needed to have a majority in the government. This is because Scotland only provides 59, and Sturgeon has announced that the party would be keen to work with Labour as well as their counterparts in Wales, the left-wing Welsh nationalists of Plaid Cymru.
The party has also worked well in the past with the Scottish Green Party, who are more liberal in terms of policy, but share many of the SNP’s socially democratic ideals.
The election promises to be an interesting one, with Sturgeon and the Scottish Nationalists sure to shake it up.
But with polls fluctuating by the minute, the result that will greet the electorate on Friday, May 8 is unforeseeable. 
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Living In Jersey, But Schooled In NYC

Jeremy Pulmano /

A panorama of Broad Street, Bloomfield, New Jersey. Click on the photo to enlarge.

By Jeremy Pulmano
Junior Reporter
BLOOMFIELD, New Jersey, U.S.A. – I’ve lived in Bloomfield, New Jersey for four years, and I have not had a problem with it. However, the fact of the matter is that nothing happens here.
Bloomfield is the epitome of boring. Let me explain.
I go to school in New York City, the city that never sleeps, the nation’s center of excitement, the concrete jungle where dreams are made. I commute an hour and half by train to get into NYC and an hour and half to go back home. I spend a lot of time in both Bloomfield and New York City.
To compare the two in simple terms is like comparing watching paint dry versus sky-diving.
Nevertheless, I still enjoy living in Bloomfield. Why? It provides the perfect balance. I can experience the excitement and hustle-and-bustle of New York City, but I can also enjoy the serenity that Bloomfield carries.
By day, I can marvel at the lights and architecture of Times Square, and by night, I can walk the quiet streets of Bloomfield without colliding with strangers and getting enveloped in a massive crowd of commuters.
For me, being in New York City every weekday is nothing less than a privilege and a luxury.
Jeremy Pulmano /
On Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive on the way from New York to New Jersey.
I can see the sun rise over Manhattan’s renowned skyline from the train and visit and marvel at Times Square as any tourist would.
Jeremy Pulmano /

Times Square, New York City, in a snowstorm.
In physical education in the beginning of the year, our class visited Central Park and ran around The Reservoir. The Reservoir is surrounded by trees and city buildings, and those who run around the reservoir do so not only to get their exercise, but also to enjoy the pleasure of sight-seeing.
You often come across very talented musicians and dancers in New York. It’s awe-inspiring to witness them humbly performing in the subway.
Everyone’s heard about the crazy atmosphere of New York City. There are always people rushing to and fro, colliding with each other, packing themselves into subway cars. There are few places in the city where you can find true peace and quiet. Even in Central Park, you will definitely hear noisy kids running and screaming, playing tag or pickup football.
Jeremy Pulmano /

The Reservoir in Central Park in New York, in the wintertime.
Despite its frenzy and volume, you will often – if not always – be in awe of NYC. I have been going to school there for two years, and I still marvel at the skyscrapers, the lights, the excitement.
But let’s revisit Bloomfield, my suburban home and the antithesis of New York City.
Little houses of warm colors and triangular roofs stand close together, sometimes separated by picket fences. Each house has a little porch where Bloomfielders often sit and enjoy the cool spring nights.
Jeremy Pulmano /

A Bloomfield, New Jersey street in winter.
We experience all four seasons here. Summers are hot and winters are always frigid. Autumn is the best time to be in Bloomfield, because we do have quite a lot of trees and the weather is not too cold and not too hot.
The wide roads of Bloomfield demand paving but seldom get it. New Jersey as a whole is notorious for its bad roads, and the town of Bloomfield is no exception. Recently, I received my driver’s permit, which allows me to drive a car with a licensed adult. Driving around Bloomfield myself has only made me realize how horrid the roads are. There are potholes everywhere.
Jeremy Pulmano /

One of Bloomfield, New Jersey's battered
There are, thankfully, many places to eat. You can visit the two McDonald’s in Bloomfield if you’re looking for fast food, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can stroll down Broad Street, Bloomfield’s main road, and order Italian, Japanese, Filipino, Thai, or Chinese food.
Bloomfield is also home to a myriad of diners, including Holsten’s, where a scene from The Sopranos was filmed. Beyond television fame, Holsten’s often wins awards for its ice cream, and it certainly deserves the acclaim. The bottom line: we in Bloomfield are very proud of our restaurants.
Bloomfield isn’t an eyesore, but it’s not much to see, either. I might have some bias in saying that, having experienced the grandeur of New York, but it’s true.
The most beautiful thing I can point to in Bloomfield is probably Brookdale Park. With numerous baseball fields, a football field, a track, and plenty of land for recreational play, it’s like the Central Park of Bloomfield.
There are a lot of trees to climb, too. A little road surrounds the entire park in a circle. Everyone – bikers, skateboarders, walkers, runners – uses this road to get from one point in the park to another.
It doesn’t have a reservoir, which is unfortunate, but nevertheless it’s a great place to relax, meditate, and have fun with friends. I often go to Brookdale Park to hang out with friends and toss around a football or play soccer.
Jeremy Pulmano /

Brookdale Park in Bloomfield, New Jersey has something for everyone.
Bloomfield’s atmosphere is peaceful. By day, there are cars traveling less than 20 miles per hour on Broad Street, and at night, there are almost no cars at all.
Bloomfield is a town where you can take walks at night under the gentle light of lamp posts to relieve stress, taking in the silence as you collect yourself after a tough day at school or at work.
It’s not a town where everyone knows each other, but it mostly certainly is one where everyone is friendly with one another. People here are courteous and kind, sharing smiles and laughs and making small talk.
Bloomfield is no New York City. But it is the place I call home.
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Night Train: Tambaram Station, Chennai

Jereme Kennedy /
Two views of the Tambaram railway station in the city of Chennai, India. 

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