Thursday, July 28, 2016

In Dallas, tributes to fallen officers remain

Garret Reich /
Heartache in Dallas: Flags were flying at half mast last week in Dealey Plaza in the wake of the murders of five police officers in the city and others in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In the foreground is the X that marks the spot where an assassin's bullet struck President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
By Mugdha Gurram
Senior Reporter
DALLAS, Texas, U.S.A. – From afar, El Centro College looks like an ordinary building in downtown Dallas. Cars are parked on the curb and people start to mill around nearby as the day begins.
But a closer look tells a different story. Two weeks after a fatal shooting there, remnants linger of the memorial for the five officers killed July 7 by a single gunman.
Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, aimed at police officers working in a crowd of peaceful protesters at a Black Lives Matter gathering.
Mugdha Gurram /
A police car parked near El Centro
College in Dallas last week.
Five officers died and seven more were injured. Two civilians were also hurt.
Johnson’s killing spree followed the shooting death of a black man, Alton Sterling, by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, during a time of rising tension between police and the public.

(text continued below)

Garret Reich /
Trees around El Centro College are tied with blue ribbon in honor of the fallen officers.
Mugdha Gurram /
Flowers left on a sidewalk
barricade turned shriveled,
dry and brown in the hot 
After the attack, Johnson fled into a garage near El Centro College, where a standoff ensued. Police ultimately used a robot to detonate a bomb that killed Johnson.
Now, trees lining the sidewalk around El Centro College are decorated with blue ribbons to commemorate the lives lost during the attack.
The flowers that were part of a memorial are gone now, but one wilting bunch remained tied to a barricade by the college – a solemn reminder of what transpired.
Flags around the city flew at half-mast as the city mourns the loss of these and other officers killed in the line of duty.
It’s a simple gesture that shows that although the community is looking to move on from the tragedy, the memory of those lost remains preserved.

The ribbons and flowers are a testament to the fact that, despite the fact that tensions are increasing between law enforcement and the public, both have each other’s back in times of tragedy.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Neither cops nor citizens deserve violence

By Mugdha Gurram
Senior Reporter
WEST HARTFORD, Conn., USA – In a cruel attack in a long string of heartbreaking events, three more cops became casualties Sunday in the rising tension between law enforcement and the American public.
Dressed in black and armed with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, police said 29-year-old Gavin Long shot and killed officers Montreal Jackson, Matthew Gerald and Brad Garafola in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three other officers were injured, one critically, officials said.
Long, who served in the U.S. Marines in Iraq, died from return fire at the scene, not far from a store where police on July 5 shot an African-American man selling CDs in an episode caught on video and shared widely.
Other recent incidents include the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by a Minnesota officer and the murder of five cops by a gunman who targeted them at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Texas on July 7, both of which contributed to rising tension between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Long, who grew up in Kansas City, posted videos on YouTube in recent months under the pseudonym Cosmo Setepenra in which he weighed in on the increasingly tumultuous relationship between blacks and the police. He advocated attacks on law enforcement, saying that protests were not enough to get justice and that only the “alphas” knew what it took: bloodshed.
While the nation mourns these brutal and heartless attacks against innocent officers, it remains crucial that the Black Lives Matter movement pushes ahead.
Continuing this cause is not taking advantage of the shootings; it is recognizing the fact that these two movements, Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, are intertwined at their very cores.
Both encompass a broken relationship between law enforcement and the public it is meant to protect.
Of course, it does not further either cause to kill innocent people, whether cop or citizen.
We have to condemn Long’s actions – as well as those of Micah Johnson, the Dallas shooter – as well as calls to attack any of the law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line to serve and protect the American people.
But we cannot also condemn the anger of black Americans who demand justice for those who suffered at the hands of police brutality.
We cannot condemn the fight for change in a criminal justice system that has failed to honor the black lives lost at the hands of ignorant police officers.
The deaths of Castile, Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and other innocents who died because of the color of their skin warrant change in the criminal justice system.
Black Lives Matter, a loose alliance pushing for change, does not call for the death of law enforcement officers or any bloodshed. Instead, it calls for justice.
Cops who abuse their power and violate the rights of black citizens need to be held accountable for their actions.
Refusing to indict officers who cross the line further fractures the relationship between law enforcement and the citizens they serve.
It means that innocent cops pay the price for the wrongdoing of other officers. And it means that more innocent black people pay the price for a broken criminal justice system.
Black citizens deserve to know that law enforcement is ready to punish officers who violate their rights and that cops are doing everything they can to prevent needless loss of lives.
The police must recognize that black lives do, in fact, matter.
Without that, men such as Long and Johnson may continue to take it upon themselves to “fight for justice,” in whatever cruel and thoughtless way they feel necessary.
That’s when cops and citizens alike suffer.
In the end, saving black lives means saving blue lives, too.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Australian wind farm will be a powerful boost

Jack Ward /
Trucks and other machinery move dirt in preparation for the new Ararat Wind Farm in Victoria, Australia.
By Jack Ward
Junior Reporter
Youth Journalism International
ARARAT, Victoria, Australia – The wind sweeping across the rural landscape here is about to be put to use.
A new wind farm is under construction about 180km, or about 112 miles, northwest of Melbourne.
Daniel Andrews, Victoria’s premier, visited Ararat recently for a “Bring on the Blades” event with local students to welcome the delivery of the first blade for the Ararat Wind Farm.

"The wind farm will help our natural resources and support the surrounding country towns,” said Tara Charlesworth, 12, a student at Ararat College. She was present for the June 15 event at Kokoda Park in Ararat. “Bring on the Blades attracted a large crowd of young and old and speakers included students.
A big part of the development is to get Ararat’s next generation involved, and one way this is being done is having schools make time capsules.
School Captain Ivana Donnan spoke on behalf of Ararat West Primary School.
Jack Ward /
A truck carries a blade for the Ararat Wind Farm. Blades are coming from Portland, Australia to Ararat as the wind farm is built.
“In teams, students brainstormed ideas of items we wanted to put in the capsule,” said Donnan. “We came up with the following; A local and national newspaper to show current events, a supermarket catalogue to show the current prices of everyday items, letters describing the best things about living in Ararat, photos, food packaging, a DVD and artworks from students in our school.”
The blade’s arrival was a big milestone in the development of the wind farm, which is going to be the third largest in Australia, with 75 turbines, each 135 meters tall, or about 443 feet.
Construction is expected to take two years, according to developer Renewable Energy Systems, with 165 workers employed.
The development doesn’t come cheap, costing around $450 million Australian dollars but the project is expected to inject between $7 and $8 million dollars into the community during the two years, according to information provided by Renewable Energy Systems.
Twelve-year-old Khloe Campbell, also a student at Ararat College, said she thought the wind farm event was great.
“It is going to help Ararat and that is good,” Campbell said.
Jack Ward /
Volunteers with the Country Fire Authority were
furious over an agreement that put the United
Firefighters Union in charge of protecting the
Ararat Wind Farm.
Volunteers with the Country Fire Authority who would normally respond to fires on the wind farm land – and the rest of regional Victoria – attended Bring on the Blades, but in protest. More than 60 firefighters from the region came to voice their anger to the government about a proposed agreement with the United Fire Fighters.
If the agreement goes ahead, the union will take operational control at incidents, rather than the volunteers.
The volunteers circled Kokoda Park all morning during the event and it was quite visible that they weren’t happy.
Afterward, Andrews told reporters he had talked with Ararat Fire Brigade captains to work through their concerns.
“For the government to treat volunteers in this way is absolutely disgusting,” he said.
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Friday, July 15, 2016

Mourning a beloved humanitarian

By Irha Nadeem
Junior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – When I heard news reports last week that the great Pakistani humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi was in critical condition, I prayed for his health.
Just minutes after I finished my prayer, the news of his death came to me. It was hard to believe. He was gone. A legend, a hero, an era, it was all gone.
To me, he was a hero who gave up a good life and spent most of his life helping people. He was probably the only hope for thousands of people in need.
I once saw him on the street, collecting donation on a main road as we passed by in the car. It’s the only time I ever saw him, and I didn’t get to meet him.
Edhi, who died July 8 at age 88, was the pride of Pakistan. While names like Osama bin Laden and words like terrorism make me feel ashamed, as a Pakistani, I feel proud when I hear the names of people like Abdul Sattar Edhi and Ansar Burney, a human rights activist.
Edhi started the Edhi Foundation and has been serving orphans, widows and helpless people for decades. He was sometimes called the 'Angel of Mercy' and 'The Richest Poor Man.'
The Foundation pays no attention to religion, class or race when giving charity. It serves many thousands of babies, disabled people, women, children and elderly in need. Other services include searching for missing people, providing medical services such as maternity care and family planning and disaster relief.
It also runs a massive fleet of ambulances that transport victims of accidents and terror attacks to hospitals.
Beloved by the people, Edhi was criticized by the religious right in his country, according to The Guardian, which reported that when he was questioned as to why he helped Christians and Hindus as well as Muslims, Edhi said, “because my ambulance is more Muslim than you.”
His death is indeed an end of a golden era and a great loss for this world. I hope we can carry on his legacy.

Let's be Edhi.
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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Civil rights center examines connections between hip hop and human rights

Madeleine Deisen /
At the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, a large mural unites many civil and human rights struggles worldwide.
By Madeleine Deisen
Junior Reporter
ATLANTA, Georgia, U.S.A. – Hip hop entertainers recently joined academics to talk about the relationship between the music and social justice, stressing the need for connections between people.
Panelists Toni Blackman, Stic from the duo Dead Prez, and Killer Mike – all hip hop artists – as well as Morehouse College psychology Professor David Wall Rice marked the second anniversary of the Center for Civil and Human Rights at a June 23 discussion moderated by Rohit Malhora, executive director of Atlanta’s Center for Civic Innovation.
In his opening remarks, Derreck Kayongo, chief executive officer of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, said, “As human beings, we are equal. And important to each other.”
Rice said people need to look at how they’re connected.
“This polarity is forced on us. We have to push this at arm’s distance,” Rice said. “This is what’s so revolutionary and gangsta about Martin Luther King, Jr., is it’s all about love.”
Blackman tied that into hip hop.
“That polarity has slowed down hip hop’s unifying, cohesive force,” she said. “That separation and that divisiveness, and the stories we begin to tell ourselves, chip away at what hip hop could be and its true power.”
Panelists talked of hip hop’s “power,” as Blackman said, as a tool for both personal and political change.
Madeleine Deisen /
The Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia
Malhora asked the panelists why they “do what they do.”
“I started writing poetry to deal with my pain and my frustration, but also to express my political beliefs,” Blackman responded. “’This microphone is my liberation.”
Stic, who is also a healthy living advocate, touched on the balance between the political and the personal in hip hop.
“You get put in these boxes. All these political agendas are supposed to come through you,” Stic said. “But it’s also self-work, spiritual questions, the whole being.”
Madeleine Deisen /
A collection of photographs memorializes some of 
the people who lost their lives during the American 
Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Rice expressed his fear that “we’ve misappropriated the artistic soul of the people.”
“Hip hop is so easily commodified,” Rice continued. “I mean, you want people to be able to eat, to support themselves, but not to the detriment of this soul.”
Malhora asked the panelists about criticisms of hip hop’s misogyny.
Killer Mike was adamant that the hip hop community has “progressed way further than the world on women’s equality.” He cited all the strong, respected women who have been a part of his life, and explained that he was always taught from childhood to respect women.
“When we talk about the male/female problem in hip hop, we have to talk about the male/female problem in our world,” said Blackman.
The panel did not only talk about hip hop, but also about how to change public policy.
The low voter turnout in local elections poses a problem to changing policy, Malhora said, because “policy is not going to be changed by the President of the United States.”
Killer Mike emphasized the importance of the people in government.
“You don’t change policy without people,” said Killer Mike, who has been active in the Bernie Sanders campaign. “Policy never saves us, the people save us.”
Stic said, “We are the people. We are the government.”
Rice made it clear that people need to work for policy changes.
Madeleine Deisen /
An exhibit on the third floor of the Center for Civil and
Human Rights in Atlanta expands the discussion of
human rights around the world.
“Freedom is not free,” the professor said. “Every single person on this panel is putting in work. Are you?”
Malhora connected current questions about freedom to the creation of our country.  He said people don’t have to agree on everything, but that discourse is key.
“This is how the Constitution was written. It was a bunch of people who said we give a damn about our country,” said Malhora. “We don’t agree on everything, but we need to do something.”
Rice agreed.
“Do the work,” he said. “Be aware that it is work. We get confused and think it’s easy. Freedom takes work.”
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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Americans should stand up for the Pledge

By Max Turgeon

Junior Reporter

NEWINGTON, Connecticut, U.S.A. – My parents taught me from a very young age that whenever you hear the Pledge of Allegiance, you stand up, remove your cap, put your hand over your heart and recite those sacred words. I don’t think some of my classmates got the same message.
When the Pledge of Allegiance comes on in homeroom every morning at Newington High School, half of the student body can be found doing other activities. Some are texting. Others tweeting, snapchatting or laughing obnoxiously with a friend. I’m a fairly calm person, but this gets me emotional. 
Maybe my parents raised me differently than my classmates were raised. That being said, it doesn’t make it right. I hear similar stories from friends from other schools.
I’m beginning to believe this lack of patriotism is beginning to become a widespread problem is schools, mainly being caused by today’s mindless social media society, where all that matters is what is the screen of the your phone.
We stand for the Pledge for noble reasons every day. It is a moment to think about all those who have served to protect our great country, something we don’t think about enough.  Not only is it a time for us to think about those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, but it is also a time for self-reflection.
During the school year, I use it as 30 seconds every morning to think about the difference I can make in my community.
To understand why some students are uncomfortable standing for or saying the pledge, I talked to two Newington High School students.
“No one has ever told us the purpose behind standing for the pledge in school,” said Carly Saindon, a rising junior. “I also don’t like the phrase, ‘under God’ in the pledge. I think that goes against the separation of church and state.”
That’s just the thing. The pledge means something different to all citizens. That’s what makes it uniquely American. As far as the ‘under God’ verse, the United States was built on Judeo-Christian values, and a nation that forgets where it came from will fall. It’s an important reminder that hope and faith are necessary values to have.
Junior Justin Field said, “For me, I don’t agree with a lot of what the United States has done in the world, such as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and even going back to Vietnam.”
My classmate makes a valid argument, but participating in the Pledge is not an endorsement of all U.S. foreign and domestic policy.
While I disagree with how the U.S. still gives money to countries who are sponsors of terrorism, or has appeased Iran when it comes to their nuclear weapons program, I am proud to say the Pledge.
All it means is that I have the chance to change my country for the good. Also, Americans should still support their troops, no matter what the government decides. Soldiers don’t decide where to conduct military operations. We must support them no matter what, and that means reciting our Pledge.
I asked my good friend Sgt. Brian Ohler, a retired U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, what the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance mean to him.
“The American flag is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, maybe excluding the bald eagle,” said Ohler. “I try to treat ‘her’ like a person. I’ve fought under it, and have had many buddies die fighting with me.”
Ohler added that he too, like me, grew up being taught to respect our flag and recite the Pledge every day. He thinks kids should be encouraged to say the Pledge every morning, as it teaches children respect for where they came from, which creates a unified nation.
I agree completely with Ohler, who earned four Purple Hearts medals for combat injuries. But whenever I make this argument to people, they usually reply that the flag is no better than any other piece of cloth.
But Ohler said, “I would remind people the flag is living history. It represents everything this country has gone through. It honors the dead as well as those who continue to serve.”
It’s clear that this issue does matter to veterans. I have this question to ask to those who do not stand for the Pledge: If there was a wounded veteran in the room with them, would they probably participate in the Pledge? I like to think that answer is yes.
Not standing for the Pledge is an individual’s constitutionally protected right, I concede that. But exercising a right doesn’t always make it acceptable. We used to fight for things in this country for moral reasons, and I’m calling on all students who care about their country to tell classmates what the flag and the pledge mean when they return to school in the fall.
If you don’t want to do it to make a stronger and more united America, do it to let a veteran know you care.
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Friday, July 1, 2016

Humor, action, and a lesson on bullies

From the Central Intelligence official Facebook page
By Maria Luiza Lago
MIAMI, Florida, U.S.A. – “I don’t like bullies” said Bob Stone, after punching four guys in a bar who were making bad and homophobic comments about him and his best friend.
Central Intelligence, starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Danielle Nicolet and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, is an action comedy with a bit of suspense and a clear message: no matter how hard a bully might try, you can always become the hero of your own story.

Central Intelligence is about two high school colleagues. One is Calvin Joyner [Hart], the most popular of them all. In high school, Calvin won all the competitions of every sport, was smart, charismatic and dated the most amazing girl in the school. The other was Robert Weirdicht [Johnson}, who later changed his name for Bob Stone. He was very shy, had no friends and was seriously bullied by most of his peers for being “fat.”
On graduation day, something terrible happened to Robert, and Calvin was the only one who stood by his side.
After many years, both of them had changed. Robert got in contact with Calvin through Facebook and the plot begins to thicken with a lot of humor and action. The humor that Hart and Johnson bring together make this a very special movie – one that shows the importance of friends, justice, standing up for yourself and dealing with your ambitions after high school.
This movie was not an ordinary action film about good guys beating bad guys. You get involved in the story, seeing the process of how one bullied person can get affected really deeply and how that can change his life forever.
The lucky part is that Bob had Calvin to support him and vice versa – something that not all people who are being bullied have.
Bullying is a daily issue that a lot of people face, not only in high school but in any public space. It should be addressed in movies, books and more in the media, since it’s an issue that it is common all over the world.
There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about Central Intelligence. The comedy is just great, and the suspense and plot catches and keeps your attention until the end.

What I really about it, though, was that it was no ordinary action movie; it had a purpose that was reached at the end of the film.
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