Thursday, March 23, 2017

Westminster view the day after terror attack

Emily Couch /

Thursday morning, the day following the Jan. 22 terrorist attack on Westminster bridge, the Houses of Parliament in London fly the Union Jack at half mast. Big Ben, London's iconic clock, is visible to the right of the center of the photo. Westminster bridge, at the far right, is closed because of the police investigation.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

View of Westminister bridge after today's terror attack in London

Emily Couch /
Westminister Bridge in London is blocked and buses stuck in place after what authorities called a terrorist attack in London Wednesday near the British Parliament that killed at least four people and hurt many more.

Emily Couch /
Police and other emergency vehicles at the south side of Westminster bridge after what authorities are calling a terrorist attack Wednesday in London.
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Photo Essay: Irish Famine Memorial shows desperation of immigrants fleeing hunger

Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
One of the haunting faces in the Famine Memorial in Dublin.

DUBLIN, Ireland - Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie’s work ‘Famine’ is a bronze memorial on the Custom House Quay in Dublin’s Docklands. The sculpture was dedicated in 1997 to the many Irish people who emigrated from Ireland during the famine in the 19th century. The work includes many tragic life-sized figures.
The famine killed about one million people and another million left the country. The Perserverance, one of the first sailing ships to carry people out of the country, left on St. Patrick’s Day in 1846, not far from the site of the sculpture, according to information from the Docklands Authority. The ship’s more than 200 passengers arrived in New York two months later.

All photos by YJI Senior Correspondent Kiernan Majerus-Collins.

This figure is carrying another on his back.

The modern buildings of today's Dublin provide a stark background to the hallowed faces of those fleeing famine.

Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
From behind, the figures appear to be slowly walking away.
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Religious opposition to gay scene in Disney's new 'Beauty and the Beast'

From the official Beauty and the Beast Facebook page
By Selvaganeshamoorthi Balakrishnan
Senior Reporter
SINGAPORE – Social conservatives and religious circles in Singapore and Malaysia are opposing the new Disney movie Beauty and the Beast because of the inclusion of a gay character.
LeFou, a side character in the film portrayed by actor Josh Gad, is the first homosexual character in a Disney movie.
“The inclusion of the gay moment to the story by way of the sub-plot is totally unnecessary and signals a marked departure from the 1991 Disney series,” the National Council of Churches Singapore said in a March 13 statement.
The organization sent the statement to pastors and church leaders ahead of the film’s opening in Singapore today.
“We would like our parents to be aware of this strand in the movie and its possible influence on their children who watch it, however subtle,” the organization of churches said.
The Catholic Diocese of Singapore has also released its own statement, stating that parents "must discern and reflect with their children on whether the lifestyle is consonant with the teaching of Christ."
The diocese said parents “must explain the implications and the consequences of such a lifestyle for themselves and society."
Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority gave the film a PG 13 rating (Parental Guidance) for depicting “mild violence” and refuted claims that the decision was due to the gay character in the film. The PG 13 rating mandates parental guidance for viewers under 13 years.
The churches’ statements have met with some criticism online that slammed the public manner in which the statements were released. Some see the churches’ moves as an attempted imposition of Christian values on the general public.
In Muslim-majority Malaysia, the movie’s opening is being questioned. According to the BBC, Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board gave the film a P13 rating earlier this week, similar to Singapore’s PG13, after the scene was cut.
But Disney decided this week not to remove the scene and it’s unclear when, if ever, the film will play in Malaysia.
Homosexuality is illegal in Singapore and Malaysia. In both countries, it is a crime punishable by a prison sentence and corporal punishment. Though in Singapore, the law is generally not enforced.

Beauty and the Beast opens in the U.S. on Friday, March 17.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Young artist interprets refugee crisis

Elliot Kalsner Kershen /
The artist is a young Connecticut student. This is his first published work for YJI.
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Friday, March 3, 2017

Inspiring NASA women are 'Hidden' no more

From the Hidden Figures official Facebook page

By Madeleine Deisen
MARIETTA, Georgia, U.S.A. – Director Theodore Melfi’s real life drama Hidden Figures tells the story of three African American women – Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monàe) – who worked as mathematicians and engineers for NASA during the 1960s.
Johnson, a mathematician and physicist, helped calculate the numbers for astronaut John Glenn’s space flight around Earth. Vaughan is a mathematician who became NASA’s first African American manager. Jackson became the first African American female engineer at NASA.
The movie, based on writer Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name, is titled Hidden Figures because these women had often gone unrecognized, despite their remarkable accomplishments. They lived during a time of scientific and social advancement, and were instrumental in both movements. They did not let the daunting social barriers prevent them from pursuing their love of science, and instead worked to increase opportunities for themselves and all women and African Americans.
The best part about the film Hidden Figures is that all three women are multi-dimensional and full of life. They are not limited to one role or character trait. They are scientists and mothers, serious and playful.
In real life, these women expanded their roles in science; in the movie, these characters expand the possibilities for women actors of color. It is wonderful to see people who often go unrepresented in movies and in science portrayed in such a beautiful way, and it makes their accomplishments feel within reach of all girls and women watching.
Hidden Figures is a fantastic movie that I recommend to everyone. It is historical, yet relevant to social justice movements and the role of women in STEM fields today.
By telling this story through the eyes of people who are often underrepresented in history books and Hollywood, this movie is an important step.
And aside from its social importance, Hidden Figures is a fun, inspiring movie about friendship, vocation, perseverance, and success. 
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Friday, February 24, 2017

Here's to 'La La Land,' a dream of a movie

From the La La Land official Facebook page
By Madeleine Deisen
MARIETTA, Georgia, U.S.A. – La La Land is nominated for a record-tying 14 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
But what about La La Land has enchanted critics and moviegoers alike?
On a surface level, this movie is just fun to watch. The sets and costumes are vibrant, colorful, and eye-catching. The dance numbers are lively and gorgeous, and I haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack for weeks.
La La Land is the perfect balance between old-fashioned and modern. The character Sebastian, (Ryan Gosling,) dreams of opening a traditional jazz club. Just like Sebastian, La La Land brings Old Hollywood to modern times, but instead of resenting contemporary influences, like Sebastian does, La La Land embraces the combination of old and new.
Its movie influences include Gene Kelly’s An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain. Despite the familiarity of classic movies, La La Land remains new and exciting.
This movie is also full of joy. I do not mean to say the movie is one-dimensional or only cheerful, because the characters do question their purpose, relationships, and identity in compelling ways. But while watching La La Land, I felt the happiness the creators must have felt while making this magnificent movie.
La La Land’s deeper meaning, to me, is a call to hold on to your dreams. Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian learn that the only way to achieve fulfilling success is by not compromising their dreams or themselves for jobs that may be easier or more comfortable. Instead, their path to success is through performing as their truest, idealistic, dreaming selves.
While Mia and Sebastian’s romance is delightful, their romances with their dreams are more enthralling and memorable. Most of all, La La Land is a toast to the dreamer in all of us.
As Mia sings in her audition, “Here’s to the fools who dream.” It is a reminder to pursue the vocation that lights your heart on fire and a celebration of the beauty that can create, and also a recognition of the sacrifices that are necessary for dreams to come true.
If you’re looking for an entertaining, lovely and inspiring movie, La La Land is the one for you. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Trans youth deserve human rights

By O.D. Wright
NASHVILLE, Tennessee, U.S.A. – President Donald Trump this week rescinded federal guidelines concerning transgender rights. That means that the government no long is encouraging school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
I would say that this is revolting, but that is not a word strong enough to describe my feelings. Not only are we putting our most vulnerable young citizens at risk of harassment, assault, and bullying, we also are taking away a piece of their freedom and humanity.
Discrimination in bathrooms isn’t new to America. We’ve fought to make bathrooms accessible to all races, to women, and to people with disabilities. As a nation we raised our voices and fought for equality, now it’s time for us to fight again.
While I try to string together sentences to describe the ache in my chest, the word I settle on is ‘why?’
Why in the 20th century are we watching the government commit an injustice towards people too young to stand up for what they deserve? Why is the Trump administration redacting a guideline that brought us one step closer to ending discrimination against those who are transgender?
And, why is something as comprehensible as transgender rights inscrutable to the people who run our nation?
Although I have a very strong opinion on this subject, I do understand where the confusion lies. It’s a confusion based on misunderstanding, a confusion birthed from people too blinded by their beliefs, uneducated in the matter, or firm in closed-mindedness.
I do not discriminate with these people who disagree with my position. As I fight for the rights of transgender people, I acknowledge the rights of speech for all – and believe a healthy debate is a beautiful thing, a necessity to make our democracy work.
The number one argument against transgender bathrooms is that by opening the doors to any gender, we are opening the doors to allow predators into a private place for women. That would be an absolute monstrosity, but luckily, there is no evidence to support the claim.
In North Carolina, lawmakers passed HB2, a law that says that in publicly owned places, people must use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth gender. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights organizations filed suit against the state, saying there is no statistical evidence of violence to justify the ‘Bathroom Law.’
The real risk of violence comes from the new law and that dangers it poses for transgender youth. Imagine the reaction if a mid-transition trans boy walked into a women’s bathroom, clothed in his masculinity. Most women would feel fear and discomfort, and respond by harassing or assaulting the boy.
The real danger is misapprehension. To correlate predators and transgender youth is opening up a can of worms that allows the continuation of harassment toward these children, and feeds dysphoria and misunderstanding.
If a male predator wants to go into a bathroom to assault a woman – breaking the law in the process – why would he let the ‘Bathroom Law’ stop him?
No, it’s not about transgender youth being predators. It’s more about the fear of any form of masculinity in female spaces and the fear of those who differ from society’s norms. It’s the misconstruction of what being transgender actually is.
It’s not about a male in a dress. It’s about a person born with the wrong body, whose intent is not to hurt, but to be who they were born to be.
Another argument is the idea that transgender bathrooms are not important. Here’s the thing: when we take away the rights of trans people to use the bathroom where they are most comfortable, we also take away their dignity.
We spread confusion instead of facts.
By saying, “Transgender youths aren’t really the gender they identify with, therefore they don’t belong in the bathroom of their choice,” we take away the truth of what being transgender really is.
Another problem with the ‘Bathroom law” is that it allows the government to take away basic rights. If we let them regulate something as simple as using the bathroom, what comes next? By sitting by and doing nothing, we are watching as these youths are stripped of their basic human rights, and as their voices are drowned out by the yelling in Congress.
When one of us is stripped of our freedom, we are all stripped of our freedom. America was built by our founding fathers standing up for what they believed in, by patriots fighting a valiant battle to escape oppression.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to join that fight again. I, for one, refuse to allow subjugation of my fellow citizens. I am an American, and I believe in liberty and justice for all.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gambian democracy brings economic relief

Abdoulie Jammeh /
New Gambian President Adama Barrow waves to the crowd at the ceremonial swearing in event at Independence Stadium.
By Lama Jallow
Senior Reporter
SERREKUNDA, The Gambia – Citizens here are happy to welcome the nation’s new president, Adama Barrow, and merchants are hopeful that the change will mean better relations with neighboring Senegal.
Ousainou Sallah of Senegal, operates a shop in the large regional market in Serrekunda and spoke about when the border between the two nations was closed under former President Yahya Jammeh.
"It was not just about business but safety,” Sallah said. “Peace which can determine free movement of goods and people, too, and if that is not there, then both countries will be at risk of endangering their citizens."
Geography plays a role.

Google maps
The country of Senegal borders The Gambia on all sides except for an Atlantic Ocean coastline.
Lama Jallow /
Gambian Momodou Baldeh
standing next to his shop in
the Serrekunda market.
"Senegal surrounds almost all parts of The Gambia except the coast and most of our goods are from there, said Momodou Baldeh, a Gambian who owns a shop in the same market. “So our governments must understand that we cannot be in a state of that kind. We are the same people and we can't live without each other."
President Adama Barrow defeated Jammeh in a December 1 election, sparking joy in the streets. But the nation grew tense when the longtime ruler refused to leave last month when it came time for Barrow to take office.
Barrow fled to Senegal and was sworn in as president at the Gambian embassy and Jammeh finally left after African leaders intervened and troops from the Economic Community of West African states entered Gambia to remove him by force.
After Barrow took the oath of office at a low-key event in Senegal due to the political instability in Gambia, people packed a stadium to celebrate their country’s 52nd year of independence and witness the ceremonial swearing in of the new president.
Lama Jallow /
The crowd outside the stadium, where posters
of the new president hang outside.
African heads of state and other friends of The Gambia attended the Feb. 18 ceremony to witness the birth of a new nation after 22 years of dictatorship under Jammeh, who has since left the country.
President Macky Sall of Senegal, who along with the international community, played a major role in helping The Gambia remain stable during the difficult days after the election, spoke strongly of the need for a better relationship between the two countries.
“We are the same people, and we remain the same people,” Sall said.
Lamin K. Darboe, a school teacher at Sanchaba Sulay Jobe Primary, went to the ceremony at Independence Stadium in the Westfield section of the city of Serrekunda.
“The tyranny is gone, the dictator is gone,” said Darboe.
In his speech to the people at the Independence Day ceremony last week, talked about the need for unity, the economy and the desperations of Gambians to see a better nation.
“This is a victory for democracy,” he said.
Abdoulie Jammeh /
President Adama Barrow (in white) toward the right of the frame, rides into the stadium waving to the crowd.

Barrow elaborated on the challenges his government will face.
“We have inherited an economy in decline,” said Barrow. He promised to convince investors to invest in the country especially in the technology sector, to introduce free primary education and reinforce the judiciary.
Though the national election divided the country along ethnic lines, Barrow condemned tribalism.
“All the tribes are equal and it’s one Gambia, one nation,” strongly condemning any form of tribalism. "Long live the republic. Long live the Gambian people. Forward ever, backward never."

Abdoulie Jammeh /
Gambian Vice President Fatoumata Tambajang at 
the ceremony.
After his historic upset over Jammeh, Barrow is reversing other decisions by the former leader. Barrow has freed political prisoners and returned The Gambia to the International Criminal Court. And the process is underway for Gambia to re-enter the Commonwealth after the former president cut ties last fall.
After more than two decades of dictatorship under Jammeh, the freedom Gambians so yearned for has arrived in a peaceful way.  Gambians in the Diaspora are already coming back home after some years in exile. Among them are journalists, musicians and politicians.
Democracy appears to be good for business and family stability, too, according to the two shopkeepers from the Serrekunda market.
Lama Jallow /
Ousainou Salla of Senegal, 
in the foreground, at his shop
in the market in The Gambia.
"My business, for example, was at risk, and if I am at risk, then my family is,” said Salla.
Baldeh said, "I hope and pray such things will not happen again. It was really tough for Gambians in particular, especially those who are poor.”
Those people couldn’t afford to keep paying expensive prices on goods, Baldeh said, and the prices kept on increasing every day.
With the closed border, Salla said he couldn’t send a good amount of money to help his family back in Senegal.
“I know it had bad effects on many families, too, from both countries,” said Salla. “So it's not in any way good to see these two countries in bad terms. We are far from that."
Baldeh praised the new leader.
"Barrow started well with the Senegalese government and I hope this will be a relationship that will stay forever," Baldeh said.
Abdoulie Jammeh /
The Gambian flag flies at 
Independence Stadium.
With the election behind them, Gambians are expecting more from a different government that will support democracy and build a better Gambia. They want to see employment opportunities to stop Gambian youth from leaving for Europe on dangerous journeys over the Mediterranean Sea in search of work.
Whether Barrow and his cabinet can meet their expectations won’t be clear right away, but the new leader set a limit of just three years before Gambia’s next presidential election.
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Thursday, February 16, 2017

YJI statement on immigration policy

A core principle of Youth Journalism International’s mission statement is that it “fosters cross-cultural understanding.” Understanding starts with open minds and hearts, not fences and walls. In furtherance of its mission, and in recognition of the value of diversity, YJI is proud to count Muslims among its current students and alumni. As an organization, YJI stands against any immigration policy which by implication or operation discriminates against Muslims or any other group. Such a policy stands in opposition to our mission statement. It only further deepens divides in our country and society, and darkens the shining beacon that the United States has been as a symbol of liberty and freedom.

Unanimously adopted, YJI Board of Directors, Feb. 16, 2017

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The bells of St. Valentine ring with love

Mary Ngozi /
The market in Nsukka, Nigeria.
By Mary Ngozi
Junior Reporter
NSUKKA, Nigeria – The Valentine's Day bell rung loudly as the priest wished all the congregation happy Valentine's Day.
He stressed the unfailing love of God for all creation and repeated the message to always live love, touch love and see love in all humans.
The bell continued to ring as I reached the market, where happy Valentine's Day greetings could be heard. I offered Valentine’s wishes to every customer and the bell didn't stop when I received a lovely rose from a dear friend.
From my heart I want to ring my own Valentine's bell to my brothers and sisters in need – the  oppressed, depressed, poor and sick.
My bell sings “I love you” to prisoners, the handicapped, the orphans, the homeless, the sick, the cheated, the wounded, the lost ones. It urges strength to those who are tired of life, to not give up because it is not over yet.
To all living, I love you.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
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St. Valentine would approve.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Women are finally playing by Aussie rules

Alyce Collett /
A moment at the Melbourne vs. Brisbane Women's Australian Football League game on Sunday.

By Alyce Collett
MELBOURNE, Australia – The national Women's Australian Football League made history over the weekend with the inaugural rounds taking place on the continent.
This may not seem historic at first, but when you consider the history and sacrifices that were made to get to this point, you realize how significant it is.
Let me give you a little history lesson to begin with. Although the men’s Australian Football League has existed in one form or another for 159 years, women have never had these opportunities. Until now.
The journey to a national league for women began in 2013, when the first exhibition match of the best female footballers from across the country took place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Two teams representing two of the Victorian clubs from the Australian Football League faced off in that match.
Since then, the support for women’s footy and for a national league has grown. Finally, two years ago, the Australian Football League Commission did something about it and announced that there would finally be a national competition.
The original goal was to have a league by 2020, but Gillon McLachlan, the chief executive officer of the Australian Football League, announced that the goal had been changed to 2017.
In mid-2016, the first announcement about the structure of the new competition was made, with the naming the eight clubs that would be competing in the inaugural season. Further steps, such as the draft and fixture release, came in the subsequent months and it all culminated in the first round of matches this past weekend.
The first game was on Friday, and was between two clubs that have been rivals for a long time in the men’s competition, Carlton Blues and Collingwood Magpies. Collingwood was never in the match, though, as the Blues side dominated from the outset.
They were originally going to play the match at Collingwood’s home ground, but when the Australian Football League realized that a bigger than capacity crowd was expected, they moved the match to Carlton’s home ground, which is larger.
This proved to be a good move, as it became a lock-out crowd early on in the evening, which means they had to physically lock the gates and not let any more spectators inside. Even so, there were still long lines of people trying to get into the ground. This is a testament to both clubs and the interest in the new competition.
Saturday saw two matches take place, one in the Western suburbs of Melbourne and the other in the heart of Adelaide. In Adelaide, a smaller but still healthy crowd of 9,000 saw the home side the Adelaide Crows register a comfortable win over their less fancied opposition, the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
The Giants were never in the match, not even registering a goal on the scoreboard until well into the second half.
Meanwhile, game three of the weekend saw a match between two teams that began the match as flag favorites, Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs. Like in the previous two matches, the Bulldogs on the home side dominated, beating Fremantle comfortably. This game saw a near capacity crowd, which continued the trend from the previous matches.
Sunday‘s one match rounded out the weekend, and it took place in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs between the Melbourne Demons and the Brisbane Lions. In wet conditions, it was the Lions who took the four points in an upset. The game actually had to be delayed just before half time due to a lightning storm, and the Demons were looking like the more dominant side before the interruption. After the interruption, the Lions dominated and ran away with the match, taking a 15 point win.
So as you can see, the first round of the new women’s football season was a roaring success. The crowds were massive, the television ratings were very high – on par with the men’s matches – and the matches were good quality contests.
The scores weren’t high, but there are many factors, such as nerves, that probably affected the scores. There’s a good chance that the scores will increase as the season goes on.
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