Friday, June 29, 2012

Chasing Her Dream Of Wanting To Fly

Line Hellem /
A paraglider in the sky over the extreme sports festival Ekstremsportveko in Norway this week

By Line Hellem
VOSS, Norway – I cannot count the times I have boarded a plane somewhere on the planet, ready to let it take me 30,000 feet above the ground.
I always liked flying. In the movie The Notebook, Rachel McAdams says, “I wanna be a bird,” and I don’t think her character is alone in wanting that. I believe many of us have that childish dream of being able to fly.
Line Hellem /

Paragliders at Ekstremsportveko 
It is now summer holiday, those weeks that every student spends the year longing for. I did the same, only to realize that summers are boring – unless you make them fun.  So this week I traveled with some friends to attend – and just to watch – the extreme sports festival in Voss in Norway.
Locally, it’s known as Ekstremsportveko. Directly translated, that would be “the extreme sports week.”
The festival gathers around 12,000 people from all around the world to attend, by competing, watching and cheering.
The festival arranges contests in sports like rafting, kayaking, paragliding, skydiving, base jumping, BMX riding and longboard.
With so many means to an adrenalin rush, sitting by the sidelines seemed like a waste of it all. So $200 poorer, and ready to be one experience richer, I stepped onto the mountain cable car together with my designated experienced paraglide pilot, ready for my 15 minutes of, hopefully not fame, but flying.
But with TV cameras and paramedics meeting us at the paragliding start point up on the mountain, it could have easily gone that way, too. As it turned out, two paragliders had fallen as they were going out for a ride, resulting in a helicopter spending an hour searching for them. Luckily, they were both okay, and we were cleared for take-off.
Seeing the world from above, separated from the ground by nothing but two layers of fabric working as a seat and 2,000 feet of oxygen, is an experience to be recommended.
It’s the closest I’ve ever come to flying.
And in spirit of the rule that goes for all of life’s areas – there is only one way further, and that way is up – I have come to see it as anything but forgivable if I were to not follow that rule in this matter, too.

Line Hellem paraglides in the sky above Norway
Meaning, to my mother’s great distress, skydiving is next.
But these are, as the name of the festival states, extreme sports, and with bravery, guts, curiosity and the search for fun all in one place, accidents are only so far away.
As I had my first day in the air, someone else had their last, in the air, as well as in life. My thoughts go to those who lost one of their loved ones in the tragic parachute accident near the festival on Wednesday. It is a horrible reminder of how fragile life can be.
But it is also a reminder to take advantage of those minutes we do have at our disposal in a way that leaves you with no regrets that you didn’t seize the chances handed to you.
And now I think it is time to scratch that other wish we have all had. Yep, I am talking about the pop star/superhero dream – depending on whether you are a boy or a girl (there is, of course, no necessity for it to depend on anything, by all means).
But anyways, no more superstar for me. I think I’m bit by the flying bug, and no matter how juvenile it might be, that will still be my dream.

Line Hellem after making it safely back to Earth

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer In Pakistan Means Luscious Melons

Arooj Khalid /

A watermelon seller in a Lahore, Pakistan market with his goods

By Arooj Khalid
LAHORE, Pakistan – I don’t know about others, but I love, love, love watermelons.
Ahh! They are so red, so juicy, so yummy, especially when chilled.
I am a total fan, and nowadays, you can see tons of watermelons everywhere in Lahore.
The melons here are part of the Sunday bazaar, and most weigh 3 or 4 kilograms – about 7.5 pounds – but there are heavier ones for those who want them.
They cost 20 Pakistani rupees per kilogram, or about 21 cents in the U.S. per 2.2 pounds.
Arooj Khalid /
At a watermelon stall in a Lahore bazaar, some look red because of the color of the tent overhead.

                                          Arooj Khalid /
Melons in the market in Lahore, Pakistan 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Olympics Torch Visit Thrills English School

Robert Mooney/

John Hacking, with the Olympic torch

By Robert Mooney
Junior Reporter
RICHMOND, North Yorkshire, U.K. – The Olympic torch relay came to Richmond School the other day.
It was especially exciting because the school is the only one in the United Kingdom to have the torch come through its grounds.
As part of the celebration, the school simultaneously played host to the 2012 School Games, with two-time gold medallist Lord Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, in attendance.
Although many students only saw the torch go past for a few seconds, it will be a memory that will last for years to come.
Robert Mooney/

Richmond School Headmaster
Ian Robertson, left, with
Lord Sebastian Coe
In other parts of Richmond, people lined the streets to see the torch, especially in the town center, where the English equivalent of vuvuzelas were for sale, though they didn’t prove as annoying as they were during the World Cup.
To great excitement and celebration, the crowds waved British flags and also red, white and blue ribbons as the torchbearers went by through the Market Place and on to the school, where they went through buildings and came down a path to the sports fields.
The torch passed by crowds of students and teachers wanting to get photographs before the bearers did a lap of honour round the sports field known locally as Wembley. Then it headed on to the next leg of its journey.
However, before setting off to the next locale, the torchbearers and guests had a chance to speak to some of the students, many of them asking for pictures.
Robert Mooney/

Amy Potter bearing torch

During this time there was the opportunity for students to show off their talents in the performing arts, including a performance from dance students and also some very talented music students busking in the car park.
The torchbearers all had reasons for securing the honor.
Helen Jackson, for instance, has done great work for years with patients in her local hospice who are terminally ill.
Another torchbearer, John Hacking, has worked in a tough school teaching physical education to students for the last 35 years. His students describe him as a true inspiration.
Robert Mooney/

Torchbearer Helen Jackson
Also getting the opportunity to carry the torch was Amy Potter, an A-Level student who has suffered with cystic fibrosis since the age of 8. She has also organized events to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, including an annual sponsored walk around the village where she lives.
The headmaster of Richmond School, Ian Robertson, said the school was “very privileged” and proud of the chance to have the torch come through.
“It was a great day for all,” Robertson said. “ I was thrilled that everybody could actually see the torch.”
That Coe was also there made it even more special, Robertson said.
Robertson said he was “thrilled to bits” to have Coe attend. “He’s a tremendous role model for young people today and all people in terms of his drive and his passion for sport, supporting schools and he was a favourite of mine when he was a world champion.”
He said he is sure many students will “take lasting memories away from this,” including the chance to meet Coe and playing a part “in a once in a life time opportunity of the Olympics coming to Great Britain and coming to Richmond.”

Robert Mooney/

Finally, A Cinematic Girl Who Is Truly 'Brave'

By Gokce Yurekli
NEWARK, New Jersey, U.S.A. – Pixar has produced many critically acclaimed films. Over the years, we watched a rat with remarkable culinary skills, a house that can fly, and a clownfish in search for his abducted son.
But Pixar has never had a female protagonist before. That is, until now.
Brave is the story of Merida, a spirited young girl in medieval Scotland who rejects the traditional guidance administered by her mother in favor of archery and horseback riding.
When her parents name her the prize in a contest between the bachelor sons of tribal lords, Merida rebels, much to the dismay of her mother. She evokes a spell to change her mother, not realizing the full consequences of her wish.
Merida is no damsel in distress. It is about time there’s a female protagonist who needs no one but herself to save the day. This new Pixar dynamic is quite refreshing to say the least.
Released last week, the film – also in 3D – is wonderfully witty and the animation is simply fantastic.
The landscapes are almost photo-realistic with perfect lighting and detail. The story, the music, the scenery and the Scottish accents flawlessly work together to form a consistent framework.
Plus, the attention given to Merida’s red locks is astonishing. This year, I expect girls will be donning fiery red wigs for Halloween.
At this point in Pixar’s history, the studio is basically in competition with itself. To produce another animated film to compete with such movies like Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and Ratatouille is seemingly an impossible task.
But Pixar accomplished the impossible with Brave. Go see it if you haven’t already. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Author Judy Blume Tells Her Own Stories

By Avery St. Germain
Junior Reporter
Mary Majerus-Collins
Senior Reporter
HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – When she was a little girl, author Judy Blume never wrote down all the stories she thought of as she bounced a ball against a wall at her house.
“I was a creative kid,” Blume told an audience of several hundred in Hartford, where she spoke at a fundraiser for the Mark Twain House.
But Blume, who wrote Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret., the vastly popular “Fudge” series and many other books for children, teens and adults, said she was never encouraged to write as a child.
“I kept those stories to myself,” she said. “What a shame.”
She said she loved books from an early age and visited the library with her mother.
“The first book I ever loved was Madeline,” said Blume. “I memorized it.”
Blume was so young that she didn’t understand that the library’s copy of Madeline wasn’t the only one in the world.
“I hid it from my mother so she wouldn’t take it back,” she said.
Growing up in the 1950s, Blume adored her father, who was outgoing. She said she was more like her mother – shy, quiet and anxious.
Though she had a good family, Blume said she felt enormous pressure to be perfect.
“It was wonderful, but it wasn’t perfect,” she said.
She’s had the same best friend for 62 years – since seventh grade – but they never spoke of anything serious until adulthood, said Blume.

Author Judy Blume
When she grew up, she went to college and studied to become a teacher, but never took a teaching job. She married and had children, and while they were young, started writing.
At first, Blume thought she might write books that rhyme, like Dr. Seuss. She enrolled in a night class for “tween” writing at New York University, where she had her work published.
“No one can teach you how to write,” she said, but added that she felt she had to have something ready for class, so it made her write. She also found something important there – encouragement.
“I wrote while the kids were at preschool,” she recalled.
She went to the library and brought home stacks of books. She read them and sorted them into piles – those she liked by authors she wanted to emulate, and those she didn’t.
“Beverly Cleary was a huge inspiration for me,” said Blume, referring to the author of the children’s novels featuring the impish Ramona Quimby.
Early on, Blume said, her “prayers” for her writing career were first, that she would be published, then that someone would read it, and finally, that she might one day hear from someone who had read her work.
All of that happened with Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. in 1970, and Blume began to hear from her readers.
“People would pour their hearts out,” she said. “It’s easier to tell the stranger you don’t have to face at the breakfast table.”
Some of them were “very troubled kids,” said Blume, who needed much more help than she could offer. She said she isn’t a social worker or a therapist, so she consulted with professionals about how to respond to some of them and even had to intervene a few times.
The first of her books to make it to the big screen is Tiger Eyes, a 2012 film about a girl’s grief after the sudden death of her father.
Blume said she didn’t realize until later that in Tiger Eyes, she was writing about her own feelings about losing her father at age 21. It was an emotional story for her, she said, and she cried writing it.
On the other hand, she said the “Fudge” books – beginning with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – made her laugh.
“I like to feel the emotion of it,” she said.
Blume based the Fudge character on her son Lawrence Blume, who is now the film director and screenwriter for Tiger Eyes, she said.
Fudge eventually took on his own personality, said Blume, who wrote five books about the beloved little troublemaker. She said she was ready to stop writing about Fudge, though, and wrapped up the story line in Fudge-a-mania.
But then her grandson begged her to write one more, just for him, and she couldn’t resist. That’s when she wrote Double Fudge.
Some of the books have been updated to reflect contemporary life, said Blume. The electronics that the kids have in the Fudge books, for instance, have been updated.
But it’s not just the book characters who are keeping pace with modern life. Blume, who has a website and Facebook fan page, is active on Twitter, too.
“It is addictive,” she said.
Her writing ideas come to her not when she’s sitting at the computer, Blume said, but when she’s doing something else.
“That’s what it takes for me,” she said. “A lot of writing takes place when you’re not writing. The physical allows the mental.”
Blume urged aspiring young writers to seek out books for inspiration.
“Read, read, read, read, read, read,” said Blume. “And then write and don’t worry about what you’re writing. Keep writing. The more you write, the better it gets, the more you learn how to do it.
“Go from one writing project to the next, to the next,” Blume said. “and don’t ever let anybody discourage you.”
Youth Journalism International Reporter Yelena Samofalova contributed to this story.
See the rest of Youth Journalism International's five-part package on Judy Blume's visit to Hartford:
Video: Writing Advice From Judy Blume
Author Judy Blume's Censorship Began With Her Children's School Principal
Longtime Judy Blume Fan Meets The Author
Generations Of Readers Love Judy Blume

Video: Writing Advice From Judy Blume

Youth Journalism International Reporter Yelena Samofalova took this video of author Judy Blume before she spoke at a Mark Twain House event Thursday in Hartford, Connecticut:

See the rest of Youth Journalism International's five-part package on Judy Blume's visit to Hartford:

Longtime Judy Blume Fan Meets The Author

Youth Journalism International reporters meet author Judy Blume in Hartford on Thursday. From left: Mary Majerus-Collins, Avery St. Germain, Judy Blume, Kiernan Majerus-Collins, Yelena Samofalova
By Avery St. Germain
Junior Reporter
HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – After growing up with Judy Blume, I wasn't sure what to expect when I got the chance to meet her.
Some authors write such meaningful novels, and then go on to make such terrible decisions in life.
My first sight of Blume was when she walked through the doorway, talking with some friends and signing fans' books. She was older than I had thought, but her eyes, so like the characters she wrote about, were lively and full of energy.
Youth Journalism International reporters circulated around the room, asking younger children about their own experiences with Blume. The author had been in families for generations, her books teaching and inspiring people everywhere.
When we finally got to talk to her, the way she spoke reminded me of all her characters. Margaret, Steph, Sally, Peter, and so many others – her writer’s voice showed through in her conversation.
During the Clemens lecture for the Mark Twain House, Blume was smart, funny, and personal. She shared her experiences with the audience about how her stories came to be, some difficulty with fan mail, talked about her family, and even gave her aspiring novelists some advice. 
“Read,” she told us. “Never, ever give up.”
The advice seemed so direct, so real, so simple. Blume has been an inspiration to me my whole life, her words reaching out to people everywhere, changing lives and the way people choose to act.

See the rest of Youth Journalism International's five-part package on Judy Blume's visit to Hartford:
Author Judy Blume Tells Her Own Stories
Video: Writing Advice From Judy Blume
Author Judy Blume's Censorship Began With Her Children's School Principal
Generations Of Readers Love Judy Blume

Author Judy Blume's Censorship Began With Her Children's School Principal

By Mary Majerus-Collins
Senior Reporter
HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Author Judy Blume said she felt “very excited” when she finished writing Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret back in 1970.
She said she wanted to give a few copies to the library at the school her children attended.
But the principal said no.
In the book, the main character, Margaret, gets her period, and the principal thought menstruation was an inappropriate topic for his primary school’s library.
“It never occurred to me that that could happen,” Blume said Thursday during this year’s Clemens Lecture for the Mark Twain House & Museum.
In the years that followed, many school and classroom libraries removed or chose not to get a number of her books.
According to the American Library Association, four of Blume’s books – Forever, Blubber, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. and Tiger Eyes – were on a list of the 100 most frequently challenged books between 1990 and 1999 and from 2000 to 2009.
That some of her books have been banned is not a deterrent for her, but rather a source of pride because so many great authors have had their books banned, including Mark Twain, the pen name for writer Samuel Clemens.
“It was a real thrill to be banned on the same list as Mr. Clemens,” Blume said.
Twain’s classic, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” is frequently under fire, and appeared on the same censored lists as Blume’s books.
“He questions authority,” Blume said about Twain’s character, Huckleberry Finn. “This will get any book banned.”
Tracey Sondik of Bolton, Connecticut, is a longtime fan of Blume and her work. One of the things she admires about Blume, Sondik said, is her stance against censorship.
“Judy Blume’s work really parallels Mark Twain’s work,” said Jeffrey Nichols, executive director of the Mark Twain House. “There’s a kinship between the two.”
Blume said she’s today seeing a return of the openness of 1970s culture.
“People are less afraid,” she said. “Less afraid is good.”
Most of the time, said Blume, it wasn’t a public library, but a school or classroom library that kept her work out.
Blume said that “out of fear, the books were removed, often.”
Censored books are often popular ones, said Blume.
“If you look at the books that are banned, they’re the books that kids like,” said Blume, “and if kids like it, it must be dangerous.”
Youth Journalism International Junior Reporter Avery St. Germain contributed to this story.

See the rest of Youth Journalism International's five-part package on Judy Blume's visit to Hartford:
Author Judy Blume Tells Her Own Stories
Video: Writing Advice From Judy Blume
Longtime Judy Blume Fan Meets The Author
Generations Of Readers Love Judy Blume

Generations Of Readers Love Judy Blume

At a Hartford book signing, author Judy Blume recalls inscribing one of her books years ago for fan Tracey Sondik before signing another one for Sondik's daughter.

HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Author Judy Blume’s lecture last week for the Mark Twain House drew fans of all ages.
Tracey Sondik of Bolton, Connecticut, brought her eight-year-old daughter, Sam Sondik, to meet the author.
In her arms, Sondik carried books Blume had signed for Sondik’s grandparents – her grandfather had once worked for Blume – and one she’d autographed for Sondik herself when she was a girl.
“She was my favorite author growing up,” said Sondik, who said she found meaning in Blume’s honest books about friendship and growing up.
Sondik said she appreciated that at a time when the Jewish religion wasn't often a topic in children's literature, Blume took it upon herself to make it an issue for the world.
Sondik showed Blume the books she’d signed years ago and then asked her to sign one more – for Sam, a young fan.

Author Judy Blume with two generations of fans,Tracey Sondik and her daughter Sam Sondik
“I like how she puts it all in a kid’s point of view,” said Sam Sondik, who attends Bolton Center School in Bolton. She said her favorite Blume books are Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself and Blubber.

Alex Fox

Nara Beckett
Eight-year-old Alex Fox, who is in third grade at the Somers Academy in Ellington, Connecticut, said the Fudge books, like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, are her favorite.
Fudge, Fox said, is “little and funny.”
Her grandfather, Ted Fox of Berlin, Connecticut, was at the lecture with her.
Fox said he attended junior high school with Blume 59 years ago. She was just another classmate then, he said, adding that she hasn’t changed much.
Nara Beckett, a 12-year-old student at Eagle Hills School in Greenwich, Connecticut, said she wants to be an author.
Beckett said she hadn’t ready any of Blume’s books – yet. But she was researching Blume, she said, and seemed happy to be able to hear her speak.
Youth Journalism International Junior Reporter Avery St. Germain and Senior Reporter Mary Majerus-Collins contributed to this story.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

No Cooperstown For Baseball Cheaters

By Eli Winter
Junior Reporter
HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens was acquitted this week of all six counts of lying to Congress about his steroid usage in 2008. He is also on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s ballot this year – for the first time.
Many stars will greet him in his chance to be awarded baseball’s highest honor.
Among those tagging along for the ride to Cooperstown are Jeff Bagwell, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez and Don Mattingly.
They also include such hitch-hikers as Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio (well, of course I’m partial to the Astros, being from Houston), and Curt Schilling.
Bagwell slugged 449 homers before retiring after his powerful swing gave him arthritis. Trammell, Mattingly, and Martinez both have more than 2,000 hits and 1,000 RBIs. Biggio has 3,000 hits and the not-so-dubious record of being hit by a pitch more times than any other batter in the history of the game. Schilling struck out 3,116 batters and won a playoff game while fending off an injured, bleeding ankle. Piazza had more than 400 homers.
Photo illustration by Kiernan Majerus-Collins
What about Bonds? Besides his ego, brashness and penchant for hitting homers, there’s his magically swelling his head to the size of a pineapple.
And how about Sosa, with 609 homers to his name?
Lastly, what about Clemens, who managed to skirt past any alleged steroid usage with the help of lawyer Rusty Hardin, after recording 4,612 strikeouts, third-most of any pitcher in the history of the game?
Well, those last three, which I strategically grouped into a separate paragraph, all have been the recipients of numerous allegations that they used steroids during their careers.
While Clemens’ steroid usage may not be quite as certain anymore, given that he was acquitted on charges he lied about not using them, the evidence still points to his using them.
When questioned about voluntary steroid testing, Sosa ended an interview with that legendary sportswriter Rick Reilly. Bonds’ head can’t be explained without mentioning steroids.
Many are debating whether steroid users should be admitted to the Hall of Fame. Opinions are generally mixed, with some saying “Sure!” others saying “First the Cubs will win a World Series.”
Then there’s me.
I believe anyone who feels steroid users should be willingly admitted to the Hall of Fame ought to be strung up by his toenails and left hanging from them like a bat in a cave.
Why do I feel so strongly about this?
Using steroids even once in the world of cycling is enough to garner a two-year ban from racing. The International Olympic Committee disqualifies any athlete who uses them.
But Major League Baseball just hands down a rinky-dinky 50-game suspension – and even that is a relatively new penalty.
Baseball greats Johnny Pesky,
Dom Dimaggio and Bobby Doerr
at the Baseball Hall of Fame
in Cooperstown in 2005.
MLB’s lenience compared to other sports should be balanced out with a harsh stance taken over steroid usage in the Hall.
It’s unfair to other players who played cleanly, with no banned substances used of any kind, to add to the Hall those who looked for every loophole in the book and used it to their full advantage. It’s also unethical, and for a liberal such as myself, ethics and fair play is the name of the game.
Cheating’s not playing fairly.
Nor is dodging every question asked of you about using steroids, or claiming you were given something by your trainer you thought was flaxseed juice, or not having the cojones, so to speak, to admit the truth for fear you’d damage your already-suffering reputation.
Pitcher Andy Pettitte has my respect because he admitted that he used steroids, and he regretted it. That’s all it takes for my respect to be regained.
If we can’t agree that steroid users should be barred from the Hall of Fame like otherwise fantastic players such as Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson (unfairly, in the latter case), then perhaps we can compromise with this: Any steroid user admitted to the Hall of Fame gets an asterisk to place by his full records.
Those records set during seasons in which they juiced are removed and they receive joint records played ‘cleanly.’
For example, if someone played for 10 years and juiced for two, those 10 years’ statistics would receive an asterisk placed by them, and the two he juiced in would be removed from those 10 and clean records would be held jointly, side-by-side with the asterisked records.
If he hit 500 homers total and 427 cleanly, he would see something like this in the record books: HR - 500* (427).
This represents both sides of the story, while of course, not pleasing everyone.
We certainly don’t live in a utopia, folks, but we can make do.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Downie: 'Learn Basic Skills' To Get A Job

Leonard Downie, Jr
BOSTON -- Former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie, Jr, whose leadership helped the paper win 25 Pulitzers, told aspiring reporters to "learn the basic skills."
In an interview with Youth Journalism International Senior Reporter Kiernan Majerus-Collins, Downie said that when he got into the business, "All I had to do was learn how to type."
Now, he said, it is essential for anyone trying to become a reporter to have multimedia skills "whether or not they're going to practice it all the time or not.
Downie said, though, that "while doing that, learn the basic skills of being a good journalist."
"In this age of bloggers and tweeters, people may think that you don't have to know the basics of deep digging reporting and storytelling," Downie said.
He said, though, that aspiring journalists who can combine "those two things" will find work.
"If you can do that, there are jobs for you out there, there are opportunities for you," Downie said during a brief interview at the national conference of Investigative Reporters and Editors in Boston this weekend.
After 44 years as a journalist for the Post, Downie is now a journalism professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.