Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prayers, New Year's Resolutions For 2014

By Linus Okechukwu
LAFIA, Nasarawa, Nigeria – It's the last day of the year, the day that will usher us into New Year; we cannot help smiling with appreciation and fulfillment.
We are grateful to God for all He has done for us in 2013. We thank Him for keeping us united after all the upheavals, troubles, fights and quarrels. We thank Him for making us strong to overpower our weaknesses and failures, for enabling us to see this day as we say goodbye to this bittersweet year.
What makes this day special in Nigeria?
New Year’s Eve service does for millions of Christians, and the thought of starting afresh after many failures and disappointments makes today special to virtually everybody.
New Year’s Eve is a day to rise above our failures, weaknesses, frustrations, disappointments and pains. It's a time to look beyond the confines of the past and embrace a new beginning.
Today is the day when we put behind everything that has made the outgoing year terrible and hopefully look forward to a new beginning, one we strongly believe will be fulfilling and prosperous.
It's time to make new resolutions, too.
Fresh graduates and many unemployed citizens will be praying for good jobs and a better lifetime.
Unmarried youth will hope to get married and get a great family.
Many secondary school students in their final years will be praying for admission into tertiary institutions – universities, polytechnics and colleges of educations – in the country.
Children are not left out. Many of them will be praying for a better year, a year where they'll be fruitful and become more of a blessing to their families.
Those in government will hope for a better Nigeria, a Nigeria that will uphold the very reasons for which we gained political independence.
Politicians will hope to curry favor with the citizenry come 2014 so that the 2015 general elections will be to their advantage.
Everybody wants a fresh start. Nobody wants to cling to the past.
It's with this 'new beginning' spirit that we trooped into churches tonight for a service that lasted through midnight.
Personally, I hope to get my resolutions written down. I hardly keep them, but this year, I want to not only get them written down, but to also keep them, too.
In the service, we danced and clapped, celebrated and appreciated God for all He's done for us. But we’d never forget to ask for a new beginning, a fresh start in all we do.
The service mostly ends with chants of "Happy New Year."
But what we want to hear is, "New Year, New Life," a phrase that resonates with nearly all Nigerians.
It gives us a sense of what the New Year actually means – a fresh start. Wishing a prosperous New Year to all our readers worldwide!

Burka Avenger Is Perfect Superhero For Pakistan And Great Role Model For Girls

By Arooj Khalid
Senior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – “Don’t mess with the lady in black, when she’s on the attack!” This is the theme song for Jiya, Pakistan’s first female super-hero, Burka Avenger.
The cartoon hero Jiya is a simple school teacher who lost her parents at an early age and was brought up by a kabbadi master, who teaches her a new form of fighting, “Takht Kabbadi” which uses books and pens as weapons to fight off villains, along with a handful of karate skills.
Whenever there is evil around, Jiya puts on a burka to hide her identity and uses her fighting skills to defeat evil.
The show promotes righteous values and education among girls and discourages discrimination. Burka Avenger targets social problems such as education and discrimination in a way that children can understand without any harm done.
The show is set in a fictional town of “Halwapur” and stars three kids: Immu, Ashu, and Mooli, who are eager to learn and acquire education. Meanwhile, a corrupt politician, “Vadero Pajero,” and an evil magician “Baba Bandooq,” try to close down the girls’ school in order to acquire money and power in their immoral ways.
The moment that the freedom of the citizens is threatened, Burka Avenger appears to protect the safety of the children and to assure female education in the area.
The animated show, created by Pakistan’s famous pop star Aaron Haroon Rashid, features music tracks of Pakistan’s leading pop stars such as Ali Azmat, Adil Omar and Ali Zafar.
The animations were made with high power graphics and are said to be the first of its kind in Pakistan. “Burka Avenger” is a family show, but is chiefly aimed at children. It would be fair to say that it is enjoyed by all ages.
Many other female superheroes such as Wonder Woman and Black Widow already exist, but the reason Burka Avenger is different and even more amazing is that she was desperately needed by young Pakistani girls.
This show is based on the issues that girls here actually face and is set in their own environment. There are real world villains such as the corrupt politicians and the terrorists who believe that women have no right to education.
Best of all, this superhero fights righteously using education, books and pens and remains modest at the same time. Only her adoptive father knows about her secret – he’s the one who taught her.
Some people have expressed concerns about the Burka Avenger wearing a burka, as many see it as a sign of oppression. But the sole reason Jiya wears a burka is to hide her identity like any superhero would.
Moreover, the burka is not viewed as a sign of oppression by Pakistanis, who are the show’s audience.
Overall, Burka Avenger has had a positive response not only from Pakistan but also from all around the world, and not only because of the awesome story line.
There is something else that can't be ignored.
Jiya represents a strong woman who never lets the society chose for her. She fights for women’s rights and is an inspiration for young Pakistani girls. She passes on the powerful message of staying brave, strong and moving forward.
Undoubtedly, that is what Pakistan needs right now.

Texas Teen Lists His 2013 Musical Favorites

By Eli Winter
HOUSTON, Texas, U.S.A. – Here’s my favorite music released this year.  You may not know all of the musicians discussed here, but don’t let that scare you. There’s something for everyone here.

I use the word “favorite” in place of the word “best” this year for two reasons: First, because it’s a more accurate reflection of my music tastes; second and because this way I won’t have to decide which album or song I like the most.
This year, it’s especially hard to do that.

Favorite albums
Time Off by Steve Gunn
Steve Gunn’s fifth album wears its influences on its sleeve. Gunn’s a big record collector; he knows some blues, some world music, some American Primitive music, and everything in between. Before stepping into the studio to record, he helped out Kurt Vile as guitarist in his backing band, The Violators, and here he puts all these influences together in a slow-burning, seemingly effortless style. His guitar builds up the music, but never to excess; his vocals are restrained, and oddly appropriately so as he sings of tales of men of the city; the whole album is mellow and relaxing. And yet it’s captivating, soothing; it draws you in and leaves you hungering for more, 40 minutes later, 40 minutes happier.
Try out his performance of “Lurker” at NPR Tiny Desk Concerts here: http://youtu.be/2bMVMjOMRkU?t=10m39s

Comedown Machine by The Strokes
This is The Strokes’ fifth album and their last one released by RCA Records, which snapped the band up in 2001 after their first EP came out. Unlike Angles, Comedown Machine sees The Strokes experimenting – as opposed to four Strokes experimenting and one Stroke purposefully extricating himself from the other band members in an attempt to force creativity. As a result, this album is more cohesive, more natural (Despite Julian Casablancas’ occasionally unnatural falsetto), more intimate, and frankly, better than Angles. Critics tend to assume The Strokes have a certain sound they absolutely have to stick to or else they won’t succeed, and here they do just the opposite of what’s hoped from them: Branch out more than they ever have, dabbling in everything from disco to lounge music to synth ballads to punk. Despite the disconnect between their critics’ expectations of their sound and their own sound, they mix these styles well. The Strokes don’t feel the need to prove themselves anymore, and they let said critics hear about it, too: “You'll never believe me 'til you're on your own.”
Try out “Welcome To Japan” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQphPd7-2RM

Phosphor by Karl Culley
Karl Culley is a guitarist with skill the likes of which you’ll never have heard before. Same goes for his songs – they’re excellent. At times reflective, desperate, and funky, he combines many musical styles with little more than an acoustic guitar and a voice. His percussive fingerpicking style gives him great stylistic versatility. One song, such as “Dragon Kite,” can be somber and solemn, and another, like “Runes,” can be anxious and tense. Lyrically, abstractions and allusions abound; he can allude to Greek mythology as a metaphor for addiction and arrogance, as in “Icarus and Whisky,” while also, in the tune “Qualifer,” comparing life to a ballgame: “I see the ball coming fast towards me like a wall; it’s a hard, hard court to live upon.” Life knows how to throw a curve, and Phosphor helps you hit it back and arrive safely on base.
Watch his video for “Dragon Kite” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTJ4u7tWLXY

Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant
This album may take you aback a little at first listen. Maybe it’s the way the synths sound, so suddenly ice-cold or maybe it’s just the way the album cover looks – not exactly inviting, with John Grant’s glare and pale green tie juxtaposed against a dark brown suit and room. Noone is immune to judging books by their covers, to be sure, and the same goes for albums. But Pale Green Ghosts proves an endearing listen which, with the help of a beautiful baritone, will warm and reward you. Its subject matter certainly can’t be described as “light.” Grant tackles heartbreak, resentment, and AIDS diagnoses, among other subjects, during the course of the album, and it’s lyrically just as intense as it is musically sparse. But in spite of himself, Grant keeps his tongue firmly in his cheek in songs like “GMF,” exuding dorky confidence as he challenges his lover to “go ahead and love me while it’s still a crime,” and then reminds him that with him, “You could be laughing 65 percent more of the time.” His lover may have left him, but in his stead, John Grant has left us this album. Listen to it; you’ll be all the better for it.
Watch his video for “GMF” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekFWPsXXcg0

Favorite songs
“Weight” by Mikal Cronin
The most tasteful fuzzed-out guitar distortion you’ll hear all year, and with one of the prettiest melodies, too. Hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0S2eTV2v3V0

“Portrait” by Richard Buckner
A gorgeous song, at once introspective and desperate for connection; “Locked in your portrait, lost in the frame” – wouldn’t you be, after listening? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0S2eTV2v3V0

“Wake Bake Skate” by FIDLAR
FIDLAR are honest, and brutally so. They’re happy where they are, and this song is them, grinning ear-to-ear with glee, wishing you could take it easy like they, and noone else, can.

“Tumbleweed Learner” by a microscope

I know the man who made this, so I’m admittedly a little biased towards it, but I’ll be damned if it’s not the most beautiful song of the year. http://amicroscope.bandcamp.com/

At 17, Yearning To Cast A Ballot

By Santosh Poudel
Junior Reporter
HEMJA, Banskot, Nepal – I live my life in one of the richest countries in natural resources. I live in Nepal.
Last month, we had an election for our constituent assembly, and most of the people over age 18 were happy because they were going to choose the leaders they liked most.
But I wasn't happy because at 17, I am too young to vote.  My sadness comes from the fact that me and most of my friends my age think that the leaders can't understand the desires of 21st century youth.

This was the second time Nepal held elections since 2006, when our civil war ended and a temporary government and constitution was created.
In 2008, the people elected an assembly to write a permanent constitution, but the leaders didn't do a good job. Because of their constant bickering they weren't able to select suitable leaders.
Elections, which were supposed to have been held every two years, were finally held again on November 19.
The people of my village were excited about this election because it gave them a chance to select the best candidate who will develop what our village can offer the people for education, health, sports and entertainment.
The most important thing our village needs to do is provide good jobs for young people. Most of the youth here are unemployed. They want to have the same opportunities as the youth of developed countries like America and China.
So when Election Day came, I couldn't vote, but I got to witness the excitement in my village. People started to vote from the morning at 7 a.m. until evening, about 5 p.m.
All the people were happy to vote for their favorite leaders and villagers wore new clothes to go to the polls.
On the next day, we heard the news that the candidate of the Communist Party of Nepal, the Unified Marxist-Leninist, or UML, won the election in my district. I felt shocked because most of the people from my village are the supporters of the other party, Nepali Congress, but their candidate lost.
I also feel sad because I am a supporter of the Nepali Congress Party. I always support this party because it is democratic and the leaders of this party did a lot for the development of Nepal. This party is also good because in the past, its leader helped stop the Maoist violence and got them to play an active role in the democratic process.
The villagers were also sad because their candidate lost the election and they think that the other party will not offer solutions to develop our village.
As for me, I hope the new leaders will be good ones for the development of the village and solve the unemployment problem here. I’m also interested to see how our newly elected leaders will manage to fulfill the wishes of the 21st century youth in my village.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

China's Cities Offer A Captivating Blend Of History And Culture In A Modern Setting

Robert Guthrie / youthjournalism.org
The people of Shanghai making their way to work in the morning, with enormous skyscrapers towering overhead.
By Robert Guthrie
Senior Reporter
CHINA - Enthralling views, sublime skylines and captivating stories – these are just some of the wonders that a trip to China’s historic, yet still evolving cities of Beijing and Shanghai boasts.
When I returned from a recent visit to these Asian culture capitals, I had enough vivid experiences to last a lifetime.
It all started for me when I arrived with my school group at Glasgow Airport to catch the first short flight down to London. Arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 at around lunchtime, after milling around it was time to catch the next nine-hour flight which would take us straight into Beijing International Airport.
The views from the plane were spectacular, especially as we flew over Russia and, with a clear sky and a brightly lit full moon, we could look down and catch a rare glimpse of the mountains and streetlights below.
Once we landed, we took a bus to our first restaurant, where we sampled the Chinese cuisine which was different than anything you’d expect from a takeaway.
We had green tea, soup which you could say was of an acquired taste, pork, cauliflower, beef and onions, and sweet and sour meals.  The rest of the meals we had in China were very similar to this one.
After the meal, our first stop was the Temple of Heaven, a significant Beijing temple where many Chinese people come to socialize and pray.
The intricate design work on the traditional buildings was stunning, and was all original – these massive and tall buildings were held up by only wood, showing the sheer skill in old Chinese craftsmanship.
We carried on to the restaurant for dinner and were treated to special dough balls which are eaten only on the first day of the Chinese Lunar Year, the day we had arrived. Fireworks also continued all night – bad news for those who needed their sleep at our hotel, the Beijing Suyuan Phoenix. The quality of accommodation and friendly staff made for a sterling visit, nonetheless.
Throughout our journey, we were continually immersed in the Chinese culture.
Breakfast was very different than anything we would normally have. There were noodles, vegetables, salad, cake, spring rolls and rice.
After very slowly winding our way through the Beijing morning rush hour, we arrived at The Summer Palace, where Chinese people come to pray. It is also home to the longest corridor in the world, stretching over 700 meters, or nearly half a mile.
Our next treat was to see the pandas at Beijing Zoo, pandas being the national animal of China.
One of the most interesting parts of the trip was going to a tea ceremony one afternoon.
Many Chinese people drink tea and we had the opportunity to see it being prepared in the traditional Chinese fashion. We also got to sample different varieties.
Finally, we went on a Beijing Hutong Tour.  Hutongs are the old and traditional narrow streets of Beijing. We paired up and went in rickshaws around the old streets and we also saw some children our age who were very keen to have their photos taken with us.
The following day we saw The Great Wall of China, and we couldn’t have picked a better day. It had snowed the day before and it created a beautifully picturesque scene in the sunshine. Some of us climbed to the top and an astounding view awaited those who made it.
Robert Guthrie / youthjournalism.org
The Great Wall of China.
The Wall does stretch over 13,000 miles, and while we obviously couldn’t see that far, the clear day made for great sightseeing.
That day culminated with a trip to the Olympic Park – home of the Beijing 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We saw the “Bird’s Nest” and “The Cube” where China held athletics, ceremonies and aquatics events.
Seeing it on television doesn’t do it justice – the stadium is colossal.
Robert Guthrie / youthjournalism.org
The National Stadium, more commonly known as the Bird's Nest, that was used for the 2008 Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games.

On the fifth day – our last in Beijing – we visited two more of the most famous places in the world – Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City.
Robert Guthrie / youthjournalism.org
An image of Communist China's first leader, Mao Zedong, hangs over the entrance to the Forbidden City.
First, we all went inside the mausoleum of Mao Zedong, the first great dictator of Communist China. Supposedly it’s his body lying on the grand table, but you can make up your own mind about whether it’s real or not.
We also saw the Chinese Great Hall of The People and many monuments commemorating war dead.
After The Square we traveled under one of Beijing’s eight ring-roads to The Forbidden City.
With a 15-meter-deep floor to stop intruders and nine protective gates, the Forbidden City was, as the name suggests, out of bounds to all commoners and only the Emperor was allowed into the vicinity.
It was a lot of walking, but it was brilliant to see such a historic and significant site.
Robert Guthrie / youthjournalism.org
Some of the intricate and ancient architecture of the Forbidden City.
The trip to Beijing culminated with a gratefully received McDonald’s meal (just just like the ones in Britain) and we then made our way to the Chinese Bullet Train station. There, we caught our five-hour train to Shanghai in order to continue our Chinese globetrot.
After we’d been on the bullet train – the fastest train in the world traveling at 300km/hr, or 186 mph – we arrived in Shanghai, an amazingly illuminated city with skyscraper lights everywhere. After our 30-minute introduction to the city from our new guide, Mary, we arrived at the Shanghai Magnolia Hotel where we would spend the next few nights.
The next morning, after breakfast – similar to those of Beijing – we traveled to the Bund, the city’s financial district. It may not sound very exciting, but it was surprisingly picturesque.
Many of the buildings look very European as the city was colonized by people from Britain, France, Germany and other countries. Afterwards, we made our way through the midday traffic to our next destination – the Jade Buddha Temple.
Jade is the famous Chinese stone which many ornaments are made of, and at the Temple there was a massive jade Buddha which many come to worship. The temple was very ornate and we saw some Chinese people saying midday prayers with incense, which produced a very pungent smell indeed.
The afternoon saw us venture up the famous Pearl TV Tower which is one of the tallest buildings in the world, comparable with the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.
We went up in the high-tech lift at a rate of 10 floors a second until we got up to the 264th story. There was a massive glass floor there where you could stand and look straight down, which was daunting for some.
After dinner we went back to the Bund where all of the skyscrapers were lit up – one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever had the chance to take in.
Robert Guthrie / youthjournalism.org
The iconic and breathtaking Shanghai Bund skyline.
The next day’s highlight was Nanjing Road which can be likened to London's Oxford Street. All of the major high street names had a presence. We went into one of the largest food halls in Shanghai where we saw tons of Chinese food, some of which was unknown to us and some, to our relief, we had seen before. We also traveled to the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Party – where Mao Zedong had the first meetings with his party.
The following morning was an early wake up at 5 a.m. so we could get on the MagLev train to Shanghai Pudong Airport.
The train works by 'floating' on repelling magnets and is all on a bridge, meaning you get a good view of the city. The train took us to the airport where we said goodbye to our guides and after a few hours, boarded our first flight back to the UK from Shanghai to Heathrow.
After a 12-hour flight to London, we boarded a plane to Glasgow and eventually made the journey home. We met up with our parents and were able to reminisce about the brilliant time we had enjoyed in Beijing and Shanghai, with photos and souvenirs to show to everyone.

Pakistani Girls Rock Out At Campus Concert

Arooj Khalid / youthjournailsm.org

DJ Ezzu on stage at Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore, Pakistan, thrilling the audience.
By Arooj Khalid
Senior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – Adorned with beaming, multi-colored stage lights, the amphitheatre of Kinnaird College for Women was ready to rock all night, and I was ready for my first concert.
The show, “Reel Around The Year ‘13,” was the closing ceremony for the college’s Business Week, and provided a much-needed break this month between the routine of class and the onset of exams.
Although it was a huge task to get through the lines outside the theatre alive, I made it in for an experience I will always remember.
The performers, decked in fabulous costumes, made sure that it was a memorable Friday night.
And the audience – all girls – was also attired in beautiful outfits for a night filled with many breathtaking moments.
Around 6:30, everything was set and the show was about to start.
“I was nervous because I’ve heard KC (Kinnaird College) has the most beautiful girls in Pakistan,” said Shahzad Shah, who hosted the show and provided the audience with a lot to remember.
If the entertainment overload of being with friends and attending a concert by many of Pakistan’s music sensations wasn’t enough, DJ Ezzu got the party started by performing first.
And then the band Sheikhoo came along and performed some hit songs by others and their own. Ending their part with “Hamesha” by another band, EP, one of my favorites, they absolutely rocked the stage.
The whole amphitheatre went blasting louder than anything while the lights made it feel like a disco. Then the great artist Sami Khan took the show away by performing his famous hit song “Mein Yaad Aaonga” from the 2001 movie “Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India.”
I loved his performance the most.
Arooj Khalid / youthjournalism.org

'Reel Around the Year '13' at Kinnaird College for Women capped the school's Business Week activities. In this photo, DJ Ezzu is performing.
And then, the announcement of Billy X made the girls scream really loud and shouts of “Juttni,” his famous Punjabi rap song, could be heard. But Billy X, who had a separate jacket to match with every song, saved his hit for last.
The final act, the Pakistani internet sensation Abdullah Qureshi, stood out as he took over the stage and gave one of the best performances of the night.
When he came on stage he saw someone in the audience waving a drawing. He called them up on stage. It was a sketch of Qureshi that a girl had made.
He took it and said he would keep it with him.
“This is why I love Lahore,” he said. “This is why I love KC!”
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that most of the performers won the hearts of all the girls.
The concert ended with an outstanding performance by singer Uzair Jaswal around midnight, bringing an awesome finish to my first concert and one of the most amazing nights I’ve ever had.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Comes To Philadelphia

Thuy Le / youthjournalism.org

Signs of Christmas in Philadelphia on the Great Candy Cane in LOVE Park.

Thuy Le / youthjournalism.org

Christmas Village in LOVE Park, Philadelphia.

Thuy Le / youthjournalism.org
Ben Franklin is snowed in on his bench at the University of Pennsylvania.

Thuy Le / youthjournalism.org

A snowy day on Locust Walk on the University of Pennsylvania.

Hanoi's Got The Christmas Spirit

Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org

Young people gather in an outdoor plaza around the tallest Christmas tree in Vietnam.

By Chi Le
HANOI, Vietnam – Christmas is finally here.
There are colored lights in late-night shops and classic holiday-themed songs busting out of speakers.
Only a fraction of the Vietnamese population follow Christianity, but it does not stop an ordinary citizen from celebrating Christmas with the warmest joy.
Though it lacks a high spiritual meaning here, Christmas in Hanoi truly lifts every spirit.
To a high school student, Christmas is a valid excuse to procrastinate a little and panic later during finals week.
Christmas is valuable family time; it is time to wander for hours on streets with friends, only to look at flashing lights, festive decorating and laugh at silly jokes.
Every Christmas is a bit different because of the people and the time that has elapsed, because of the person we feel to be then.
We miss and adore every Christmas, though last year may just be no more than a blissful blur. We cherish the spirit, the new memory that every year Christmas bestows. 
Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org

A magnificent Christmas tree in the main hall of Keangnan Landmark Tower adds a festive atmosphere.
Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org

Christmas decorations at Ocean Mall in Vietnam. This is a place for customers to take pictures and exchange lucky gifts.
Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org

Nighttime at Royal City in Hanoi at Christmastime. Many people gather here to celebrate joyful moments with family and friends.

Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org

Performances for Christmas took place here at Ocean Mall.