Thursday, April 25, 2013
Thanks to a generous donation from an alum, YJI has four tickets to the Big Apple Circus show at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall Plaza in Boston on Friday, April 26. We are looking to give them to someone who makes a new donation to YJI as a thank you gift. Reach us right away through YJI's Facebook page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. This circus has horses and dogs, acrobats and clowns, but no wild animals. It's going to be a wonderful show!
Photo courtesy of Laura Spero
Laura Spero, executive director of Eva Nepal, teaches journalism students in Nepal. Spero, an Ambassador for Youth Journalism International, is in Nepal this month working with students whose writing and photography may soon be published by YJI.
Eva Nepal, an American non-profit charity, operates two programs in rural Nepal. One is an oral health program, and the other, Gakys Light Education, works with first-generation literate youth. Gakys Light and its parent organization, Eva Nepal, are partners with Youth Journalism International in reaching out to Nepalese youth interested in journalism.
Friday, April 19, 2013
By Eli Winter
HOUSTON, Texas, U.S.A. – The Boy Scouts of America today announced a proposed amendment to their ban on gay Scouts. If the proposition is approved by the organization’s National Council, the Scouts will no longer deny “youth ... membership ... on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
On the surface, this might seem a positive change. After all, children throughout the whole nation would now be able to put on the ever-evasive Scouting uniform, pin the ever-elusive merit badges to their sash – be those children gay, straight, bisexual or anything else.
The word “youth.” It doesn’t belong here.
If this proposition is approved, yes, children will be able to put on that uniform, pin those badges to their sash – but what of their parents? Will the gay fathers and lesbian mothers be able to attend meetings of the Scouts as members of the organization instead of being on the outside looking in?
Will Ohio mom and former Scout leader Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted from the position because she is a lesbian, be able to “look my children in the eyes and tell them that our family is ... good enough” to join Scouting?
That’s where I feel this proposition’s rationality ends and its absurdity begins. The Boy Scouts of America may obviously be a “boy’s club” of sorts, but that doesn’t grant them the right to exclude men who like men, or women who like women.
In my mind, no one has that right. This proposition deserves to move to its logical conclusion – that is, granting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Scouts and leaders the right to associate themselves with the Boy Scouts of America.
This can be considered a start – all right, I’ll grant you all that. But what’s a start matter if you can’t reach the finish?
Yelena Samofalova / youthjournalism.org
On Wednesday, visitors to the site of the Boston Marathon bombing on Boylston Street could see a view of homemade memorials to victims and tributes to first responders.
By Yelena Samofalova
MELROSE, Massachusetts, U.S.A. - Although I often visit relatives in Boston, the time we spent together this week after the bombing Monday at the Boston Marathon was eye-opening.All the citizens tried to band together and show their strength countering the terrorist attacks. The two bombs that went off at the finish line killed three spectators, including an eight-year-old boy, and sent about 175 people to the hospital with injuries, many of them serious.
Now the slogan "Boston strong" is everywhere, from T-shirts to signs near the highway. In addition to extra signs of togetherness in towns, police cars and even helicopters can be seen all over the city.
Yelena Samofalova / youthjournalism.org
Barricades remained on
near the Boston
Marathon bombing site.
Yelena Samofalova / youthjournalism.orgMemorials and tributes at the bombing site.
The second brother died Thursday night in a shootout with police.
My cousin, living north of Boston in the small neighborhood of Melrose with his family, works in the city's park. He was given a day off Friday. For now, we'll be spending family time away from the horrible events in the city.
Editor's note: On Friday night, the manhunt ended when the first suspect was taken into custody.
Yelena Samofalova / youthjournalism.org
A view near the Boylston Street site of the Boston Marathon bombing on Wednesday.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
By Robert Guthrie
DUMFRIES, Scotland – Margaret Thatcher is dead, but her stark legacy will live on long after Wednesday’s ceremonial funeral.
One of the most powerful women of her time, Thatcher proved among the most influential British prime ministers ever. Her policies revolutionized the United Kingdom.
It’s certainly no understatement to say, however, that the Iron Lady’s decisions were seen by Brits as controversial and divisive.
In 1959, Thatcher, who gained much attention due to her femininity, became a member of parliament representing Finchley – her parliamentary constituency for the next 33 years. In 1970, Thatcher became the Minister for Education, and within the following five years made her move to leader of the Conservative Party. Following her election victory of 1979, Thatcher moved up to the office of Prime Minister, becoming the first-ever female to hold the position.
However, whilst Thatcher is seen by some as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of British politics, many also still regard her changes to the nation as unfair, selfish and divisive. Some saw her as a ‘war criminal,’ entering Britain into an arguably unnecessary war with Argentina in 1982 over the Falkland Islands, off South America’s shore.
Thatcher leaves a lasting legacy on British society today. In office before Thatcher, the left-wing Labour government believed in controlling Britain’s resources themselves, boosting public spending and the quality of services, and the use of the welfare state – a package of social security with benefits, the internationally acclaimed National Health Service and more. However, Britain was in a state of economic disparity, with masses of national debt and poverty for many.
Thatcher’s point of view was profoundly different than that of the Labour party. Thatcher wrecked the decisions made by previous Labour governments, refusing to look behind her on the journey she made as prime minister.
Thatcher privatized national services such as coal and steel, which Labour, when they held power, had made state-run. This helped to reduce debts by cutting public spending by the government.
Thatcher also believed in low income tax rates for all – a common Conservative policy – which allowed individuals to keep more of their money and become self-sustainable. The Iron Lady also reduced spending on the welfare state – she cut benefits for the working class and cut spending on state-run services such as the National Health Service.
Thatcher created a freer market for businesses across the nation, meaning that prices of products were determined by the competition between businesses to sell.
And there is no doubt that Thatcher was influential on an international scale. She was successful in building bridges with world leaders and ministers across the globe including Mikhail Gorbachev who led the former Soviet Union and the then-United States President Ronald Reagan.
However, the changes made by Thatcher were arguably not good for all of the British population and some social classes were hit badly.
The lack of public spending – on benefits, the welfare state and on services such as coal and steel – now meant that individuals had to find ways to make ends meet. There was more pressure on citizens to provide for themselves.
Lower income tax rates came with an asterisk beside them, too. There was no getting away with not paying too little to the government.
Thatcher later introduced the highly controversial ‘poll tax’ where every resident in every household who was over 18 had to pay tax. This hit the working class who had lower incomes like a thunderbolt with a further slump in their paychecks.
The reaction to poll tax included riots taking place across Britain, most commonly in and around Central London with horrific violence.
Economically, Thatcher immensely reduced inflation across the UK, but her policies at least initially caused unemployment to spike to over three million across Britain, damaging household incomes for many.
Thatcher also shut down mines which she saw to be unprofitable, but the reality was that it harmed many in local mining communities, meaning that they no longer had jobs. Mining employed millions, and suddenly, millions turned to none.
The lack of benefits and social security – the welfare state – arguably harmed many, too.
While Thatcher believed that solely living off benefits and government spending was hurting the UK economy, the reduction of the spending on benefits and services meant that the working class people of Britain had less income.
In hindsight, the question is posed – did her changes work?
Well, on one hand they did. The implementations Thatcher made effectively reduced the deficit, boosting the economy inch-by-inch, limiting public spending – thus limiting debt – and furthering the creation of businesses across the nation.
However, on the other hand, the changes adversely affected many others. The cuts left citizens, particularly the working class, hanging on by the skin of their teeth, coping with unemployment and low income.
Cuts in public spending meant there was more individual responsibility for individuals’ financial positions.
Thatcher was eventually ousted out of government by her own party with another party member challenging her leadership.
But one thing is clear: her legacy is profound.
We still live in a country handcrafted by the former prime minister.
There is no doubt that Thatcher was an influential woman in the world of politics, but she was also controversial. The Poll Tax Riots of 1990 and the bomb by terrorists in the Irish Republican Army that hit the Tory Conference in 1984 – which nearly killed Thatcher – displayed harsh opposition from the public of her policies.
But whether we like it or not, the majority of Brits living today are the children of Margaret Thatcher.
|Crime scene boundaries in Boston|
By Mariechen Puchert
AT SEA OFF THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA – It is evening-time on the M/V Explorer and we are en route to Morocco. Students are eating, preparing for final examinations, and attending evening seminars.
An announcement interrupts us: “We are sorry for interrupting the programs currently in session, but we have received some important news from the United States. Two bombs have exploded at the end of the Boston Marathon. No fatalities have been reported. Al Jazeera will be streamed to your cabins for further information.”
I am not American. I have never been to Boston. I remember how abstract the news of 9/11 was many years ago. Now, I am relieved that no fatalities have been reported, but this does not seem to assuage my shipmates, who are mostly American. As I head upstairs, masses of students stream in the opposite direction, towards their cabins, to watch the news.
A few hours later we are not much wiser as to the origin of the bombs. How does one get news on a floating vessel with limited internet capabilities? Slowly.
The deans have made a telephone available for students who need to contact their family to ensure that they are safe.
It is not a tragedy in the same way that 9/11 was, but that does not change the heavy atmosphere present on the ship this evening. The solidarity of these students is palpable, and that is impressive. Say what you want about the USA, but this country knows how to unite in times of trouble. I hope that my own country would stand together in the same way if such an event struck us.
In a seminar about Morocco, we learn about bombings that happened in the country a few years ago due to their allegiance with the U.S. There, too, people died. Reminding myself that nobody (that we know of) died today does not make me feel better. Why? Because the intention was to harm, to induce fear.
I may never have been in Boston, but this event is a stark reminder of the kind of world we live and breathe in. In a visit to Japan earlier this year, we noticed that despite the cleanliness of the cities, there were no bins in public. We learned that in the past, bombs had been hidden in bins, hence their scarcity.
So we live in a world where we remove bins from public areas out of fear for bombs. We live in a world where it seems that, soon, we may want to screen entrants and supporters at marathons. Fear will cloud our judgment a little less tomorrow morning, but tonight, nothing feels safe.
I am on a ship with more than 600 students who are supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow. Do we have what it takes, I wonder, to make this world safer?
Note: As this goes to press, authorities have said three people died in the Boston attack and nearly 150 others were injured, some of them critically.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
(Photo: British Prime Minister's Office)
By Robert Mooney
RICHMOND, North Yorkshire, U.K. -- During her long career, Margaret Thatcher went from working in her father’s grocery store to holding down the highest position in British politics.
Her passion from politics started early and took off after she joined the Conservative Association at Oxford University, where she studied chemistry, and wound up as its president.
Elected to the Parliament in 1959 as one of the few female MPs, Thatcher rose in party ranks until her promotion to secretary of state for education and science in the wake of the 1970 Conservative victory. Within a decade, she led the party.
In her time as Tory leader, Thatcher often criticized the Soviet Union, where a newspaper eventually dubbed her the “Iron Lady,” a name she embraced.
When her party won an election in 1979, Thatcher became the country’s first woman prime minister, a position she used to champion free enterprise, close union-dominated mines and clear the way for an economic revival.
Her “iron” really showed, though, when Thatcher led a successful war against Argentina to restore British control over the Falkland Islands off the South American coast. Advised by some to give in, she refused to bend.
In sticking by her core conservatism, Thatcher faced strong disapproval from many. Her call for a poll tax aroused fierce opposition, but she pushed it through anyway.
In the end, even her cabinet loyalists resigned, feeling she would not listen to them, eventually launching a challenger to her leadership that sent her into retirement in 1990 after more than a decade as the prime minister.
In her time in power, Thatcher played a part in changing the country for the better.
Having been taught by her father at an early age to stick to her own beliefs, that’s what she did, whether people liked it or not.
Unveiling a statue of herself in the Houses of Parliament in 2007, Thatcher reportedly said, “I might have preferred Iron but bronze will do.”
To us and many people, she really was The Iron Lady.
She died of a stroke on April 8 in London.
She died of a stroke on April 8 in London.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Annie Coursey / youthjournalism.org
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a crowd Monday at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut.
By Kiernan Majerus-Collins
WEST HARTFORD, Connecticut, U.S.A. – President Barack Obama hasn’t had much success enacting legislation since the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2011, but the frustrations of Washington wrangling have done little to weaken his strident calls for a more progressive and enlightened form of governance in America.
Visiting the state for the second time since gunman Adam Lanza massacred 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, the president continued his call for “common sense” gun violence prevention policies.
In recent months, Obama has used his office to urge universal background checks on all gun purchases, registration of firearms, and a ban on military-grade assault weapons.
In a speech to students, faculty, and local dignitaries at the University of Hartford on Monday, Obama said the policies he’s suggesting have the support of a strong majority of the American people, and said members of Congress should represent the views of their constituents.
Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son Dylan was murdered in the school shooting, introduced the president. She said that when things like this happen, people want to act, but then they become distracted by the “details” of normal life. But now, she said, her life is no longer normal, and never will be. If people don’t want to have the same sorrow, she said, they need to act now.
Obama’s speech comes on the heels of Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signing the toughest gun violence prevention legislation in the country, after the bill got bipartisan approval from state lawmakers.
The president praised Malloy and the legislature for having the courage to stand up to the gun lobby, and challenged Congress to do the same. More than 90 percent of Americans favor universal background checks, he said, and asked people to “find out” where their representatives stand on these issues.
In his February State of the Union address, Obama told Congress victims of gun violence “deserve a vote” on his proposed violence prevention initiatives.
With the Senate set to begin considering gun violence prevention legislation on the floor this week, the president asked the American people to keep the pressure on, and “stand up” to help pass sensible gun violence prevention measures.
Monday, April 1, 2013
By Yvette Hong
SEOUL, South Korea – Calling all Percy Jackson fans: The New York Times’ bestselling author Rick Riordan, who wrote the much-loved Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, finally released an addition to his latest series, The Heroes of Olympus.
Riordan’s latest Roman and Greek mythology-based book, The Mark of Athena, takes the reader through an adventurous story about the teen demigods’ quest of sailing to Rome to find the Doors of Death.As they voyage through air and sea, the quest involves Percy and his friends tirelessly deflecting the reigning chaos of Gaea. With close-knit friendships, Percy, the son of Poseidon, overcomes obstacles from angry nymphs, battle-hungry demigods, and even a giant shrimp monster. Oh, and don’t forget a giant spider lady. There’s plenty of sword fighting and enough superpowers to keep the reader turning the pages.
This latest addition to the series starts off where Riordan’s previous book, The Son of Neptune, left off. The demigods from Camp Half-Blood, Annabeth Chase, Jason Grace, Piper McLean, and Leo Valdez are on their way to Camp Jupiter in their flying warship: The Argo II. Their mission is to attempt an improbable alliance, joining the Roman and Greek demigods to fight against Gaea, the Earth goddess.
Percy and his friends Frank Zhang and Hazel Levesque are waiting for their arrival when the Argo II unexpectedly attacks the camp. With the star couple, Percabeth, reunited and their friends joined together, our story begins with their escape from Camp Jupiter. They later find out that Leo got possessed and attacked the whole camp with the Argo II. But how would anyone be able to explain that when the two camps are already mortal (or half-mortal) enemies? This huge misunderstanding opens up to much more dramatic challenges for our beloved characters.
What separates this book from the rest of the series is that we really get an opportunity to get a feel for each of the seven characters, as they narrate along with the story’s progression. I am pleased with the results, as Riordan intimately introduces us to each character’s thoughts and feelings. With Percy always in the spotlight, the whining, annoying-but-smart character, Annabeth Chase, turns out to be very brave when she encounters her mother, Athena, the goddess of wisdom. When she realizes that her own quest relates to the quest of saving the world, we see her maturity as she courageously embarks on the challenge.
Throughout the book, Riordan continues to bring importance to each character as the reader really gets a grasp of each personality. I found myself interested in some characters I’d never thought much of before.
With his books translated into dozens of languages, millions of copies sold and plenty of awards to his credit, it’s not a surprise that I, along with readers around the world, loved Riordan’s latest work.
The Mark of Athena is a great and solid read, and I recommend it for anyone.