Thursday, June 30, 2016

Election will relieve campaign-weary Aussies

By Alyce Collett
Youth Journalism International
MELBOURNE, Australia – It’s almost Election Day here, and it’s been a very long campaign – eight weeks, to be precise. Now, Americans may think that two months is a short campaign, but it is long by Australian standards.
It is getting to the point in the campaign where the major parties are starting to talk less about their policy and are starting to attack each other more and more.
Before I begin, I would like to give a basic outline of the three biggest parties in Australia.
In Australia, we have two major parties (the Coalition and Labor) and a third party, the Greens, who aren’t as big as the other two, but are bigger than some of the much smaller parties that are vying for seats in this election.
The Greens have many policies based on improving the health of the environment, but a major difference between the Greens and the other two major parties is the Greens’ policy on asylum seekers.
While Labor and the Coalition both are in favour of offshore detention, the Greens are strongly opposed to it and want to shut down detention centers. In terms of policies and political beliefs, Labor can be compared to the Democrats in the United States, while the Coalition can be compared to the Republicans.
The Coalition is actually two parties, the Liberal Party and the National Party, who combine in parliament because they have similar political beliefs. The National Party draws from regional Australia while the Liberal Party members are more from the cities.
This election is unique because it is what’s called a double dissolution election. This means that unlike normal federal elections where all members of the lower house and half of the members of the upper house of the Australian Parliament go up for election, every member of each house of the Parliament goes up for election.
This was originally done by the current government to try to get rid of the members of the upper house who were members of smaller parties and were blocking pieces of legislation that the government was trying to pass through the Parliament. This plan may backfire as these members may get re-elected, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
The campaign has been going on for so long that many people are starting to get rather annoyed and bored with it. The Coalition and Labor both have a bad habit of employing irritating advertising campaigns on radio, TV and even through pre-recorded and live phone messages.
Some Australians have even started to question how Americans cope with an 18-month election season when they can’t even deal with a two-month campaign.
You may be asking, who’s likely to win? It’s hard to call at the moment. The polls are neck and neck, and so it won’t be easy to predict a winner before Saturday night, when all the votes are counted. The key for each of the major parties will be to pick up seats in the lower house from the other party.
When the election is over, we’ll learn what the results may mean for the future of Australia. 
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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Chinese news coverage of Orlando shooting may reflect nation's attitude toward gays

By Yiping Holly Wang
Junior Reporter
NEW YORK, New York, U.S.A. – In the deadliest attack in the U.S. since 9/11, a gunman named Omar Mateen shot more than 100 people at Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, leaving 49 people dead and the rest wounded.

Pulse is a gay club, in case you hadn’t heard.
Adding the phrase “gay” in front of “club” can be a center of the argument, such as, why don’t we add ‘straight’ when talking about a ‘straight club?’
To be noted, this is an important feature of Pulse, and it has fueled another heated discussion on western social media about LGBTQ issues. For both those who are homophobic and those who are allies, it is a chance to sit down at the table again and exchange the opinions in either violent or calm ways.
But for countries that do not usually talk about LGBTQ people, adding the “gay” or not can backfire.
Particularly in China, where the Western world has pointed its fingers and pens on the problem of human rights, the language, tone and focus of the news coverage can influence public opinion.
In China, where I am from, the initial news coverage of the shooting at Pulse unfolded differently than it did in the U.S.
CCTV (China Central Television), inarguably the most famous, if not popular, Chinese state-owned media company: On the night of the shooting, the Orlando mass shooting news was in bold on the website, but you had to scroll two pages down to see it. The headline didn’t include the word ‘gay,’ and in fact, CCTV television news did not mention the LGBTQ factor at all.
In one news clip, a Chinese Orlando correspondent from CCTV said that he thought about the gunman’s incentives, and he believed that there were three: “America’s gun control problem, lack of comprehensive anti-terrorism strategy, and the negligence of FBI.”
CCTV has always been the traditional and representative Chinese state-owned media and reflects the government’s attitude.
On Baidu, the Chinese version of Google, the next day there were two news headlines about how the murderer couldn't tolerate gay guys kissing, which was said by the gunman’s father.
The father also was quoted saying that his son’s attack had “nothing to do with religion.” However, this is not mentioned in the news headlines. The preference for choosing homophobic hatred over religious hatred may carry certain implications.
Xinlang and Xinhua, two other famous Chinese news pages, both did not include the “gayness” of the Orlando nightclub in the headline but did have the news on the first page of their websites.
Sina news, a more popular news site among young people because of its popular social media site Sina Weibo, not only had the news headline in bold and bigger font, but also put in on the top of the news on the first page.
The coverage from China, in general, did not specifically target LGBTQ issues. Instead, most raised the question of gun control and used the words and phrases that criticize America while at the same time glorifying China.
One piece from Baidu said that American gun control problems reflect the success of Chinese government in controlling guns. To be fair, China does have very strict gun-control laws.
The comments on the news related to Orlando shooting mostly were hate speech directed at Americans or America as a country. There were homophobic comments, but compared to the number of comments directly critical of America, the homophobic ones could be easily ignored.
After President Barack Obama’s speech following the killing, Baidu and Sina news actually specifically pointed to him saying, “This is an especially heartbreaking day for our friends – our fellow Americans – who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender … this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation – is an attack on all of us…”
One news piece from Baidu even left out “race, ethnicity, religion,” and only translated the “sexual orientation.” It gives out a feeling that attacking gay people in America is attacking America.
It is unclear why the translation omits three other important background components, but surely indicating the importance of protecting the LGBTQ community in America may imply the attitude of the media companies themselves.
The Chinese media’s reaction to the Orlando attack does mirror the Chinese government’s attitude about LGBTQ issues: we care about it, but we don’t really support it. The news companies that target an older audience are more conservative about reporting the LGBTQ side of the issues, but the new media favored by young people are not obviously backing away from it.
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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit is personal to Polish student in UK

By Joanna Koter
Junior Reporter
WHITBY, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom – I woke up on Friday, June 24 to take my math exam and headed for the bathroom to brush my teeth. I saw my friend, who is Polish too, and lives in the same boarding house.
She says to me, “Do you want to hear the news?” I see her face and I instantly know the results of the voting that has been killing us for weeks.
It is a strange feeling, to be a citizen of the European Union in a different country, the first state that decided to willingly leave the EU.
As I watched TV later that day, I saw British people on camera arguing that it was “the immigrants” without saying any more about what the issue is.
Like many other foreigners, I am living in the UK knowing that to a lot of the British, I’m a problem that needs to be solved.
I tried not to think about the implications of the Brexit vote during my exam – integration of hyperbolic functions was hard enough – but it was difficult. My high school graduation was just a week away, and in September I will be starting university in Scotland.
Therefore, I found it important to find out what actually will happen once the UK leaves the EU.
Of course, they are not going to shut the borders and not let everyone in. I know this. However, economic implications are going to affect living in the UK as an EU citizen.
What about inflation, and prices in the shops? Will I still be able to afford to live?  Will I have to get a job, and if yes – will it be possible to get one?
It is ironic that to finish the degree I have already applied for, I might have to 'steal' another job.
Finding out that Scotland is planning another referendum on leaving the UK – which now sounds likely to happen – was another shock, but it is highly understandable as the majority of that country voted to stay.
What I've written is highly personal, but such a huge scale event has to be taken personally. It’s especially true when you start noticing contradictions directly around you.
I attend an international school with lots of English as a Second Language students coming every year to polish their language. Strangely, our ESL teacher got very enthusiastic about Britain leaving the EU, even though most of her pupils come from there.
Besides, she really enjoys traveling around Europe, she confessed to me the other day. What exactly shaped her opinion, I will never know.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Islamic rule about killing people: Don't do it

By Irha Nadeem
Junior Reporter
LAHORE, Pakistan – Last week, when I was watching the news, a wave of horror struck me. I could see that there was going to be a new wave of horror, a new wave of retaliation and hatred against Islam.
Knowing that almost 50 people died in a mass shooting in Orlando got me thinking about the Islamic perspective on it.
As a Muslim, I know my religion doesn't allow me to kill someone just because they follow a different religion or have a different way of living – or any other difference.
No, I don't support LGBT people and Islam doesn't support LGBT people. But does that mean I'd walk up anywhere and kill gay people? No, never in my life.
Islam taught me, “Whoever has killed an innocent person has killed the whole humanity, and whoever has saved a person, has though saved the whole humanity (5:32).”
Thus the killing was UNJUSTIFIED on every basis.
Muslims are taught that in the past, when nations used to slaughter each other during wars, Islam emerged as the first religion which prohibited it. War prisoners were given rights. Their properties, lands and lives were protected.
Our religion also teaches us that in Arabia, before Islam, girls were buried alive when they were born. Islam was the religion that gave women their rights. Then how can we actually blame this religion for terrorism? How has this religion become an association for terrorism?
Why is terrorism often labeled as Islamic terrorism? When a girl is beaten or killed in the UK because she is wearing a hijab, it isn't even called terrorism, it's called retaliation.
The problem is not with the religion, it's with the people. Just because a person is born a Muslim doesn't mean that he is actually going to be a true Muslim. If a person is called a Muslim, but doesn't follow Islamic teachings, how can he be an actual Muslim?
There are places where people from different communities live in peace. Schools in some cities in the UK and America, for example, close for certain religious holidays, including Islamic ones.
I wish there could be more places like these so this world could become a better place.
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UK teen wants better political coverage

Yelena Samofalova /
The British House of Parliament in London.
By Felicity Rodger
EDINBURGH, United Kingdom – Honestly? I have heard enough about politics for now. From the U.S. presidential campaign to the UK's vote in the European Union referendum on Thursday, it is all getting a bit too much to bear.
As an aspiring journalist, I want news coverage of politics to be engaging, imaginative and balanced. In one specific case (the EU referendum), it has been very hard to pick those qualities out of any news stories in these recent weeks leading up to the vote.
Voters in the UK over the age of 18, will cast their vote Thursday, June 23 on whether the UK should remain in or leave the European Union.
Every politician says that this “Brexit” ballot is a once in a lifetime vote, and I agree. It is not every day you vote in such an important decision. But with recent polls showing so many undecided voters only days before the vote, I can see why this referendum has lost its initial spark with, not only the British public, but the world.
From a British voter's perspective, the start of the campaign was filled with facts and figures which were thrown about from side to side. But for months now, we have experienced too much bias, in my opinion, to one side. Based on news coverage, the “Remain” side should be way ahead of “Leave.”
Every day we seem to hear from another key figure from the business or political world who says that leaving the EU would be a disaster for our economy.
But many electoral polls in previous months show the two sides neck and neck. Surely if so many facts were decrying the leave side, as shown in the news, Remain should be about 20 percent ahead, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
I am trying to understand how news channels here in the UK can get away with this.
If I went onto the streets of where I live in Edinburgh, I reckon about 80 percent will say who they are voting for, but they do not know why they are voting for them. The reason for this is simply misleading facts and figures.
The British public did expect many figures to be thrown at them from each side but neither side has ever been clear on their specific aims or motives after we cast our votes. With many members of political parties in Westminster being split over this vote, leaders will cite different “facts” regardless of what a fellow voter of their same mindset just said half an hour ago in another news interview.
A most recent example of this would be United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage's controversial Leave campaign anti-immigrant poster showing a mass of non-white and the words “Breaking Point.”
This poster, which many called racist, caused major upset with both the Remain and the Leave campaigns.
A couple of weeks ago, the campaign in general began to turn personal and brutal, causing more news coverage to be blown out of proportion.
But after last week’s brutal murder of Member of Parliament Jo Cox, a member of the Labour Party who was an outspoken advocate for the Remain side, both sides stated that they would behave more democratically and civilized in the last days of the campaign.
I believe I speak for most of the British public when I say that we hope for more balanced coverage on tomorrow’s decision and on future campaigns. It is known and expected across the world that the news should be factual and unbiased, especially with regarding a crucial political vote. 
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Monday, June 13, 2016

After Orlando killings, gay teen is scared, sad, but 'more on fire than ever before'

Photo illustration by O.D. Wright /

By O.D. Wright
Youth Journalism International
NASHVILLE, Tenn., U.S.A. – It was past midnight and I was talking on the phone with a young woman I’ve had a crush on for a while now. She was working night shift, and I’d stay up any hour to lose myself in conversation with her. The whole time she talked about boys, her current heartbreaks and crushes. It did hurt a little, but it was worth talking about if it meant I could build up the courage through the conversation to tell her my feelings.
If you’ve ever been young and in love, then you know how I felt. I was overtaken with absolute warmth, happiness, and peace. I sat with a goofy smile on my face. I held the phone to my ear and chatted about life, relationships, and love.
I was determined to do everything I could to win her heart. Your typical teenage romance, right? Not so much. You see, it would be typical if I was a guy, but I’m not. I’m a 17-year-old girl, and in this case that makes all the difference.
I was caught up in listening to her voice, and almost missed my phone beep with an email. I glanced at my screen and saw that I had a breaking news alert.
“Cat?” I interrupted her thought.
“Yes sweetie?” she responded, and my cheeks heated with a blush and a small smile graced my lips.
“I’m gonna let you go for one minute to check my email, is it okay if I call you right back?”
Of course she said yes, and I hung up the phone, stifling giggles while my mind replayed our conversation. In that moment, while staring at the ceiling of my sky blue-colored room, I felt truly happy.
As I’m sure you know, every up has its down, and this down was chillingly low.
I hummed softly to myself while I went to check my email. It was 3:15 a.m., and in that moment, an icy chill replaced the warmth of Cat.
All it said was, ‘Multiple injuries as gunman opens fire at Orlando gay club.’
‘Okay,’ I thought to myself, ‘maybe someone got drunk and stupid, maybe nobody died.’
Deep down, though, I knew that wasn’t the case. The atmosphere changed as I sat there alone.
Dizzying adoration was replaced by dizzying nausea, numb shock, aching hurt, and undeniable fear. Even though the sun rose, and the sky lightened up in a display of pink, orange, and blue, the world continued to get darker.
The story continued to progress, and at 6:45 a.m. I got the email confirming, ‘About 20 dead after ‘domestic terrorism’ at Orlando gay club.’
I sat at my desk with shaking hands and a memo pad, researching to find out as much as I could about this attack in the LGBT community, a community that I myself am a part of. My eyes widened at the words ‘about 20 dead,’ and I re-read them twice to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake.
I pictured 20 people – 20 happy, loving, hopeful, beautiful people – whose lives had been ripped away by someone who hated them, and the excuse for the gunman’s hatred being the way they loved. I pictured 20 families, 20 mothers crying at the loss of a child, 20 fathers regretting words never said, and 20 bright futures blown away with the sound of a gun, and yells of hate.
As I sat at my desk, horrified, I wondered something: Were these 20 people ever bullied as teens, kicked out of their parents’ house, or beat up for being gay? Did they sob into their pillows as young, innocent, helpless youth, and pray to God that somebody would love them?
Did they pray for a future filled with freedom to love, for acceptance? Did somebody ever tell those wide-eyed young people, “It will get better?” Did hope cloud their eyes and happy tears spill at the thought that maybe it would?
Did they keep moving forward towards the promise of a future of love?  These are all questions left unanswered, as unfulfilled as 20 dreams, lost in a split second during a cruel act of hate. Twenty lives.
To make a long story short, I didn’t call Cat back that night, because that night I decided I love Cat too much to subject her to this hell. With a throbbing headache I texted her goodnight. I decided that I’ll still put up with her ‘boy talk’ because I love her, but I won’t ever try to gain her affection. I realized that I couldn’t dare do that to someone so lovely.
I realized this because of the story of these 20 people got me thinking that no matter how much I try to hide from it, homophobia still exists. I reminisced on the previous days, and thought about my closest friends, all whom are coincidentally also closeted LGBT teens in the South. We laugh together, we explore together, we dream together, but we have to be careful about talking too deeply or too loudly together.
We can sit at a local diner while I tell them about my crush, and we have a good time, and on the outside we look like we’re living the quintessential teenage life, but under the surface we hold something a bit different that makes things a little darker. Most people see me, a teenage girl, talking to my two best guy friends about a crush. My friends are laughing too, and telling me about theirs.
Here’s what most people don’t see, though: the whispered ‘she’ in sentences that society expects to be replaced with ‘he.’  They don’t see teens who were bullied for their assumed sexual orientation, who have to outright fight anybody who dares to tease them about being gay.
They don’t see young people who are terrified about getting kicked out of the house by parents they love and yearn for acceptance from.
They don’t see religious guilt, emotional scars, and self-hate. They choose not to see what happened to me and a friend as seventh graders in the mall, when an old lady ripped our hands apart and told us to hold the hand of the guys walking beside us.
Don’t you dare tell me, “Gays don’t have anything to be upset about nowadays.”
After Sunday morning, my phone continued to buzz with notifications, and as of today, June 13, the number of members of my community slain in Florida in a domestic terrorist attack has reached 49.
As I write this though, I am not hopeless. I do admit, I am scared – which one of us is next? I am angry, and I am sad.
What I am not, though, is defeated. None of the LGBT community are. No, we are more passionate and on fire than ever been before. Because while the odds seem against my group of friends, we know for sure that we will win. We have a mantra that is repeated in hallways at school, in nightly prayers, and when we are together, “Love always wins.”
The fact that nearly 50 lives were taken out of hate is unforgivable, but I’m not going to let that sap my hope. I’m going to continue writing and fighting for gay rights. I’ll fight in honor of the precious lives taken in Orlando, and the countless other lives taken due to intolerance.
I’ll continue the fight of the ones whose fight was taken away from them too soon, and you can, too.
I say all of this to ask you one thing: will you join this fight with me? Violence against the LGBT community is real and happening right under your nose, if you just open your eyes.
When you hear hate speech, your friends talking against us, or hear injustice against our community, will you say something, or ignore their crimes, and encourage intolerance?
Peace is possible when we come together as a family. Instead of letting this break us apart, we should let it bond us with strength. I also ask you to accept there is a problem. If this massacre isn’t enough to convince you, what is?
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Muslim American teen grieves with Orlando

By Diana Awawdeh
Junior Reporter
TINLEY PARK, Illinois, U.S.A. – The attack early Sunday at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando – the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history – is affecting everyone all over the country.
As a Muslim American, I am disgusted by the behavior of the shooter, Omar Mateen and ISIS. Islam is a religion of peace and does not deal with any violence. ISIS and its supporters use Islam as an excuse for their unstable and violent minds.
America is a wonderful and amazing place to practice your religion, no matter what religion you believe in.
American Muslims grieve and mourn with the victims.
ISIS and its supporters need to be stopped. We all need to stand together as one community, Muslim, Christians, Jews, Hindus and all people of good will.
Let’s stand united as Americans we should not let fear or hate get to us. Together we stand against terrorism, extremism, and racism. Let’s all remember that our fear, trauma, our sadness, and our heartbreak does not justify homophobia.
Islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia work together, so let’s put a stop to it.
ISIS does not belong to this beautiful faith of Islam. Suicidal bombing or killing innocent civilians is forbidden in Islam. In Islam we are forbidden to judge people because God almighty is the one and only to judge.
Whoever kills one person it's as if he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it's as if he saved all mankind.” - Quran 5:32
Americans spent all of last week honoring Muhammad Ali, a legend for all time, who died June 3. Ali, who converted to Islam as a young man, was inspired by the faith to spread peace all around the world.
American Muslims will not support or take responsibility for the horrifying massacre in Orlando. And the whole community of Islam will refuse to be represented by this murderer who is unknown to us, who unmercifully took the lives of 49 people.
My Islam is the same as Muhammad Ali's Islam: full of peace, hospitality, justice and love. 
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Singapore teen: ISIS to blame for Orlando

By Selvaganeshamoorthi Balakrishnan
SINGAPORE – It was horrific and disgusting. Fifty people have perished and even more are injured after a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
So huge was the June 12 massacre that it is regarded as the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.
However, more questions than answers have been raised so far and will continue to do so until the dust settles.
After all, this incident was a confluence of multiple circumstances coming to play hand-in-hand.
First, the gunman, Omar Mateen, declared allegiance to the Islamic State terror organization at the time of the massacre, according to The New York Times.
Secondly, his victims were primarily of the lesbian, gay, transgender and queer community.
Lastly, it was the weapon of choice: an assault rifle.
The hardest part with coming in terms with this issue would be pin-pointing the factor that played the greatest role in enabling the lone-wolf's malicious plan to come to fruition.
Was it the plethora of readily-available self-radicalization materials in the Internet?
Was it the lack of background checks that could otherwise have prevented someone with psychological or malicious intentions from committing such as act?
Or was it the lack of tolerance for the LGBT community, who only recently gained greater acceptance?
In my opinion at least, Mateen’s connection with ISIS and its radical Islamic ideology played the greatest role in the Orlando shooting. It was the main seed that led to the events that unfolded early in the morning of June 12, 2016.
The procurement of the rifle and the targeting of the LGBT community were merely effects of the radicalization.
Had there not been a link with radical Islam and the teachings of ISIS, Omar would probably never have thought of committing such an act of terror.
He could still have deeply-rooted hatred and prejudice against the LGBT community, but that alone would not likely have led him to fire inside a gay bar.
After all, there are many who vehemently oppose the LGBT community yet go on to lead rather uneventful lives.
Undoubtedly, this incident will have a profound impact on Orlando, the U.S. and beyond.
Islamophobia will likely surge following this incident and an atmosphere of unease will shroud many communities as terror organizations continue churning out propaganda that prey upon ordinary citizens, trying to radicalize them to commit extraordinary crimes.
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Sunday, June 12, 2016

After devastating Orlando massacre, Australian teen calls for unity, strength

By Jack Ward
Junior Reporter
ARARAT VICTORIA, Australia – The world is getting used to waking up and hearing very sad news, but the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando is more than just sad, it’s devastating.
With 50 dead and more than 50 injured, it is America’s worst massacre in history and the whole world is in mourning.
People have that constant reminder in the back of their head that the world is faced with terrorism, but this attack reminds us and makes it bigger. Some people in Orlando are scared to leave their own homes.
It is not just Orlando that is grieving – the whole world is. Tributes are coming in from across the globe. Celebrities, national leaders and the general public are affected by this.
On Twitter, #Orlando is trending, as well as #PrayForTheWorld, #GaysBreakTheInternet and so many others.
Hillary Clinton said on Twitter, "This is a time to stand together and resolve to do everything we can to defend our communities and country," and she is right.
One sign of resilience in Orlando is blood donations. Centers are overwhelmed with people wanting to help and give blood, which is great to see.
I really feel for the victims and their families. These people were just going about their day and having a good time, when all of a sudden someone was shooting at them.
Even though I live on the other side of the world, it still sends chills down my spine when I think about it. Lives have just been taken within a blink of an eye.
I am not sure the world is safe anymore because of terrorism and it shouldn’t be this way.
We need to stay strong, united and stand up to these people who think they can pull us down and torment us.
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Photo essay: Connecticut's Muslims, LGBT community join forces in vigil against hate

Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
Griffin Downing, a gay Muslim who is an HIV counselor at Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective, spoke at the "Uniting Against Hate" vigil at the Connecticut state Capitol in honor of those killed in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning. Two advocacy groups, True Colors and the American Muslim Peace Initiative, sponsored the vigil.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who has been a relentless advocate for stronger gun laws, speaks at the vigil. Earlier in the day, Murphy released this statement: “I'm aching for the victims, their loved ones, and the people of Orlando, and I pray that all those injured have a quick and full recovery. I know the pain and sadness that has brought too many communities – Newtown, Oregon, Aurora, San Bernardino, and now Orlando – to their knees, and I can only hope that America's leaders will do something to prevent another community from being added to the list. This phenomenon of near constant mass shootings happens only in America – nowhere else. Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence. This doesn't have to happen, but this epidemic will continue without end if Congress continues to sit on its hands and do nothing – again."
Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
Hundreds of people gathered for the vigil on the state Capitol grounds Sunday evening in Hartford.
Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
U.S. Rep. John Larson, a Connecticut Democrat who favors stronger gun laws, speaks at the vigil. In a statement released earlier Sunday, Larson said, “My heart goes out to the victims and their families in Orlando. In Connecticut especially, we know far too well the heartbreak and shock that accompanies a tragedy like this.  Minimally, Congress should take a vote on universal background checks. We owe that to the public. Whether you agree or disagree that all gun purchases should require a background check, it is our responsibility to vote. It is past time for Congress to take its head out of the sand.”
Kiernan Majerus-Collins /
The crowd at the vigil listens to an array of speakers.
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Florida youth react to terrorist attack on Pulse, an Orlando gay nightclub

Maria Luiza Lago /

Ashley Hernandez, who works in a clothing store in a Miami mall, reacted to the Sunday morning mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub.
By Maria Luiza Lago
MIAMI, Florida, U.S.A. – Shocked at the mass shooting at Pulse, a popular Orlando gay nightclub early Sunday, two young workers in Miami were also upset how the media was covering the shooting situation.
“At first I didn’t know how to react to the shooting, just because of the fact that the way the news were reporting the story was one-sided,” said Ashley Hernandez, 21.
Early Sunday morning, a gunman opened fire at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in the heart of Orlando. Fifty people were killed and more than 50 injured in the attack, which President Barack Obama said was “the most deadly shooting in American history.”
In a Sunday afternoon address to the nation, the president called it “an act of terror and an act of hate.” He said federal and local law enforcement are working together on the criminal probe.
“The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism,” Obama said.
“It felt like they were framing it in a certain way to believe that all terrorist were of a certain group and that all of the people from it should be treated as threats,” Hernandez said.
Nicole Scribner, 23, agreed, saying that most of the news coverage she saw was “targeting” Islam.
“It kind of upsets me a lot because they are perpetuating a lot of hate towards a certain group of people who really don’t have anything to do with it. That was frustrating,” said Scribner.
The women each work at clothing stores in Miami’s Dadeland Mall.
Both Hernandez and Scribner said gun laws could be reinforced in the United States, but they don’t think it would make much difference. They mentioned Chicago, a city with a high crime rate and strict gun laws.
The problem, according to Scribner, is more with the person doing the shooting than with the gun itself.
Hernandez thinks that the problem goes beyond guns. There’s a cultural problem that still needs a lot of work to be resolved, she said, without elaborating.
The New York Times and other news outlets have identified the gunman as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen whose parents came from Afghanistan.
According to CNN, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said that the shooter had an assault rifle, a handgun and an unknown amount of ammunition.
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