- April 7, 2015
- Posted by: Victoria Freyre
- Category: Weekly Passport
1. Dear Mr. President
Sofia, a nine-year old girl from Massachusetts, noticed something strange while learning about Ann Hutchinson, and she felt the need to bring it to the attention of the president himself. In a letter to Mr. Obama, Sofia asked why there were very few women present on bills and coins in the United States and she offered a list of contenders she thought were appropriate candidates. In the months since Sofia wrote her letter, an online petition called Women on 20’s has gone viral, holding a public vote on which American woman should replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill. Sofia has become a junior ambassador of the campaign and last month, she received a letter from President Barack Obama himself.
“I’ll keep working to make sure you grow up in a country where women have the same opportunities as men, and I hope you’ll stay involved in issues that matter to you.”
2. North Korea Welcomes Online Shopping (Sorta)
North Korea imposes tight restrictions on internet access outside of elite circles, however despite this strict control, the state-run website Okryu will offer a range of products, including food and medicine. It still remains unclear as to how accessible this online shopping site will be for a majority of North Koreans.
A former professor at Pyongyang Computer Technology University says, “North Korea can no longer block the market economy completely and is responding in its own way.”
3. April Fool’s Day Wish List
In honor of the recently passed April Fool’s Day (trust no one), the New York Times compiled a list of headlines regarding gender equality that were sadly not jokes at all. From wage gaps to name-calling, victim-shaming and “Instagram Hoes,” this list brings to light important issues in the fight for gender equality.
4. Silence on the Radio
Yet another dissident crackdown in Egypt has led to the raid of a radio station and the arrest of Ahmed Samih. Samih serves as director for the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies, which strives to monitor journalism related to human rights issues, promoting tolerance values both by and for youth via radio, and bringing political and parliamentary awareness to universities in order to create better informed voters. Samih is under investigation for broadcasting without a license on the web radio platform Horytna.
“One of the main questions was around our political affiliation,” he said in a phone call from the police station, adding that the radio station is not affiliated with a political party and is focused on human rights.
5. Caged Guerrillas
Despite international pleas for their release, China has kept its five “guerrilla feminists” in jail. The women have been held since March 8th, International Women’s Day, when they were arrested on charges of disturbing public order. If charged, the women could face up to three years in prison. Two of the women have medical conditions, causing them to be transferred to medical detention facilities for health reasons. Human rights activists fear the so-called guerrilla feminists are being denied their due process.
“They were not planning to mobilise hundreds or thousands of people, go to government offices [to protest] or even form a new NGO or political party or politically challenge the party or the government. They were essentially planning to carry out public education on a subject that does get addressed in the official media.”
6. Breaking Boy Scout Barriers
In an unprecedented move, the Boy Scouts of America New York chapter has hired an openly gay Eagle Scout as a camp counselor this summer. This bold statement serves as a direct challenge to the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on openly gay adult participants. Tessier is no stranger to causing a stir. In 2014, he became the first out Eagle Scout to be approved after a ban on gay participants was lifted.
“Even if I had been kicked out along the way, I wouldn’t have changed anything. The whole experience was something worth having, not only for myself but also for all the other people involved — and for all the people it affects.”
7. Student Hostages
Larissa University College in Kenya was stormed by members of the Somalian militant group known as Al-Shabab, a group with strong ties to Al-Quaeda. The students who managed to escape, or who were lucky enough to be set free, relayed their encounters with their attackers. The Al-Shabab militants attempted to separate Muslims from Christians, freeing the Muslims and killing Christians on the spot. Despite warnings from the UK and Australia regarding potential terror attacks, the university was under-staffed and under-prepared to handle the five masked gunman who took the campus. As of today, the gunmen have been isolated in the female dormitory section of the school.
“If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot. With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die.”
8. Painless Payment
What we call buyer’s remorse is referred to as “the pain of paying” by behavioral economists. With the introduction of one-touch payment systems, companies are getting around the anxiety associated with pulling out our wallets. Systems such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet are challenging behavioral patterns associated with finances and in turn, changing the habits of us as consumers.
“I think that Apple Pay would have lower, the lowest, pain of paying,” says Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University.“I think maybe initially it would have a higher one, but over time, people would basically stop thinking about it and it will create a low pain of paying, and therefore higher level of consumption.”
9. Rolling Stone, Hot Water
Rolling Stone finds itself in the midst of legal threats after it was forced to retract a University of Virginia campus rape story. The magazine asked Columbia University to lead a review of the methods used to collect the story for the article about an alleged gang rape on a woman referred to as “Jackie”, and the result was a 13,000 word report about what is being called “a journalistic failure that was avoidable.” But at the heart of this failure, who is to blame?
Among other things, the Columbia Journalism School report found that Rolling Stone had chosen Jackie’s story because it was “shocking and dramatic,” but that the magazine was incorrect to lay blame for the story at Jackie’s feet.
10. Travel Broadens the Mind (Literally!)
When we travel abroad, we experience new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and experiences that literally spark reactions from the synapses in our brains. In a recent study, the subjects were the creative directors of 270 high-end fashions houses. When given the time to properly immerse in foreign culture, these creative executives who traveled often produced higher levels of creative thinking.
Of course, although a new country is an easy way to leave a “social comfort zone,” the cultural engagement associated with cognitive change doesn’t have to happen abroad. If a plane ticket isn’t an option, maybe try taking the subway to a new neighborhood. Sometimes, the research suggests, all that’s needed for a creative boost is a fresh cultural scene.
*Bonus Passport Stamp!*
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“Weekly Passport” is a series curated by Everyday Ambassador writer Victoria Freyre. Every Tuesday, we will post a round-up of meaningful media tidbits and Everyday Ambassador must-reads. To stay current with our latest edition, follow #weeklypassport on our other platforms, and check back for updates.