U.S. updates travel warning to Egypt

The fate of my Dialogue of Civilizations trip to Egypt will be decided tomorrow. If the U.S. State Department lifts the travel warning to Egypt, the university will allow our group to travel there in one month. If the State Department doesn’t lift the warning by tomorrow (which is most likely), Northeastern University Provost Stephen Director won’t allow us to travel to Egypt. We will go to Istanbul, Turkey instead.

According to the State Department’s website, the government issues travel warnings when long-term conditions make a country dangerous or unstable to visit. The State Department then recommends that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to the country. I wasn’t aware of the various U.S. travel warnings in effect in certain countries right now, such as in Haiti, Sudan, Niger and Uzbekistan. The State Department issued a travel warning to Japan after the earthquake occurred more than two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, the State Department updated a previous travel warning to Egypt from Feb. 18. From my understanding, the main reason for the current warning is because elements of the Egyptian government responsible for ensuring security and public safety are not fully reconstituted and are still in the process of being reorganized. Also, U.S. citizens in Egypt are expected to obey the curfew hours while visiting, which are currently from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.

According to an article in the International Business Times,

“Most of the countries have withdrawn their travel restriction recommendations against Egypt, which went through a phase of political turmoil and social unrest early this year that ousted Hosni Mubarak.”

Egypt’s Minister of Tourism asked the United States on Thursday to lift its warning recommendation for Americans wishing to visit Egypt (that’s me!). The minister, Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, made the request during a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey.

Please, U.S. State Department. Let my school take me to Egypt. Let us go.

First inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Second inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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Fighting injustice, one country at a time

When Boston demonstrators peacefully united downtown for Egyptian government reform on Feb. 9, Northeastern University’s Omar Duwaji led the crowd’s chants. I attended the event in Copley Square to take photographs for a class assignment. While I was there, I witnessed Duwaji step into a leadership role that helped make other people aware of the uprising in Egypt.

While battling rain and cold temperatures, Duwaji unified protesters with chants that included, “Mubarak, Mubarak, you are done. Egypt, Egypt, we’ll overcome!” and “Hey, Obama, take a stand, hands off Egypt, we demand!”

Last week I spoke with the senior business major for an article to submit to the Campus Celebrities portion of Her Campus Northeastern. Interestingly, I discovered that Duwaji, who also teaches Arabic to children and is involved with Students for Justice in Palestine at Northeastern, doesn’t have any intention of following through with his business degree; he wants to be a foreign correspondent to further his passion for social activism:

“I feel like I have lots to bring to the table, and I think I could benefit.”

To read the full story about this student social activist, click here.

To view additional photographs from the Feb. 9 demonstration, click here.

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Global Voices: The world is talking, are you listening?

Moments before Professor Kennedy told the class this morning about today’s guest lecturer, worrisome thoughts crossed my mind about the final project. Tomorrow I will meet with Jillian York, the main person I will focus on for the assignment. But the other two sources I was hoping to interview haven’t responded to me yet.

Firuzeh Shokooh Valle

Today, Firuzeh Shokooh Valle, an editor for Global Voices (Tagline: “The world is talking, are you listening?”) and one of Professor Kennedy’s former students, spoke to our class about her work for the citizen media platform. She is a journalist who specializes in the coverage of human rights issues, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, poverty, racism and immigration. She is also a Northeastern University graduate student focusing her research on gender, digital technologies, media and social movements.

Shokooh Valle began her journalism career as a newspaper reporter in Puerto Rico. Two years ago, she discovered Global Voices, and realized the website didn’t have a page dedicated to Puerto Rico. Then, York introduced her to the Caribbean editor of Global Voices, and her career as a social media editor, or “curator,” began.

The goal of Global Voices is for everyone to understand world events – from happenings in Turkey and Tunisia, for instance – and to gain knowledge and information that people wouldn’t otherwise find in the mainstream media.

“I discovered this whole world of people who had these wonderful blogs, and I didn’t even know they existed,” she told the class. “The idea is for people to aggregate and cover stories in the blogosphere. We cover the virtual conversation of what people on Twitter, Facebook and people in cyberspace are saying [for a] specific event.”

Global Voices keeps track of the topics and discussions of citizen journalists around the world.

Since there is a plethora of information available on the Internet, it is vital for the world to have more journalistic material from people with “clear notions,” she said.

Global Voices has played a major role in delivering information from the uprisings in Middle Eastern countries. Since January, traffic on the website has “exploded,” Shokooh Valle said.

“Usually most traffic is attracted by breaking news,” she said. “But there are [also] special coverage pages on the Global Voices’ site.”

Shokooh Valle said the most challenging part about her job is staying informed while making judgments about the events happening in distant places.

“There are things on Global Voices that no one else is covering here,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from different parts of the world through Global Voices.”

Clearly, Shokooh Valle is becoming an expert on social media and Global Voices. I hope to interview her next week for my final project!

Second inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Here are two news articles about Global Voices:

When unrest stirs, bloggers are already in place

Volunteer site with Harvard roots spreads citizen journalism’s voice

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A week devoted to each human’s rights and freedoms

I have been thinking a lot about women’s rights lately – about human rights in general, actually. As I have mentioned before, since January, people around the world have protested gas prices, unemployment, dictatorships, wage cuts, minority rights, higher education fees, corrupt politicians, unfair corporate practices, restrictions on freedom of speech and the unfulfilled promise of free and fair elections, to name a few.

Unfortunately, most of the time human rights aren’t understood – until they are violated.

Human rights barnstar

Today marks the beginning of Human Rights Week at Northeastern University, which consists of 16 campus events, performances and film screenings on campus. Human Rights Week is sponsored by the Northeastern University School of Law and 12 student groups, including Engineers Without Borders, GlobeMed, NUSTAND, the Progressive Student Alliance and Students for Justice in Palestine.

“It [will be] a week to collaborate between any student organization that has a social activist position,” said Julia Chambers, chair for Human Rights Week and a middler international business major.

The UN building in New York City

In September 2000, world leaders met at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York City. They adopted the UN Millennium Declaration, which commits UN nations to work toward eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The goals consist of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental stability and developing a global partnership.

Tonight’s event, “Broken UN Resolutions,” in the Curry Student Center, will be the performance of a satirical play about the unfulfilled UN resolutions that have contributed to increased poverty around the world. Other events during the week include panels and discussions about microfinance, human-trafficking, sexual- and gender-based violence, human rights law and fair trade.

“It has been a great collaborative effort. Each group has brought the events forward,” Chambers said. “I’m just hoping a lot of people show up.”

It will be interesting to see how the future Egyptian government works toward reaching the MDGs.

First inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Second inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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A lesson on Howe to (or Howe not to) appreciate crowdsourcing

Jeff Howe, a Nieman Fellow this past year at Harvard University who is currently teaching a multimedia graduate class at Northeastern University, guest-lectured during Friday’s class. Howe covers the media and entertainment industry. But, most importantly, he has reported on the phenomenon known as crowdsourcing in his blog and on Twitter.

In its simplest form, crowdsourcing is citizen journalism that uses the audience in the newsgathering process. Crowdsourcing has originated from the people who are former customers. In other words, the audience has self-organized into productive units, Howe said.

Howe: The power of the crowd is driving the future of business.

On the positive side, crowdsourcing can be an effective tool for newsgathering, article and media creation and self-promotion. (Self-promotion is a part of all journalists’ roles, whether we like it or not). On the negative side, crowdsourcing is leading to job losses for many people. It is a big threat. For example, the company crowdSPRING is a graphic design company. If a client wants a design, the company’s sketchers go to work. But,

“The sketch you like gets the money. Everyone else gets zilch,” Howe said.

In other words, crowdSPRING uses crowdsourcing. This phenomenon is occurring because people are dying to break into a given industry and compete, Howe said.

As for Twitter, Howe has had to push his graduate students to use the social media tool as a “receiving dish” to obtain news and to go “behind-the-scenes.”

“We like Twitter because we can read 100-word summaries, as opposed to 10-page articles,” he said. “Twitter lets you in the newsroom to know what these guys are thinking.”

Howe said he is more pro than con about crowdsourcing because it assists journalists in the production process – obtaining tips, sources and additional facts and information.

“As print voices shrink and fall off the map, we need to tap our audience,” he said. “The Fourth Estate should be a large organization with millions of voices, with diverse brains attacking one problem. I don’t think the audience will be the downfall to this industry ultimately.”

First inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Second inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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Dealing with the code of silence

This afternoon I attended a “Gender Matters Series” event on campus. The panel – Robin M. Chandler, Lihua Wang and Linda K. Fuller – discussed real life stories of victims and activists whose writings are the foundation of their 2010 book, Women, War, and Violence: Personal Perspectives and Global Activism. The 10 attendees, who were interestingly all women except for one male filming the conversation for a class, sat around the editors of the book while they spoke about their experiences.

All three of them discussed the increasing importance of examining violence against women, both at home and abroad. Violence against women has become a public health crisis that currently affects both individuals and families, Chandler said.

“We’ve finally figured out that you can’t talk about violence without…sitting men down to talk about it. This problem I’m convinced as an international health crisis will never stop or be mediated unless we get men to the table,” she said at the event.

After the panelists spoke about their experiences observing violence in the media and trying to implement change in women’s roles in places such as Liberia, the discussion focused on the uprisings in the Middle East and roles of women there. How and why is the world changing as it is now?

There is a transformation unfolding everywhere on the planet because, at the baseline, everything the world is doing is about community engagement, Chandler said. Now, more than ever, people who have always dreamed of verbally expressing their thoughts, without fear of being shot, are celebrating. Everybody is at a different stage of development in countries around the world, but every human being is beginning to understand the treatment they deserve.

“We want to be able to speak to our governors…whether they listen or not. We expect women and girls will bring something different to the table of leadership,” Chandler said.

Lara Logan in Iraq.

Fuller raised the issue surrounding the news reporter, Lara Logan, who was sexually assaulted by men in Egypt during the uprisings in February. Often there is a code of silence involving women speaking publicly about sexual assaults. Fuller called Logan “a double victim” because she was criticized by many people for talking about the horrific event. If an attractive man was assaulted instead of Logan, it would have been a different story, Fuller said. In fact, after Logan’s attack, journalist Nir Rosen tweeted, “Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson [Cooper]. Where was her buddy McCrystal.” As seen in Rosen’s post to Twitter, there is a dialogue that is created around what a profession should be and who should obtain positions for the job. Maybe journalism is, incorrectly, one of the “male professions” to many people. I disagree.

Anderson Cooper

Nevertheless, we are living in an exciting century. We have seen, and will continue to see, what people are made of. Our ability to work together and overcome all levels of inequality will take time. But, there is hope. I agreed with Chandler when she said the ability for the world to tear down repressive regimes will be led by women.

Overall, I learned from the panel that, even if everyone works to implement change on a small scale, transformations can occur. It might take 100 years, but society can achieve change with persistence. We can use cultural differences to strengthen us.

First inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Second inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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Woody’s Grill & Tap: A hidden gem in Boston’s Back Bay

At Woody’s Grill & Tap, pizza has graduated from greasy to grown-up.

The restaurant, located at 58 Hemenway St. in Boston, is a dependable hideaway in a college neighborhood: Its nestled facade blends in with Northeastern University’s residence halls and apartment buildings. Woody’s specializes in pizza, but the menu also contains a wide selection of craft beers, appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees. The restaurant draws a young crowd, mostly locals living in the Back Bay neighborhood and area college students. Located a few blocks from Fenway Park, Woody’s attracts a big baseball crowd when the Boston Red Sox are in full swing. Several televisions are mounted on the walls for diners to watch sports  games.

So, what makes Woody’s pizza rise a notch above other pizzerias’ pies? The soft, thin crust pizzas are made in a stone-based wood burning oven. My cousin, aunt and I ate at Woody’s last week. We didn’t have to wait for a table because we avoided the dinner rush by going at 5 p.m. We ordered two large pizzas: veggie ($13.85) and meatballs ($12.85). The waiter, who was both friendly and attentive, brought the pizzas to the table quickly – within 15 minutes or so after we placed our orders. I enjoyed the veggie pizza because the name persuaded me that I was choosing a “healthy” pie with eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, broccoli and sliced tomatoes. The cooks topped the pizza with a mesclun salad, which made it difficult to hold my slice without lettuce falling onto my plate. We also ordered sodas and waters, and the bill was $31.24, excluding tip. Not bad for a Friday night in Boston.

Veggie

Meatballs

At Woody’s, you might pay a few more dollars than you would at the neighboring Cappy’s Pizza & Subs or Boston House of Pizza, but nothing beats its brick oven pies. I don’t mind spending three or four more dollars for a pizza when it’s not dripping with grease. If you want to grab a slice late at night on a weekend, you won’t run into huge crowds of drunken students since Woody’s is located blocks away from Huntington Avenue. When relatives and friends visit, I often take them to Woody’s because I know we will enjoy a great meal at a fair price. Each time I eat there, I only order pizza because I think its pies are unmatched in Boston. My favorite is the barbecue chicken pizza.

The menu provides almost a dozen signature pies, including a meat lover’s “Kitchen Sink” (small $11.95, large $14.95), “Jamaican Jerk” ($10.95, $13.95), Greek ($11.25, $14.25), white clam ($11.25, $14.25) and barbecue chicken ($10.95, $13.95). Toppings to add to a classic cheese pizza ($7.85, $10.85) include, but are not limited to, bacon, broccoli, chicken sausage, garlic, ham, Italian sausage, meatballs, white mushrooms, pineapple and spinach.

Other items are “traditional” pub appetizers, salads, sandwiches, entrees and desserts: buffalo wings ($7.25), hummus plate ($6.95), fresh mozzarella ($7.95), fried calamari ($9.50); House ($5.75), Italian ($7.25) and Caesar ($6.95) salads; sirloin burger ($7.75), veggie burger ($7.25), roast turkey sandwich ($7.50); fish and chips ($14.50), lamb loin ($14.50), steak tips ($15.95), wild mushrooms pasta ($13.95); and cheesecake, orange honey cake and ice cream fudge trifle.

I always enjoy the relaxed, casual and comfortable atmosphere, but seating is limited. Two brick ovens and a long, wooden bar take up half of the small establishment. There is space for about 12 tables and booths in the dining area. There is limited parking on Hemenway Street because many of the spots are marked with “Resident Parking Only” signs. If visiting during baseball season, plan accordingly because Woody’s doesn’t take reservations. The restaurant accepts cash or credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express).

Address: 58 Hemenway St., Boston, MA 02115

Phone: (617) 375-9663

Website: Not available

Open daily for lunch and dinner

Dining room: Sun-Wed: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Thurs-Sat: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Bar: Sun-Wed: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Thurs-Sat: 11:30 a.m. – Midnight

Takeout Available

Dress Code: Casual

Wheelchair Accessible

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