Tulips and Pearls

Good morning!

Well, it’s morning in Uganda. I’m writing quite informally to introduce my next few weeks of work, all of which will be presented in some way, shape or form on this blog.

In quick summary, I received funding from the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication this spring to participate in a six-week communications/reporting project in Uganda. My work, beginning Monday, is in partnership with Save the Mothers, an international NGO committed to improving the health of mothers and babies.

While much of the content I produce over the following weeks will not be about me at all, I will do my best to mix in some personal reflection and–more than likely–humor related to my daily life to accompany the serious issues I will be reporting on.

My first days abroad can be well described by the following: Tulips and pearls. Continue reading “Tulips and Pearls”

No quick fix: Why the Mediterranean migrant crisis may not be curbed anytime soon

One might argue there is only one sure response to a humanitarian crisis that has now claimed nearly 1,750 lives since January: Do something. However, the Mediterranean Sea’s migrant crisis between North Africa and Europe has proved a harder case to crack, with only one sure answer appearing: There is no quick fix.


Continue reading “No quick fix: Why the Mediterranean migrant crisis may not be curbed anytime soon”

Denial or dignity in the fight for recognition of the Armenian genocide

“April is the cruelest month.”

When T.S. Elliot penned that line in his 1922 poem “The Waste Land,” he certainly reflected feelings of death and despair. However, he couldn’t have known just how poignant those themes would be throughout the remainder of the 20th century.

Referred to by some academics as “the century of genocide,” the 1900s saw mass atrocities in places like Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur and Eastern Europe—all with significant dates in April to mark either the beginning or height of mass killing. However, a long-time alliance with Turkey has restrained U.S. recognition of the genocide of more than 1 million Armenians in 1915 by Ottoman Turks who continue to deny such accusations.


Continue reading “Denial or dignity in the fight for recognition of the Armenian genocide”

A Question of Compromise… Or War

It’s not every day that U.S. senators pressure the leaders of a hostile power to abandon American-led negotiations aimed at removing a potential nuclear threat to the United States.


But, so it goes. Indeed, 47 Republican senators signed a letter last week warning the Iranian government that any deal it reaches with President Barack Obama may be null and void once he leaves office in less than two years.

“The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen, and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time,” the letter states. “We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.”

Bingo! That is exactly what’s going on—negotiations. However, is that what the 47 Republican signatories really want?

Continue reading “A Question of Compromise… Or War”

Why America responded to Ebola with more fear than fact

It starts with familiar cold-like symptoms: mild cough, runny nose and fever. However, these symptoms can develop into more alarming conditions: red sores, oral white spots or diarrhea. It is extremely contagious; on average, 90 percent of those exposed will become infected. Similar descriptions have circulated since the Ebola outbreak began in West Africa. However, this is not Ebola. These are potential symptoms of measles.

There’s no arguing that Ebola is a very dangerous disease. However, University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical History Professor Gregg Mitman says there are many other illnesses that prove a bigger risk for Americans.

“In terms of the biology, measles is a much more contagious disease,” Mitman said. “So if you’re talking about risk perception based on a rational calculus, then people should be much more concerned about measles than Ebola.”

So, why is Ebola grabbing headlines while more conceivable diseases are not? Mitman says the answer lies not just in the virus’s graphic symptoms, but in the stereotypes, history and politics surrounding disease in Africa.

Photo by  @mjb and reused here with Creative Commons license.
Photo by @mjb and reused here with Creative Commons license.

Continue reading “Why America responded to Ebola with more fear than fact”

Tackling Human Trafficking Beyond the Super Bowl

As Glendale, Ariz. prepared to welcome over 100,000 football fans for Super Bowl XLIX, the state braced for a darker influx of company—the predators and victims of human trafficking.

Public officials from both sides of the aisle have voiced concern over Super Bowl Sunday, claiming it draws high levels of sex trafficking activity to host cities. In 2014, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., cited the Super Bowl as “one of the largest venues for sex trafficking in the country” and referenced a study showing online escort ads increased almost 300 percent from a Saturday in mid-January to the Saturday before the 2011 Super Bowl. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, echoed similar claims this year saying, “The dirty little secret is that the Super Bowl actually is one of the highest levels of human sex trafficking activity of any event in the country.” But is it?


Continue reading “Tackling Human Trafficking Beyond the Super Bowl”

‘The Interview’ is Making Noise, but not Saying Much

I can usually gauge a movie’s quality by the rate at which my popcorn bowl empties.

If the stainless steel is still hidden by pillowy, popped kernels when final credits begin, I know it was an exceptional film.

Last week, Sony Pictures’ “The Interview” surpassed $40 million in digital sales, setting a record for biggest online release. And while its controversial plot and crass humor is making a lot of noise in the worlds of politics and film, my popcorn bowl didn’t last long.

It made me laugh, I’ll admit. It’s hard to keep a straight face through any interpretation of Gollum, the Lord of the Rings’ goblin character, including James Franco’s rendition.

However, given the intense international debate following North Korea’s threat on the film’s release, that’s not saying much.

Continue reading “‘The Interview’ is Making Noise, but not Saying Much”

Remembering MLK

As I sifted through my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes for my Facebook #MLK quote contribution, I came upon one of the best:

“There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But when a fire is raging, the fire truck goes through that red light, and normal traffic had better get out of its way. Or when a man is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed. There is a fire raging… for the poor of this society. Disinherited people all over the world are bleeding to death from deep social and economic wounds. They need brigades of ambulance drivers who will have to ignore the red lights of the present system until the emergency is solved.”

If you have seen my 2015 Win a Trip with Nick Kristof video, you’ve heard it.

And if you were my family during the 10 or so days it took to produce, you’ve heard it about 300 times.

Continue reading “Remembering MLK”

Back in the Saddle: Thoughts on Baga attack & solidarity

Europeans and Americans alike are still reeling from the Jan. 7 Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. And, perhaps for good reason.

Millions have gathered around the world to stand in solidarity for Charlie Hebdo and freedom of the press. From unity marches in Paris to #JeSuisCharlie, the world’s response to terror has been anything but terror.

And while I hope the legacy of this moment is not soon forgotten, I wonder if it’s time to lace up and get to walkin’ the talk again.

Continue reading “Back in the Saddle: Thoughts on Baga attack & solidarity”

Je suis Charlie Hebdo & 2015 Win A Trip submission

I may not be a cartoonist, but I certainly sorrow after today’s attack on journalism in Paris.

As I finalized my video submission for my  2015 Win A Trip with Nick Kristof application this morning, I caught wind of the Charlie Hebdo shooting and couldn’t help but click the “Submit” button with even greater pride than I had been anticipating.

This response is not out of character for me. Adversity has pushed me into success for my entire life. An exceptionally nasty divorce in middle school propelled me into straight-A studies. My family’s resulting low-income status pushed me to help organize holiday packages for those in similar financial situations. And these minor setbacks have led me to empathize with chronic despair and poverty on a global level.

Continue reading “Je suis Charlie Hebdo & 2015 Win A Trip submission”