March 17th, 2010
03:02 PM ET

Journey for Change: Day seven in Ghana

Editor's Note: Students from Brooklyn, N.Y. are traveling to Ghana as Global Service Ambassadors as part of a trans-Atlantic youth service and advocacy summit, bringing together African-American youth and Ghanaian child labor trafficking survivors. The project is called Journey for Change: Empowering Youth Through Global Service and is in partnership with the Touch A Life Foundation. The Ambassadors will advocate for the eradication of child slavery when they return and they will visit Capitol Hill and the United Nations as part of their efforts. Read their blogs from the trip below.

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Jasmine Figueroa, Age 15
Journey for Change

Before I went on the trip to Ghana, I visualized and thought of what the food was going to taste like and how Ghanaian people live. Now that I have experienced the culture, I think that the Ghanaian people have a lot of pride in their homes. They take good care of them no matter how poor they might be. When I first met my Ghanaian partner, who is a former child slave, I thought she was very beautiful with a big smile on her face. She is 13 years old and I knew we were going to have a loving and beautiful relationship toward each other. I began to talk to her and she was very polite and outgoing. She told me about when she was a slave and told me all of the things that she had to do when she worked. She had to get the nets for the fishing boots, cook for the fisherman and his family, and clean the fish. She slept outside on rocks or on the hard ground or with the animals. And she was treated like an animal too. I shared a little about my life too. I told her that in my life I have problems at home and in my life and she was shocked. She thought everyone and everything in America was perfect. But when I heard about her life as a slave, it was sometimes too hard to bear and to hear. There were a lot of tears, but also a lot of laughs.

My experience in Ghana was sad, happy, and emotional. I liked the entire trip, but the part that meant the most to me was being on the Lake Volta meeting the trafficked kids either on the islands or rowing to the sides of their boats. It just tore me apart when I first started to experience the reality of child slavery. The kids were as young as 2 years old that were sold into slavery and forced to work the waters of Lake Volta. And the slave’s masters, who were fisherman, did not care about them at all. Some of the children only ate once a day and did not have proper places to sleep. They were tied to trees and beat if they did anything wrong.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Ghana • Journey for Change
March 17th, 2010
02:31 PM ET

Why pope is at center of media storm

John L. Allen Jr.
CNN Senior Vatican Analyst

From a distance, it may be difficult to understand why Pope Benedict XVI finds himself at the center of a media storm this week since it pivots on a single case of an abuser priest in Germany almost 30 years ago.

Yet the story could have profound implications not only for the pontiff himself, but also for the Catholic Church's ability to emerge from the sex abuse scandals that have plagued it for the last decade.

The Catholic Church in Germany is in the middle of a mushrooming crisis, with more than 300 allegations of sexual abuse against priests, nuns and other church personnel having surfaced over the last month, often involving charges from decades ago.

The pope is himself a German, and over the weekend the crisis was directly linked to him for the first time through reports about a priest who served in the Archdiocese of Munich in southern Germany during the time Benedict was archbishop there from 1977 to 1982.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Pope Benedict
March 17th, 2010
02:22 PM ET

5 things we learned at South by Southwest

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Doug Gross

For techies, the South by Southwest Interactive festival produces a firehose of information.

With keynote speeches, hundreds of panel discussions, a trade floor full of new gadgets and nonstop networking opportunities with 15,000 or so like-minded folks, it's impossible to take it all in.

It also may be too soon to pinpoint the most important things to come out of the festival, which ended Tuesday. The most significant outcome may be an idea sparked in a panel or a party conversation that someone takes home and turns into the next Facebook or Twitter.

But after five days of reporting, we can identify some key themes. So here, in no particular order, are five observations from five days in Austin.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Technology
March 17th, 2010
01:42 PM ET

Building up America: Down by the riverside

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

I have history in Montgomery. I began my TV reporting career here almost 30 years ago at WSFA; chasing down house fires, school disputes, angry city council members, and hopeful business owners. And even back then, people were talking about how downtown needed to be rebuilt.

Dexter Avenue, the main street stretching up to the historic, domed Capitol Building, was struggling to keep afloat even back then. And every few years it seemed some businessman, or civic group, or developer would launch yet another new project to bring it roaring back to life. Only it didn’t happen. The money was spent, the improvements were made, and the decay continued.

Now, however, a few blocks away the most aggressive and coordinated effort I’ve ever seen to reclaim downtown is picking up steam.

“How y’all doing?” Bert Miller is a tall African American man whose big voice booms over the noisy supper crowd at Dreamland Barbeque right in the middle of the reclamation zone. And his hearty laugh leaves no doubt how he is doing. “We couldn’t have asked for a better location. Business is good. We’ve been very blessed.”


Filed under: Building Up America • Tom Foreman
March 17th, 2010
12:07 PM ET

Would health care changes be felt immediately?

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Ed Hornick

President Obama launched his health care reform effort shortly after taking office, saying the country could not afford to continue to sustain the costs and the burden on families.

The House is expected to vote soon on the health care bill that the Senate passed in December, though many House Democrats remain opposed to it.

One of the options for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: having the House pass the Senate bill but following up with another vote in both chambers on a series of changes. The idea is to make the legislation more acceptable for House Democrats opposed to the Senate's version.

Although some of the provisions in the reform bill won't be implemented immediately, here's what Democrats say would go into effect in the first year after passage:

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Filed under: 360° Radar
March 17th, 2010
12:05 PM ET

Building up America: The business on the side of the road

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Rolling north out of Montgomery, the Wetumpka Highway cuts through one of those sprawling, sketchy industrial areas that crouch along the tracks near every medium sized town. Dotted with farm equipment dealers, natural gas suppliers, scrap metal yards, and the odd factory, it seems the most unlikely of places for an Internet boomer.

Enough so, that even as we pull up to the low, non-descript, and beaten up building that houses the Online Commerce Group I have my doubts about what we will find. A hand lettered sign on the front door points us to a side entrance, and my expectations drop even lower.

Then I meet Gerry Monroe. He is 43 years old. A graduate of Auburn University who wanted to build up his business in his home state. Monroe is one of the founders of this company and he goes to work each day with a simple belief about what that takes. “Every day you’ve got to make something happen.”


Filed under: Building Up America • Tom Foreman
March 17th, 2010
12:04 PM ET

Work with teachers, don't fire them

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Esther Wojcicki
Special to CNN

Little Rhode Island made big news in the education arena last month. Superintendent Frances Gallo fired all the teachers at Central Falls High School after negotiations with the teachers' union failed.

The move was triggered by low test scores - only 7 percent of 11th-graders passed the state math tests, and 50 percent of the students at Central Falls failed to graduate in four years. Appalling numbers. Gallo wanted teachers to increase the length of the school day and spend time tutoring kids. The teachers' union was not convinced.

Even President Obama got involved and supported the firing, saying, "If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show signs of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability."

Keep reading...

March 17th, 2010
11:58 AM ET

Tiger Woods to play his way out

Vartan Kupelian
Special to CNN

Golf's prodigal son is about to return. The question, as it has been since the beginning of time, is whether the parable is more about repentance or forgiveness.

Tiger Woods is coming back. He will play again at Augusta National Golf Club in the Masters Tournament, golf's rite of spring. The Masters is to golf what spring training is to America's pastime, baseball. It is all about eternal hope and renewal.

The Masters is a new beginning for golfers everywhere. How strange, then, to think of Tiger Woods as just another golfer in search of a new start. But that's what he faces when he tees it up April 8 at Augusta National, the course that Bobby Jones built to celebrate golf.

Woods' fall from grace has been precipitous. The cliff he threw himself over was steep. On Thanksgiving Day last year, his life changed forever.

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March 17th, 2010
11:53 AM ET

Why teaching is 'not like making motorcars'

John D. Sutter

Sir Ken Robinson says our education system works like a factory. It's based on models of mass production and conformity that actually prevent kids from finding their passions and succeeding, he said.

"The problem is that educating young people is not like making motorcars - at all," the author and educator said in a recent interview. "And one key difference is that motorcars have no interest in how they're made, and young people do."

Robinson, author of "The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything," spoke to CNN after a recent lecture at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California.

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March 17th, 2010
11:48 AM ET

Terrorists should be tried in court

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David Frakt
Special to CNN

Suppose that shortly after 9/11, when it became clear that Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda were responsible for the attacks, President Bush had made the following announcement:

"Those responsible for these attacks are cowardly, vicious murderers, and we will pursue them to the ends of the earth to capture them. They are not warriors, they are criminals, and they will be treated accordingly. And once we catch them, we will bring them back to the United States and put them on trial right there in lower Manhattan so that a jury of 12 fair-minded New Yorkers can decide their fate."

Such an announcement would not have been controversial in the slightest and undoubtedly would have been met with widespread approval. After all, putting terrorists on trial in federal court is how we always dealt with terrorists, including the first group of murderers who tried to blow up the World Trade Center.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Justice Department • Terrorism
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