Can you name at least three musicians who fight poverty in unorthodox ways? In a recently announced project, major hitters in the music industry will be joining together to produce a new album aimed at reducing poverty around the world. Some of the musicians already attached to the project include stars like Kanye West, Ellie Goulding and Mumford & Sons.

The album, entitled Metamorphoses, will be sponsored by Global Citizen, a nonprofit that brings people together to fight global poverty. This project is a logical extension of the organization’s previous work, which often includes organizing major concerts to raise funds and build awareness for poverty-fighting efforts.

What makes Metamorphoses unique is the fact that fans have been called upon to submit lyrics, poems, and even short stories for the musicians to incorporate into the 12 tracks. According to Global Citizen’s CEO, Hugh Evans, this highly interactive process will include material from people all over the world, making the project “a truly global tribute to our collective responsibility” to fight poverty.

How will the album ultimately help alleviate poverty? Producers are planning to employ slightly unorthodox methods that sidestep traditional fundraising techniques. Instead of buying the album with actual currency, fans can “purchase” Metamorphoses by making commitments to take action to fight poverty.

This kind of outreach has the potential to build lifelong warriors against poverty, as opposed to one-time donors. Those who “buy” the album are offering to engage with the anti-poverty movement through direct action, such as educating their elected officials about the issue and petitioning those with law-making power.

The project itself was dreamed up by Global Citizen in partnership with Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons. According to Lovett, the “crowd-sourcing” of material makes the project especially exciting. “Metamorphoses has the potential to break down our preconceptions of the voices of creativity, what different people around the world are thinking and who has the right to be heard,” Lovett claims.

Set to be released in the Fall of 2016, Metamorphoses is destined to be an exciting and unique album with the potential to do a lot of good and foster activism through the power and process of creating music, according to Global Citizen.

Jennifer Diamond

Photo: Flickr

Whiz Kids Workshop, a nonprofit located in Ethiopia, uses media to educate children who do not have access to schooling. The organization has created three shows called Tsehai Loves Learning, Involve Me-Watch Me and Little Investigators that educate children on the fundamentals of learning. They use media and technology to promote literacy, health education and gender equality.

Whiz Kids Workshop was founded in 2005 by a husband and wife team who were inspired to help young children prepare for primary school in rural Ethiopia. Because the Ethiopian government does not have enough money to provide learning materials to children in preschools or kindergartens, many children miss out on basic education that prepares them for higher level schooling. Whiz Kids Workshop bridges this gap by providing young students with educational television programs, fundamental learning materials, storybooks and workbooks.

Their television show, Tsehai Loves Learning, had been expanded to movie screenings and DVDs all over Ethiopia. The show uses animation and puppets to present research based facts to their target audience of children ages 3 through 9. Topics covered by the show range from public health and ethics to literacy and preparing children for school.

Involve Me-Watch Me was the first Ethiopian television program for youths ages 9 through 15. As of 2013, Whiz Kids Workshop has published over 30 educational storybooks and produced 32 radio show episodes based on this show. These books and shows have been distributed in 115 schools.

Little Investigators promotes scientific learning in a fun way and is the first Ethiopian show to do so. The show is targeted toward teenagers and aims to introduce the scientific method and how it can be used to analyze global warming, current issues and much more.

As of right now, the organization is producing their fourth show, Girls in Red, an animated series created especially for adolescent girls. The show tackles issues like child marriages, health issues like HIV and practicing safe sex. According to the United Nation’s campaign, Girl Up, only 38 percent of females ages 15 to 24 are literate, 20 percent of girls are married before the age of 15 and 12 percent of girls within this age range are mothers or pregnant with their first child. Young girls in Ethiopia are also seven times more likely to be HIV positive than males. Girls in Red is in the process of being produced with the goal to reduce these numbers and help young, Ethiopian females live healthier and smarter lives.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Whiz Kids Workshop, Fast Company, Tadias
Photo: Fast Company

U-ReportOn July 16th, UNICEF’s U-Report, a groundbreaking text-message based innovation that amplifies the voices and views of young people in developing countries, reached over one million active users.

This has allowed many young people in developing countries, who would otherwise not have a voice, to share opinions on everything from skills they think would be the most beneficial in the working world to the best way to deal with country policy.

This information is recorded as documentation of the real-time insights of people living with the current problems of the world. Local governments of these developing countries can view U-Report statistics and information to ascertain the perspective of future generations.

Once a person joins U-Report, they can receive weekly SMS messages and polls to and from a growing community of U-Reporters, regular radio programs that will broadcast relevant stories, and newspaper articles that will publish news from the local community.

“U-Report is an entirely new model for engaging young people, empowering communities, and holding governments more accountable,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, where the platform is helping UNICEF workers share critical information about Ebola, polio, and newborn care with families living in remote areas that health workers cannot easily reach.

U-Report has become so popular and influential within Africa that Airtel Nigeria, a telecommunications company, has partnered with UNICEF to make U-Report more accessible. Through this improved connectivity, more Nigerians will have free access to the mobile applications and services developed by UNICEF. The partnership increases the information and provides more opportunities for participation by allowing UNICEF to tap into Airtel’s mobile services to make health, education, child protection and community-focused content readily available to all Airtel Nigeria customers.

These strides by UNICEF to make global awareness readily accessible to young people have improved the chances in the future for a better, more connected global society.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: UNICEF, Ureport, Telecom Paper, Airtel
Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Journalist kidnappings, an issue which has been associated with terrorism, has grown on a global scale. With a total of 720 kidnapped reporters being murdered in the past decade, examiners are trying to fully understand these incidents, while educating the public of its many complications.

In 1994, a debate emerged when an Associated Press writer, Tina Susman, had gone missing after she was snatched off reporting grounds by Somalian thugs. The journalist would later be held for ransom for a near-20 day count while being stored in a cramped room.

Controversially, in the wake of her disappearance, Susman’s story never broke the air until she was rescued, initiating concern from the public over “double standard[s]” and “injustice.”

Fellow peers from her reporting unit at the Associated Press addressed the public, saying that they, alongside other news reporting teams, did not want to report on the story as a means to prevent “periling” Susman’s life. However, political officials noted that sources like the Associated Press were being “peculiar” and “overcautious” and loosely implied that such reporting would not have fazed the Somalian terrorists due to the lack of media presence in the developing region.

Congressional officials further argued that if government officials were to keep the story quiet themselves, journalists like those from The Associated Press would be all over them.

Susman herself proclaimed that in the end, it was good that the media kept her story confidential, partly because media acknowledgment of the Somalian robbers would have made things more problematic for Susman’s survival, adding to the thugs’ arrogance.

Although Tina Susman’s case met a moderately relieving outcome, hundreds of other kidnapping cases have not seen a safe close, considering their involvement with terrorist-induced conflicts.

2002 would mark the year when journalist kidnappings became a global concern, as reporters became potential victims in treacherous power-fueled schemes used by terrorist groups to seek money and attention from the masses. Following the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl, several terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda have used homicide as the key component in seeking ransom negotiations and for “propaganda purposes” at a highly effective level; both elements were once controversially debated in the 1994 kidnapping case of Tina Susman.

In 2003, The New Yorker presented several points on the harrowing scenarios, highlighting that if bargains are offered to terrorist groups at a low rate, only amputations of the kidnapped are likely to be sent; with intricate negotiations set at an expensive price, many remain unsure the kidnapped will be returned safely in one piece.

Today, the stakes of ransom negotiations remain uncertain and have ignited a firestorm of controversy from the public, especially those bearing kidnapped loved ones who served in a range of posts from military personnel to communication officials.

The disappearance of Austin Tice, who has been missing since mid-August 2012, has raised many questions concerning congressional powers’ consideration in establishing a new U.S. policy that assures the return of hostages and enhances the informational exchange of loved one’s whereabouts between government agencies and families.

The case has since not seen positive news coverage. Recently, a report that confirmed that Tice was not being held captive by once-presumed Syrian powers, leaving his whereabouts unknown.

The episodes of journalist kidnapping have caused extreme pandemonium this past year. Notably, the global coverage of the terrorist group ISIS, murdering hostages in the most brutal fashion and capturing the footage on video-camera, only to be uploaded on the Internet for the public to see, has garnered much attention. This is the same strategy those in the discussion of the 1994 case of Tina Susman feared would propel terrorist pacts to conjure controversy in order to attain media attention.

Last year, it was reported by the advocacy group known as Reporters Without Borders that a total of 119 journalists were captured in 2014, with 66 murdered—a 35% increase compared to the previous year.

Jeff Varner

Sources: American Journalism Review, The New Yorker, CBS News, Poynter, McClatchy DC
Photo: The Atlantic

north korea
Media in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is tightly controlled. Television stations broadcast government-endorsed news and statements, documentaries affirming the god-like status of the Kim family and politically fueled dramas. Radio subscribers are treated daily to Kim Jong-Un’s schedule and criticism of policies that do not match the country’s own.

As with most technology, radio usage is restricted. Most South Korean broadcasts are jammed so that North Koreans on the receiving end hear little more than ‘jet plane noise.’ All legal radios in North Korea are tuned to specific stations. They are checked and registered with police.

It is radios of the illegal variety that are beginning what some are referring to as a ‘quiet revolution.’ Smuggled in from China or homemade, they access a variety of independent programming. Providing potential listeners with real-time news is the purpose of groups like Radio Free Asia, Voice of America and Radio Free Chosun.

One such group, Free North Korea Radio (FNKR,) was founded by Kim Seong Min. Once a North Korean soldier, Min tuned into a South Korean station “out of curiosity.” The program he listened to debunked myths surrounding Kim Jong Il, particularly regarding the place of the Great Leader’s birth. The more he listened, the more he doubted what he had been taught. Min eventually made his escape to the south.

FNKR, which is based in Seoul, now broadcasts three hours per day. Staffers, most North Korean defectors, report on the outside world. In an effort to protect their families, almost everyone but Min uses a pseudonym.

Radio stations like FNKR reroute the information paths into North Korea. For over half a century, the North Korean government has chosen and embellished its facts in a tactful manner.

Radio distribution has been spurred on by the black markets that have supported North Koreans since the famine of the 1990s. By engaging in private enterprises, these citizens undermine the state distribution system, and consequently break North Korean law. Even so, an estimated 80 percent of North Koreans are involved in the black market today. In 2010, research group InterMedia conducted a study  to see how much of the North had access to foreign media.

Radio remains the most effective means of communicating news to North Koreans. Curiosity, well-intentioned piracy and radios are breaking the government’s attempt at monopolizing the country’s media.

– Olivia Kostreva

Sources: ABC, BBC, The Guardian, InterMedia
Photo: The Guardian

free speech in sri lanka
The Sri Lankan government’s crackdown on NGO’s this month has initiated claims that President Mahinda Rajapakse is paranoid he will be overthrown, and is quieting critics to strengthen his control and power.

The defense ministry has banned NGO’s from disseminating press releases and holding awareness campaigns, press conferences, workshops and training for journalists. They claimed the ban was necessary in order to stop NGO’s from functioning “beyond their mandate.” The minister said the administration is worried that NGO’s will fuel criticism of Rajapakse and his family.

“The government panicked when they heard that USAID was trying to educate voters about their rights,” the minister said.

However, NGO workers claim that the ban was cracking down on dissent right before the presidential elections. They say it is unconstitutional and violates basic rights of free speech in Sri Lanka.

Civil rights groups have long highlighted problems for the media in Sri Lanka, where most journalists have to practice self-censorship due to the killings of media workers and journalists in recent years.

Activists and civil rights groups have burned notices issued by the government that demand NGO’s to not engage in activities that are “outside the groups’ mandate.” Almost 1,500 NGOs have gotten notices from the government.

Protesters chanted and carried banners during a rally that took place in the capital city of Colombo to protest against the government’s crackdown on free speech in Sri Lanka.

Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives said that the government’s ban violates the rule of law and the basic principles of a democracy. He said it is an attempt to hush alternative public opinions of citizens.

The United States government has voiced worry over the crackdown on free speech in Sri Lanka.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki urges the government of Sri Lanka to, “…allow civil society organizations and NGO’s, which play a vital role in supporting Sri Lanka’s democratic values, to operate freely.”

– Colleen Moore

Sources: Global Post, NDTV, UCANews, ColomboPage
Photo: Kuwait Times

The news organization and Brooklyn magazine, Vice, is well known for its unique journalism style. They gain access to places mainstream media can’t through their immerse and adventurous journalism. Whether it is North Korea or Belize, Vice reporters go where others cannot or will not. From eating alongside Kim Jung-un and Dennis Rodman to traveling alongside fugitive John McAfee, Vice has shown no limits to the extent they will go to cover important and even dangerous stories.

Their progressive efforts have brought attention and even criticism from mainstream media. Their adventurous approach was utilized for their coverage of Dennis Rodman in North Korea, which mainstream media criticized, labeling them “stunt” journalists. Meanwhile Vice notes that at the same time of this criticism the BBC was trying to sneak in two journalists under the cover of two foreign students.

Vice originally started as a music magazine in Montreal 20 years ago but has since grown into an international media company. Vice is not stopping there though; owner Shane Smith expressed his ambition for Vice to be the largest global online media network which will represent “the voice of the angry youth.”

The “Millennial” media company that initially gained recognition via their YouTube channel and Brooklyn-based magazine is known for throwing out the standards of old journalism and immersing themselves in the reality of the stories they cover. Vice media’s catch line, “Vice will expose the absurdity of the modern condition,” is an accurate description of their approach as a news show for HBO. The stories can be graphic and the news organization may seem sensationalistic but their dedication and creativity is as eye-opening as it is unmatched.

Vice, however, argues that they are not sensationalistic. It is the stories they cover that make them seem sensationalistic but the actual coverage is fact-based. Vice points to the coverage of the slave labour camps in Liberia as an example.

The coverage featured cannibal and mass murderer General Butt Naked who murdered 20,000 individuals and even went so far as to eat some of the remains. This is not exaggeration though, it’s simply an “absurd” fact just as their catch line notes.

The show, which appears Fridays at 11 p.m. on HBO, is organized and presented in a documentary fashion. The diverse range of reporters from various countries allow an inside look into current events from the perspective of the people living the story. This narrative approach combined with ethnographic research allows for a cutting edge and groundbreaking style of journalism that is both captivating and informative.

Shane Smith’s desire to create “the next CNN” through a “changing of the guard within the media” is certainly becoming a reality. The show has run for two provocative seasons covering in-depth topics including the Arab Spring revolution.

In short, Vice on HBO is news from the insider’s perspective — news from the people living it. Vice is eye opening, raw and honest, and this is why you should be watching Vice on HBO.

— Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: The Guardian, HBO Vice, Washington Post, NY Times, NY Times Magazine
Photo: Twocentstv

As far as tech trends go, the topic of drones is one of the hottest and most controversial. Their military use is infamous and quite tragic in some cases, but this one understanding of drones shouldn’t totally taint the public’s perception of their potential uses.

The concept of drone technology should still be viewed as exciting, actually, considering what they’re capable of. As remote aerial tools, drones have the capacity to vastly improve lives and simplify important tasks.

Companies like Google and Amazon are already in talks of starting a drone delivery service for goods ordered online. However, it is actually illegal to use drones to make money in the United States, at least until laws are in place to regulate their use and safety.

Countries like El Salvador are taking full advantage of the technology’s positive uses, having recently launched drones for news coverage. Salvadoran newspaper, La Presna Grafica, bought three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also known as drones, back in January. Since then, they’ve joined other Latin American countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Peru in using drones to enrich the news coverage of the area.

What’s interesting about the use of drones in Latin American countries is that there aren’t any regulatory laws concerning the technology. Meanwhile, commercial drone usage won’t be allowed in the U.S. for a least a few more years.

Drones used in modern warfare and those used to take aerial footage (or make deliveries) are vastly different. Still, the experimental airspace countries like El Salvador is creating has attracted concern about privacy and spying.

A unique security issue for El Salvador is rooted in the 12-year civil war that took place in the country 20 years ago. Some worry that biased news stations will use drones to spy on political opponents – or be urged to do so.

The bottom line is that laws protecting the privacy rights of citizens in El Salvador simply don’t exist. The airspace is unregulated and, for many people, this will invite fun and exciting experimentation with the fairly new drone technology. Yet, as history and even modern events show, there is always the possibility that a good thing will be used for bad purposes.

– Edward Heinrich

Sources: Global Post, Knight Center, Business Insider
Photo: La Prensagrafica

In 2011, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said, “A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”

Three years later, Zuckerberg’s quote still deeply resonates and brings to light a major issue in the United States: many people simply do not care; they are more concerned with local interests in their ‘bubble’ than rampant human rights abuses in other parts of the world.

The rise of social media, the “Facebook Effect,” is turning everyday events into news. Thus, while someone might see a friend’s dramatic post about the squirrel falling off a branch in front of their home, the fact that four million newborns worldwide die in their first month of life remains largely invisible to the public eye.

This bubble must be popped; people must become more educated about what is happening abroad so that tangible change can happen to overall make the world a more peaceful and equitable place.

The media is certainly instigating this trend, with extensive coverage on dramatic, sensationalized events while other events are routinely ignored.

For example, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 dominated national news publications for over a month after the plane disappeared somewhere over the Indian Ocean. It was a “mystery,” coupled with images of mourning relatives, puzzled government officials and the gripping realization throughout the world that innocent people on the plane may indeed be gone forever.

I am obviously not trying to downplay the atrocity of the incident, especially for family members of the passengers. Yet, while hundreds of thousands of Americans were glued to their TVs to learn about any updates from the plane crash, the 1 billion children living in poverty never had their screen debut. Many people did not care to hear their stories.

According to the World Programme, hunger is the number one cause of death in the world and ends more lives than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Nearly one-half of the global population—more than three billion people—lives on less than $2.50 a day. And 101 million children are not attending primary school.

Furthermore, when the media does briefly address such struggles, they often universalize the “third world person” as uneducated and in need of saving. However, these monolithic assumptions only reinforce the status quo, support Western dominance and ignore culture heterogeneity and the individual experiences that people face globally.

We need to hear their stories, we need to listen, we need to understand other cultures and local concerns. Billions of people are deprived of basic political and socio-economic rights daily, yet we stay silent on their struggles. We refuse to understand, and instead remain close-minded in a bubble of luxury, of Facebook, of squirrels dying in the front yard.

In order to build relationships and better understand people of other cultures, Americans must recognize their own biases towards others in order to consciously make an effort to better communicate with and understand peoples that reside outside of their own groups. While many people are informed about foreign affairs and various cultures, too many remain ignorant on these matters. Especially for international development agencies that specifically address socio-economic issues throughout the world, it is imperative that these workers listen to local issues and provide individualized help, as opposed to offering blanket policy advice that fails to recognize cross-cultural concerns.

People must expand their worldviews, try to become more educated about issues and help in the fight to make the world a better place. Prove to Zuckerberg that he is wrong; prove that we do care.

— Nicole Einbinder

Sources: The Borgen Project, Do Something, The Huffington Post, The Nation
Photo: Magical Nature Tour

Cut off from much of the world, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea, is a mystery to most people. The DPRK constantly provokes its southern counterpart with missile tests and hosts odd guests like Dennis Rodman. If you only got your information from the mainstream media, you probably perceive the nation to be an uncontrollable enemy of the United States and the Western world.

Much of the reason why we know very little about this country is because the DPRK government purposely isolates itself and its people. Any political expression is prohibited, unless you are supporting the Kim family establishment. For those looking to get the inside scoop on the DPRK, here are five websites to help you become more informed: This trusted news site provides independent news and intelligence information focused on North Korea. From politics and military to social and culture, NKnews provides a wide array of news and prides itself on being impartial. This company has taken a strong stance against the North Korean regime. Dailynk provides information of widespread human rights and other violations by the government. In hopes to free the people, the publication works to defend human rights, supports democratization and a peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula.

The Korea Herald: This publication is South Korea’s leader in English-language news and boasts over 1 million users. Its National section also includes news on North Korea. News topics include military activity and political tensions between the two neighbors.

The New York Times: The Times is a world-renowned news agency so it is not surprising that they have an extensive archive of news on North Korea. Their 4,612 articles about North Korea covers human rights, international relations, military activity and more. They also have a “Chronology of Coverage” that has updated several times a week since the start of the year.

Reddit, North Korea News: Although not a news site, Reddit’s North Korea News page is probably the largest aggregator of North Korean news articles on the web. People create threads with news articles from all across the internet. Article sources include Bloomberg, The Times, Dailynk, and other international publications. It is a great way to stay updated on anything related to North Korea.

We hope you will visit these websites and stay informed on North Korea. The best way to fight against any misconceptions about a people is to learn about them, and these websites should provide you with some great information!

– Sunny Bhatt

Sources: New York Times, Reddit, The Korea Herald, DailyNK, NK News
Photo: North Korea Herald