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Watch out Congress: Girl Up activists came to the nation's capital in June to lobby for issues affecting girls in the developing world. From left, Alexandrea Leone (Ewing, N.J.), Grace Peters (Flemington, N.J.), Aklesiya Dejene (Chicago, Ill.), Isabella Gonzalez and Erika Hiple (Stockton, N.J.) (NPR)

Time To 'Girl Up:' Teens Fight For The Right To School, Soccer

by Marc Silver
Jul 29, 2014

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They are seven girls in their teens and early 20s, awake at the ungodly (for them) hour of 8:30 a.m. With sleepy smiles, the young women slip into a windowless conference room in a Washington, D.C. hotel to talk to a reporter, who's curious to find out: What's it like to be a global girl activist?

And they're the experts. They're supporters of the U.N. Foundation group called Girl Up, which has the manifesto of "uniting girls to change the world."

Girl Up fights for the rights of the 600 million adolescent girls of the developing world. Many of these rights we take for granted: going to school, receiving proper health care, living in safety and simply being counted at birth (because, for example, if you don't have official proof of a child's age, then how can governments fight against child labor?)

These seven Girl Up activists run clubs in their schools. They speak out in public forums and raise money for U.N. programs that help their cause. Since Girl Up began in 2010, the clubs have collected more than $100,000.

Being involved in Girl Up is a serious commitment of time and energy. But the girls want me to know that activism is also fun.

"We get into super girly talk," says Alexandra Leane, who cofounded a Girl Up club at her New Jersey high school. "We show each other pictures of hot guys," teases Gloria Samen of Potomac, Md. Then they get down to business: Spreading the word about girl's issues.

Business brought them to the District in June. They were lobbying on Capitol Hill. "Girls just don't get as much resources and opportunities as men do," says Aklesiya Dejene, who emigrated from Ethiopia to Chicago two years ago. "I want to represent them."

In the freewheeling conversation, the young women shared their ideas about what the world's girls need. Carolina Lopez, who's from Sao Paulo, Brazil, but goes to school in Pennsylvania, wants them to have a chance to express themselves in sports. Rocio Ortega, a first generation Mexican-American, who lives in Los Angeles, agrees: "Sports is where girls can find their voice and self-confidence."

But boys can get in the way. When Lopez was in fourth grade, the boys she wanted to play soccer with went to her mom and said, "Can you please ask her to stop playing with us. She's bothering us." Lopez is still indignant: "I wasn't like catching the ball with my hands! Or doing something I wasn't supposed to. I was just there because I wanted to play. I was humiliated."

Ortega visited girls in an Ethiopian refugee camp, and they had similar concerns. They told her: "We want our own space to play sports. We want our own basketball court without having to worry about boys playing next to us." Girl Up supports programs that provide sports venues for girls.

As the American-born daughter of Cameroonian immigrants, Gloria Samen is keenly aware of obstacles girls face in her own culture: "I grew up watching generations of silent women, women who were expected to stay home," she says. Even now, her father thinks she should change the channel on the TV as part of her daughterly duties — even though the remote is by his side. She wants girls to fight unfair expectations.

Samen raised $3,000 for Girl Up and is proud that the money makes a difference in the lives of girls in faraway places. "We're able to change the lives of girls we would never meet," she says. "This women's network is an unbreakable bond. I think it's so cool."

Sometimes the goal is to give girls the power to speak out. Girls in her country don't always want to "stand up and say their name," says Thandiwe Diego of Belize. She stumbled upon Girl Up on the internet and started a club with the help of her mom. "They're really shy." And they can't always afford high school fees. So Diego and her mother encourage reticent girls to apply for scholarships. While in D.C., she got a joyful e-mail from her mom telling her that some girls had applied! It's a small but sweet success.

These seven activists know what it's like to face opposition. Jinwen Tung of China, now a student at Barnard, started a feminist-minded club in China. "Was it hard?" I ask. "Yes!" she declares. "Even my male classmates sometimes couldn't understand why women are so obsessed" with fighting for equality. "To them, it's just not necessary."

But she's an optimist. "I think today's boys are more able to put themselves in the shoes of girls," she says, especially if the girls of Girl Up "tell the boys" about the problems that girls face.

As for my curiosity about what it means to be a girl activist: I came away with the impression that it means living in two opposite worlds. All the girls are keenly aware of what it's like to have privileges and what it's like to face hardships. Gloria Samen sums it up with a story contrasting her life in the wealthy suburb of Potomac, Md., and her mom's girlhood in Cameroon.

On her first day as a high school senior, last September, Samen wanted to drive to school. "My mother was like, 'You can't take the car tomorrow because bla bla bla.' I was so annoyed. I had just got my license. She was like, 'Gloria, I walked four miles barefoot to get to school. I'd hold my shoes in my hand because I didn't want my shoes to get ruined in the mud because if your shoes are ruined, your uniform is not complete. You don't get to complain about not driving to school.' "

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

What Is Girl Up?

Founded: September 2010 Connections: It's a United Nations Foundation campaign, and it partners with the U.N. supporters, including active members, donors and people who follow Girl Up on social media. Reach: There are 271 clubs in the U.S. and 82 in other countries. Fundraising: The clubs have raised more than $100,000 since the organization started. Beneficiaries: Nearly 90 percent of the money goes to programs in the developing world that provide opportunities for girls; the remainder goes to general programs at the U.N. Foundation.

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The Berklee Gospel & Roots Choir performs at the 2014 Newport Folk Festival. (Adam Kissick for NPR)

Berklee Gospel & Roots Choir, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2014

Jul 29, 2014

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In the past, the Berklee Gospel & Roots Choir has been employed as a sort of Newport Folk Festival palate-cleanser: a way to kick off the day with something kind, approachable, reverent and rooted in many folk traditions. This year, with Mavis Staples on top of the bill, the group, which opens the proceedings on Sunday, functioned as both and a theme-setter.

As its name suggests, the group features some of the best and brightest at the talent-rich Berklee College of Music in Boston. Hear the Berklee Gospel & Roots Choir perform Negro spirituals and contemporary gospel as part of the 2014 Newport Folk Festival, recorded live on Sunday, July 27 in Newport, R.I.

Set List

  • "Give Me Jesus"
  • "Ain't That A Good News"
  • "Elijah Rock"
  • "Be With Me"
  • "Jesus Will"
  • "Come By Here"
  • "Break Every Chain"
Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

What Is Girl Up?

Founded: September 2010 Connections: It's a United Nations Foundation campaign, and it partners with the U.N. supporters, including active members, donors and people who follow Girl Up on social media. Reach: There are 271 clubs in the U.S. and 82 in other countries. Fundraising: The clubs have raised more than $100,000 since the organization started. Beneficiaries: Nearly 90 percent of the money goes to programs in the developing world that provide opportunities for girls; the remainder goes to general programs at the U.N. Foundation.

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Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
The Planters Nutmobile, seen here taking a starring turn at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, is hitting the road for a yearlong trip across the U.S. (Flickr)

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut, Sometimes You Just Drive One

by Alex Schmidt
Jul 29, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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Dashing at any hour, Mr. Peanut refuses to remove the monocle even for this snapshot with one lucky couple.

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Three recent college graduates are getting paid to take a road trip. The one catch? They have to drive a giant peanut while they do it.

The giant Nutmobile is part of a brand campaign by Planter's, the snack food company. They've hired the grads as brand ambassadors to drive it around the country. After all, it takes teamwork to maneuver a 27-foot-long, yellow peanut in shopping mall parking lots. But if you think handling the vehicle sounds tough, there's more.

"Today, I get to walk in the shoes of a 98-year-old American icon," says Megan Kreuger, one of the Nutmobile's drivers. "I get to greet the customers and Planters fans as Mr. Peanut."

The three team members take turns dressing up in a 7-and-a-half foot tall, yellow, puffy-foam Mr. Peanut costume. It's hot out — over 90 degrees in the sun. But Kreuger is looking forward to it. That's because Mr. Peanut is a silent character.

"It's hard to be on all the time," Kreuger explains. "So, having the Mr. Peanut moment, I can throw a thumbs-up and communicate all I want, and I don't need to speak with people."

The team sets up the same event repeatedly. They park at stores, sporting events and concerts. One of them dresses up as Mr. Peanut and the other two hand out coupons and samples. There are actually three Nutmobile teams — nine brand ambassadors total — which will be driving around the U.S. for the next year.

These team members beat out thousands of applicants for the job. Melanie Rodriguez, who is from the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexico border, says this made her family especially proud.

"It's like the little Hispanic girl has made it big," Rodriguez says. "That's great because it's really hard, given the economic status of that area, just to make it out. They're very proud of me and couldn't be happier."

Planters says it hired candidates who were dependable, responsible, outgoing and trustworthy. The three team members count on each other for everything from parking help to social bonding — even to assistance with the Mr. Peanut costume.

Mr. Peanut himself is a dapper fellow. He wears a top hat, a monocle and a snazzy grin. No sooner does he leave the Nutmobile than passersby react with smiles of their own, high fives — and some concern. One would-be fan even cracks a joke about the heat in the suit: "He's dry-roasted, as we like to say."

While Kreuger hands out hugs and poses for social media photo ops, Rodriguez and Mason Kerwick hand out samples and coupons. Kerwick is also from Texas, and says the brand ambassador gig is perfect because he's hoping for a career in marketing. But he's enjoying the tour while it lasts.

"If the real world is bowling, and you put the bumpers up — this is that job," says Kerwick.

The team members have to do grown-up things like expense reports and they're on their own, but they're not going to fall in the proverbial gutter of life's bowling alley just yet.

"We still have that buffer," Kerwick says. "We're not paying rent. We're not having to commute into an office and sit at a desk all day long."

After an hour in the sun, Mr. Peanut takes a break. Rodriguez helps Kreuger take off the costume inside the Nutmobile.

While they do so, Kreuger takes a moment to debrief. "I was waving a lot today," she says. "I'm really working on being more active as a peanut."

As tough as the job can be, there are also perks to roving the country in a giant peanut. Kreuger lived in Wisconsin all her life, and now she gets to see the country for the first time. A few weeks ago, the team had a gig at a stadium outside New York City. The event? A concert headlined by Beyonce and Jay-Z.

"We can't honestly complain about any heat or anything for the summer," she says. "We went to Beyonce for free. Any minor inconveniences are so small now."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

What Is Girl Up?

Founded: September 2010 Connections: It's a United Nations Foundation campaign, and it partners with the U.N. supporters, including active members, donors and people who follow Girl Up on social media. Reach: There are 271 clubs in the U.S. and 82 in other countries. Fundraising: The clubs have raised more than $100,000 since the organization started. Beneficiaries: Nearly 90 percent of the money goes to programs in the developing world that provide opportunities for girls; the remainder goes to general programs at the U.N. Foundation.

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Deer Tick performs at the 2014 Newport Folk Festival. (Adam Kissick for NPR)

Deer Tick, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2014

Jul 29, 2014

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John McCauley's ragged roots-rock band Deer Tick has become a Newport Folk Festival staple, along with McCauley's frequent collaborators in Dawes and Delta Spirit. Think of Deer Tick as a kind of turbo-charged bar band, in terms of both creativity and energy: On last year's Negativity, it plays with the free-wheeling energy of punk and the versatility to incorporate country, blues and soul music.

Last year, McCauley played the Newport Folk Festival as a solo artist, but Deer Tick returned in 2014, recorded live on Saturday, July 26 in Newport, R.I.

Set List

  • "The Rock"
  • "The Dream's in the Ditch"
  • "Main Street"
  • "Baltimore Blues No. 1"
  • "Clownin Around"
  • "Trash"
  • "In Our Time" (Feat. Vanessa Carlton)
  • "Hey Doll"
  • "Smith Hill"
  • "Friday XIII"
  • "She's Not Spanish"
  • "Christ Jesus"
  • "Not So Dense"
  • "Ashamed"

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

What Is Girl Up?

Founded: September 2010 Connections: It's a United Nations Foundation campaign, and it partners with the U.N. supporters, including active members, donors and people who follow Girl Up on social media. Reach: There are 271 clubs in the U.S. and 82 in other countries. Fundraising: The clubs have raised more than $100,000 since the organization started. Beneficiaries: Nearly 90 percent of the money goes to programs in the developing world that provide opportunities for girls; the remainder goes to general programs at the U.N. Foundation.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
Deer Tick performs at the 2014 Newport Folk Festival. (Adam Kissick for NPR)

White House Says Delayed Action On Climate Change Could Cost Billions

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 29, 2014

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In a report issued on Tuesday, the White House warned that the cost of inaction when it comes to climate change outweighs the cost of implementing more stringent regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.

Here's how Time boils down the White House's argument:

"A new report estimates the cost of mitigating the effects of climate change could rise by as much as 40% if action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is delayed 10 years — immediately outweighing any potential savings of a delay.

"The White House's Council of Economic Advisers, U.S. President Barack Obama's source for advice on economic policy, compared over 100 actions on climate change laid out in 16 studies to extract the average cost of delayed efforts. Released Tuesday, the findings suggests policymakers should immediately confront carbon emissions as a form of 'climate insurance.'

"'Events such as the rapid melting of ice sheets and the consequent increase of global sea levels, or temperature increases on the higher end of the range of scientific uncertainty, could pose such severe economic consequences as reasonably to be thought of as climate catastrophes,' the report reads. 'Confronting the possibility of climate catastrophes means taking prudent steps now to reduce the future chances of the most severe consequences of climate change.'"

The Washington Post adds that this report comes just as the White House is "struggling to incorporate the costs associated with global warming into its energy decisions."

The paper reports:

"Environmental groups have been pressing the administration, in court as well as through public advocacy efforts, to factor in the environmental impact of increased carbon dioxide emissions when it issues coal, oil or natural gas leases on federal lands.

"The administration, which is kicking off two days of public hearings in four cities this week on its proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, has been emphasizing the costs of inaction in recent weeks. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters Monday in a conference call that the agency had already received more than 300,000 comments on the draft rule."

As Politico reports, Republicans, some moderate Democrats and industry groups oppose the new proposal from the Obama administration because they said it "will damage the economy and kill thousands of jobs."

As we reported, earlier this summer the EPA unveiled new proposed federal regulations that aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

What Is Girl Up?

Founded: September 2010 Connections: It's a United Nations Foundation campaign, and it partners with the U.N. supporters, including active members, donors and people who follow Girl Up on social media. Reach: There are 271 clubs in the U.S. and 82 in other countries. Fundraising: The clubs have raised more than $100,000 since the organization started. Beneficiaries: Nearly 90 percent of the money goes to programs in the developing world that provide opportunities for girls; the remainder goes to general programs at the U.N. Foundation.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR

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