The latest and greatest on CNN iReport, brought to you by Team iReport.
Starting this week, you might notice a new face popping up on the iReport site: Our Spring intern, Supraja Seshadri, is officially part of the family now!
You'll get to know her over the next few weeks, but by way of hellos and handshakes, we asked her to pen a short bio to introduce herself to the iReport community:
Supraja is currently a senior at Emory University and will be graduating this May with a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology along with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism.
Supraja had a great experience interning with the CNN Medical Unit in New York last summer, where she worked on Sanjay Gupta’s “Terror in the Dust” documentary. She has a solid foundation in multimedia and print journalism. She was able to hone these skills in her two previous internships, ShareWIK.com, where she was responsible for a lot of the video content on the website and DNA (Daily News & Analysis) Newspaper in India, where she wrote and published 15 stories on various topics.
Supraja is president of an all-female fusion dance team at Emory and is Publicity Chair of Emory’s Indian Cultural Exchange. She’s artistically inclined and loves to read, write and draw in her free time.
Supraja plans to pursue journalism, particularly on the production side, after college.
So please, join all of us in welcoming Supraja to Team iReport!
Kathi Cordsen has been star-struck since she was 10 years old, but she usually gushes over the celebrities from the black leather couch in her den.
On Sunday, she got to see her favorite stars in person.
CNN arranged for Cordsen -- a long-time contributor to iReport -- to snag a spot in the fan bleacher seats at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards at the Shrine Exhibition Center. Cordsen, 59, lives in Fullerton, California, and often recaps TV shows for iReport.
From her seat on the third row of the bleachers Sunday afternoon, Cordsen snapped 118 photos with her Cannon Powershot.
“The sun was so bright, I couldn’t tell through the lens what I was seeing,” she says. “I just snapped and snapped.”
Cordsen captured photos of the casts of "Modern Family," and "The Good Wife," Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, and other stars of the small and silver screens. Everyone went crazy when George Clooney and Brad Pitt showed up on the red carpet, she says.
“Brad Pitt, oh, that man is so handsome. In the movies he’s really handsome, but in person he’s unbelievable. Seriously! And Angelina Jolie, she just walks around looking like a queen ... Just a subtle smile on her face and when she looked at him, I swear, they’re so in love."
"It was so cute when Kyra was running her fingers through Kevin's hair," Cordsen said. "I had no idea she was married to him!"
Cordsen says she has loved Kathy Bates since she saw her in a Stephen King movie, and now watches her on "Harry's Law."
"She came down the red carpet and didn’t want to have her pictures taken. She just walked up to where the water was, got some water and started leaning on the statue," Cordsen says."She wouldn’t look at anybody. We were all yelling her name. All of a sudden she looked up and I just took a picture.”
Cordsen came home Sunday night feeling like she had run a marathon. But she has already told iReport, "if you need a seat warmer for the Oscars, let me know."
In 2009, when it looked like “Chuck” might not be renewed by NBC, fans mobilized on social media, including iReport, to campaign for a third season.
We saw iReport tributes from at least four countries, with a slew of creative videos from fans discussing why the show deserved to continue. One such iReporter, Gray Jones of Toronto, Ontario, appeared live on CNN.com with “Chuck” himself, Zachary Levi, and co-star Joshua Gomez. Levi and Gomez thanked Jones and other iReporters for their efforts.
Two and a half years later, the show ends its fifth and final season on Friday.
“The little show that could” found its way into the hearts of iReporters, and is finally ending after a good, long run. iReporters who posted videos in 2009 reflected on their "Chuck” fandom this week.
Since appearing on CNN.com with Levi and Gomez, podcaster Jones spent two weeks on the set interviewing dozens of cast and crew members.
“It's been an incredible family, it's been a community,” Jones said of the people he has met, some of whom he got to know almost exclusively via social media. “Five years ago, I never would believe how close these people would become. I'm very close with the cast and crew, and the fans. We're dubbing the finale 'Chuck vs. the Kleenex.' It's going to be so hard to see it go. When you've fought so hard for something, it feels different.”
Chattanooga, Tennessee residents Connie Jones and her daughter, Skylar (a big fan of Chuck’s wife on the show, Sarah Walker) talked about saving the show when Skylar was just four years old. Now seven, Skylar is looking forward to seeing how it ends, while Connie will be celebrating her 11 year wedding anniversary watching the finale.
Wendy Farrington from Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, came up with the idea of eating at Subway (a major “Chuck” sponsor) on the day of the second season finale (not long after the idea was hatched, she met Levi at a convention in England, who served fans Subway sandwiches for his last panel of the weekend). She is putting on a finale party at the NBC Experience Store in New York City on Friday night, and was asked to work as a volunteer coordinator for Levi’s “Nerd HQ” charity event at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con.
"Much as I am sad that it's ending, it's not,” she said. “The friends and the experiences I had are never going to leave me. I'm trying not to think of it as a goodbye but more as a thank you.”
One of the show's biggest supporters, Mike Kostrov from Pavlodar, Kazakhstan, pleaded for a third season in 2009. He now thinks the show is ending on a high note.
Vincent Yau’s usual iReporting interest has been politics, but when it came to “Chuck,” the Knoxville, Tennessee resident actually inserted himself into the show to make his point about renewing it. On the eve of the finale, he shared his thoughts with iReport.
Two and a half years later, Kayley Luftig from Toronto, Ontario, says, “’Chuck’ coming to end is very bittersweet for me. While it was nice to have been given this final season, I can't help but get emotional. I could not have asked for a better pseudo family to be a part of and for that I thank the ‘Chuck’ fandom, the ‘Chuck’ cast and crew and anyone that has made this show such a huge part of my life.”
If you’re watching the farewell episode on Friday night, record a video and share your thoughts!
From a community in mourning to a cruise full of heavy-metal rockers, this week's iReports were heartfelt, compelling and quirky. Here are some of the best:
Hayden Pirkle, an American student and journalist in Cairo, Egypt, joined the Egyptians gathered en masse in Tahrir Square on Wednesday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak from power. They also demonstrated against the military council that has led the country since Mubarak resigned February 11. While Pirkle said there was a "festive vibe" – merchants sold popcorn and smoked yams, while children waved Egyptian flags -- the revelry was tempered by frustrations about the slow pace of change. "Egypt has a long way to go until it has a legitimate democratic system in place," he said. "It is naive to say that the ousting of Hosni Mubarak and the election of a parliament has led to 'freedom'."
Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was buried Wednesday in State College, Pennsylvania, and this week, the community mourned the loss of a local icon, despite the scar that ended his career. Photographer Matt Spingola and writer Emily Granville grew up in the State College area and documented some of the public displays of grief. "With the Jerry Sandusky scandal firmly rooted in our hearts and minds, how do we come to terms with the layers of grief?" Granville wrote. "I feel shock, abhorrence, and sadness for the victims. It feels natural to want to scream and tear apart anyone who would let such depravities occur. Then again, my emotions are somehow tempered with memories of the decades of Joe Paterno's innumerable good deeds."
Scott Pitocco’s charming shot of his 10-month-old son, Chase, observing Chicago at dusk from the Skywalk, was CNN.com's Travel photo of the day on Friday. Pitocco, who lives in Annapolis, Maryland, says the family waited in line for an hour before they finally made it to the top. "After getting out of the elevator we put Chase down to stretch his little arms and legs," Pitocco wrote. "He crawled over to check out the view for himself."
Aboard the annual "70,000 Tons of Metal" Caribbean cruise, iReport globetrotter Percy von Lipinski delivered a colorful video tour of the floating rock music festival, along with some of its quirkier characters. Ear plugs were "in high demand," but the crew was pleasantly surprised at how well behaved the rockers were. Turns out, they also watch CNN. Who knew that “metalheads” are among Wolf Blitzer’s legion of fans?
When singer Etta James died on Friday, couples everywhere mourned the woman who described their relationships like no one else could. We heard from tons of folks who danced to her recording of "At Last" at their weddings, including one husband whose new wife surprised him with a personal rendition. "I knew she was planning something, but I had no idea what it was," says John Villecco, who married Katie on July 23 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "I knew she was a good singer, but I didn't know she was that great! I was tearing up by the end of it."
Finally, it wouldn't be a best of the week without a special shout-out to our community of 1 million (and growing). We celebrated the milestone on Monday with this video portrait of some of our contributors.
Do you have a story you want to share? Check out our assignment desk, or submit your own view of the news.
Please join us here at 2:30 p.m. ET for today's iReport roundtable.
We'll open comments at 2:30 p.m. ET and look forward to talking with you then.
As legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is laid to rest Wednesday in State College, Pennsylvania, the community is remembering a local icon, despite the scar that ended his career.
Paterno was fired in the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal in November 2011, in which assistant coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly sexually abused several boys. Leaving the sidelines mid-season signaled the end of an era: Paterno held a 46-year tenure as head coach and earned the honor of the winningest coach in major college football history.
iReporters who attended Penn State -- and even some who didn’t -- shared their memories of Paterno, known to many by his nickname of "JoePa."
Richard Liedy, 76, graduated from Penn State in 1957 and has followed Paterno for his entire career. Paterno was an assistant coach when Liedy was a sophomore. Liedy attended every Penn State football game until he graduated. Even after moving to Colorado, he goes back for games every few years.
"I have met [Paterno] on several occasions and think very highly of him as a mentor of men and a motivator of achieving high academic performance amongst his players," he said.
"I remember shaking his hand getting that great grin of his, especially when his team won that day," remembered Liedy, who met Paterno in 1957 at the campus' Nittany Lion Inn.
Photographer Matt Spingola and writer Emily Granville, both in their 30s, grew up in the State College area. They walked through downtown this week and noticed a lot of touching displays in memory of Paterno.
"It was overwhelming. We grew up in the area and we’ve always known about JoePa," Spingola said. "He's a local icon. He’s done so much for Penn State."
One of the store-front memorials they encountered was a drawing of Paterno with his hands in his pockets, his trademark stance. "We'll miss seeing that on the field and the press box," he said.
High school senior David Chang never met Paterno, but credits him nonetheless for changing the course of his life.
The Audubon, Pennsylvania, teenager had a wake-up call last year when he saw his poor grades. He realized he was falling short of his full potential. While researching the liberal arts program at Penn State, Chang came across a video about the Paterno Fellows Program. The video challenged good students to become outstanding and he made it his goal to become a Paterno Fellow.
Chang wrote his college entrance essay about how Joe Paterno inspired him to become a better student. And when he heard of Paterno's death, all he wanted to say was “thank you” to the man that taught him a valuable lesson.
"Before learning the life lessons Paterno regularly taught his players, I had little understanding of the world around me," he said. "I gained a greater perspective of the world around me and became a better individual in the process."
What will you remember Paterno for best? Share your thoughts in the comments below or send an iReport with your memories.
Last night, President Obama delivered his fourth (and possibly final) State of the Union address -- An oration that was both a policy guide to the coming year and an unofficial kickoff to his 2012 re-election campaign. In it, he touched on themes of income inequality and the "urgent" need to bolster U.S. employment in the face of a still-struggling economy.
iReporters who tuned in to last night's address shared their reactions to Obama's speech, and saw some general themes emerge: There were plenty of campaign-worthy soundbites to fire up his base, with mixed efforts at outreach to independent and moderate voters.
Melissa Fazli voted for Obama in 2008, but became disappointed and disillusioned with his administration over the past two years. But now, she plans to vote for Obama in the general election, and said she was moved to tears by the speech. She's strongly in support of Obama's call to investigate and bring prosecution against the lending practices that led up to the housing crisis.
"I would like to see it enforced by everyone using social media everyday to keep it on Obama's table until indictments are made," she said. "I would love to see some of these banks go directly to jail and not collect even $200 along the way."
Indiana moderate Mark Ivy, on the other hand, is a little more skeptical of Obama's rhetoric. He thinks that Obama delivered plenty of red meat to liberals, but needs to address the national debt and deficit spending in order to attract swing voters.
"We are all in this together. We must all be willing to give a little," he said. "The number one way to attack the debt and attract Independents and Republicans is a real plan of attack on the tax breaks, the tax deductions that cause the disparity in the effective tax rates. This must done across the board. Closing those 'loopholes' would have an impact on our debt and deficits without tax rate increases or surtaxes while increasing revenue."
And while left-leaning Zennie Abraham of Oakland, California, thought Obama delivered a solid speech in general, he was particularly impressed by the President's full-throated embrace of a pro-U.S. trade policy.
"The President now realizes that nationalism is the one approach that will save America, whereas when he first took office, our allies, like France and Germany, were trying to talk him into maintaining the 'free trade is good' policy that has harmed America," he said. "In doing so, Obama also hones his case for good old fashioned Liberalism."
If you watched last night's State of the Union address, we want to hear from you! Join the discussion on CNN iReport.
After being featured in a CNN iReport promo, what does one do for an encore?
Her financial resolution for 2012 - to find full-time employment - caught the eye of Clark and his producers, so they put her on air to talk about her goals for the year. Walsh told Clark that she is ready to go back to work this year. Check out the video of her latest TV appearance! Congratulations, Jannet, and good luck with your resolution!
We're excited to announce that the CNN iReport community has reached one million registered members.
This is a major milestone, so we want to start by thanking you for choosing to spend your time with us and for sharing your stories with the world.
It's really cool to think that our community has the population of a good-sized city and that iReporters have posted stories from every country in the world. It's even cooler that many of the first people to join iReport, like brixton, Pixel, jbjimbo (our first intern), WCNReporter, AlunHill, Artboy and larena, are still active participants in the community after all these years.
We've got a lot of big projects in the works and expect to grow even more in 2012, but we want to hold on to iReport's "small town" feel. Thank you again for making CNN iReport a powerful newsgathering tool and a nurturing, kind and supportive community that we are proud to be a part of.
P.S. If you check out your profile page later today, you'll notice this new "one in a million" badge that's a token of our appreciation.
Last night, the four remaining GOP primary contenders squared off for a debate in South Carolina, for the second time this week. The story of the night was Newt Gingrich, who charged out of the gate by brusquely criticizing moderator John King for opening the debate with a question about Gringrich's ex-wife, who recently conducted a supposedly incriminating tell-all interview about the former Speaker of the House.
iReporters who tuned in pretty much agreed with each other: There were lots of fiery moments, but the candidates didn't offer clear or direct answers on the issues.
Independent voter David Kronmiller of Burbank, CA, thinks that Gingrich walked away as the clear winner of the debate, with Rick Santorum a close second. "If you listen to that crowd [reaction], Gingrich helped himself with his answer to John King," he said. "It was one of the more memorable moments from this election so far."
Atlanta, GA, resident Adriana Maxwell believes that the debaters were more interested in delivering soundbites than substantive discussion. "The candidates do what the moderator allows them. But it has become clear these debates are about supplying red meat to the base," she said. "It will give the Democratic Party plenty of soundbites in the general election."
Cliff Olney of Watertown, NY, said that Gingrich was hypocritical to slam moderator John King's question about his ex-wife when the former Speaker was one of the lead voices denouncing Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinski. "Not a snowball's chance in hell will this stuff play well," he said. "I'm glad CNN gave these guys the opportunity to talk so voters can see what they would do as President."
But Omekongo Dibinga of Washington, D.C., found himself as an unlikely defender of Gingrich. He doesn't support Gingrich's positions on the issues, but said questions about the Speaker's past marriages and infidelities are largely irrelevant and distracting to presidential campaigns. "People in America are generally forgiving of people who admit their shortcomings," said. "That was the problem with Herman Cain. He took no responsibility for the sexual allegations and let the story go. Newt took it head on."
And Kingwood, TX, resident Egberto Willies believes that many of the candidates' statements were factually inaccurate or contradicted previously-held positions, yet went unchallenged by the moderator, which he sees as a disservice to our political discourse. Rather than engaging in debate, "[The candidates] were playing to the sensibilities of the audience and state, which put them in direct opposition with many of their past statements," he said.
What's your take on last night's debate, and the continuing GOP race for the party's nomination? If you've ever wanted to play pundit, now's your chance: Share your thoughts with iReport.
iReporters worldwide documented a week in which protesters took to the streets (and online) to bring attention to the issues of most concern to them. We also saw Pacific Northwesterners in the U.S. enjoying a January snowfall, and some extremely creative costumes (see below). Here are just a few of the best this week:
Photographer Mugur Varzariu was one of several iReporters in Bucharest, Romania, helping to document clashes that broke out this week. Sunday evening, demonstrators protested austerity measures and called for early elections and the resignation of President Traian Basescu. Varzariu says anti-riot police used water canons and tear gas to disperse crowds that hurled rocks and set cars on fire.
Longtime iReporter Neal Moore shared these videos and photos of rallies in Taipei, Taiwan, during a contentious and high-profile election for the country's presidency. “As an observer, I think to witness and document first hand the optimism and resulting on-the-street reality of democracy in action here in East Asia, was a great experience,” he said. “In my view, I'm thus both satisfied and thrilled with the victor.”
Freelance photographer Bryan Dozier observed as Occupy protesters marched up the steps of the U.S. Capitol and demonstrated on Monday. One of his photos shows a protester on the ground after he reportedly had a seizure during the march up Constitution Avenue.
Ditto Gorme shot some lovely black-and-white photos of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Atmore, Alabama, where he lives. “Honoring [MLK] reminds each one of us how we are all equal and that we all have the same rights as others,” Gorme said.
The San Diego, California area has made a name for itself as the home of Comic-Con, and nearby Long Beach, California gave us an early taste of the convention. The four-day-long “Steampunk Symposium” took place aboard the famous Queen Mary in nearby Long Beach, California, and iReporter Chris Morrow was there for the whole thing. She said it "felt like I was in a 'Sherlock Holmes' movie."
Heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures turned Seattle, Washington, into a winter play land last night. In spite of dangerous, icy roads, iReporters stuck to their neighborhoods and came up with all sorts of ways to enjoy the rare snow.
Seattle artist and quadriplegic Jesse Higman built a custom sled that he attached to his wheelchair.
"It has always been impossible for me to go out [in] snow deeper than a couple of inches," said the 43-year-old. "I cut up two of my old paintings and laminated a top and bottom to the sled." He used blocks of wood and zip ties to secure each tire of the wheelchair to the sled. Two coats of glossy varnish made for a smoother ride.
Some of his friends accompanied him on a sledding trip in the Capitol Hill neighborhood yesterday. He said everyone was in a good mood and people seemed to be "captivated by the wheelchair spectacle." And here's what Higman said about the ride: "Wow, was it smooth! I have never gone so fast in the wheelchair."
After a full day of playing in the snow, three-year-old Gray Hopton was so tuckered out, he fell asleep on the sled ride home. His mother, Molly, shared a video of their sweet moment on the walk home last night in Bainbridge Island, Washington.
"We took him in and got him undressed; he was warm and toasty underneath all of his snow gear," she said. "He woke up and the first thing he said was he was ready to go play in the snow again."
University of Washington students Robert Foxcurran and Cooper Oldham aren't sure who did it, but they appreciate the handiwork of the person who put a snowman's head on Seattle’s famous Jimi Hendrix statue on Tuesday.
"I sent this iReport because I thought it was a particularly cool example of how Seattleites were dealing with the snow storm, by having a little fun with a local iconic statue," Foxcurran said.
So whether it's MacGyvering a sled or sculpting a rocking snowman, show us how you are coping or taking advantage of the snow. Let us know what the weather is like and stay warm!
iReporters are a diverse lot in almost every way, so there's not often a consensus among them when it comes to the issues of the day. But today might be the closest we've come to an exception: Much of the community is standing up to voice their objections to SOPA, a proposed law that seeks to clamp down online piracy.
It's not that iReporters are pro-piracy. But, like many people around the web, they feel that the legislation is too broad and threatens free speech. Writer and filmmaker Jeremy "Cougar" Littlefield of Broomfield, Colorado, explains:
"This is not about downloading illegal movies," he says. "This is about ownership of a free web.the modern age of how you communicate depends on it."
Egberto Willies elaborates on Littlefield's points in his video. The Kingwood, Texas resident argues that SOPA is just an excuse for corporations to use the government to gain power.
Corporations will "use government and the pretext of piracy to shut a site down" if SOPA is passed, he says. "The problem is that they need not actually do that, as just the threat and the potential legal costs and other ramifications will change behavior and force bloggers like myself and others to be very careful in not putting anything up that could be used as a false reason to shut down, however temporary."
Websites and bloggers who oppose SOPA for reasons like this are blacking out today to publicize their cause. Blacked out sites include Wikipedia, Wordpress, Tumblr and Craigslist, and even Google has blacked out its logo in solidarity. Time Warner, parent company of CNN, is among industry supporters of SOPA, along with organizations like the MPAA and RIAA.
iReporter John Becker, of Coral Gables, Florida, opposes SOPA for a different reason: "If you unleash SOPA," he says, "the hackers are going to unleash your worst nightmare."
Hackers have already found ways around today's blackouts, and Becker says they'll make online life miserable if SOPA is passed.
"You need to find a better way to stop pirating or else we're all gonna get screwed," he argues, noting that he already spends enough time fighting spam and viruses on his computer.
Despite the opposition to SOPA on iReport, some commenters on CNN.com say it's not as bad as it looks. Check out their arguments and learn more about the proposed legislation, and then let us know what you think.
From going debt-free to “getting out of the 99%,” iReporters had many different resolutions for improving their finances in the new year, and HLN’s money coach Clark Howard was listening.
Patrick Tull’s resolution was inspired by the fact that’s he’s 50 years old – a fact that’s difficult for him to believe. His plan for this year is to publish and sell a book about that very topic. He wants to do something of an autobiography, and work on some new invention ideas to sell in 2012 as well.
Bernardus Stroomer is known for his creative iReport videos, and the one for his resolution (reminiscent of Bob Dylan, perhaps) was no different. He made good use of note cards to share his goal for the year: “See where my $ is going, and where I can cut back..."
Matt Sky posted an iReport that was so inspirational, it made the homepage of HLNTV.com: Sky wants to help five people, in a significant way, in 2012. Sky said, "I personally plan on giving to some charities, doing more local volunteer work, and helping a couple good friends in my life get through some difficult emotional times, but I also think just being aware of trying to help others target than obsess on self gain could lead to things I have not thought of yet."
Check out how these iReports were featured on HLN’s “Clark Howard,” which airs on HLN Saturdays and Sundays at noon ET.
This week, iReporters did what they do best: Give us a look at some of the biggest and most interesting news stories in the world. Here are five of our favorites:
Areas of Alaska were slammed with record snowfalls recently, like the town of Cordova, which was buried under more than 15 feet of total snow accumulation. Linden O'Toole says this is the most snowfall she's seen in the 30 years she's lived there. "Both of my kids were raised in Cordova, and I don't remember a single day of school closure due to weather. The kids have been granted this entire week off of school," she said.
Last Sunday, famed theatre troupe Improv Everywhere kicked off NYC's 11th annual 'No Pants Subway Ride,' which saw thousands of transit riders in The City That Never Sleeps dressed as though they were, well, in bed. Julio Ortiz-Teissonniere shot these photos of pantless subway riders: "Some cars were so crowded you couldn't even get in them," he said. "A lot of people were asking what was going on!"
Rachel Johnson, a grad student studying interactive media at North Carolina's Elon University, took a trip to Panama for a project supporting a foundation that protects wild Panamanian sea turtles. She shared this video compilation of their nine-day stint.
With the deadline for a recall election for embattled Governor Scott Walker looming, activists in Wisconsin have stepped up their efforts to gather signatures. Mediaman, a filmmaker in La Crosse who prefers to go by his iReport screen name, has been documenting the recall campaign for more than a year. "Many experts and Wisconsin residents are fairly confident it will occur. The critical question will be if people come out to vote when the actual recall election occurs," he said. He shared these photos of pro-recall and pro-Walker signs from a 200-mile stretch on Highway 14 in La Crosse, to Interstates 90 and 94 in Milwaukee.
Protests in Nigeria began on January 3, and swelled into a nationwide strike against the government of President Goodluck Jonathan a week later. Before most news organizations had cameras and reporters on the scene, Nigerian iReporters were there to give us a front-line look at the protests. They shared their photos, videos and perspectives, and we assembled their submissions into Open Story, an interactive timeline that allows you to follow the story as it unfolds, iReport by iReport.
Christian pastor Akindeji Falaki was motivated by his faith to join protesters in the streets of Abuja. "I believe God will stand with the poor and oppressed of the land rather than stand with the oppressors and the rich, I believe a peaceful protest is also a fundamental right and a civil responsibility, to hold the ruling class accountable," he said.
Please join us today for a roundtable at 2:30 p.m. ET.
With the primaries in full swing, we’d like to hear from you about what kind of assignments you would be interested in doing for the election this year. The iReport team will be on hand to hear your thoughts and answer questions.
Comments will open at 2:30. We look forward to hearing your thoughts. See you then!
Okay, we get it. Snow in Alaska doesn't exactly sound like a breaking news story. But when it's one of the snowiest winters on record and it's only the beginning of January, it definitely is.
Just take a look at the photo above. Linden O'Toole captured that image and several others in Cordova, Alaska, this week.
"I have lived in Cordova...for 30 years, and we have never had this much snow all at once," she said.
The area has seen more than 230 inches of snow since December 1, says CNN meteorologist Ross Hays. Fifteen feet of snow was dumped on the town last week, and subsequent rain has compressed it, making it heavy and difficult to remove. The city has special heavy-duty shovels on their way from Canada.
"Both of my kids were raised in Cordova, and I don't remember a single day of school closure due to weather," said O'Toole. That record ends this winter: "The kids have been granted this entire week off of school."
Nearby, Anchorage has also been hit by record snowfall. Eric Bleicher captured an image of all the snow in the brief reprieve between two recent storms.
"The incoming storm brought whiteout conditions, 100 mph wind gusts along the Anchorage Hillside, and has forced the only highway south of Anchorage to shut down due to the conditions," he said.
But in the lower 48, it's another story. iReporters from California to Michigan have grabbed their cameras to document the shocking lack of snow and ice they've seen so far this winter.
Becky Hull describes the weather in her town of Cedarville, Michigan, as "insane." She captured the above image of a decidedly non-frozen Lake Huron.
Hull is concerned about the economic impact a warm winter could have on the area.
"I work at a retreat/conference center where we rely on cold and snowy conditions to help people enjoy winter," she explained. "We have no ice for them to skate on, no snow for them to ski or snowshoe on, and we are getting worried."
The story is the same in California, where Michael Hilburn says many ski resorts are still closed for lack of snow.
"A group of friends and I decided to escape snowless San Diego and spend New Year's Eve in the mountain ski resort town of Big Bear Lake," he said. "Unfortunately, mother nature had different plans this winter and not much snow was to be found and the lake was barely beginning to freeze over."
And in Rochester, New York, pictured above, resident Nick Swann wonders, "Is is January or April?"
Swann is a tractor trailer driver and usually transports salt all winter. Like others around the mainland U.S., he's not happy with the economic effect the weather is having.
"Last year this time we were working like mules hauling salt," he said. "What a difference this year! Not good!"
As Swann says, it's a far cry from this week last year, when 49 out of 50 states had snow on the ground. But it's not too late to give up hope: Mild November and December weather can often give way to intense snowstorms later in the winter and even into March and April.
"Although early winter has been mild in North America, plenty of cold air is still bottled up in the arctic waiting to dive south at the U.S.," says CNN weather anchor Chad Meyers.
Are you experiencing severe winter weather - or a lack thereof - in your area? Show us what's happening if you can do so safely.
On January 3, Nigerians took to the streets over the removal of a fuel subsidy, which effectively doubled fuel prices in the country. Less than a week later, protests swelled on January 9 when several major trade unions mobilized demonstrators against the government of president Goodluck Jonathan for alleged corruption and lack of access to basic services like electricity and clean water.
Nigerian iReporters gave CNN an on-the-ground look at the general strike currently underway in Nigeria before most news organizations had cameras on the scene. And as the protests continue, iReporters in the country are sharing their stories and perspectives.
Web designer Oladapo Bamidele, who shot the above photo, joined in non-violent demonstrations in Lagos, Nigeria's capital, this week. Bamidele, 38, said he's angered by the Nigerian government's refusal to reinstate the fuel subsidy. He added that Nigerians have lost faith in their government, and have mobilized to replace it. Bamidele cited the need for improved infrastructure as one of the main reasons behind the ongoing protests.
Freelance journalist Tina Armstrong-Ogbonna said that the increase in cost of living and the subsequent protests have brought Lagos to a standstill. She believes the Nigerian government should reinstate the subsidy and "cut the cost of governance, check corruption among political officeholders, [and] tackle the insecurity in the country due to the incessant attacks of the Islamic sect Boko Haram that has led to loss of lives and properties."
Demonstrations also took place outside of the capital, with protesters gathering in Nigeria's major cities. Patrick Gbenga, a student in Akure, shot photos of an anti-government rally on Monday morning. He said he is participating in the protests because "as a student leader in school, it is part of me to fight against injustice."
Several African musicians have now leant their name to the ongoing protests. Eromo Egbejule attended a January 10 concert in Lagos where Femi Kuti, son of the legendary afrobeat protest musician Fela Kuti, performed. Egbejule shared the following video: "I was proud to be a Nigerian and proud that [Femi] and his brother, Seun have carried on with their father's legacy," he said.
"Nigeria loves peace and this is why we are peacefully protesting, even though the Nigerian police and army have inflicted injuries and in some cases, killed innocent people. Revolution has come to Nigeria and the youth will spearhead it. Until our demands are met, we are ready to protest every day and make sacrifices."
Each of these iReporters' stories, along with several others, are part of our Open Story, which documents the Nigeria protests on an interactive map and timeline. If you're protesting in Nigeria right now, help us tell your story, but please stay safe and avoid hazardous or life-threatening situations.
It’s a new year, and we’re looking for a new person to join Team iReport. We’re a team that regularly looks for creative and innovative projects to pursue, helps tell some of the world’s most important stories, and has fun while we’re at it. If that sounds like a group you’d be interested in being a part of, we’d love for you to apply!
Details for the position are below, along with a link to the online application.
iReport Associate Producer
iReport APs are responsible for vetting iReports and sharing those stories with the CNN audience. Candidates should have a solid news judgment and drive to share compelling iReports with the world. In addition to vetting, associate producers are responsible for producing original, iReport-driven content for CNN.com, interacting with iReporters, and conceptualizing original assignments to solicit participation from the CNN audience. This position is based in Atlanta.
iReporters all over the map made us proud this week, taking us to the scene of big news stories and beautiful vistas.
Here are five iReports you shouldn’t miss:
Los Angeles was terrorized with a rash of car and building fires over the weekend, and iReporter Zack Whitford was up listening to the police scanners early Monday when he heard about another incident. At around 2 a.m., the freelance photojournalist shot this photo series of firefighters responding to the blaze in West Hollywood. Harry Burkhart, 24, was later arrested in connection with the arson spree.
Photographer and stargazer Renata Arpasova, from Swindon, United Kingdom, clenched her tripod in the gusting winds Wednesday to document the early morning Quadrantid meteor shower. She was rewarded with the sight of 100 meteors charging across her sky, feeling “sheer excitement with every single one of them,” and used Photoshop to blend 19 photos into this image.
Of the dozens of countries iReporter and traveler Neal Piper has visited in the past five years, his trip to Bolivia’s salt flats in late December stands out as possibly “the most amazing place I've ever been,” he said. Looking at his images, we can understand why. Piper’s on a journey to find out what “Living the Dream” means in every country in the world. He’s heading to the Amazon rainforest next.
Tuesday night’s Iowa caucuses kicked off the GOP's 2012 presidential season, and Cedar Falls Times editor Anelia K. Dimitrova took us inside the UNI-Dome to watch caucus-goers in Black Hawk County speaking up for their candidate of choice. In her opinion, Rick Santorum earned his surprise second-place finish: "When I saw him in town last week, he was on his 355th face-to-face meeting with Iowans.” On the other hand, caucus winner Mitt Romney “collected his entitlement vote.”
Before most news agencies had cameras on the scene of fuel protests in Nigeria, locals were using iReport to tell the world their story. We received more than 200 iReports from Abuja to Lagos, and heard personal stories from those affected. Pharmacist Boma Tai was one of several Nigerians who took a moment to post his account of the unrest. Protester Alex Omamuli told us the price of fuel has more than doubled.
Think you have a story to share? Check out our assignment desk for ideas, or submit your own view of the news.
Please join us here at 2:30 p.m. ET for our first iReport roundtable of 2012. It will be nice to catch up with everyone after the holidays and we'd love to meet new members of the community.
We can talk about anything you want, but we'd also like to hear your story ideas for 2012. We'd also like to hear your thoughts about the future of the roundtable -- is the time good, should we change the format, are there things you'd like to talk about?
We'll open comments at 2:30 p.m. ET and look forward to talking with you then.
On January 1, the Nigerian government ended a national subsidy that held down fuel prices in the country. The resulting spike in the price of gasoline has sparked waves of street demonstrations, over both the loss of the subsidy and the perpetually troubled state of the country’s economy. Before most news agencies had cameras on the scene, Nigerian iReporters were telling their world their story and giving us a firsthand look as protests erupted on January 3. Several Nigerian iReporters were also quoted in a recent CNN story on the protests.
This uprising follows the months of internal turmoil Nigeria experienced following the election of president Goodluck Jonathan in January 2011. For most of last year, the country was plagued by politically motivated violence and warfare, including terrorist attacks by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram against the U.N. embassy.
The cost of fuel in Nigeria has more than doubled, according to protester Alex Omamuli: "We used to buy fuel at 65 Naira a liter but it was increased on New Year's Day [to 145 Naira], so this prompted a nationwide protest against this insensitive act by our government," he said. He also claims that the demonstrations were nonviolent, "but our government shot teargas at innocent and peaceful protesters."
iReporter Kfire, who wishes to remain anonymous, of Lagos, Nigeria's capital, heard about the protests on Twitter and decided to join in. "The aim of the protest was to disrupt vehicular movement, shut down gas stations and ask people to go back home," he said. He expresses the anger and frustration many protesting Nigerians feel towards their government over the sudden increase in fuel prices.
Boma Tai shared the above video of demonstrations in Ibadan, where protesters also railed against the Nigerian government's handling of the economy and infrastructure, and the lack of basic services like electricity. The protesters chanted "No! to subsidy removal," as they marched.
Mass demonstrations are expected to continue, following a joint statement by Nigeria’s two main labor organizations calling for strikes and street protests. If you're protesting in Nigeria right now, help us tell your story, but please stay safe and avoid hazardous or life-threatening situations.
It's hard to believe it's 2012 already, isn't it? Here on the iReport desk, we vicariously celebrated the year's arrival with contributors all over the world who shared incredible photos and videos of fireworks, noisemakers and more.
But before we head into the new year, we'd like to take one more look back at 2011. We've explored iReport's year in numbers and some of our favorite moments, and now it's time for one more retrospective: the best travel snapshots of 2011.
The 19 photos weren't easy to pick -- our travel photographers are amazingly talented -- but they do represent how diverse and compelling the submissions have been year round.
Congratulations to everyone featured in the gallery! We look forward to seeing more from travelers old and new in 2012.