Blog : February 2012
iReport Pundit of the Week: Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis »


Like many in the iReport community, Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, 38, wears a cornucopuia of different hats. She’s a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who works to provide support for victims of human trafficking. She dabbles in dance and live poetry. She runs a women’s ministry in southern California. And she’s the daughter of a preacher man.

Well, Davis now has one more hat to add to an already-impressive collection: The iReport Pundit of the Week.



Affiliation: “My primary issue is mental health. I like to look at the news and current events from a psychological perspective, to help understand to how to analyze bad news in terms of prevention, and how to promote positivity. Growing up, I was a pastor’s daughter. Within our community, most people talk to their minister about emotional issues; it’s called pastoral counseling. So I got exposed to this very early on, recognizing the need for people to have someone to talk to they can trust.”

Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
“It’s a way to access a larger community. I do work with people and families in sessions, a one-on-one type of thing, and I also teach classes at Pepperdine University, which is a classroom setting. But with the Internet, I’m able to connect with people across the globe. I want to learn from them, and share what I know with that larger audience.

“There’s also a stigma attached to therapy, some people have emotional or financial barriers against it. So the way I see it, the more good information on mental health I can get out in public, the better.”

Who is your political or cultural hero?
“Sonia Sanchez. That’s an interesting choice for me, because she’s a poet, but a lot of her poetry also deals with political and cultural issues. One of the reasons I admire her is because she’s a truth-teller who uses the arts to get her message across.

“The arts are often a way to get people to hear truths and ideas that might be uncomfortable. You can present people with facts and statistics, but the arts have a way of connecting with people on an emotional, spiritual issue. Sanchez talks about very difficult and sensitive issues that motivate people to action. The best kind of awareness-raising is the kind that doesn’t leave people feeling guilty or overwhelmed, but motivates and inspires them.”

What’s going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
“This election is going to present very different ideas about who runs the government, and what shape it should take. Now, if you ask a general person on the corner, they’re probably still going to say the economy. But in the way the debate is being framed right now, it’s more about how we’re going to get there. Everyone agrees that we want the economy to get better, but the debate is going to be about how.”

What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?
“I was a queen of slam, I’m a slam poetry champion! I love performing poetry, which is an interesting balance for me. In therapy, you do a lot of listening; with performing poetry, it’s a space for me to let my voice be heard. Like iReport!


“I’m also in charge of the women’s ministry at a church in southern California. ... I direct our dance ministry, I like to integrate the arts and mental health into spiritual life. It’s nice being able to connect psychology and spirituality. In the women’s Bible studies I do, I really try to pick out life principles and strategies for success, so that it’s not just something that people think about in the abstract, but rather their lived experience.”


Follow Thema right here to catch her latest updates on your iReport homepage. If you’re ready to get in on some of the smartest debate and discourse around, now’s a perfect time to join the discussion on iReport. You could be our next Pundit of the Week!

Posted by: jmsaba // February 28, 2012
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Posted in: community, pundit_of_the_week
Oscars inspire awe, predictions, debate »

While there were many memorable moments during last night’s Academy Awards ceremony, some iReporters had their own memorable moments before the show even began.

After years of applying, Julie Ellerton was finally granted the opportunity to cover the preparations for the awards, which took place all last week.

“I found it to be an extraordinary experience to cover an event with journalists from around the world,” she said. “I met journalists from Germany, France, Spain, all preparing to interview the celebrities on the red carpet.”

We also received plenty of picks and predictions in the lead up to the awards. A poetic prediction which included all of the Best Picture nominees, from San Diego’s Chris Soriano, really caught the eye of “Showbiz Tonight’s” producers:

“The Artist” would go on to win Best Picture, dashing Soriano’s forecast, but his wasn’t the only prediction to falter. Melissa Fazli told us that the only one she picked correctly was Best Director winner, Michel Hazanavicius. This hasn’t put a dent on her spirits, however. In fact, she already has predictions for next year.

It would not be an Oscars without some measure of controversy. After the awards, Omekongo Dibinga got to thinking about what he perceives as a lack of recognition for black actors in Hollywood: “You can't even find black women in leading roles. If it wasn't for Tyler Perry you wouldn't see many black women on the big screen. It's sad.”

Share your view on the winners, the losers, and the state of Hollywood in general in our “Showbiz Tonight” assignment.

Posted by:
// February 27, 2012
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Posted in: stories
Kissing couples, pain at the pump: The best of iReport this week  »

This week, iReporters sent colorful dispatches from Carnival celebrations around the world, sounded off on the GOP debate in Arizona and recoiled at rising gas prices. Here are a few other notable stories you shouldn’t miss:


‘Never-ending’ line for anointments

Catholics lined the streets awaiting Ash Wednesday anointments in Manila, Philippines, this week, and photographer Arman Taylo captured these images outside the famous Basilica of the Black Nazarene. "The service went peacefully but the line to get anointed is never-ending, as passersby also join the line," Taylo said.


Icy expedition

Photographer L. Craig Smith took an adventurous expedition to the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norway in 2010, and shared this and other stunning images for CNNGo's adventure travel assignment.


None of the six people in his group had formal training dealing with such extreme conditions.


"I received frostbite on my face. Our five layers of clothes and our arctic single-man tents were our shelter," Smith said. After five days the weather cleared, and they found polar bears on the ice. "We then made our way back to Svalbard, taking 10 hours, getting lost, navigating large snow drifts and flipping several snowmobiles as we made our way through some rather treacherous terrain."


Couples kiss statue goodbye

An estimated 50 romantic couples staged a special kiss on Saturday for a San Diego waterfront sculpture modeled after the iconic photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square at the end of World War II. The foam and urethane sculpture, “Unconditional Surrender,” has been on loan to the Port of San Diego since 2007, but the loan agreement ends this month.


Some critics called it "kitsch," but the statue has been hugely popular with tourists and locals that like to reenact the pose.


"Many times my husband and I would walk down to the statue and he would give me a kiss under it," Chris Morrow said.


Turns out the statue may get to stay. According to local news reports, the port is looking into a possible extension of the loan agreement, while an architect is leading a campaign to raise $1 million for a permanent version in bronze.


Gas prices going 'up, up'

Melissa Fazli felt a "jab in the stomach" as she filmed the numbers climbing at the gas pump last week. She spent $4.07 per gallon -- a total of $72.51 -- to fill her 2005 Honda Odyssey in her hometown of Yorba Linda, California.


"The last time I filled up it was around $65. It makes me really anxious about summer prices because I wanted to travel," she said. "I hope [President] Obama does something about it or I will be staying close to home this summer."


What’s the highest price for gas you’ve seen? Send a photo and tell us your breaking point.


Amazing dodgeball catch

Keith Ryan, the Mayor of Bondurant, Iowa (population: 3,860), was filming the city's dodgeball tournament on Sunday when player Mindy Brincks made this miracle catch to win her game. "I didn't realize what happened and then I noticed the ball between her knees and I couldn't believe she caught it," Ryan said. The opponent congratulated her on the surprise catch, showing "real sportsmanship."


Asked the secret to her success, Brincks, who lives in Des Moines, quoted Vince Vaughn in the movie "Dodgeball": “The '5 Ds of course -- dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge!'”


Thanks to everyone who contributed this week! We love to see what's going on around the world.


Is news happening where you are, or do you have an opinion you'd like to share? You could be part of next week's Best of iReport. Share your story now.

Posted by: dsashin // February 24, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport
iReport roundtable: Let's talk about vetting »

Please join us here in the blog at 2:30 p.m. ET for our weekly roundtable discussion. At last week's roundtable, a few users asked about vetting, so we thought this would be a good time to talk about how the team decides what stories to focus on and discuss what makes a good iReport. We'll take a look at a few submissions in particular and share tips for making them better.


We've also got a cool leap year project brewing, so we want to give you a sneak peak.


This is also a good time to talk about any questions or concerns you have. Comments will open at 2:30 p.m ET.

Posted by:
// February 23, 2012
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Posted in: community
iReporters: GOP debate brings the heat in Arizona »

Last night, the four remaining contenders in the 2012 GOP presidential primary contest reconvened in Mesa, Arizona, for a CNN-sponsored televised debate -- the first in nearly a month. Sparks flew, blows were traded, and iReporters agreed: No matter your politics, there was plenty to talk about.



Byron Thomas, a student at the University of South Carolina, was thoroughly impressed by the positions and talking points offered by former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, particularly on birth control and family values. "I'm tired of TV shows supporting teen sex and that every girl has to go on birth control, just because it's like required that everyone have sex before marriage," he said. "I'm a strong believer in family values and states’ rights."



Frequent iReport commentator Adriana Maxwell of Atlanta, Georgia, called it the "season finale of the Republican debate," likening the lengthy debate cycle and nonstop media coverage to reality television. In her opinion, none of last night's debaters came away as a clear winner.


"They get caught up in rabbit-hole conversations like earmarks, the policies, the procedures," she said. "I think they talk in circles because one individual believes, 'Hey I got him on this.' I don't think anyone finds that interesting. I don't think that illuminates anyone."



Other iReporters, like Earl Mann, Jr. of Maryland, believe that the national political discourse suffers for only having two major parties represented on the national stage. Mann says that a viable third party movement would not only challenge the Republicans and Democrats in the 2012 election, but that it could be wildly successful in doing so.


"With three parties, every proposal must take in consideration of support from one of the other two parties to pass," he said. "It builds into the process the need to compromise."


If you're ready to join in spirited discussion with one of the smartest political communities around, then look no further: The great debate awaits on iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // February 23, 2012
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Posted in: stories
iReport Leap Day challenge »

Leap Day, the quadrennial day we use to let the calendar catch up with the Earth's rotation around the Sun, is fast approaching and we're gearing up to mark it by having some fun.



On Wednesday, February 29, we're challenging you to take a leap and capture it on camera. Share with us a photo or video of yourself, a friend, or a group of pals, in mid-air jump! We'll gather the best submissions in a special Open Story that will showcase leaps around the world on an interactive map and timeline.


The assignment will only be open from the start of February 29 in the early timezones of places like New Zealand, through the evening hours of the late timezones of Alaska and the North American Pacific coast. That's only 48 hours, so if you want to take part in the fun you'll have to be prepared. Here are five things you can do now:


1. Mark your calendar

2. Sign up for the assignment

3. Download the CNN app, or the iReport app, to your mobile device, so you can have a quick way to make your submission

4. Tell your friends

5. Warm up those leg muscles!


Will you take the leap with us? See you here on February 29.

Posted by:
// February 23, 2012
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iReport Pundit of the Week: Matt Sky »

Editor's note: As election season heats up, we're profiling interesting iReporters who have plenty to say when it comes to politics. Want your chance in the spotlight? Share your political commentary here.


Matt Sky, 27, is a web developer from New York City. He's perhaps best known in the iReport community for something pretty unique: From time to time, he subs out his mug for a plush marionette named Ted.


"I wanted to see what kinds of unusual reactions I could get from people when I interviewed them," he said. "What I found out about using the puppets was that, sometimes, people answer more honestly to the little furry thing on your hand than an actual person, because a puppet lets you bypass the serious, personal aspects of an interview."


Master of puppets, Matt is this week’s pick for iReport’s Pundit of the Week.



Affiliation: "I often find myself on the liberal end of things when it comes to social issues and most economic policy, but that always varies from issue to issue. I would never consider myself someone who goes straight down a party line."


How did you get interested in politics and current affairs?
"In my teen years, I was in a political science class. I almost failed it, because I never turned in any of the work. But the teacher let me pass because I was engaging in dialogue, and constantly debating my classmates.


"I remember there were students arguing that there would never be a woman president, and I said no, there definitely will be. That’s a moment I always trace back to when I think about where my fascination with politics came from."


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
"It’s important to our democracy that we have a dialogue. Everything that I try to do goes back to understanding people. It’s not just about ranting and raving, it’s really about listening."


Who is your political or journalistic hero?
"I’ve been very impressed with Piers Morgan, lately. I love his style. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Larry King too, he had a very reasoned and structured approach to interviews. But what I like about Morgan is his ability to tap into some unusual and intimate areas when he interviews someone.

"... What I love is when you get them to open up enough to reveal who they are. Even if it’s someone you disagree with, you can still see that shared humanity. And it’s great when an interviewer can cut through to that, because it reveals how, in the end, we’re all more similar than we think."


What’s going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
"I would look to the Republicans, honestly. It’s going to be about what they present to voters. ... I do think if they pick Romney it’s going to be harder for Obama because of the sheer number of disenfranchised Democrats right now. And they’re not disenfranchised because they’re hungry for a Republican or conservative alternative, but because they feel that Obama’s presidency didn’t live up to what he said it was going to be."


What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?
"My dad was a 'hidden child' – A Jewish Holocaust survivor. He married my mother, who is a Lutheran Christian from Duluth, Minnesota, where I grew up. So I celebrated both holidays as a kid, double the fun with Hanukkah and Christmas presents. I think that’s always shaped who I am. Learning about different faiths and ideas and ideologies is a big part of who I am."


Follow Sky here on iReport and you’ll get to see his timely commentary (and maybe a puppet or two) on your customized homepage. And if you’d like to take your shot at becoming the next Pundit of the Week, there’s no better place than here, no better time than now: Join in the discussion on iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // February 21, 2012
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Posted in: community, pundit_of_the_week
Carnival around the world »

Countries around the world are hosting Carnival celebrations in the days  before Lent, and iReporters are on the scene to document all of the colorful sights.

Cheers to Denis Job, who snapped amazing photos of fire breathers in Natal, Brazil; Nora de Angelli, who documented the intricate masks found in Venice, Italy; and Carel Pedre, who gave us a glimpse of the festivities in Les Cayes, Haiti.


If you’re celebrating Carnival, our friends over at CNN en Español are looking for your best photos and videos. We promise not to be too jealous of all the fun.

Posted by: katie // February 20, 2012
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Posted in: stories
Midnight marriages and northern lights: The best of iReport this week »

Nature put on a show this week as iReporters shared images of the northern lights in Iceland and jagged ice formations on Lake Superior in Michigan. They also captured two breaking news events: austerity protests in Greece and Bobby Brown reacting to ex-wife Whitney Houston's death. And, of course, celebrated Valentine's Day!


Ice formations on Lake Superior dazzle

Mikal Staley tries to make it to Lake Superior every winter to see the icy formations, and this year didn't disappoint. He shot these photos of frozen waves and ice-covered shorelines in Whitefish Point, Michigan, along the lake's coast on February 12. It was "the perfect time to go since we had had so many warm days over the last few weeks," he said.



Midnight marriages kick off Valentine's Day

Dozens of San Antonio, Texas, couples started off Valentine's Day on a romantic note: They got married at the stroke of midnight on the steps of a courthouse. But it wasn't an entirely happy occasion. The marriage ceremony also served as a protest against Texas's policy of not recognizing same-sex marriages, as the same-sex couples who had midnight weddings won't be legally recognized. iReporter Christopher D. Renteria said he felt a responsibility to cover the event: "The media was very slow to cover this, and when they did, they did so more tongue-in-cheek, so I thought I needed to cover this event in full support of [the same-sex couples]," he explained.


"I would also like to add that I am a straight man who has had and enjoyed the rights these couples are fighting for," Renteria, a professional photographer, added. "I thought [it] is especially important that these couples knew they were not standing alone in their fight for equality."



Greeks riot over austerity measures

Riots erupted in Athens on Sunday as the Greek parliament discussed austerity measures. Thanasis Trompoukis participated in the protests, where he captured these dynamic photos. Trompoukis believes that the approved measures "will not help for the revival of the Greek economy."


"We all fear that the exact opposite will happen," he explained. "The debt will get worse over the years. I feel it is unfair for the Greek people to suffer while they are the most hardworking citizens of Europe."



Northern lights put on show in Iceland

It's not unusual to see the aurora borealis in Iceland, but judging by these iReporters' photos, it was a particularly beautiful sight this week. Finnur Andresson shot the above image of the northern lights over a 1918 lighthouse, and his friend Bjorn Ludviksson shared a photo of the northern lights behind a snow-covered mountain. The two are members of an amateur photography club in Akranes, Iceland.


"This northern lights was massive compared to others [I've seen] in Iceland," said Andresson. "To witness this with your own eyes is stunning, and you will never forget it."



Bobby Brown cries over Whitney in concert

iReporter Moshiu Knox sent in video from a Bobby Brown concert on Saturday night. Brown, once married to late pop superstar Whitney Houston, was visibly upset and cried over Houston's death during the concert. Knox later spoke to CNN's Josh Levs in the video above about what it was like to be there.



Is news happening where you are, or do you have an opinion you'd like to share? You could be part of next week's Best of iReport. Share your story now.

Posted by:
// February 17, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport, stories
iReport roundtable: Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET »

Please join us here at 2:30 p.m. ET for our roundtable discussion. This week, we want to talk about you.


We want to focus on growing the iReport community and getting people more involved. So we'd like to know what brought you to iReport? Why do you keep coming back? What would make your iReport experience more rewarding?


We'll also be happy to answer any questions, comments or concerns you may have.Comments will open at 2:30 p.m. ET. We'll talk with you then.

Posted by:
// February 16, 2012
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iReport for CNN show airing soon »

Ever wonder if there's a place where iReports are prominently featured on TV? Well, for those of you who don't already know, there's a show on CNN International that's exclusively dedicated to showing off the best iReports!


The latest episode starts airing tomorrow on CNNI. (See the full listing of times at the bottom of this post.)


The show will cover a lot of ground, from Egypt protests and reactions to the turmoil in Syria to the cold snap sweeping through Europe and a feature on some philanthropic iReporters from the Philippines.


We know that many of our domestic iReporters don’t get CNNI, so here's a peek at two stories being featured on this month's show.




Tune in to "iReport for CNN" on CNN International with anchor Jonathan Mann. (CNNI is available on select U.S. cable systems, so please check local listings for channels.)



Thursday 0830 GMT
Friday 0330 GMT
Saturday 0800 GMT
Saturday 1730 GMT
Saturday 2230 GMT
Sunday 1430 GMT
Monday 0230 GMT

Posted by:
// February 15, 2012
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Valentine's Day on the cheap (and from the heart) »

Some inspiring, romantic and sweet gestures swept us off our feet at the iReport desk this Valentine's Day. Your stories of meaningful, yet inexpensive gifts truly came from the heart.

For example, Lynn Jones of Mesquite, Texas, told us how her husband turned her love of the musical "South Pacific" into an inexpensive Valentine's treat, singing "Some Enchanted Evening" to her.

"I wanted the song in a French accent," she said. "My hubby delivered it perfectly, as he practiced it for a month."

Brian Martin from Spring, Texas, has been married for 30 years, and said it's the personal touch that counts. He surprised for his wife last year by taking the day off from work.

"I decided to turn our formal dining room into a romantic restaurant,” he said. “I went out and purchased flowers, long stemmed roses, rose petals and table settings (including tablecloth) to give it a Valentine's Day theme." (Click to hear Martin tell more of his story.)

For Mark Roy from Midland, Michigan, last year's Valentine's Day was all in a kiss: "I had [my fiancee] purchase some really bright red lipstick. Then had her kiss white postcards until she got the perfect kiss."

What became of the postcard? Find out by watching the video:

Do you have a memorable Valentine's story to share? Post your comment below.

Posted by:
// February 14, 2012
Posted in:
iReport Pundit of the Week: Omekongo Dibinga »


A lot can change in a week, especially when it comes to politics. We love it when iReporters weigh in on the latest developments in the political world, because they give us smart and incisive vox populi you can’t get anywhere else. Every week, we’re saluting one iReporter who regularly offers thoughtful commentary to the iReport community.


This week’s top dog is renaissance man Omekongo Dibinga. He hails from Washington DC, and is the father of two girls. When he’s not working as a teacher's assistant at Georgetown for Michael Eric Dyson’s seminar on Jay-Z, or dropping fresh tracks under his hip-hop alias "Young M.A.Y.A.," you can find him on iReport, where he’s never afraid to tell you where he stands:



Affiliation: "Independent, always an independent, definitely. I can honestly say I’ve never voted for a Republican, but that also doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t."


How did you get interested in politics and current affairs?
"My parents, plain and simple. They’re serious activists. They came from the Congo, and they grew up in the colonial era. They were very active in fighting colonialism, and fighting to bring democracy to the country. When they came to the United States, that evolved into activism on social issues. I was maybe 7 years old, and I was out there working on the 'Free Nelson Mandela' campaign, or the movement to stop police brutality in the neighborhood of Boston I grew up in."


Why do you share your opinion on iReport?
“What I really love about iReport is my belief that we make real change, lasting change, through dialogue with each other. That bit I did with W.J. O’Reilly – we probably would have never even met if it weren’t for iReport. The way we make change in this world is not through force or military might, it’s through conversation."


Who is your political hero?
"Maya Angelou is my hero. When I was young, growing up poor in a violent part of Boston, I had a lot of internal struggles. Maya Angelou was one of the first people I read, besides my parents, who were talking about Africans being beautiful. Reading her poetry really helped me get through a lot.


"That’s why my rap name is Young M.A.Y.A. – The Mighty African Youth Advocate. Her poetry, and her spirit of belonging to an international community, that’s what I want to do with my life."


What's going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
"Honestly, I really believed it was going to be jobs and the economy, but it’s looking like it’s going to be a resurgence of the culture wars. People are going to draw battle lines on social issues – pro-life vs. pro-choice and all that."


What's something people might be surprised to learn about you?
“I'm a rapper, I love hip-hop! I rap about a lot of the same things I talk about on iReport, but the entertainment world and hip-hop in general don’t support us, even people who say they want positivity and social messages in rap. It can be hard for people who don’t promote the drugs-and-sex lifestyle to make a living in hip-hop, but I still love it."

Follow Omekongo right here on iReport to get his latest commentary served up fresh on your personal homepage. Want to sound off on the most pressing issues of the day, and take your shot at becoming iReport's next Pundit of the Week? Join the discussion on iReport

Posted by: jmsaba // February 14, 2012
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Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
Michelle Obama challenges iReporters »

As we blogged about on Friday, the First Lady responded to your iReport questions around the second anniversary of her “Let’s Move” fitness campaign, which encourages exercise and healthy eating among America's youth. Check out the video here, which reveals what the President's favorite snack food (thanks to Shayan Fazli), the biggest opportunity she has had being First Lady (thanks to Nicole Correale), and what the Obama kids are allowed to eat (thanks to Shari Atukorala):

Since this was such a special interview, we also included a few questions that didn’t make the final cut of the first video. You can see those here:

Mrs. Obama also published an op-ed on about “Let’s Move,” which you can read here.

And, in keeping with the program. Mrs. Obama wants iReporters like you to get moving as well. Check out her video challenge to the iReport community. Whether you exercise during "Morning Express," or simply dancasize, we want to see how you work out.

Posted by:
// February 13, 2012
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Posted in: stories
Michelle Obama answers your questions »

Last month, we asked if you had any questions you would like to ask for the First Lady, Michelle Obama on the anniversary of her “Let’s Move” fitness initiative. Nearly 100 questions later, today is the big day.

Mrs. Obama sat down with your questions on an iPad on Friday morning in Dallas, Texas. With so many excellent questions to choose from, it was a daunting task for CNN producers, but we think we chose some of the best to ask in the time we had with the First Lady.

Look for the CNN iReport interview with Michelle Obama on Monday on

Posted by:
// February 10, 2012
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Posted in: stories
Snowstorms, jetpacks and more: The best of iReport this week  »

We heard from iReporters all over Europe this week after the powerful blast of cold weather that gripped the region. iReporters also shared with us their thoughts on the GOP presidential race and wowed us with their inspired craft projects.


Europe in a deep freeze



Europe’s unusually cold weather turned the Kloveniersburgwal canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands, into a playground. Cecily Layzell  took this photo on Wednesday from a bridge over the waterway. She says adults and children were skating and tobogganing under the bridge and between the boats moored in the canal.


Rina Rautenbach shared dramatic photos of thick layers of ice that collected on just about every surface near the shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Rautenbach says it was minus 23 degrees Celsius (minus 9 Fahrenheit) and that spray from the waves froze instantly, forming icicles on top of icicles.


We also met Lala, an 11-month-old dachshund mix, who is having the time of her life in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Her owner, Mirna Stankovic Lukovic, says Lala spends most of her time curled up on a leather sofa but has loved tunneling through the snow banks.


Inside the GOP race


Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was in Atlanta, Georgia, this week and frequent iReporter Adriana Maxwell says he got a warm welcome. Maxwell says the crowd was friendly and seemed interested in what the former Massachusetts governor had to say.


Matthew Colver voted in Tuesday’s Colorado caucuses and shared his experience with iReport.  It was the first time he had participated in a caucus and he said: “It felt good to actually be part of the process at a very local level rather than just sitting back and complaining.” Colver said 55 people voted in his precinct. Sen. Rick Santorum won Tuesday’s contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.


Inspiration soars on Pinterest



Jessica Archer was inspired by a post on Pinterest to create these cool rocket packs for her sons Jack and Ben. All she needed were a few soft-drink bottles, duct tape, silver paint and a few other supplies and the boys were ready to blast off. Pinterest is a “virtual pin board” that lets you curate content you love from around the web and share it with your friend. It’s also a good place to look for ideas.


The site is getting a lot of buzz lately, so if you’re a fan and have been inspired to make something, we’d like to see it.


Guilt-free chocolate


High school senior Zoë Taylor interviewed the owner of Sugar-Coated Radical, an Atlanta candy shop that only uses fair-trade products. She also talked with customers who liked the store’s ethical stance and loved its candy. Taylor photographed, edited and produced the story herself. You can read more about it on CNN’s Eatocracy food blog.


Do you have a favorite chocolate recipe? We invite you to take the iReport-CNN Freedom Project ethical chocolate challenge. Make your dish with fair-trade chocolate, and take a stand to end modern-day slavery.


Operation Valentine: Traveling for a cause


manila ireporters

A group of iReporters in the Philippines traveled to Barangay Mandulog to help residents who are still recovering from Typhoon Sendong. Vincent Avena, Sherbien Dacalanio, Andrew Go, Lia Ocampo and Veronica Mendoza and a few of their friends delivered hundreds of pounds of food, clothes and books for an elementary school library. The group first met last year for the iReport fifth birthday meetup in the Philippines and realized they shared a passion for charity.


“We do what we can with what we have,” Avena said. “That’s way better than doing nothing at all.”


Do you have a story you want to share? Check out our assignment desk, or submit your own view of the news.

Posted by:
// February 10, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport
O'Reilly and Omekongo hash it out »

We love it when iReporters sound off on current events, because they always have something interesting to say, and we know they aren't afraid to make their opinions heard. But here's something we love even more: When they do it face-to-face!


Yesterday, iReport commentators W.J. O'Reilly and Omekongo Dibinga did just that when they sat down in Alexandria, Virginia, for a confab that touched on politics, First Lady Michelle Obama, and why supermodel Gisele Bundchen may have been the downfall of the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.


Watch some excerpts from their discussion below:

"African-American" no longer the preferred nomenclature


Why partisan politics won't let us be inspired by Eastwood ad


Hope for American schools hinges on teacher attitudes


If you're aching to get in on the fun, here's your golden ticket: Join in the discussion. Or, better yet, make like Omekongo and O'Reilly and meet up with an iReporter in your town, chat it up, and post a video on iReport! But if you feel passionately about any of the points made by these fine gents, don't wait: Sound off below in the comments section.

Posted by: jmsaba // February 9, 2012
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Posted in: community
iReport Roundtable: Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET »

Please join us here in the blog for our weekly roundtable chat. We want to tell you about a cool new project called "Destination U.S.A." CNN's travel producers are going to be working with the iReport community to create an insider's guide to some of America's great cities.


We also wanted to talk about our latest joint assignment with our friends at Mashable. We're asking people to show us projects inspired by Pinterest, a popular social network that makes it easy to share images and ideas that you love.


And as always, we'll be happy to answer any questions, comments or concerns you may have.


Comments will open at 2:30 p.m. ET. We'll talk with you then.

Posted by:
// February 9, 2012
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Posted in: community
Team iReport is looking for a summer intern »

It’s that time again! We’re looking for a summer intern to join our team at the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia. (You can meet our current intern here.)


One lucky intern will work with iReport’s editorial team helping lead CNN’s user-generated news content, participatory media, and community efforts. In addition to vetting iReports, producing content, and participating in brainstorming and editorial planning, our intern will also have the opportunity to learn from a host of CNN professionals across platforms. Plus, you get to take part in croquet tournaments and other fun stuff.


The full-time, paid internship lasts about 12 weeks and is open to college students currently enrolled in school. Course credit is available, and preference is given to candidates who have previously contributed to CNN iReport.


Interested? You can see more details and apply for the position here.

Posted by: katie // February 9, 2012
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Posted in: community
Europe snow: Dangerous, but beautiful »

Everyone has been hearing about the unusual weather in Europe: non-stop snow for days on end, lakes and dams turned to ice, subzero temperatures and severely cold winds resulting in frozen rain, frostbite and even death.


The bigger picture is that Europe is not just having another snow day. More than 250 people have died across the region and 135 of those cases are in Ukraine alone. National highways have been shut down in a number of countries and the icy roads are hindering transportation.


However, many Europeans are enjoying this snowy surprise. iReporters across the continent have shared with us the beautiful, snow and ice-covered landscapes around them.


We've seen winter wonderland scenes from Romania, the Czech Republic, Germany, Corsica, Spain, Ukraine and Greece.


Albin Niederstrasser, a 52-year-old professional photographer, was shooting snow panoramas in the quiet, tranquil valley of Zillertal, Austria, when about 30  falcons flew above him, fighting. "And suddenly it was totally silent again," he says.


Some of these sights have not just been beautiful, but incredible. Nature draws attention to the laws of physics and chemistry and made us wonder how something like this happens:




Rina Rautenbach, 58, was driving home in Geneva, Switzerland, when she came across the spectacle of ice.


"During the night and the day before we had extreme temperatures, -23C, where it got so cold that the spray made waves on the lake," she says. "As it sprays up, it turns into ice immediately. It became layer on layer on layer." Rautenbach says they call this phenomenon "la beeze" in French.


One iReporter from Italy wanted to show that "there is more to Italy than Rome." Cheryl Ferguson of Urbino, Italy, says her town is in a state of emergency. Residents experience regular power outages and have almost five feet of snow. But despite being trapped in their house for more than a day, Ferguson says they are lucky to have electricity, water and gas.


A number of tiny towns are experiencing difficulties like this. Yet the Europeans have taken it in stride. They are appreciating and cherishing the snow. iReporters continue to capture fun moments, whether it is a dog "dachscing through the snow" in Bosnia and Herzegovina or a fox jumping around in Southeast London.


Whether you're facing obstacles because of the snow or you’ve found an excuse to have snowy fun, we'd like to hear your story. Share your Europe snow stories and more importantly, stay safe and warm!

Posted by: ssesha // February 8, 2012
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Posted in: stories
iReport crowns first-ever Pundit of the Week »


Those in the know will always find a lively political debate brewing on iReport between our super-savvy politics junkies as they sound off on the most pressing issues of the day. With 2012 election mania in full swing, we’re kicking off a new weekly series at iReport: The Pundit of the Week.


Each week, we’ll introduce you to a member of the iReport community — liberals, conservatives, and everyone in between — who frequently engages in political debate and discussion with our community. Then, we'll do a Q&A for a look at the person behind the laptop camera.


Our first-ever Pundit of the Week is Cameron Harrelson. He hails from Baxley, Georgia, and at has been a regular iReporter since he first joined the site in 2009. At age 17, he’s also one of our youngest political commentators.



Affiliation: Conservative / Independent — "I always tell people: I'm an American first, a conservative second, and a Republican last.”


How did you get interested in politics?
"I remember watching the results of the 2004 elections and becoming instantly interested in the American political process. I recognized that my parents wanted George W. Bush to win, and were excited for that, but there was something that appealed to me beyond just that. Pretty soon after that, I decided that I wanted to get involved in politics at the local level, and eventually run for office.”


Why do you share your opinion on iReport — why should people listen to what you have to say?
“In my own way, I want to help improve the political dialogue in this country. It doesn't matter to me whether you're a Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Independent or Liberal. What matters are ideas, and how you express them. We all need to find a way to talk to each other respectfully, even if we totally disagree.


“Oftentimes, people tell me that I only have the opinions that I have because I'm copying my parents’ positions. I want everyone to know that's not the case. I do a lot of research on my own to arrive at these conclusions.”


Who’s your political hero?
“Honestly? Right now, and I know this is probably going to make a bunch of people write me off, but I have to say Sarah Palin.


“She took on some tough ethics issues while she was Governor of Alaska, she fought for her principles. And whether you love or hate her, you can’t deny that she made a huge splash when she arrived on the national scene. Sure, I do find some of her positions appealing, but the real reason she inspires me is because of her character and determination.”


What’s going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
“Far and away, the economy and jobs. There are other issues that are intertwined with this, like the runaway cost of healthcare, inflation, our huge debt and deficit, and wasteful spending. But when it comes to what’s going to be immediately on people’s mind, it’s definitely the economy.”


What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
“I took maybe 2 months worth of piano lessons, and after that learned how to play music by ear. I taught myself some guitar chords by doing the same thing.”


Follow Cameron on Twitter at @Cam4573. If you’d like engage in spirited debate and throw your hat into the ring for Pundit of the Week, now’s your chance: Join in on the discussion at iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // February 7, 2012
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Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
New York Giants fans overjoyed by Super Bowl victory »

Who wouldn't be thrilled by a Super Bowl win, after all? Giants fans took to the streets of New York last night to celebrate after their team beat the New England Patriots, 21-17. iReporters captured a taste of the festivities:


Tarik Falah watched the game at a friend's house, and when the Giants won, immediately jumped into his car to join the celebrations on the street. He spent about two hours honking his horn and cheering with the other revelers of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.


Falah shot the above video while on the road celebrating. "I just figured people across the country would like to see," he said.


Julio Ortiz-Teissonniere, who shot the photo at the top, says local stores were prepared for the stampeding fans in the streets.


"The Times Square area went wild last night when the Giants beat the Patriots," he said. "One minute after the game ended, a local sporting goods store that was hosting a televised viewing of the game put out caps, t-shirts, posters and other Super Bowl champs merchandise."


And fans who stayed home didn't leave the partying to those in the streets, either.  George Nikolis his friends jumped and screamed at a buddy's place in New Jersey when the Giants won. His friend Patrick was so excited he ripped off his shirt:


"It was a nail-biter all the way down to the end," said Nikolas. "You knew it was going to come down to the last two minutes of the game. It was very exciting."


Fans are now preparing to welcome the championship team home to New York City with a parade tomorrow. Nikolas and his friends say they can't wait. Be sure to share your photos if you attend!

Posted by:
// February 6, 2012
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Posted in: stories
Not just for the birds: The best of iReport this week »

With the week drawing to a close, it's time to look at some of the best birds stories that landed on the iReport desk.


Feathers ruffled over real-life "Angry Birds"



Thanks to Manila's Linus Escandor we learned about the controversial, if colorful, practice of dyeing baby chicks for quick sale to wide-eyed kids. The practice is not isolated to the Philippines. A quick web image search for "dyed chicks" will surface hundreds of images from all around the world showing the colorful little cluckers in crates, cages, and in the hands of children. "The chicks have to be soaked and sprayed in food color," Escandor said. Unfortunately, when children play with the chicks, they tend to treat them as toys. The baby birds suffer stress and this sometimes leads to death, he said.


Flying glitter, nude protesters at DC gala



Occupy DC sent glitter flying into a crowd of elegantly dressed banquet-goers outside the Capitol Hill Hilton Hotel, where the Alfalfa Club was hosting its annual fete. Armando Gallardo did an amazing job of putting you in the middle of a heated protest involving "glitter bombs," nude protesters, mounted police, and the Washington elite.


Gallardo, who covered the protest as a freelance photojournalist, said, "For someone who has been covering the Occupy DC camp for a while, I was surprised nobody got arrested."


The pigeon lady of New York City



From New York City comes the story of Jewelene, a local woman who rescued a pigeon, named it Petel, and raised it as her pet. It's a great story about love, fate, and overcoming the odds. Freelance photographer Harry Peronius says Jewelene is well-loved by city pigeons, who she meets on Chambers Street in the New York City neighborhood of Tribeca: "Many of them she has a name for. When she arrives to the spot, the pigeons recognize her and fly down to her. I've seen it with my own eyes, amazing!"


Customs Day celebration with fire, alcohol, and drugs



iReporter and freelance photojournalist Syed Yasir Kazmi sent us photos from Karachi, Pakistan, where last week they held a celebration for the World Customs Organization's International Customs Day.


Now hold your breath for this: The celebration included the burning of alcohol, drugs, and other contraband materials seized at the country's customs. The event is based around the idea that "borders divide, customs connect," according to the WCO's website. "There was lots of heat and smoke when they burnt drugs. My reaction was to save myself from that heat but [I took the best photos] I could take," Kazmi said.


Chinatown celebrates the Year of the Dragon



Finally, we'd like to highlight the great submissions we received from the Chinese New Year Parade in New York's Chinatown by Rachel Cauvin, Daniil Sosonkin, and freelance photographer Patrycja Adamowska, whose photo you see above. She tells us it was cold and quite crowded last Saturday, January 29, but that didn't dissuade people from sticking around to enjoy the colorful floats and costumes on display.


Happy Year of the Dragon! Here at the iReport desk, we're going to celebrate the week of the bird.


Let us know in the comments which of these stories was your personal favorite, or tell us about other iReport stories that resonated with you this week.


Do you have a story you want to share? Check out our assignment desk, or submit your own view of the news.

Posted by:
// February 3, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport
iReport roundtable: Thursday @ 2:30 p.m. ET »

Please join us here in the blog for our weekly roundtable discussion. We are looking forward to talking with everyone about what's going on in the community.


If you've got questions, suggestions or concerns, this is a great time to share them. We'll open comments at 2:30 p.m. ET. If you can't make it then, feel free to private message anyone on the iReport Team or email me at

Posted by:
// February 2, 2012
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Posted in: community
iReporters sound off on the Florida GOP primary »

Last night, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney earned a commanding victory in the Florida GOP primary vote, solidifying his position as frontrunner in the continuing battle for the Republican presidential nomination.


Politically minded iReporters tuned in, and shared their thoughts on the tightening race. Though most agreed that the night was a big win for Romney, some thought the primary was as much a rejection of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich as an embrace of Romney. Others noted that Romney owed his victory to the money his campaign poured into the state, which far outstripped any of his opponents' spending.



W.J. O'Reilly of Alexandria, Virginia, believes that Romney's big win over Gingrich was as much a referendum on Gingrich's character as it was a testament to Romney's campaigning skills.


"Gingrich criticized Romney as 'the moderate Governor from Massachusetts,' and as such, there can be no surprise about yesterday's victory in the more moderate Florida demographic," he said. "Therefore, Romney's victory yesterday was a win for the more moderate candidate and, with significant female abandonment of Gingrich, a vote against cheatin' men, you might say."



Adriana Maxwell of Atlanta, Georgia, said that Romney's superior organizing skills won the night for him. "Between PAC money and the fact that Romney has a better organization then Gingrich in Florida, at least that strategy worked," she said. "Romney received all 50 [Florida] delegates. We'll see if it works in the other 46 states."



Kingwood, Texas, iReporter Egberto Willies said that he wasn't surprised by Gingrich's precipitous decline and defeat in Florida, or that Romney won the contest after outspending Gingrich 5-to-1. "Gingrich was carpet-bombed by both Romney and Romney SuperPACs," he said.


"Ironically, Gingrich championed the Citizens United case and all 'money is free speech' actions, and is now suffering the consequences of said actions. President Obama was criticized when at the previous State of the Union he chastised the Supreme Court judges for their decision. This is poetic justice and vindication."



And David P. Kronmiller of Burbank, California, believes that Romney's big victory in Florida may actually backfire on him, owing to the disproportionately negative tone of the campaign in that state. "In a recent poll, Obama beats Mitt in Florida by 8 points and is up over Romney nationally by 5. The Florida shift in Obama's favor happened last week, while Mitt went negative," he said.


If you're fired up to play pundit this election season, we want to hear from you! Join the discussion on CNN iReport.

Posted by: jmsaba // February 1, 2012
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Posted in: stories
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