Blog : April 2012
Arbor Day on iReport: Your favorite trees »

 

In honor of Arbor Day, we invited iReporters to share their favorite tree photos.

This tree's curling trunk and branches against the bright blue sky and green grass at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, Washington, caught Jim McClure’s eye in early April.

“I love the variety of structure and textures trees provide, especially when back light with sun,” McClure said. “I tried to capture just the right amount of texture on the trees, yet maintain a touch of silhouette.”

 

In Hershey, Pennsylvania, wedding photographer Ali Waxman captured a row of trees in the early morning fog a month ago.

 

The sight of this bare tree at a winery in Sonoma, California, reminded Ruth Rutherford of hope.

“It's barren, but it will soon be in full bloom, just like the rows of grape vines in the background. Today might not be the best day, but tomorrow will be better,” said Rutherford, who lives in Washington, D.C. and shot the photo with her iPhone in early March.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this assignment, and have a look at the rest of the Arbor Day submissions here.

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dsashin
// April 30, 2012
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A game of throngs: The best of iReport this week »

Come gather 'round! It was a protest-heavy and celebration-filled week on iReport. There were protests in Lithuania, Sudan and the Netherlands, see-sawing celebrations for Earth Day, the Chumash Festival  and Rome’s birthday.

 

Amidst all the chaos, we selected five of our favorite iReports this week you might have missed.

Stylish Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi

 

The Sikh Sabha of New Jersey held their annual parade for Vaisakhi, an ancient Punjabi harvest festival celebrated in northern India, on Saturday, April 21. iReporter Rachel Cauvin, who enjoys taking pictures of cultural events, said thousands lined up on Madison Avenue in New York City “to see the floats, marching bands, sword fighting and wheel spinning.”

 

“This was my first time going and I loved the bright orange colors and the beautiful, colorful sarees,” she said.

 

Cairo’s “Friday of Determination”

 

With hotly-contested elections looming in Egypt, thousands gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, last Friday for what they called the “Friday of Determination.” Ahmed Raafat Amin said people from a variety of political backgrounds were present to protest against having the country’s constitution written by the transitional military government.

 

“People are excited about the upcoming elections since it’s the first post-Mubarak presidential elections, but there are fears of fraud as the military rulers that are still in power are people who are considered to be Mubarak’s men,” he said. “Many people fear that the military could interfere in the electoral process and change the results of the elections.”

 

Obama wows students at UNC

 

President Obama visited colleges across the country this week to deliver campaign speeches on student loans. His trip to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was well-received by iReporter Trevor Dougherty and his peers.

Although Dougherty currently doesn’t have loans, student debt still worries him. “There are plans for tuition increases at UNC, so my friends and the general college community are definitely worried about student loans and increasing interest rates,” the 19-year-old said.

“Obama won over the crowd at first with some references to UNC basketball, but his call for affordable higher education was what really resonated with all of us,” he said.

 

Rappers represent for Mumia

 

Rappers Chuck D of Public Enemy and M-1 of Dead Prez attended an “Occupy” protest for Mumia Abu-Jamal at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, April 24. Rene Carson attended to document the event and learn more about it.

 

“For me, it was really a learning experience, because I know very little about these subjects, so hearing people speak about different truths and statistics helped me understand things a little better,” Carson said.

 

Carson supports many of the issues that were scheduled to be discussed at the rally, such as prison and immigration reform.

 

Gaping great apes

 

Our last gathering: man and ape come together. James Amerson was invited to the Center of Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida, where he was able to see apes in an almost-natural habitat.

 

“It is totally different from a zoo,” Amerson said. “A zoo is there to educate people about animals, and this sanctuary was created to rehabilitate and give back to creatures that had unfortunate beginnings.”

 

He explained that many of the apes were captured in the wild and sold as pets, while some were bred for Hollywood entertainment or the circus. Apes raised this way end up being too comfortable with humans, and lack survival skills.

 

“Primates are very social and territorial, these apes might be killed by their own species for being an outsider,” he said. “This is for the sake of these creatures, and for them to live their lives as close to apes as possible.” He said standing so close to the apes was an incredible experience.

 

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 here.

Posted by: ssesha // April 27, 2012
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iReport Roundtable: It’s not too late to debate »

debate map

 

Please join us here at 2:30 p.m. ET for our weekly roundtable discussion. We’ll be chatting about the iReport Debate, which invites users to sound off on what issues matter most to them this election season.

 

So far, we’ve received nearly 300 iReports from people who have shared the issue that is most important to them, but we want to hear from more of you! So far, the coasts are represented. But, where are the Midwest, Great Plains, Rockies and the South?

 

The top issues so far are: economy, health care, taxes and gripes with the state of politics in general, but we haven't heard as much about issues like immigration, housing and student loan woes.

 

iReport producer Christina Zdanowicz and other team members will share more details about the project, and will answer any questions you have. We also look forward to hearing your ideas on how to invite a wider audience to participate in this special project.

 

We’ll open comments at 2:30 p.m. ET. We look forward to talking to you then!

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davidw
// April 26, 2012
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CNN iReport nominated for Webby Award »

After winning a Webby Award last year for the “Walk Around the World” video (which so many of you participated in), we are happy to say that CNN iReport is once again nominated for a Webby this year.

This time, it’s CNNiReport.com itself that is nominated in the category of social media. As you may remember, back in November, we relaunched as a social network for news, and the site now includes groups, a new video player, a new homepage and more. We also launched the Open Story last year as a new way to feature collaborations among iReporters and CNN staffers, from the devastating earthquake in Japan to a worldwide view of the British Royal Wedding.

Of course we would not be nominated without so many great iReports from you in the community! So, thank you!

The deadline is tomorrow to vote for the Webby Awards, so click here to have your say!

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hhanks
// April 25, 2012
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iReport Pundit of the Week: Adriana Maxwell »

 

Adriana Maxwell is well-versed in all things news. This Atlanta, Georgia, resident used to freelance for both CNN International and iReport as an associate producer and is now a regular presence on iReport, where she sounds off on the hot political stories of the moment.

 

As she puts it in her profile biography, she's a "pundit who actually lives on a planet I like to call Earth." That definitely shows in her no-nonsense approach to political news across the spectrum. It's also why she's this week's pick for iReport Pundit of the Week.

 

Issues: "I've always got an eye out for when media and pundits and political analysts hammer on talking points, and never really provide facts. People have heard these talking points again and again, but sometimes they're not true, or half true. It's important that someone fact-checks what they're saying and demands they tell the truth, and stop relying on the memo that was handed to you by someone else."

 

How did you first get interested in politics?
"I started at a very young age. My parents were always interested in politics in the U.S., and continued to be when they immigrated here, but always had the advantage of looking at it kind of as an outsider, a third party. They always would dissect current events from a non-American point of view."

 

Why do you share your opinion with iReport?
"When something gets vetted, it means I've made a valid point, and my iReport makes sense and has value. It's the satisfaction of having a CNN producer say that it's good, and has been fact-checked, and it's a good story."

 

Who is your political or journalistic hero?
"The late Tim Russert. I've been a political junkie from birth, and I can remember watching 'Meet The Press' in the morning when I was younger. He never cut people off or got angry, he would just ask questions and let them go. And then, when they stopped for a breath, he would devastate them with a contradictory statement they had made, and put the quote right up there."

 

What do you think is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?
"The economy. It always is. If the economy goes south, President Obama will be out. But if it keeps on growing, I don't think Mitt Romney has a chance of winning. That's why all the big guns didn't run – folks like Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels. They knew that as long as the economy was moving forward, even at a slow pace, they probably wouldn't win."

 

What is something unique about you that people might be interested to know?
"Well, if I can get through the day without any interruptions, which is hard to do sometimes, I can usually read two or three books a day. I'm a speed-reader. I've always had it, as a child I would go to the library, pick out ten books, and by the end of the week they would all be returned."

 

And she put those speed-reading chops to use in 2009 when she pored her way through the more than one-thousand pages of the Affordable Care Act. She appeared in the CNN Newsroom and gave the world the skinny on what it was like going page-by-page through the bill.

 

Catch some of Adriana's commentary and punditry right here on iReport. If you'd like the chance to step up on the iReport soapbox and shine a light on your own political views, now's the time to join the debate.

Posted by: jmsaba // April 24, 2012
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Posted in: community, pundit_of_the_week
iReport photos featured on CNN Games »

 

iReporters have long shown a talent for breathtaking photography. So it's no wonder that the iReport team here at CNN is always looking for new places to show off your images! Our latest conquest? CNN Games.

 

You may have noticed that CNN.com recently added games to its long list of features. You can find them at the bottom of the CNN.com homepage on the right. And we have some good news: starting today, the jigsaw puzzle game will feature iReport images!

 

The game, which works just like a regular jigsaw puzzle, rotates through a series of iReport, CNN and stock images, so you may have to play a few times before you get a puzzle that features an iReport photo. We'll switch up the iReport images each week since there are so many strong ones to choose from, and as always, we'll give you full credit.

 

Here are the photos we selected for the puzzle this week:

 

The colorful Aliwan Fiesta, by Roland Roldan

 

Zoo portraits, by James Amerson

 

Times Square at night, by Lulis Leal

 

Northern Lights over Iceland, by René Oesterheld

 

Up-close and personal with snowflakes, by Kristen Cook

 

Snow calms Manhattan, by Julio Ortiz-Teissonniere

 

Images are selected for the puzzle based on photo quality, visual interest and difficulty (i.e., an image of a blue sky might not be chosen because it would be too hard for the user to put back together). You don't need to submit photos to a specific assignment to have them considered for the jigsaw -- we'll look at everything that's been vetted for use on CNN. But if you're looking for a place to show off your photography, we'd suggest taking a look at the photo essays, Travel Photo of the Day, or Light Years assignments. Happy gaming!

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rachel8
// April 23, 2012
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Cultural celebrations, skyward glances: The best of iReport this week »

iReporters across the U.S. looked to the skies this week to catch a glimpse of the space shuttle Discovery’s final voyage.

 

Back on the ground, festivals and parades celebrating diverse cultures popped up all over iReport, with the stunningly beautiful Aliwan festival in the Philippines, and the Tartan Parade in New York City.

 

Check out the awesome submissions from iReport this week!

 

 

Tornadoes tear through Kansas

 

More than 100 tornadoes were reported throughout the Midwest on Saturday, April 14. Stormchasers Dustin Mazzio and Ben Tracy courageously tracked one while driving through Kansas, and managed to capture this incredible video of the tornado beginning to form. Mazzio says he has been chasing storms for three years, and that “this was by far the most amazing storm have witnessed. I had encountered potential funnel clouds before, but none ever transformed into tornadoes, so this was my first.”

 

Discovery cruises over the U.S. Capitol

 

iReporters’ eyes were on the skies and their fingers were at the ready to snap photographs of the space shuttle Discovery's final voyage. We asked iReporters to document its journey aboard a modified 747 jet from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum near Washington D.C. Andrew Brisker snapped this picture as it flew over the U.S. Capitol. “It was bittersweet watching Discovery soar over the Capitol, but it was thrilling to witness its final ride into retirement,” he said. “The crowd was ecstatic. I got goosebumps.”

 

Aliwan festival dazzles the Philippines

 

The streets of Manila were awash with vibrant hues of gold, purple, and red as Filipinos celebrated the annual Aliwan festival on April 14. This festival began in 2003 and is a celebration of the diverse and rich heritages of the Philippines. Roland Roldan captured breathtaking photos of the various events, including street dancing and parade floats.

 

NYC Scottish invasion

 

Bagpipes sounded in the streets of the Big Apple at the 10th annual Tartan Parade on April 14. Frequent iReporter Rachel Cauvin loves documenting the sundry parades New York City has to offer, and she shared her photographs of music performances and other events held to celebrate Scottish culture. She says the crowd fell in love with the adorable Scottish terriers that walked down the parade route.

 

Remembering Dick Clark

 

We asked iReporters to share their memories of Dick Clark, and Paul Revere offered the heartwarming story of his close relationship with the broadcast legend. Clark helped Revere's band, "Paul Revere and the Raiders", acquire fame, and the two ended up becoming life-long friends in the process. “I owe everything to Dick Clark,” Revere wrote in his iReport. “And I am SO thankful that I got to tell him so, six weeks ago, at his house in Los Angeles."

 

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 here.

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jne2013
// April 20, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport
iReport roundtable: Thursdays at 2:30 p.m. ET »

Please join us here at 2:30 p.m. ET for our weekly roundtable discussion. We'll be talking about the newly-redesigned CNN iReport Interview section and how you can help interview your favorite stars.

 

iReport producer Henry Hanks and CNN.com video producer Lauren Ready have been leading the charge on this project and will be here to answer your questions about the iReport Interview. They can tell you what producers look for when they're choosing questions and if we're lucky, they might share some of their favorite iReport Interview moments.

 

We've also got a couple of fun new assignments we want to tell you about and we'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

 

Comments will open on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET. We're looking forward to talking with you.

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davidw
// April 19, 2012
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iReport Pundit of the Week: W.J. O'Reilly »

 

Longtime iReporter W.J. O'Reilly knows a thing or two about the intersection of citizen journalism and media. Back when social media was in its infancy, this Massachusetts-bred commentator was the host of one of the very first news programs that featured social media submissions. And to top it off, he’s a great conversationalist.

 

Teacher, writer and journalist, O’Reilly is this week’s pick for iReport Pundit of the Week.

 

Affiliation: "I believe I’m still registered as a Democrat. For quite a while, I was an Independent, but I decided to formalize that based on how I was voting. I call myself a ‘Massachusetts Democrat’ no matter where I’m living because that’s kinda the quality of Democrat I am. I can’t get away from it."

 

How did you first get interested in politics?

"I did go to journalism school, so we had to have a certain awareness and restraint about things like that. Honestly though, it wasn’t until I encountered iReport back in the 2008 election when I really started to see that there was a platform out there to broadcast your ideas.

 

"So, I allowed myself to formulate some political opinions and used iReport to get my thoughts out there. It’s great! It’s an exciting and wonderful opportunity."

 

Why do you share your opinion with iReport?

"I think it’s an amazing opportunity to engage with many other people on ideas that really matter a great deal. It’s a chance to clarify your own views, to sharpen your ability to communicate, and to actively and dramatically make a difference in this very impersonal world we live in. This is one opportunity we have as citizen-journalists to use the media to put our ideas out there to the general public."

 

Who is your political or journalistic hero?

"David Halberstam, he died a couple years ago. He was a contributing editor at 'More,' the media magazine. I had my first-ever piece published there while I was still in journalism school."

 

What do you think is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?

"The ability for the candidates to be authentic. The more authentic of the two is going to win. I see this as a political jousting match of almost pure attitude: Who projects certainty, credibility and connectedness.

 

"The only sticking point I would say is going to be health care. ... I don’t think these health care companies should have any more influence than the abusive levels of power they already do. Obama's health care law is just going to throw billions more dollars their way. It’s going to embolden them to ratchet up their prices and take advantage of all of us."

 

What’s something unique about you that people might be interested to know?

"The very first live news broadcast that used social media was a program called ‘NewzViewz,’ which I was the host of in 2005. We went out really rapidly on it before anyone had a chance to do it, so we could claim we were the first. Then, of course, every other network jumped on the idea. I was the host of the very first live, studio-produced nightly news program that went out over the web and used social media to take the temperature of the audience.

 

"We would have a panel of just regular people who would come on and talk about the events of the day that would be voted on on our website. When iReport started happening, I said wow, this is being done really well. It was a completion of something that I helped bring into this world, in a way."

 

If you'd like to see some of O'Reilly's regular and incisive video commentary, you can follow along here on iReport. And if you're looking to get in on the conversation, or join the newly-launched 2012 iReport Debate, there's never been a better time than right now.

Posted by: jmsaba // April 17, 2012
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Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
Spot the shuttle! »

 

Tomorrow marks a big day for space shuttle Discovery: The shuttle will take the last flight of its career. Discovery is headed from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, just outside Washington, D.C., where it will transition from explorer to educator.

 

To celebrate the shuttle's final flight, we're partnering with NASA and the Smithsonian to track Discovery's journey from Florida to Washington. That's where you come in: If you're in the southeastern U.S., we want you to join other space enthusiasts to try to spot the shuttle during its trip tomorrow and share your photos on CNN iReport!

 

If you'd like to participate, here's what you need to know:

 

The shuttle will leave from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at dawn (around 7 a.m.), weather permitting. It will fly over the KSC visitor center, Patrick Air Force Base, and the Space Coast beaches before making its way up the coast (for security reasons, NASA cannot release the exact flight path). Between 10 and 11 a.m., NASA plans to have the shuttle fly over Washington, D.C., including several major landmarks, before it lands at Dulles airport for transfer to the museum. If you're in the D.C. area, the Smithsonian has some tips for you on the best places to view the shuttle.

 

Discovery will ride on top of a specially modified 747 for the journey to the Smithsonian. The pair will fly quite low, around 10,000 feet, for the entire journey. So as long as the weather is reasonably nice, they should be visible for the entire flight.

 

Be sure to upload your images to our Space to Smithsonian assignment. We'll plot the best of them on a map for CNN.com, and NASA and the Smithsonian will share them with literally millions of followers on social media! If you share your images on Twitter or Instagram, be sure to tag them #spottheshuttle.

 

So, set your alarm and prep your camera, because tomorrow is your last chance to #spottheshuttle!

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rachel8
// April 16, 2012
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Posted in: stories
Moving plates, changing skies: The best of iReport this week »

The theme of change seemed to seep into many iReports this week. From the changing tides of the Travyon Martin case to the shifting skies of Portland, Oregon, check out some of the best iReports from the site.

 

Zimmerman's arrest and iReporters reactions

 

The case of Trayvon Martin took a turn this week with the arrest of George Zimmerman, who was charged with second-degree murder of the teenage boy in Sanford, Florida. iReporters, like Norma Valdez, sent in their reactions to Zimmerman's arrest. Valdez said that although she thinks the prosecution made the right call, she said it was made far too late. "I feel we have an uphill battle because justice is in the eye of the juror and if you get one that doesn't see it like the rest, you will get a hung jury and then what, he goes free," she said.

 

Pacific quake

 

Across the world, tectonic plates were shifting. After an 8.5 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, some residents and tourists in Phuket, Thailand, took precautions. Isaac Kawar shot a video of people being evacuated from Thailand's Patong Beach to higher ground.

 

Insta-book

 

The tech world was in a tailspin with the recent Facebook buyout of the photo sharing site Instagram. Diehard Instagram fans were up-in-arms and iReporters sent in their reactions to the one-billion-dollar deal. Donnol Hem and his daughter Mikaela posed with stunned faces after hearing the news. "I'm not shocked by the purchase just surprised at how much Facebook paid for it. So far I can only think of it as a good thing because Facebook, like it or not, is a huge success," he said.

 

Backyard chickens

 

Do backyard chickens really taste better? Residents from Winter Park, Florida, seem to think so. Kayla O'Brien, a journalism student at the University of Central Florida, documented the town's urban farmers petitioning to raise chickens with The Backyard Yard Chicken Initiative. The practice of raising chickens is currently illegal in that area. O'Brien said she reached out to Winter Park, and the town said it was not against changing the law on raising chickens, but no one presented the desire to change it.

 

Portland, how beautiful you are 

 

The bustling lights from cars zipping by and a rainbow of colorful pastels from the sky were captured by photographer John Eklund. Eklund created a picturesque time-lapse video of Portland, Oregon. "I thought doing a time-lapse would be a unique way to show my beautiful city," he said.

 

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 here.

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Jareen
// April 13, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport
iReport roundtable: Special debate edition »

Please join us here in the blog at 2:30 p.m. ET on Thursday for our weekly roundtable discussion. We will be talking about the iReport Debate – an invitation for you to let the decision-makers know what issues matter to you most in the coming election. Your issues will help CNN in its coverage of the election!

 

In the run-up to November, the iReport Debate will unfold in three main stages: One, name your issue. Two, debate it out. And three, make people listen.

 

To get started, the first step is to post an iReport explaining why you are so passionate about your top issue. The producers who are working on the project will be here to give you all the details and to answer any questions you have.

 

We will open comments on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET to start the discussion. If you have any other iReport questions you can email them to me at david.williams@cnn.com.

 

We look forward to talking with you soon.

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davidw
// April 11, 2012
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What beauty means to me  »

 

When CNN.com’s Health and Living writers gathered to brainstorm story ideas for a series on beauty, we figured it would be quick and easy … then we started talking.

 

Our writers came up with tons of angles to cover -- how the brain determines what’s beautiful; the media’s role in defining beauty; body image issues for kids and teens; the growing diet industry for men; learning to love your beauty quirks; and whether or not there would ever be another all-American beauty.

 

In the end, we launched a six-week series. We called it "Perceptions of Beauty."

 

We also knew we couldn't truly try to define beauty without asking our readers. In two weeks we received more than 90 responses to our question: What does beauty mean to you?

 

From there, we partnered 10 iReporters from around the world, connected them via Skype and asked them to discuss beauty in their culture:

 

Holly Fulger and Emmaly Manchanthasouk enjoy following the latest trends in makeup and fashion but feel doing so undermines the way people see them. "I want to be able to be a woman and be perceived as powerful and sexy," Fulger said.

 

Jessica Keown and Amy Cunningham have traveled the world and learned quickly that beauty means something different in every place they visit.

 

Monika Settergren and Shala Crawford both suffered because they didn't have what society told them was the ideal body type as teenagers. "I don't always wake up feeling pretty, and I have to tell myself that I am," Crawford shared.

 

Saddaf Hasseeb and Nyasha Chikwekwete bonded over their families' cultural definitions of beauty. Hasseeb's family is from Afghanistan and her darker skin wasn't considered beautiful until she moved to California. Chikwekwete was considered too thin in her native Zimbabwe, but in America she's just right.

 

And Taeun Satya Lee and Rummel Pinera discussed the beauty of the soul and how what's on the inside is more important than anything on the outside. "The whole iReport experience was mesmerizing and highly rewarding," Satya Lee wrote CNN in an e-mail after his discussion with Pinera. "My hope is our message will resonate with sonorous beauty of the truest kind."

 

The conversations were indeed thought-provoking and enlightening. They showed that in every country, in every city, to every person, beauty means something different. And that's OK by us.

Posted by:
 
JacqueCNN
// April 11, 2012
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iReport Pundits share top election issues »

 

To kick off the iReport Debate – an invitation for you to let the decision-makers know what issues matter to you most – we reached out to some folks in our community who regularly sound off on politics: our former iReport Pundits of the Week! We wanted to find out their  top issues in the coming election, and the answers spanned the spectrum.

 

Health care

Former iReport Pundit Egberto Willies of Kingwood, Texas, has long rallied for health care on iReport, so it’s no surprise that it's his top issue this election. The Obama supporter is passionate about health care because his wife has Lupus.

 

"We have always had to jump through hoops to get insurance. … Presently my family has three policies: A high risk policy for my wife, a catastrophic policy for my daughter and myself, and a student health care policy for my daughter. While so far I have been able to afford insurance continuously, many cannot and the numbers reflect that," he explained.

 

Economy

In the past few years, Jannet Walsh has been laid off twice. Now, the Murdock, Minnesota, resident is coming back from unemployment but launching her own photography business. Her experiences with unemployment are exactly why she says a "strong economy" is her top issue for this election.

 

"If we solve the problems employment for our nation, many our nation's problems will be solved, or at least be on the way to a real recovery, meaning employment, and the hope of a bright future," she said.

 

Energy

Former iReport Pundit of the Week Mary Helen Yarborough says energy is her top issue because it "affects everybody." The Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, resident talked about how it affects everything from personal budgets to commerce and industry to even “our nation’s sovereignty,” she said.

 

"It is difficult for me to afford filling my gas tank," she shared. "And I have noticed more and more people stranded on roadsides with a fuel container nearby. That's telling. People are so strained that most can't afford to fill their cars to the point that they are vulnerable."

 

Education

Omekongo Dibinga of Washington, D.C. spends his time speaking to students and training teachers for a living. But one memory has driven him to fight for better public schools.

 

One day, he traveled from a public school in the poorest part of Washington to a private school in the richest part of the city.

 

"The disparities I saw in that one day are seared in my mind," he shared. "I went from the public school, where there were holes in the ceiling, students were sharing books, eating bad foods in the cafeteria, and there were no foreign language or arts programs, to the private school, where the students were eating vegan hot dogs on fine china and of course, the facilities were amazing."

 

"I asked myself: 'How are the kids in my neighborhood really supposed to compete academically with these students?'" he added.

 

We'd like to hear from you too. Tell us your top issue in the coming election and explain why you’re passionate about it. Whether the commentary comes in the form of a short video or some thoughtful prose, add your voice to the iReport Debate.

Posted by:
 
zdan
// April 10, 2012
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Posted in: community, pundit_of_the_week
Fast, pray, feast »

More than ten thousand eggs were dropped from a helicopter, an Amish farmer’s market prepared for a feast, and a city’s streets were decorated with flowers.

 

Yes, it sounds like Easter.

 

Regardless of whether people fast, pray or repent during the 40 days of Lent, Easter is celebrated with grandeur, without compromise, by thousands across the globe.

 

While Easter, a day renowned for colorful eggs, treasure hunts and chocolate bunnies, is a Christian holiday, it is celebrated in many different ways by both Christians and non-Christians alike.

 

iReporter Joel Graham, shot this picture of the Easter Parade on New York City’s 5th Avenue. Graham says people posed in their colorful costumes, the mood was festive and the weather was perfect.

 

 

Rachel Cauvin, a regular attendee of the New York City parade, describes the event as more of a stroll where people show off their fashionable attire. Women wearing extravagant hats bring back what the parade used to be all about.

 

 

 

 

Easter is incomplete without a dose of colorful eggs. Inga Lukaviciute, of Washington, D.C., was inspired by a Lithuanian tradition to create these decorated eggs. She first used melted wax to make designs on the eggs and then dyed them in different colors – similar to the process of making a traditional Indonesian material called Batik.

 

 

And, an exclusive with a real-life Easter Bunny is the cherry on top of the cake. iReporter Mike Stouffer’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Cinneidi, was able to interview Trista Dolphin about her charity, Bunny Hop. Bunny Hop has been providing children in hospitals and shelters with Easter baskets filled with toys, candies and goodies for four years. This year, Dolphin’s goal is to make 600 baskets.

 

If you celebrated Easter, we hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday. Thanks to everyone who shared their photos, videos and stories from their celebrations!

Posted by: ssesha // April 9, 2012
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Posted in: stories
Introducing the iReport Debate »

This November, Americans will cast their votes for the president of the United States. As with every election, issues are going to be front and center in the minds of voters as they make their pick for the next commander in chief.

 

Pinpointing the top issues is crucial, so we’re asking you to make your voice heard. We want to hear straight from you, the voters, on the issue that matters most to you in the coming election, whether it's health care, economy, national security or something else. To help us get a better sense of what’s important to you, we're launching a first-of-its-kind project called the iReport Debate.

 

In the run-up to November, the iReport Debate will unfold in three main stages: One, name your issue. Two, debate it out. And three, make people listen.

 

Starting today, we invite you to share your number-one issue and spell out exactly why it’s got you fired up to cast your vote. Put yourself on video to explain your issue, or write it out in text.

 

The issues you share on iReport will directly affect CNN's election coverage. Once we have a full list, we'll ask you to help us rank the top 20 issues this election. And from there, we will whittle the list down to a handful of topics, based on your votes.

 

And here's our promise to you: We'll do everything we can to put your issues in front of the right people.

 

So with that, we step down from the soap box, and invite you to speak up. Upload your top issue to iReport, and get the conversation started. Let the debating begin!

Posted by:
 
zdan
// April 9, 2012
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Posted in: community
Strong winds, big voices: The best of iReport this week »

Lights dimmed around the world, tornadoes ripped through Texas and palm leaves fluttered at the hands of religious tradition. Check out the best of iReport this week:

 

Storms in Texas

 

Storms ripped through several parts of Texas this week, and Kelly Carrasco had her camera out as a tornado touched down in Forney, Texas. “As we looked right down the street, the funnel cloud started to spin and just dropped to the earth. We didn't know if it was headed our way or not,” she said. Air traveler Eric Gould also captured a video of hail pinging his plane like popcorn as the storm passed over the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. “The noise of ice cubes hitting the aluminum exterior of a 757 was as deafening as it was frightening," he said.

 

Racism in America

 

Does racism still exist in America? Against the backdrop of Trayvon Martin’s death and Anderson Cooper 360's year-long study on kids and race, iReporters pondered where racism starts and what can be done about it. Frequent commentator Omekongo Dibinga said America must engage in a “nationwide dialogue” if it wants to overcome racism.

 

Life with autism

 

April 2 was World Autism Awareness Day, and we asked families to share what it’s like to live with the disorder. We received more than 250 submissions, including inspiring testimonials from high-functioning adults and heart-breaking footage from families who say there's nothing positive about this disease. Samantha Cotterill, from Niskayuna, New York, has autism, and her son has Asperger’s Syndrome. She explains that sometimes she finds herself wearing two different hats when it comes to being a person with autism and also being a mother to a son with the disorder. "Sometimes the marriage of the two works beautifully, and at other times one hat can be forgotten for the other," she said.

 

Earth Hour worldwide

 

For 60 minutes, lights across the world went dim in celebration of Earth Hour, a movement to raise awareness about the environment and climate change.  Chris De Bruyn celebrated Earth Hour with other Iraqis in Sulaimani, Iraq. “I am very pleased to see Iraqis take part in such an important issue as protecting the environment," he said.

 

Palm leaves for Palm Sunday

 

Decorative leaves were adorned with ribbons and flowers for Palm Sunday, a religious tradition that commemorates Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, and is celebrated worldwide. Ronald Roldan shared photos from the Philippines, where he says people buy palm or coconut leaves to be blessed by the priest.

 

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 here.

Posted by:
 
Jareen
// April 6, 2012
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Posted in: week_in_ireport
CNN iReport roundtable returns next week »

The iReport roundtable will return next Thursday. We have a big week coming up, and a lot to  discuss.

We'll talk with you next week. See you then!

Posted by:
 
hhanks
// April 5, 2012
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Posted in: community
iReport pundit of the week: Mary Helen Yarborough »

Supporters like Mary Helen Yarborough are a big reason why former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary back in January, and quite possibly why he continues to stay in the race for the Republican presidential nomination to this day.

However Yarborough – CNN iReport’s Pundit of the Week – is hardly a hardcore conservative Republican. The former journalist caught the attention of the iReport community with commentaries like “Women are fed up,” (see below) and “Reality check, candidates: It’s tough out there.”

The Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, resident recently told CNN iReport all about herself and her political background. She recently made calls for Gingrich during various primaries, and was considering doing so for today's vote in Maryland.

Affiliations: “I have voted Democrat and Republican. (My father was a county Democrat chair, and so he and my father’s side always was Democrat while my mother’s side always was Republican … except my cousin on my father’s side worked for George Bush, much to Uncle Hall’s disappointment.)”

When did you get interested in politics?

“Probably junior high. I used to sit up until wee hours watching the returns come in. Mama and Daddy went to Chicago in 1968 (Daddy was a delegate). So, I was 10 at the time. I used to go around with my father and uncle to stump meetings. (I am the fourth of five children, but the only one who went around with my father to various events. We used to have some interesting people for breakfast, like John Carl West … and Daddy used to talk to Fritz Hollings a good bit.)”

Why do you share your opinion on iReport?

“I know that I am an independent thinker and am inclined to voice opinions that most are afraid to express; so as long as y’all don’t mind, I like the chance to freely (and respectfully) voice my opinion."

Who is your political or journalistic hero?

“Of course, the [Bob] Woodward and [Carl] Bernstein team. Woodward actually worked for the same little paper in Montgomery County, Maryland, as I once did.”

What is going to be the defining issue of the 2012 election?

“Energy prices, cyber-security/stability and volatility in the Middle East. It stands to draw a lot of attention to how Obama is protecting this country and our interests, and I suspect he may act in a manner that is quite revealing.”

What’s something people might be interested in learning about you?

“I played first chair trumpet in what was a remarkable high school concert band (ahead of a dozen boys who were probably better than I was). I authored a book, ‘Disaster Planning Guide for Medical Facilities’ after I saw that hospitals are the least prepared for disasters.”  "I was a print journalist, having worked for small community papers (nondailies and dailies); was a stringer for Reuters years ago, and for the Post & Courier, etc. Then, I went to work for the specialty press (those expensive newsletters, including those for Platts, BPI and Thompson Publishing) in the Washington, DC, area and became a member of the Senate Periodical Press Gallery (I covered literally every issue except maybe finance, per se)."

Follow Yarborough here, to check out her commentary. And it’s not too late to join in the debate about the issues of the day, including the campaign. Click here to chime in.

Posted by:
 
hhanks
// April 3, 2012
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Posted in: pundit_of_the_week, community
World Autism Awareness Day: Your stories »

Today is World Autism Awareness Day, and we’re asking people with autism and their loved ones to tell the world what it’s like.

 

We’ve gotten dozens of moving and personal stories from children and adults on the autism spectrum -- as well as their siblings and parents. Some families have seen their loved ones overcome the odds to great success, while others worry about what the future holds and say there's nothing positive about the diagnosis.

 

Cheri A. Smith’s 7-year-old son, Bobby, loves to jump, swim, play in the dirt and line up blocks. But, he “cannot tell us if something hurts, why he is upset or happy, where he would like to go, what happened at school today, what he would like to do for his birthday, what he would like Santa to bring him for Christmas or just basic things that we all take for granted.”

 

As a toddler, Anthony lost all his speech and regressed into autism "almost overnight," says mom Denna Rivera. "We were unable to hug or caress him in any way without him screaming like it hurt." But he has progressed “into a sweet 13-year-old with a zest for learning.”

 

 

Karen Michaela Willis, 20, was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when she was 4 years old. She represented Alabama in the 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska, in swimming. She is also looking for employment. "I know that my future is bright even though I'll still have challenges to face, but it's not going to stop me from living my life."

 

 

Multi-platinum record producer Michael Buckholtz was 43 when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. He went on to start the Aid for Autistic Children Foundation, to reduce the financial burden for families and caretakers. He was also homeless for a time.

 

“We, autistic adults, are invisible to many, unless we're savant or become billionaires because of inventing some cutting edge technology or science. We come in all flavors and levels of intellect,” he said. “We desire the same opportunity, as anyone: the pursuit of happiness and stable employment.”

 

You can see all the stories that have come in here and if you are affected by autism, we hope you will share your perspective with the world.

Posted by:
 
dsashin
// April 2, 2012
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Posted in: stories
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