Start Spreading the News: A Cross-Cultural Virtual Newsroom

By Deborah Steinborn

Can­va BEST mag­a­zine cover

A vir­tu­al what? asked the per­plexed high-school prin­ci­pal on the oth­er end of the line. I was halfway through my one-minute pitch of the BEST Vir­tu­al News­room, a new cross-cul­tur­al media-lit­er­a­cy pro­gram for Ger­man and Amer­i­can teens. Appar­ent­ly in a hur­ry, he huffed and quick­ly passed me on to a teacher of Eng­lish at the Ham­burg school. To my relief, she was more enthu­si­as­tic about the oppor­tu­ni­ty. She promised to dis­trib­ute the call for applications.

I made that first cold-call in spring 2021. The Amerikazen­trum Ham­burg, a bina­tion­al cul­tur­al insti­tute, had approached me a few weeks ear­li­er with the germ of an idea. Why not devel­op a vir­tu­al pro­gram to teach teens in Ham­burg and its U.S. sis­ter city Chica­go the basics of jour­nal­ism? A firm believ­er that media lit­er­a­cy is need­ed now more than ever, I loved the idea. I threw myself into the plan­ning right away.

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Thanksgiving or I’d Rather Not Be Invited

By Maria Moss

Pho­to Cred­it: “A wild turkey spot­ted in a Man­i­to­ban provin­cial park” by Vince Pahkala

For Thanks­giv­ing, let’s do with­out turkeys, these beau­ti­ful birds that Ben­jamin Franklin called “true Amer­i­can orig­i­nals.” Well, a lot of good that did them! More than 46 mil­lion are killed each year at Thanks­giv­ing alone.

Ben Franklin admired their resource­ful­ness, agili­ty, and beau­ty. In nature, turkeys can fly 55 miles an hour, run 25 miles an hour, and live up to four years. Yet turkeys raised for food are killed at the age of 5 months and – dur­ing their short lives – will be denied even the sim­plest plea­sures, such as run­ning, build­ing nests, and rais­ing their young.

But let’s not only think about turkeys, let’s also think about ourselves.

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11 Years of “Maple Leaf & Stars and Stripes” at Leuphana University Lüneburg

We are pleased to announce that Dar­i­on Akins, the cur­rent U.S. Con­sul Gen­er­al from Ham­burg, will open our lec­ture series with a talk on “Worth the Strug­gle: Why Democ­ra­cy Mat­ters” at 6:15 p.m. in the forum of Leuphana Uni­ver­si­ty Lüneburg’s cen­tral build­ing (C40) on Novem­ber 18, 2021. The coro­n­avirus 3G rule (vac­ci­nat­ed, recov­ered, test­ed) applies to this event.

In addi­tion to the lec­ture on cam­pus, Julia Nitz (Uni­ver­sität Halle-Wit­ten­berg), Christoph Stro­bel (Uni­ver­si­ty of Mass­a­chu­setts, Low­ell), and Fiona Tolan (Liv­er­pool John Moores Uni­ver­si­ty) will also join us this semes­ter via Zoom. As always, each lec­ture lasts rough­ly 1 hour and is either inter­ac­tive or fol­lowed by a live­ly ques­tion-and-answer ses­sion. Please see the poster for fur­ther details.

Hope to see you at one or more of the talks.

Sab­ri­na Völz, Maryann Henck, and Maria Moss

Numbers That Make You Think: Public Opinion of the United States is on the Rise

By Hannah Quinque

Pho­to Cred­it: Air Force 1 CC0 1.0, NASA https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/3e19b785-53a0-4e75-9466-d304d43c894d

Dear Read­er,

What has most sig­nif­i­cant­ly affect­ed your view of the U.S. with­in the last year? Black Lives Mat­ter protests, maybe? Well, they might have changed, but the same fights are fought still. Dis­as­trous ways to deal with Covid-19? Vac­ci­na­tion might have saved many lives, but 50,000 Amer­i­cans have died from Covid-19 since Octo­ber, and the rate of new infec­tions is still at 70,000 new cas­es each day. But hey, one major change can’t be dis­put­ed even by the most cyn­i­cal blog­ger: There’s a dif­fer­ent POTUS (Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States)! And although he faces obsta­cles at home, a recent study sug­gests that Joe Biden’s pres­i­den­cy made America’s image abroad take off again after a Trump-induced dive. Read more »

In Memoriam Bobbie Kirkhart

By Maria Moss

It is with great sor­row that we announce the pass­ing of Bob­bie Kirkhart. Not only has she been my won­der­ful friend of 35 years, she’s also been one of our most faith­ful con­trib­u­tors, writ­ing on polit­i­cal top­ics (“We were Trumped” and “The Long March to Jus­tice”), often inter­weav­ing her polit­i­cal insights with per­son­al rec­ol­lec­tions (“Mem­o­ries of Gov­ern­ment Springs Park”). She also com­ment­ed on top­ics of cul­tur­al rel­e­vance, such as on soc­cer star Megan Rapi­noe, (“Yay! Peo­ple love her!” or on only ‘old white men’ being nom­i­nat­ed for an Acad­e­my Award (“The Oscars – Not in Col­or this Year”). Bob­bie, an avid movie­go­er, also loved to review films she felt strong­ly about (“BlacK­kKlans­man: A Much too Amer­i­can Sto­ry” or “When the News was True: The Post”). All in all, we could always rely on her to tell it like it is, whether sprin­kled with a dose of humor or a pinch of sarcasm.

Bob­bie sent her last blog on Mon­day, Nov. 26, “A Gov­ern­ment of, for, and by the peo­ple?” and it appeared two days lat­er – the day she died.

Bob­bie was a past pres­i­dent of Athe­ist Alliance Inter­na­tion­al and a founder of the Sec­u­lar Coali­tion of Amer­i­ca. This is all the more sur­pris­ing as she liked to write about reli­gion and reli­gious top­ics or on patri­ot­ic Amer­i­can songs and hymns, like in her great blog “We sing America.”

We’ll miss you, Bobbie.

A Government of, by, and for the people?

By Bobbie Kirkhart

Pho­to Cred­it: “Unit­ed States Capi­tol” by Phil Roed­er is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We Amer­i­cans har­bor a huge dichoto­my in our atti­tudes toward our coun­try. We dis­play our patri­o­tism in bor­der­line chau­vin­is­tic man­ner, play­ing the nation­al anthem before every major sport­ing event, and church ser­vices fre­quent­ly include impas­sioned praise of our nation and some­times pro­mote the idea that loy­al­ty to god must include equal loy­al­ty to the country.

We Amer­i­cans, myself includ­ed, love our coun­try. It’s sur­pris­ing that many of my fel­low cit­i­zens hate our gov­ern­ment. It’s a pejo­ra­tive to call some­one a politi­cian. Can­di­dates for office who have no gov­ern­ment expe­ri­ence proud­ly run as ‘out­siders’ and often eas­i­ly win a seat. Amer­i­cans do not rec­og­nize pop­u­lar pub­lic pro­grams as gov­ern­ment cre­at­ed and spon­sored by Wash­ing­ton. I’ve heard more than once the demand, “Keep gov­ern­ment out of my Medicare,” which is, of course, a gov­ern­ment pro­gram. Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan was cheered when he told us, “Gov­ern­ment is not the solu­tion to our prob­lem, gov­ern­ment is the prob­lem.” Amer­i­cans per­ceive cor­rect­ly that the gov­ern­ment does not rep­re­sent all the people.

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