Tag Archives: NPR

Westport Climate Accord Protest Goes National

A few dozen folks stood downtown for half an hour Sunday evening. They held signs and sang “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The goal was to draw local attention to President Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Accord.

Now the entire nation can see them.

NPR illustrated this morning’s story about American mayors and businesses’ reactions to Trump with a large photo of the Westport protest.

The caption does not mention Westport specifically. It reads:

Connecticut residents at a rally for the environment against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. Connecticut is one of twelve states and Puerto Rico that formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, all committing to uphold the Paris Accord.

But clearly our town — and state — have tapped into widespread anger. The story begins:

Days after President Trump announced that he would be pulling the U.S. out of a global agreement to fight climate change, more than 1,200 business leaders, mayors, governors and college presidents have signaled their personal commitment to the goal of reducing emissions.

In an open letter, the signatories vow to “continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement,” even “in the absence of leadership from Washington.”

Click here for the entire NPR piece.

Remembering Frank Deford

Frank Deford — one of the most famous (and elegant) sportswriters of all time — has died. He was 78, and lived in Key West and New York.

But for many years, Deford was a Westporter. It was here that he wrote many of his 20 books, and some of the most important pieces in his 50-year career at Sports Illustrated. He spent 37 years as an NPR “Morning Edition” commentator, and recorded most of those stories just up the road, at WSHU’s Bridgeport studio.

It was in Westport too that his daughter Alex was raised, went to Greens Farms Elementary School and died, of cystic fibrosis. She was just 8.

Deford turned that tragedy into a poignant book and movie, called “Alex: The Life of a Child.” He also served as national chair of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, from 1982 to 1999.

After Alex’s death, Deford and his wife Carol adopted a girl, Scarlet, from the Philippines. Their oldest child, Christian, graduated from Staples High School.

Deford won countless honors. He was most proud of the National Humanities Medal, awarded in 2013 by President Obama.

In 2013, President Obama awarded Frank Deford the National Humanities Medal. He was the 1st sportswriter to earn that honor.

But he was also a local presence. He spoke at the Westport Library, and was a reader — in that voice familiar to so many NPR listeners — at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Deford had a remarkable career. But though he hit plenty of grand slams, he wouldn’t be human if he never struck out.

In 1990, he was editor-in-chief of a new launch, The National: America’s 1st-ever daily sports newspaper.

It folded after 18 months. One of its many obstacles was distribution. Deford even had to cancel his own home delivery when not enough Greens Farms neighbors signed up.

But he had great fun trying to make a go of the National. (The final front-page headline: “We Had a Ball: The Fat Lady Sings Our Song.”)

Frank Deford

The paper — and he — covered every sport imaginable.

Including soccer. Which — as every NPR listener knew — he hated.

A few months after The National began, I asked him — only half-jokingly — why he got to cover the World Cup in Italy, instead of a true soccer aficionado like me.

Deford was very tall. He looked down at me, both physically and journalistically.

He gave me a semi-smile.

“When you run The National,” he said, “then you can cover the World Cup.”

Frank Deford covered it all, in a storied and story-filled life.

His many fans — and his former neighbors — will miss him greatly.

Lynsey Addario Honors International Day Of The Girl

Today is the International Day of the Girl Child. In honor of the UN-sponsored event, NPR asked 5 photographers — all renowned for documenting the lives of global girls — to share photos with special significance.

Though known as a public radio network, NPR’s website is robust and thought-provoking.

Lynsey Addario — the MacArthur “Genius Grant”-winning/world famous photographer/Staples graduate — does not disappoint. Her photos include a 13-year-old Syrian girl at her engagement party, and another young teenager from Sierra Leone who died delivering twins.

Check out Lynsey’s haunting photos — and many others — at the NPR website.

Lynsey says of this 13-year-old girl, photographed at her engagement party at a camp in Jordan: "Syrian refugees typically marry young. It's been exacerbated by the war. Families are scared something might happen to their daughter. They prefer to marry them earlier so they're under the protection of a husband." (Photo/Lynsey Addario for NPR)

Lynsey says of this 13-year-old girl, photographed at her engagement party at a camp in Jordan: “Syrian refugees typically marry young. It’s been exacerbated by the war. Families are scared something might happen to their daughter. They prefer to marry them earlier so they’re under the protection of a husband.” (Photo/Lynsey Addario for NPR)

Lynsey Addario photographed this young girl, who died delivering twins. The Sierra Leonean wanted to earn a degree, but at 14 was forced into marriage. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for NPR)

Lynsey Addario photographed this young girl, who died delivering twins. The Sierra Leonean wanted to earn a degree, but at 14 was forced into marriage. (Photo/Lynsey Addario for NPR)

(Hat tip to Siobhan Crise)

 

Missing Dog Makes NPR

Andy — the Welsh Corgi whose 4-month long disappearance has been covered by media outlets ranging from “06880” to the New York Times — has now had his story told on NPR.

A national “All Things Considered” audience this afternoon heard a nearly 4- minute report. This was not, NPR noted, a story about “putting flyers on telephone poles, or wandering the streets calling for Fido.”

The piece described the hiring of a “pet detective,” with tracker dogs. It noted the more than 20 sightings of Andy so far. It quoted a woman who spends 5 hours a day, 5 days a week looking for the lost dog.

And — while acknowledging that spending over $10,000 to find the animal might seem excessive to some — it quoted Andy’s owner as saying he could not not look for him.

(Click here to listen to the story via NPR’s website.)

Haris Durrani’s Takeaway

Haris Durrani did not attend Tuesday night’s Staples High School awards ceremony.

The soon-to-graduate senior was in a different auditorium:  Carnegie Hall.  He was accepting a Scholastic Art and Writing Award gold medal, for his portfolio of work.

This is a biggie.  Previous winners include Joyce Carol Oates, Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.

Out of 185,000 writing and art entries, Haris received — in addition to his portfolio gold — a gold medal for short story, a gold medal for memoir, and a gold medal for Best in Grade.   He earned $10,500 in scholarships for his efforts.

At Carnegie Hall, he hung out with Mayor Bloomberg.  Professional actors read his words.

And he was interviewed for NPR’s “The Takeaway.”

For nearly 10 minutes, Haris talked easily with John Hockenberry about his life — literary and otherwise.

The son of a Dominican mother and Pakistani father, Haris grew up Muslim in a post-9/11 world.  Feeling a duty to represent himself and his communities well, Haris writes about diversity and social justice with insight and perception.

Writing allows Haris to try to figure out who he is — while challenging readers’ preconceptions and assumptions.  One of his stories about racial profiling explores a policeman’s misjudgment of an Asian/Hispanic woman.

But, Hockenberry noted, Haris also shows sympathy for the cop.

“We’re all on the good guys’ side,” the young author explains.  His feelings about diversity and human rights derive, he says, “from growing up in America.”

Hockenberry got Haris to reveal that one of his early influences was Isaac Asimov.  What the interviewer did not say — and may not have known — is that besides being a national award-winning writer (with Scholastic Gold Key honors for memoir and short story, along with his portfolio), Haris is also captain of Staples’ robotics team.

That is, Staples’ world champion robotics team.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Only Haris Durrani could.

To read NPR’s Takeaway story on Haris, click here.  To view a video of Reg E. Cathey from “The Wire” reading Haris’ “Jedi Night,” click below:

To hear the Takeaway interview, click the arrow below:   

http://www.thetakeaway.org/audio/xspf/137826

Save The Polar Bears

A typical Staples absence note says, “He was at the doctor’s.”

Brian Hershey’s says, “He was at the Arctic Circle.”

If anything merits an excused absence, his does.

Brian Hershey, proudly wearing his Polar Bears International/Gault fleece.

Brian is a go-getter.  He’s president of the Geography Club for good reason:  Still a high school junior, he’s already visited 50 countries.

He plays alto sax in the jazz band and pit orchestra.

He spent last summer in Japan, as an exchange student.

He loves science.  So it was no surprise that last spring he entered an international contest run by Polar Bears International aimed at educating teenagers about climate change.

Nor was it surprise that — after writing an essay, and undergoing interviews — Brian was one of 18 winners.

Which is how, earlier this month, he traveled to Churchill, Manitoba — a small town on Hudson Bay — to meet with scientists, study polar bears, and figure out how to stop the world from falling apart.

Brian met incredible people.  Meeting other teenagers was as intriguing as interacting with climate change experts and park rangers.  Most of the teenagers won contests co-sponsored by zoos (Brian’s was the only one sponsored by an energy company — Gault).  Their perspectives broadened his own.

He spent time with Inuit trappers.  One woman had been hired at age 7 to guide white hunters.  At 9 she traveled 50 kilometers, spending 20 days trapping, then hauling furs back to Churchill.

By herself.

“I figured these trappers would just kill animals,” Brian says.  “But their lives depend on animals.  They really understand the importance of conservation.”

But his encounters with a few dozen polar bears — some as close as 2 feet away — were truly amazing.

Brian Hershey took this photo. The polar bears are having fun -- but there should be snow and ice on the ground.

A buggy brought the group to a research station in the middle of the tundra.

“We were at the mouth of the  Churchill River, where fresh and saltwater mix,” Brian explains.

“The bears hadn’t eaten in 4 months.  They were starving, waiting for the ice to form, so they could hunt and eat seals.

“The water wasn’t frozen — but it should have been.  Looking in the eyes of those awesome predators was an incredible experience.”

Brian returned to Westport — via prop plane to Winnipeg — motivated to find solutions to climate change.  He and his new friends had agreed to try to get major businesses or organizations wherever they lived — Australia, the UK, wherever — to reduce their carbon footprint by 5% in 1 year.

Brian immediately approached Staples principal John Dodig to discuss “realistic, applicable ideas.”

One was to start using thin, recyclable paper — like the type Brian saw in Japan — for the many handouts teachers distribute.

Another suggestion:  designate some junior parking spots (a coveted commodity) for students who recycle the most.

Brian Hershey, at the Arctic Circle.

Brian is determined to educate as many people as possible — of all ages — about the importance of environmental awareness.

“Climate change,” he notes, is a “misnomer.  Climate is dynamic — it’s always changing.  The question is whether people believe human beings are now contributing to the change.

“I think we are.  And I want to talk about it.”

His message — to his friends, teachers, and hopefully the nation — is both personal and universal.

“Why should people in the slums of India, or Brazilian favelas, care about polar bears?

“You have to look at the global picture — at weather, ocean salinity, fishing, trade, everything.

“I have friends all around the world.  And I’m going to use all my contacts, everyone I know and everything I learned, to try to spread awareness as much and as far as I can.”