Category Archives: News

Stop the Press: The Syrian Civil War

Posted on January 3rd, 2017 by rschmelzer in News
Tags: , ,

Has anyone been reading Teen Vogue? This long-running fashion magazine has been publishing well-written and informative news articles for Teen readers. A topic of recent journalism has been the Syrian Civil War. This article recently broke down the most important things to know about this mounting conflict that has been culminating in the city of Aleppo:

Getty Images

Getty Images



  • Aleppo, being the most populous city in Syria, has had the largest movement of refugees from within the country. The country as a whole has produced 4.8 million refugees while 6.1 million have been displaced (meaning they have been forced to leave their home but are still in Syria). Half of these displaced civilians are children. Refugees have been fleeing to neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey which in turn have been having a difficult time accommodating the sheer volume of arriving refugees. Lack of food, jobs, and shelter has left refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey living without sources of income. Although there have been reports of some refugees fleeing to Spain, France, the U.S and Canada, Turkey is home to nearly 2.7 million Syrian refugees.
  • Syria’s current president, Bashar al-Assad, has held power since July 10, 2000. His presidency came unopposed after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, and when it was time for the people to vote he was reported as a unanimous victor with 97% of the popular vote.
  • The country’s civil war, which started in 2011, resulted from Assad’s command to strike down a group of pro-democracy teenage protestors in the southern city of Deraa with gun violence. This event was crucial in activating the protests all over the country demanding for his resignation. Soon after, protests occurred throughout the country, violence began to escalate by both rebel and government forces, while rebel brigades were formed creating battlegrounds in Damascus, the capital of Syria, as well as Aleppo. After about two years of conflict, the UN reported in 2013 that 90,000 deaths occurred in wake of the conflict between rebel and government forces.
  • Rebel forces are demanding social justice and political reform, while Assad is fighting to remain in power despite the efforts of the rebels to overthrow him. This civil war has left the once prosperous city to run without any hospitals, schools, and sources of food.
  • On December 20th, 2016, buses meant to evacuate civilians out of Aleppo were set on fire, leaving them stranded.
  • On December 29th, 2016, it has been reported that a cease-fire and peace treaty have been drawn after 5 and half years of conflict.
  • 7 year old Bana al-Abed maintained a Twitter account with her mother to give the world a glimpse into the horrors the people of Aleppo have been facing.



icon of RebeccaAre you interested in keeping up with the news and current events? The Boston Public Library has subscriptions to newspapers that you can read in the library or online.

*”Stop the Press” features current events posts by Rebecca, the Teen Librarian at the Grove Hall Branch, on the first Tuesday of every month.

Hack the System!: Combating Fake News!

Posted on November 18th, 2016 by adowds in News, Technology, Teen Services
Tags: , , , ,


Post-election anxieties are pretty heightened right about now, and election results have left many people asking, How?!? Why?!? What?!? Fingers are being pointed in many directions, but one culprit taking the lead is “fake news”. So much so, some “fake news” bloggers are actually claiming partial responsibility for the election of Donald Trump.


“Fake news” is a form of news satire. Content is presented in a format typical of mainstream journalism, but the actual content is anything but real and often pokes fun at current events. Fake news stories pop up everywhere on social media sites, and receive almost immediate attention, likes, shares, and reactions from users due to its sensationalized material. According to BuzzFeed News Analyst Craig Silverman, “the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News…”. Silverman used a tool called BuzzSumo to compare the way the public engaged or interacted with traditional news stories vs fake news stories that peddled false claims during the final three months of the US presidential campaign. He found that the 20 top performing “fake news” stories received 8.7 million shares, reactions, likes, etc. on Facebook while the 20 top performing new stories from reputable publications received 7.3 million.



Does this mean that fake news won the election for Donald Trump? Most likely not. But it does mean that people either are not as media savvy as we hoped or, we tend to trust almost anything once it is posted online — no questions asked. While companies such as Facebook and Google have amped up their abilities to block ad monies that promote fake news and hoax stories, two individuals have created extensions for Chrome to help people circumvent untrustworthy new sites by warning them when they are visiting sites or reading material that is known to be misleading, satirical, or a hoax.



First, Daniel Sieradski created the “B.S. Detector” on Tuesday, November 15th for Chrome browsers only. This extension will identify and flag articles from questionable resources while users are browsing Facebook.  Sieradski’s invention relies on a pre-generated list of well-known fake news sites created by Melissa Zimdars, a communication and media professor from Merrimack College in Massachusetts. Users may submit requests to update and change this list.





The second extension, Fake News Alert, was created by New York magazine journalist Brian Feldman and was released Thursday, November 17th. If a user attempts to visit a known hoax site, a pop-up or banner appears to alert users. Feldman also uses Zimdars’ preexisting list of fake news sites to assist people who may not be media savvy or have been foiled hook, line, and sinker into reading and believing one of these articles.


These latest creations may diminish the outpouring of misinformation, but they also have a few downsides. First, they can only be used on Chrome browsers. Second, it is up to the user to proactively download the tool. And most notably, these extensions only work on the specific website domain, which means users must actually click on the website link in order to receive an alert. According to Feldman, preemptive alerts that flag articles before they are opened or read would require a more sophisticated version of his Fake News Alert Chrome extension. And similar to any antivirus software, new hoax sites can be created that aren’t in the extension’s database.


The good news — Both of these tools were created in about an hour and their inventors admit they are pretty bare bones. There is plenty of room for tinkering and improvement, which means there is ample opportunity for you all to hack the system and build your own app, fight against fake news, and enable people to place more trust in what they are reading!



Want to create your own technology life hack? Stop by Teen Central during Open Lab time.

“Hack the System!” features examples of technology life hacks created by Ally, the Youth Technology Librarian at Teen Central. Check back on the third Friday of each month for her latest post.

Stop the Press: “T” Things

Posted on September 6th, 2016 by rschmelzer in News, Teen Services
Tags: , , ,



Photo by MBTA

Ha. Probably not cool of me to post this snowy picture in the middle of the summer heat. 

Reduced Prices for Middle and High School Students

It’s been a good news week for Boston students. Starting Thursday, September 1st, middle and high school students will be able to ride the MBTA at less than half-price. Some schools already provide bus passes to students through their One Card, but that was only for the school year and not every Boston student has these passes. The good news is that for students whose schools do not purchases bus passes, they can now buy either a Student Charlie Card which is half-price per trip, or a monthly student pass for $30. This is a huge savings as a monthly pass typically costs over $80. The added bonus is that these passes will be available to students year-round, and not just the school year!

Twist on the MBTA Map Design

Isn’t this such a cool map? It’s so clean, so circular.

What about this one? Though it’s not current news, I found this an interesting share. At first glance I thought the entire train route had been redesigned and expanded. What actually happened is that Dr. Maxwell Roberts, a university professor has redesigned just the maps themselves for transit routes all over the world, including Boston. According to his interview with Boston Magazine, he has combined his interests of cartography (map-making) and psychology to redesign transit maps that offer more clarity to the user. What do you think of these designs? I think they would definitely be easier to look at and navigate.

icon of Rebecca

Are you interested in keeping up with the news and current events? The Boston Public Library has subscriptions to newspapers that you can read in the library or online.

*”Stop the Press” features current events posts by Rebecca, the Teen Librarian at the Grove Hall Branch, on the first Tuesday of every month.

Stop the Press: #BlackLivesMatter

Posted on August 2nd, 2016 by rschmelzer in News, Teen Services
Tags: , ,


My heart is heavy. The recent news has been filled with so much violence, animosity, hate, distrust, fear, brutality and anger. Starting conversations is an important first step for us as citizens of the world to try to mitigate these somber times. I’d like to start with a conversation about the difference between #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter. I’ve seen arguments back and forth on the two expressions, and I admit I was confused at first as well. Let’s clear this up: #BlackLivesMatter started in 2012 following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin (CNN). It started as a conversation about police brutality and inequality. It does not mean that Black Lives Matter more, nor does it mean that only Black Lives Matter. It does not mean that Police Lives don’t matter either. What it is meant to draw attention to is that black lives have historically mattered less in the history of the United States. It means that Black Lives should matter too. An uncomfortable truth for sure, and one that I think many people have struggled with.


How can I help?

Teen Vogue recently posted this article about 10 things that teens can do to help. This article is quite useful for those of us who would like to help but don’t know where to start. I found this quote by the article’s author to be especially powerful:

Chelsea Couillard-Smith, a librarian for Hennepin County (MN) Library, created a #BlackLivesMatter booklist for teens. If you’d like to start conversations about justice and race, be sure to check some of these titles out.  They are also all available at BPL.


icon of RebeccaAre you interested in keeping up with the news and current events? The Boston Public Library has subscriptions to newspapers that you can read in the library or online.

*”Stop the Press” features current events posts by Rebecca, the Teen Librarian at the Grove Hall Branch, on the first Tuesday of every month.

Stop the Press: Brexit-what?

Posted on July 5th, 2016 by rschmelzer in News, Teen Services
Tags: ,

Though it still sounds to me like some sort of shredded-wheat cereal, Brexit happened last week and it is a big deal. It’s all over the news and social media. You must have heard of it, but does it make any sense to you? Brexit has already affected American and world stock markets, and part of being a global citizen is knowing and understanding what is going on in the world around us. So here I’ll try to break it down in the most non-boring way possible. What better way to do that than with The Simpsons?!


This is the flag of the European Union (Lisa).

  This is the flag of Great Britain (Bart.)

Brexit= British + Exit. The possibility of Great Britain leaving the European Union, which currently includes these countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

After the Second World War there was a new movement to create unity between Germany and France, which would ultimately lay the foundations for the European Union four decades later, in 1993.

The European Union, or EU, gives those living in EU countries the right to travel, work and live in any other EU country.

Each of the countries within the Union are independent but they agree to trade under the agreements made between the nations.

(Credit The Telegraph)

A referendum – a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part – was held on Thursday 23 June, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union.

Leave won by 52% to 48%.

(Credit BBC)

So now you have a basic understanding of what everyone is talking about! From this point you can do your own research or listen to the news for the short and long-term implications of what went down.


icon of Rebecca

Are you interested in keeping up with the news and current events? The Boston Public Library has subscriptions to newspapers that you can read in the library or online.

*”Stop the Press” features current events posts by Rebecca, the Teen Librarian at the Grove Hall Branch, on the first Tuesday of every month.