Sunday, April 26, 2009

What are your thoughts on nuclear power?
Many American University students believe that while nuclear power has a lot of potential, it needs to be explored further and controlled properly to prevent accidents. To get a sense of the AU community’s feelings toward nuclear power, I asked six students for their thoughts on the subject. The students were sitting in the Market Place or the Tavern, two food vendors located in AU’s Mary Graydon building. When asked for their opinions on nuclear power, some students said they felt that nuclear energy is a cleaner and cheaper way to get more energy to more people.
I also asked the students what direction they would like to see nuclear energy go in the future, what other types of energy they think should be explored and what the Obama administration should do about nuclear energy. Nuclear power should be government run, one student said. Another student said he was disappointed that recent administrations had not done more to support nuclear power. However, all students interview agreed that there are certain health and environmental hazards when dealing with nuclear power.
Lila Miller, a sophomore in AU’s School of International Service
“I think it’s a good resource, it could be used appropriately. I think that there’s a lot of risk involved and that if it’s properly managed, that it would be a good resource. But there’ so much risk and the nuclear waste would need to be better controlled before we can use it as a valuable resource.”
How can we better control nuclear power?
“I think there should be a lot more oversight and the government should be much more involved in the maintenance and checking and that people should be held accountable. I don’t think it should be privatized, I think that it should be run by the government because I think that they would be responsible for making everything work properly.”
Catherine Manheart, a sophomore in AU’s College of Arts and Sciences
“I also think that nuclear power could, it has the potential to be an interesting source of alternative energy, but that it does have the potential to become really dangerous really fast. I’m from Washington state and we have a huge problem with Hanford and their dumping waste into the river. Which was from a weapons plant, but, I mean, still, it’s just, there are a lot of risks involved especially with how to get rid of the nuclear waste.”
Hannah Oaks, a sophomore in AU’s School of International Service
“I think nuclear power is a good way to move in the future for energy. I think it’s a lot cleaner. There are a lot of drawbacks and there is danger to it but I think that if we develop techniques, in the end, it will work out.”
What type of techniques should be developed?
“I’m not really well-versed on nuclear power, so I just think that those scientists out there should continue to develop and try to make it safe, as safe as possible.”
Adam Marshall, a junior in AU’s School of Communication
“I don’t think I know enough about it, in depth, to give a full analysis of nuclear power. I think that the idea is good, but how to manage the waste is a major concern. And that’s, you know, what I would feel the most, is how we handle the waste and things like that. So that part bothers me about it, but the efficiency of it seems like a positive.”
What other types of energy would you like to see explored further?
“I would prefer renewable. I think wind is amazing. I think that solar power is awesome. You know, you set up the infrastructure and then you just take the energy. There’s no waste, basically, after you establish that. You don’t have to worry about what material or junk going into the atmosphere, so renewable energy is that way to go, according to me.”
James Randall, a sophomore in AU’s College of Arts and Sciences and School of International Service
“I think that nuclear power, if we can find a way to store the material in a safe way, is an under looked, under researched, underfunded and potentially economically and diplomatically and economically viable option, we just haven’t looked into it enough. I’m actually really disappointed in the last three administrations in their approach to nuclear power, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency. A lot of reports that have come out from them have said things like ‘it’s completely workable and has fewer negative impacts on the environment than anything else,’ and at the same time, doesn’t. They don’t go into it and they don’t provide any policy recommendations, and I find that faulty.”
Suggestions for the Obama administration?
“I would recommend a pilot project. I would recommend figuring out the most expensive place in the country to transport fossil fuels to, and build a single nuclear power plant right there to the highest standers and demonstrate to the country and to the world that the United States can and should use nuclear power.”
Rob Watkins, a freshman in AU’s School of International Service
“I definitely think it’s a good way, if they can do it safely, it’s a good way to get power to a lot of people for cheaper with less negative effects, if they can control it.”
The down sides?
“I mean, just like Shara Noble, stuff like that happening. I’ve heard of things happening in California, you know, if they cannot contain the nuclear waste, it’s really bad for the environment. But if they can control it, it’s really good.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bombs in Our Backyard

By Marisa Kendall

The American University administration has failed to adequately inform students and the public about chemical weapons buried on campus after World War, the largest deposit of which may still be lying undetected, a documentary film maker said Thursday.
The U.S. military used AU’s campus as a chemical weapons testing site from 1917 to 1918. Recent excavations on lot 18 near the Public Safety building and on nearby Glenbrook Road have uncovered unexploded munitions and deposits of mustard gas, arsine and arsenic, the Eagle previously reported.
Ginny Durrin, a documentary film maker, screened her film, “Bombs in Our Backyard,” as a work-in-progress Thursday, March 19, in the Weschler Theater of Mary Graydon Center. Following the screening, which was sponsored by the Environmental Film Festival, several experts debated the film’s impact and the larger issue of munitions found in the area.
Though the Army Corps claims it has safely removed all hazardous material from AU and neighboring Spring Valley, Durrin said she believes the largest burial site may still be lying undetected underneath the AU campus. The soil surrounding the Kreeger and Watkins buildings has a high concentration of perchlorate, a component commonly found in explosives. This burial site may be the source of the contamination found in Spring Valley, Durrin said.
These locations also match up with WWI diagrams that depict a main burial site larger than the others, Durrin said.
“All of this is hypothesis, but I think it needs to be tested,” she said.
While AU’s administration is attempting to investigate and clean up the toxins using government grants, it has not given students and the public enough information on the situation, according to Durrin.
“I think AU is trying to correct the past quietly and slowly,” she said.
Tom Smith, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for Spring Valley, said that the problem is increasing government secrecy since 9/11. Items have been dug up in the grounds around the president’s house on campus, but officials will not inform the public of what has been found, Smith said.
“There’s a lack of transparency now which I think is very, very troubling,” he said.
Bethany Bridgham, senior associate general counsel in AU’s legal counsel office, said the university sent memos last December to individuals who attended classes or worked in areas near the dig. Nearby buildings included academic buildings Watkins and Kreeger, the Admissions Office and the Financial Aid Office. The memo instructed students to go into the nearest building and seal all doorways and windows in the event of a chemical emergency signaled by the school’s siren.
The university has also set up a Web site at to keep students updated on the status of the investigations.
Durrin has been working on “Bombs in Our Backyard” for the past 16 years, following the story since a construction worker first discovered a shell during a 1993 construction project in Spring Valley.
The film juxtaposed shots of large houses and green, suburban lawns with residents’ stories of mysterious illnesses and frustration at not having answers. One resident said on camera that three people on her block got lung cancer even though they did not smoke. A team of construction workers who had dug a foundation in the area recalled seeing silver particles floating in the air and experiencing itching and vomiting during work.
Petruniak said he thinks the film should be used to raise awareness on a national level about the many other areas across the country affected by buried chemical weapons. It is unfair that there are many poor communities in the country dealing with problems similar to Spring Valley without the money and resources to do anything about it, he said.
Durrin said she hopes the film will keep society from forgetting what happened in Spring Valley. She also said she believes there is more to the story and urged AU students to question a variety of sources and try to piece the missing pieces of the puzzle.
“People should press to find out,” she said.
AU officials could not be reached for comments.
Mark Petruniak, a senior in the School of International Service, helped log and digitize footage for “Bombs in Our Backyard” while working for Durrin as an intern last summer.
“I think it’s something that [AU students] should be concerned about,” he said. “It’s certainly not safe.”


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Giant Dipper

SLUG: Giant Dipper
Story Type: VO/SOT
Reporter: Marisa Kendall
Date: 3/16/2009
Page 1

At the beginning of March, the weather is beginning to warm up and tourists and locals alike have just started flocking to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in California. Without the massive crowds that descend on the boardwalk during the summer, the beach, rides, games and food stands have a friendly, inviting atmosphere, especially to those who remember visiting as children long ago. One ride in particular stands out in most people’s minds.

(SOT) My introduction in front of roller coaster

The Giant Dipper roller coaster has provided joy during the Roaring Twenties, solace during the Great Depression and an escape throughout both World Wars. Built in 1924, the red and white track stretches seventy feet tall and is a classic fixture of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and is the seventh-oldest roller coaster still operating in the United States. However…the Giant Dipper continues to provide modern-day thrills to roller coaster enthusiasts.

(SOT) kids screaming on roller coaster

The ride reaches speeds of fifty-five miles per hour, which makes it faster than many newer coasters…including “Top Gun” at Paramount’s Great America in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Thousands rally for environment

Power shift
By Marisa Kendall


Braving a snowstorm that temporarily shut down most of the city, students at American University joined thousands on the West Lawn of the Capitol Monday to protest coal power, which is used in congressional buildings.
The rally marked the culmination of Power Shift, a four-day conference sponsored by Capitol Climate Action.
Many of the protesters also made their way to a subsequent sit-in in at the gates of a coal-fired power plant that powers the Capitol, House and Senate office buildings.
In the non-violent sit-in sponsored by Green Peace participants protested the use of coal power by physically blocking the entrances to the plant, said Ian Pajer-Rogers, a Power Shift volunteer.
“Global warming is a vastly urgent issue that is unprecedented,” he said. “So we just hope to really push the issue and continue to really put pressure on coal and make sure this is a kick-off event.”
Drew Veysey, a junior in the School of Public Affairs and treasurer and environmental science officer of AU’s Eco-Sense, recruited students for Power Shift by putting up posters, emailing and sending Facebook messages, he said.
Seventy-five students attended the conference and most took advantage of a group discount organized by Eco-Sense, paying $35 instead of $50 to register. Getting AU students involved was important, said Veysey..
“AU has a lot of students in international relations, international development and political science,” he said. “Those three fields are extremely important to the future of the planet, especially as it concerns climate change.”
Eco-Sense members also contributed by doing volunteer work at Power Shift and housing participants from schools in New York, Texas and Vermont, said Veysey.
The conference drew students from across the country, and Power Shift volunteers helped make sure the thousands of protesters at the sit-in stayed peaceful, said Pajer-Rogers.
“We expect there to be a little bit of aggression coming our way, so we just want to make sure that we’re completely non-violent at all times, de-escalating any situations that are getting heated and just making sure that we are keeping our people safe and keeping everybody safe,” said Pajer-Rogers.
Many of the protesters were planning to risk arrest by blocking the power plant entrances, he said. The most likely charges would be incommoding (physically positioning oneself in the way of traffic or bussiness) or failure to disperse, which are both offenses about equal to a parking ticket, said Pajer-Rogers.
However, there were no arrests made, according to USA Today.
Instead of attending the two protests on Capitol Hill, Veysey spent Monday lobbying for green jobs, clean energy and a quota on green house emissions in several Power-Shift-organized meetings with members of the Iowa Congressional Delegation. Most were positive about the ideas, he said.
Pajer-Rogers said he did not think the snow kept activists away from the Capitol because most are committed to the cause.
Bryan Davis, a junior at Ithaca College, took a bus to Washington, D.C. for Power Shift and stayed with a friend at AU. He said he thought the large numbers of protesters changed the minds of many oppositionists.
“I came because I wanted to be reminded of just how many people care about the environment and green issues in our country,” Davis said.
Keith Fletcher, a freshman at the University of North Carolina, Nashville, carpooled with other students and spent the weekend at a nearby church for $5 per night.
“It’s amazing to see so many people dedicated to making a change,” he said.
Mia Sloan, a freshman at St. Lawrence University, traveled 10 hours on a bus.
“We want to shift into clean energy for the United States and lead the world in a greener planet,” she said.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Swiping into students' hearts

By Marisa Kendall Christine Hamlett-Williams loves her job as a Terrace Dining Room cashier at American University’s student dining hall, but not because of the free food. Known by AU students as “Ms. Christine,” she rolls her eyes when asked about TDR’s mass-produced cuisine. Wearing the maroon shirt that constitutes the TDR uniform and sitting at a long table among a cafeteria full of noisy students, Ms. Christine admitted that the dining hall’s food was not her favorite. After growing up in North Carolina, Ms. Christine said she would like to see TDR serve more of what she described as the “stuff that’ll kill me.” Picking at a bowl of salad that sits on a plastic tray, she lists her ideal food choices as fried chicken, fried fish, ribs and potato salad. Ms. Christine had been at AU since 1981, working at both the University Club, the faculty dining room, and the Market Place, a fast food area, before landing in her favorite location: TDR. She swipes students’ ID cards as they enter the dining hall from 7 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and she looks forward to interacting with the students every day. “I love my students,” Ms. Christine said. “Some days I don’t feel like coming to work, but I think about once I come to work and I start talking to the students. I look at them and they laugh, and we laugh, and I pick their day up. It makes me feel better.” This sense of compassion that she tries to show others developed after going through several emotionally difficult years, Ms. Christine said. Her husband, Robert Williams, died suddenly of a heart attack in June of 2002. “He was a wonderful man,” she said. “His life was cut too short.” The death of her husband caused Ms. Christine to experience severe health problems that put her on the verge of a nervous breakdown, she said. “I went through a grieving period that weren’t so good,” she said. “I mean, I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, but I was close to it.” Williams played bass guitar in several different bands and was in Newport News, Va., performing at a family reunion the evening he died, Ms. Christine said. She received a call from him before he went on stage and the next call notified her that he had passed out, she said. Her first thought was that it was from the heat, but a later call from the hospital broke the news that Williams had died. “When they said ‘expired’ I’m trying to understand, because I knew, but I didn’t want to receive it,” Ms. Christine said. Ms. Christine had been married to Williams for four years, but they had been together for over 15 years. He was her second husband, and for the sake of her three children, she had wanted to be sure about their relationship before remarrying. Ms. Christine described her first marriage at 20 as “young love.” “I think those early years helped me learn how to be who I am now,” she said. Ms. Christine’s three children from her first marriage all stayed close to her home in Temple Hills, Md., near Anacostia. Her daughter, Alice, 32, works at a day care center while taking classes at the University of Maryland, and her youngest son, 35-year-old David, is an artist, Ms. Christine said. Ms. Christine’s oldest son, Gary, is 40 and has been on dialysis for the past 15 years. He was born with a deformed kidney, which gradually worsened as he grew up, she said. “It’s been like a rollercoaster,” Ms. Christine said, “up and down, in the hospital, out of the hospital.” She finds comfort in prayer and in spending weekends watching movies with her two granddaughters, Brittany, 6, and 15-year-old Crystal, she said. Ms. Christine is very close with her grandchildren, and she began to get tears in her eyes upon describing one particular weekend spent with them. Brittany was visiting Ms. Christine one day when the six-year-old witnessed a beam of sunlight break through the clouds and go straight into a window of the house. Brittany attributed the light to God and told her grandmother that God was “awesome,” Ms. Christine said. The moment warmed her heart, she said. Ms. Christine also enjoys flower arranging in her free time. Ms. Christine used to sell her arrangements, but now mostly makes them as gifts to cheer up friends who are not feeling well, she said. The most important thing Ms. Christine has taken from her years at AU is an understanding of and compassion for people of all races, all of attitudes and from all over the world, she said. “It helped me to understand people,” Ms. Christine said. Ms. Christine also dispelled rumors that she is the “Sassy Chef” who writes replies to the comment cards students leave on TDR’s bulletin board. She said she thinks they are written by different staff members, including the Executive Chef Marry Soto. Marien Richardson, a sophomore in the School of Communication, said she appreciates seeing Ms. Christine’s upbeat attitude on a daily basis. “She’s really nice,” Richardson said. “She remembers me every time I come down, and she will ask you how your day is and everything.” Kristin Garrity, a sophomore in the School of International Service, said Ms. Christine says “Hi” to her whenever she swipes into TDR. “I would describe her as always smiling and always very nice, very cheerful,” Garrity said. “She’s a very nice lady.” ###

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Inauguration Dissapointment

By Marisa Kendall

Inauguration Day may have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but many students at American University had to make sacrifices and overcome obstacles to be part of the history-making event.
Tens of thousands of Americans flooded the Washington Mall Tuesday to see the first African-American be sworn in as president of the United States. Of the approximately 2 million who showed up, thousands came from area schools and universities on one of the coldest days of the season.
Tracey Swan, a sophomore in the AU School of Public Affairs, was determined to see Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, take the oath of office.
She made it to the Mall, suffering an elbow to the nose in the packed crowd, but she was unable to get a good view of the ceremony. Swan left soon after Obama took the stage because of the cold and a sore nose. But she said she still enjoyed the overall experience.
“It was kind of cool to see the crowds and be at the Mall during it,” Swan said.
The media had spent days warning travelers of potential crowds and transportation hassles, but these very hassles were what stood out most positively in some AU students’ minds.
Junior Topher Minasi planned to wake up at 5 a.m. to secure a spot on the Mall but ended up sleeping until 8 a.m. After walking from campus, he said he was unimpressed.
“[I] sat around for an hour, got bored of not seeing anything, and left right after Obama got on,” Minasi said.
Aaron Rosenberg, a high-school senior from Des Moines, stayed with a friend in a dorm at AU. Although he arrived at the Mall at 7 a.m. armed with a ticket to the purple section, he was not admitted onto the Capitol grounds in time to see the ceremony. Rosenberg had been waiting four hours when word spread through the line that security officers had stopped letting spectators inside, he said.
“I was frustrated, but it happens,” Rosenberg said. “And I’m still here, which is pretty cool.”
Rosenberg was not alone in his disappointment. More than 4,000 blue and purple ticket holders never made it onto the Capitol grounds because members of Congress had distributed more tickets than there was space, reported The Washington Post.
The line of ticket-holders that had been building all morning quickly disintegrated into a mob once the purple gates opened, leaving thousands of angry people outside to shout at the guards and chant “pur-ple, pur-ple!”
Rosenberg did not understand what was happening in all of the chaos, he said.
“Everyone was all bunched up and we didn’t really know what was going on,” he said.
Other AU students enjoyed being part of the massive crowds that flooded the Mall and surrounding Metro stops.
Paige Howarth, a freshman in the School of Communication, cut back dramatically on her night’s sleep in order to secure a spot near the parade route. She arrived at the Tenley Town Metro station in time to witness a line of AU students that curved from the escalator all the way past the shuttle stop, about 50 yards.
“It was pretty neat to see it all and see all the kids that are out supporting Obama,” Howarth said.
Nathan Pace, a freshman in the Kogod School of Business, left at 2 a.m. to be one of the first to arrive at the Dupont Circle Metro stop but still had to let the first three trains of the morning pass because they were completely full, he said.
“It was an all-nighter, but it was amazing,” he said.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


It’s hard to write this sitting in my room: I’ve amassed a small collection of toys over the past year and they sit on my desk and distract me whenever I try to do homework. For some reason people seem to find it fitting to give me toys as presents, and I now have a remote control car, a monster bank that talks, a bubble machine, a light-up bouncy ball, etc…

My roommate, Lori-Ann DeVoe, thinks the assortment of toys describes me fairly well.

“Marisa Kendall has a very young and playful personality,” she said.

Aside from playing with toys, I also write for The Eagle. I am the new Metro-National Editor, as of the beginning of the semester, and it’s been a lot of fun so far. I am also starting an internship with Fox News this Monday. It will be my first experience with broadcast journalism, and I am excited to begin to experience this other sides of the media. After graduation I hope to either go into print journalism or become a novelist, and I am double-majoring in journalism and literature so I will be prepared for either option.

My other great love is traveling. I spent a month teaching elementary school in Palampur, India last summer, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I traveled around for a week with a group of other volunteers, mostly from England and Germany, and we went to Delhi, Jaipur, Amristar to see the Golden Temple and Agra to see the Taj Mahal.

I also spent a month in Cusco, Peru volunteering at an orphanage the summer after high school. That trip was what really sparked my interest in traveling everywhere in the world and seeing everything. I saw Machu Picchu, went bungee jumping and tried cuoy, or roasted guinea pig, which is a delicacy in Peru.

Hopefully I will be able to continue traveling and collecting interesting experiences that will give me something to write about for years to come.