Parkland students who survived a mass shooting in February are turning their trauma into action. For the past 2 months, a busload of them have traveled the country in pursuit of stricter gun laws, connecting with local activists, holding rallies, debating counterprotesters and, above all, registering voters. They knew perfectly well how many before them — after Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Orlando — had been unable to turn outrage into lasting change. They don’t “blame guns for everything.” At every stop, they emphasize that gun violence can’t be addressed without addressing what fuels it: racism, poverty, substandard schools and mental health services. They speak daily about intersectionality, systems of oppression, the school-to-prison pipeline. They urged young people to vote. Many of their proposals already have widespread support. It’s Congress and state legislatures, they say, that don’t reflect the will of the people. They talk about these things so much that it’s easy to forget they are, well, teenagers. People who hold an impromptu dance party outside a theater when one of them starts banging out the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme on a bright green piano. People who talk about prom and mock each other’s pool shots and stuff cupcakes into their mouths whole. @ga.briella took this photo of Bria Smith hugging Lauren Hogg at the April 16 Memorial at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Visit the link in our profile to read more.
In the age of Instagram, this waterfall is deadly. The last 4 people who died at Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills were taking or posing for pictures. Now New York State is taking steps to make the site safer. #KaaterskillFalls, about 110 miles north of Manhattan, is misty and tranquil in times of low rainfall but can become thunderous and fierce for days after a heavy rain. At 230 feet, the combined drop of its upper and lower tiers is higher than Niagara Falls. Forest rangers estimate the falls see 100,000 visitors a year — a tenfold increase from a quarter century ago. But long before Kaaterskill Falls were Instagram-famous, they were famous-famous. Hudson River School painters like Thomas Cole and Frederic Church made the site, and the whole region, a sensation in the 1800s. 3 large hotels hosted tourists close to the falls well into the 1900s. But the flood of tourists slowed to a trickle as vacationers found new destinations. Today, the Department of Environmental Conservation is doing everything it can to provide a safe experience at the falls. “We’ve got rangers and staff there who can help to guide people in the right direction,” said Basil Seggos, the department’s commissioner. He added: “Stay on the trail; wear the right footwear; don’t wear flip flops.” @piotr_redlinski took this video of the falls while on #nytassignment in the Catskills. Visit the link in our profile to read more.
Aretha Franklin, universally acclaimed as the “Queen of Soul” and one of America’s greatest singers in any style, died today at her home in Detroit. She was 76. In her indelible late-1960s hits, #ArethaFranklin brought the righteous fervor of gospel music to secular songs that were about much more than romance. Hits like “Do Right Woman — Do Right Man,” “Think,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools” defined a modern female archetype: sensual and strong, long-suffering but ultimately indomitable, loving but not to be taken for granted. When she sang #Respect, the Otis Redding song that became her signature, it was never just about how a woman wanted to be greeted by a spouse coming home from work. It was a demand for equality and freedom and a harbinger of feminism, carried by a voice that would accept nothing less. “It was the need of the nation, the need of the average man and woman in the street, the businessman, the mother, the fireman, the teacher — everyone wanted respect,” she wrote in her autobiography. In a musical career that spanned more than 5 decades, Aretha Franklin had over 100 singles on the Billboard charts. But more importantly, says Jon Pareles, our chief popular music critic, she freed other singers to let their voices fly. Visit the link in our profile to read the full @nytimes obituary for the #QueenOfSoul. Our photographer Don Hogan Charles captured this photo in 1968; swipe left to see @rebeccasmeyne’s photo of Aretha Franklin at @tribeca last year.
“All the houses used to be full,” said Ishaq Nisaan. “Now on my street, it’s only me and my neighbor.” The memories of the retired oilman dot the village in Syria where he grew up. The mud chapel he got married in. The concrete church he helped build that would overflow with worshipers on holidays. The tight community of Assyrian Christian families who had lived together in this area for generations. Now it’s a village of ghosts. The same fate has befallen all the surrounding villages, where Assyrian Christians, one of Syria’s many religious minorities, had long farmed and raised animals along the banks of the Khabur River in the country’s northeast. The Islamic State attacked the area in 2015, kidnapping more than 220 residents. The jihadists were pushed out a few months later by Kurdish forces and local fighters, and released most of the captives after receiving exorbitant ransoms. But the extremists demolished many of the area’s churches before they left, and almost all of the freed captives, along with their families and neighbors, have since fled, hollowing out the community. Vulnerable communities were so traumatized that they may never recover, leaving permanent holes in Syria’s social fabric. The number of Christians across the Middle East has been declining for decades as persecution and poverty have led to widespread migration. The days of fear and violence in the villages are gone, but the scars they left are everywhere. @ivorprickett took this photo of Ishaq at the ruins of a church he helped build in the village where he grew up in Syria. Visit the link in our profile to read more.
Kenan Thompson has always been most comfortable as a supporting player. The longest tenure on the show and an Emmy nomination have helped change that state of mind. Over a decade and a half on @nbcsnl, Kenan has grown to see himself as an integral part of this long-running entertainment franchise. But he had to get past his deeply ingrained modesty to achieve that recalibration. “I feel like there’s less pressure and stress just hitting it and quitting it. Let me get in, get my laughs and then I’m out,” he said. “As far as being the guy, the star, the lead role of something, I didn’t necessarily need that.” By his own admission, he wasn’t so calm and collected when he joined @nbcsnl in the fall of 2003, despite a robust resume. He had already starred in a sketch show, “All That,” and a sitcom, “Kenan & Kel,” both on Nickelodeon. But for Kenan, those first several years at @nbcsnl were fraught with anxiety and intimidation. Joining a troupe that then included Tina Fey, @jimmyfallon and Amy Poehler was disorienting. “I was a huge fan, and then to see myself on it, it just didn’t seem like the same show,” he said. “It was so weird and confusing.” It was only in recent years that he felt like he could relax and take a lesson from these performers. “I just realized that they were being their awesome, silly selves,” he said, “and working the way that they worked best. @rorosiemarie took this photo of Kenan. Visit the link in our profile to read more.
@melissacoppel runs Atelier Melissa Coppel, a small chocolate school in an unglamorous strip mall in western Las Vegas, that shares the parking lot with an orthodontics office and a law firm. But with her meticulous, colorful style of making chocolates, she draws pastry chefs from all over the world who want to learn by her side. Her school is one of only a few places that teaches the art of molded chocolate work, a disappearing skill, at such a high level. As a result, it is competitive with a handful of much larger, longstanding institutions like the @chicagochocolateacademy and the @frenchpastryschool. Though the techniques she demonstrates are hard to master — from sealing chocolates neatly to balancing the water and sugar contents of ganaches — cooks can reproduce them at home, with some practice. “There are a lot of chocolatiers teaching chocolate, but what I do is very specific,” she said. Her specialty: the molded bonbon. Melissa’s molded bonbons, or chocolate shells filled with ganaches, caramels and crunches, are handmade and hand-decorated in acrylic trays, using a variety of intricate spray techniques and painted designs. Melissa’s fillings are fresh, complicated and sometimes unusual. These are chocolates made to be both admired and eaten — fast. @joebuglewicz took this photo of #MelissaCoppel. Swipe left to see one of her bonbons and visit the link in our profile to read more.
At the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, Mark Finney is recreating and studying fire whirls. In the wild, these fire whirls are unpredictable and dangerous. An exceptionally powerful whirl in late July during California’s unrelenting Carr Fire whipped winds up to 143 miles per hour, roaring and spinning for 90 minutes and scooping up ash, debris and flames. It uprooted trees, stripped the bark off them and downed power lines. The whirl, sometimes nicknamed a “firenado,” was so large it was picked up on Doppler radar. Mark and other scientists are racing to develop a deeper understanding of the combined effects of a warmer climate, massive tree die-offs that feed the wildfires, and developments encroaching into the wilderness. “Nature hides its mysteries pretty well,” Mark said. “It’s hard to believe, but the physics of how fires behave is largely mysterious. We’re in the days before the Enlightenment in this field. We need better science.” Big fires burn differently than small fires: logs, branches and other sources of fuel behave differently at varying temperatures. And wildfires often exhibit nonlinear behavior or act counterintuitively. The lab here hopes within a few years to create a computer model that can better represent these mind-bogglingly complex behaviors and help anticipate their patterns. @lvizzutti took this photo of Sara McAllister, left, and Mark, near the fire whirl generator at #MissoulaFire SciencesLaboratory. Visit the link in our profile to read more.
“Draupadi was born out of the sacred flame,” the Bharatanatyam dancer Neha Mondal Chakravarty, @nehamondal, said of this heroine of the Mahabharata – a woman with 5 husbands. Draupudi, who resisted patriarchal culture, Neha said, “is fiery, yet intense. She is a combination of hot and cool.” In “Unheard Plea,” Neha offers her take on Draupadi as part of Drive East, a festival organized by @navatman. This celebration of Indian music and dance, through Aug. 19 at @lamamaetc, features Neha on Aug. 16. Dancing here in front of artwork by @brolga at the #oculus, Neha -- who juxtaposes the intense footwork and precision of her Bharatanatyam training with subtle, softer movements of her upper body — was fine with performing barefoot in the rain on a Manhattan sidewalk. “It’s not always about perfection or doing the right movements,” she told the @nytimes writer @giadk. “Sometimes it’s about the bliss that you get in just exploring. I felt that while I danced today.” @angelo_vasta made this video for #SpeakingInDance, our weekly series exploring the world of #dance.
In November, Rashida Tlaib, a daughter of Palestinian immigrants, may become the first Muslim woman to serve in Congress. Her victory in the Democratic primary in Michigan last week, though narrow, all but guarantees her election, as she is running unopposed in a very blue district that @repjohnconyers held for more than half a century. An attorney and single mother of 2 boys, Rashida, who was a state representative for 6 years, plans to take up Detroit’s civil rights heritage in her own way. She champions progressive policies like Medicare For All, a $15 minimum wage and abolishing ICE, and she is both a Democrat and a democratic socialist, though she said she eschews labels. Already, her story offers a remarkable counterpoint to anti-Muslim policy and sentiment rising around the U.S. In a year when a record number of women are running for Congress, and races across the country include gay, lesbian and transgender candidates and many people of color, Rashida represents a new addition to the mosaic of American politics. “I knew the win would be uplifting so many people with me,’’ she said. “It feels like a lot of weight on me to give them a voice.” @alanzilote took this photo of Rashida, center, after attending prayers with, from left, her mother, her son and a family friend in Dearborn, Michigan. Visit the link in our profile to read more.
Robert Bingham has “seen things.” Years ago, he looked skyward and noticed a worm-shaped ship about 20 feet tall zipping through the clouds. Unusual things kept popping up around him — or above him, rather. He saw a saucer and some flying objects shaped like beans next. He snapped a picture. For over 10 years, he kept his sightings to himself. That changed in 2010, when his neighbor came over to do some plumbing work. Robert showed him his photos. The neighbor asked if he could invite his brother, who was very interested in unidentified flying objects, or U.F.O.s. In awe of what they saw, they asked if they could invite more people to speak with Robert — 40 more, actually. That was the first meeting of what is now known as “Summon Events With Robert Bingham.” Dozens of people descend, once a year, on the same park to watch and assist Robert as he tries to summon the “objects.” “It’s a great community because you can talk about anything and you’re not worried about being called crazy,” said Hans Boysen, who has participated in the last 7 summoning sessions. So, how exactly does the group summon U.F.O.s? Everyone has a different method, but most agree that it’s similar to meditating. Some say that they feel physical sensations when they do it. Some participants closed their eyes and stood silently. Some stared intently into the sky. A few newcomers simply looked around, appearing confused. As soon as someone in the group spots something, they yell at Hans, who has a telescope connected to a camera and a screen that shows what he’s seeing. Once he spots it, he holds out his arm to ask for someone to guide him back to his chair without him losing sight of the object. @hellorozette took this photo of Hans, left, being guided by Charles Cassey. Visit the link in our profile to read more.
Jazmín Méndez has lived much of the last year in the dark. She was among the last residential customers of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to have service restored after Hurricane Maria. Work crews have repaired storm-damaged Puerto Rico’s electricity grid in fits and starts over the past 11 months, but they had never managed to light up Jazmín’s mountaintop home — until this week. “The first thing I will do is give thanks to God,” she said. “At first, I fell into a depression. Now we’ve gotten so used to it, that I’m sure if another hurricane comes, we’ll pass the test.” Still, the Puerto Rico electricity system is not in much better condition now than it was before Maria. Even as the last customers are reconnected, many billions of dollars more must still be spent to reconstruct the system and fortify transmission lines that have been so tattered and poorly maintained that when a mishap occurs, the lights can go out on the entire island. For the Méndez family, the chance to have electric service again mostly means not having to spend $50 a week on fuel for their generator. @erikaprodriguez took this photo of the Méndez family at their home in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Visit the link in our profile to read more.
For Melissa Watson, a lifelong Beatles fan who has a refrigerator covered with memorabilia from 25 years of Beatles conventions, a “Yellow Submarine” singalong in Greenwich Village was worth the trek from Long Island. On Saturday, she and her loved ones were among 50 families, most with young children, gathered inside, away from the rain, to watch “Yellow Submarine” in celebration of its 50th anniversary and to sing along to “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “Eleanor Rigby” and more. The screening was part of Film Forum Jr., a series of family-friendly movies on weekend mornings at the theater. “Yellow Submarine” is filled with coded drug references, as befits a rock film from 1968, but it works on a kids’ level as well. It tells the story of Pepperland, at risk of being taken over by the music-hating Blue Meanies. Cartoon versions of the Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr — though it’s not their speaking voices in the movie, ride a submarine to the land and help save the day with their music. @amylombard took this photo of Melissa and her youngest daughter. Visit the link in our profile to read more.