About the Author
Alexandra Van Erven has a B.A. in Communications Studies and a minor in English from Florida Atlantic University. Her interests include politics, European history and writing, with her primary interests being the abortion controversy and conservative issues.

Art Personalized: Millennial Designer Caitlin Ashley Tries To Get Us To Look Around Life

Too often in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we forget to take a breath and look at the beauty and art that exist around us. 

But one millennial designer named Caitlin Widener is trying to get us all to do just that.

Widener’s Caitlin Ashley Custom brings the beauty of the world alive in clothing pieces made for women, in the forms of skirts, pants, and blouses, among other styles.

The brand is based in New York City and describes itself as being “wearable art, unique for the individual” on the brand’s official website.  

The description continues labeling the brand as “hand painted and inspired by everyday on goings in the world,” and that “every woman is unique, just like this line and wants that vision to transcend when worn.”

Widener’s inspiration for it all began when she moved to New York City in 2014.

“At the time I was doing fashion blogging and it was fashion week, my first experience,” Widener said. “Everything was on such a grand scale and in some ways had me doubting my place amongst it all.”

It was then when her mind began to reel and the pieces began to fall into place.

“There was an event in particular that I had been invited to that week. It felt as though I had nothing to wear on my current budget that would set me apart from the crowd,” Widener said. “Sitting in my room, I was making an attempt to brainstorm ways to show originality. There was an old white dress hanging up and it got me to thinking, what if perhaps I painted on it? I have painted all my life and perhaps it was possible to combine two of my greatest passions together?”

It was then when the first of many pieces was born.

“I painted a rendition of van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” It was a hit. I realized this was something I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life, it’s like everything came together and finally made sense.”

Widener’s brand is still growing, having nearly 1,130 followers on her official Instagram page filled with different examples of her colorful and intrinsically unique designs.

CAITLIN ASHLEY SPRING/SUMMER is now available online. Feel free to check out the pieces and more images like this one at (link in bio) Would really like to extend a big thank you to everyone who has followed and supported me on this journey, thus far. Believing in yourself is crucial but having friends and family believe in you as well is truly everything. I’m constantly working towards becoming a better painter/designer. This is going to be a long journey and I won’t give this up for anything. If you don’t have your dreams, what do you have? Endless love to the people who inspire me everyday, you’re indispensable xx Photo taken by the immensely talented @tomfraud in the beautiful city of Marrakech, Morocco. @lahandira #caitlinashley #custom #spring #summer #marrakech #morocco #tomfraud #lahandira #nyc

A photo posted by Caitlin Widener (@caitlinashleycustom) on

With time, there is hope that the brand will continue to flourish.

“The brand is still very new. Just over a year in,” Widener said. “It’s currently working with other brands on collaborations and creating time capsule collections for small boutiques.”

Since that first event that drew her to paint her creation on the old white dress, the inspirations for other pieces in the line have come from many different sources, including those found in the outside world.

“The best thing I can do for outside inspiration is put my headphones in and wander around the city a bit,” Widener said. “You start to notice things outside the box, colors in a puddle, flowers coming up through the sidewalk, street art that transforms a building.” 

The designs pictured on her website show the wide array of different creations, including artsy dresses, inspired skirts and other pieces that almost seem like wearable and usable masterpieces.

As for what continues to inspire her to create more pieces today, Widener states that it continues to be the same drive that initially led her to create her early creations.

“Today’s inspiration is still a lot of the inspiration that was at the start. Really just creating things that I love and in turn, reaching out and sharing it with others,” Widener said. “It’s so important to keep that fire to create fueled and never forget what made you start in the first place. Always come back to the roots.”

As for what the future holds and if she will begin to create designs for men as well, only time will tell she said. 

“Last year there was a small stint of time where I dabbled with men’s ties and really loved it,” Widener said. “Got a lot of great feedback! For the time being, my focus is with women’s apparel but it’s something I would love to progress into in the future.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Photo Credits: Caitlin Widener/ Submitted

#ImNotWithHer: Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Speak For All Women

Much ado has been given to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President after her giant June 7 primary win in California.

Much of the surrounding publicity is due to her gender and the historic nature of her victory. 

But for some women, Clinton’s victory is more a nightmare than a victory. 

While Clinton considers herself a candidate for women, by putting out items such as “Women Cards” designed to attract female voters and contribute to the supposed historical aspects of the presidential race, and while the media and the outside world make it seem like Clinton is ranking high amongst women and other voters, actual polls show us that the silent majority of females on both sides of political ideologies are not in favor of her possible presidency.

The disdain is of course heavy across swaths of conservative women, who view Hillary Clinton as an unqualified presidential candidate based on personal views on topics ranging from abortion to the tragedy in Benghazi.

Her numbers among conservative women are dramatically low for a candidate that prides herself for being a candidate for the women, with 90 percent of Republican women having an unfavorable view of her, compared to only 9 percent that view her in a favorable light, according to a recent poll.

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While the disdain among females who are Republicans and conservatives is to be expected, the flaky favorability also finds itself on the liberal and independent side, with 68 percent of liberal women supporting her, compared to 30 percent who are not.

Among Independent voting women, only 24 percent find her favorable; while 65 percent view her as unfavorable.

Even after her big win in California, the support among females in the United States was not at a high level, with the #GirlIGuessImWithHer hashtag beginning to trend among disheartened female voters including but not limited to Bernie Sanders fans, which adds even more female disdain towards Clinton and her nomination.

What could be the problem behind Clinton and her campaign that is making women seemingly run away in droves?

Could it be the Benghazi attacks, in which she seemingly gave no care to the way in which those four men died under her vigilance with her famous quote “What difference does it make?”

Could it have to do with the FBI e-mail scandal that just never seems to end? Could it have to do with her callous attitude during her time as a lawyer where she allegedly defended a child rapist that was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl, even though Clinton knew he was guilty of the crime?

For many women who do not support Clinton, it seems to be a combination of different sets of ideals and different ideas as to why they do not support her.

For me, the biggest things would bleed into her different opinions and ideas on important topics to me, such as the subject of abortion and her seemingly far-left political views.

But more than that is although she was the secretary of state for some time, and although she is the wife of the infamous former president Bill Clinton, she has not made enough of a positive impact and shown that she would be capable of running an entire country.

It is an inspirational goal to look up to, and a female presidency is something that is and should be welcomed in the 21st century.

However, we should not make the mistake of voting for somebody just because of a certain feature; i.e. race, gender, or even religion.

Just because a woman is a woman does not make her certified to run an entire country, especially with the giant mistrust that many American women and men have with Hillary Clinton.

If Americans cannot trust Clinton to tell the truth about her e-mail scandal, nor tell the truth about what happened in Benghazi, how can we have faith that just because she is the first woman president, she will guide America down the right path?

How can we be sure that Americans will be kept as safe as humanly possible, if Clinton is known for such evasive secrecy?

As a young woman voting in the 2016 election, I had hoped that we would see a woman that among other things showed prowess and ability to run this country smoothly.

Unfortunately I, and millions of other American women and men, do not see that ability in Hillary Clinton, and are looking for more than just a symbolic victory.  

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Does Bernie Sanders Still Have A Realistic Chance To Win?

The 2016 Presidential race has been nothing short of extraordinary.

With Donald Trump firmly entrenched as the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, the Democrats continue to slug it out. 

Hillary Clinton seems to be close to clinching the nomination with 2,312 delegates out of a required 2,383 in order to be the nominee, with 1,769 pledged and 543 super delegates.

Bernie Sanders is making somewhat of a comeback when it comes to delegates, currently having 1,545 delegates, with nearly 97 percent of them (1,501) being pledged delegates, according to the Associated Press.

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While it might seem based on these numbers that Hillary Clinton seems to have the nomination waiting for her, the Sanders campaign still has a “Hail Mary” hope in California; where he could find enough delegates to even out the race.

But he would really need something dramatic to happen.

According to a recent NBC News poll, Clinton still holds a small lead when it comes to how likely Democratic voters will vote in California; with Clinton at 49 percent, leading Sanders, who is right on her tail at 47 percent.

An NBC News analysis that ran with the poll states that a win in California could help even out the race and keep Sanders going into more primaries, improving his chances of winning.

In the article, Sanders is quoted as saying “Obviously, if we don’t do well in California, it will make our path much, much harder. No question about it. But I think we have a good chance to win in California, maybe win big, and maybe win four or five of the other states that [hold races] on June 7.”

If Sanders does secure a win in California, whose primary is being held on June 7, it could help bring him back in the nomination fight, and possibly pose him in a position where he is able to secure the nomination. 

Of course, Clinton would have to preform in an historically awful way in order for that to happen.

The Sanders camp is hopeful that even if they do not win in California, that they will be able to make it past the primary season and on to the convention.

“We have absolutely the financial resources that we need to run a very, very strong campaign here in California and in the other states and in D.C. and Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands and throughout the rest of the campaign,” Sanders recently said, according to the New York Times

So what exactly can be said for the viability of the Sanders campaign?

At this moment, while he is still mathematically alive, it will take something along the lines of divine intervention for the Vermont Senator to win the Democratic nomination. 

Of course, his whole upstart movement has been something along the lines of a miracle all campaign long, so maybe something interesting will happen again.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The Shooting Of Harambe Has Opened Up A New Culture War In America

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few days or so, you’ve probably heard folks be shocked and upset at the death of Harambe, a silverback Gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo who was shot and killed after a 4-year-old boy fell into the enclosure there on May 30. 

As the days continue to progress, the individual pieces of the story are becoming clearer, which is helping to lift the mask on how dangerous the situation was for the child.

According to an article written in the Huffington Post Canada, Greg Tarry, associate director of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA), made several notes about how the gorilla was a threat to the life of the child.

“Even when it was standing over the child in the water, that’s generally kind of a dominance thing,” Tarry said in the article. “He was jerking that child around like a rag doll.”

The move which took Harambe’s life was considered a tragic necessity by many zoological experts, since the gorilla was showing signs of aggression towards the boy.

Multiple sources, including the director of the Cincinnati Zoo Thane Maynard defended the use of the gun instead of a tranquilizer.

He stated, “Tranquilizers do not take effect for several minutes, and the child was in imminent danger. On top of that, the impact from the dart could agitate the animal and cause the situation to get much worse.”

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Regardless of the quotes from several experts discussing why shooting the animal was a tragic but needed necessity, many commenters and social media keyboard warriors believe that the life of the child whose life was in danger was less important than the life of the gorilla, as noted in multiple examples across plentiful social media sites.

According to multiple accounts and an article written on The Daily Banter, reactions included the likes of “responses to this tragedy range from cries of “the parents should have been the ones shot,” to, “another innocent beautiful animal has been… killed as a result of awful parenting,” to, “kids are a dime a dozen, there’s millions of them, he’d be one less moron in the gene pool, the gorillas are the endangered species here not brats,” to “open season with $1000 a bounty on those too stupid to live!” to “it’s the stupid cunt who didn’t notice her child wasn’t there,” to, delightfully, “eugenics comes to mind.”

The same article summarized it best when it said “An undulating online army of angry idiots, righteous in their absolute moral authority and bolstered by the warmth of all those Facebook likes and shares, raining fire down on a person or people they know literally nothing at all about involved in a situation about which they simply don’t have all the facts yet.”

While the shooting and the death of an innocent, endangered animal is certainly nothing to celebrate and something to be rightly mourned, doing what had to be done to save a fellow human being is nothing to make jokes at, or to chastise because the process would have taken the death of an animal.

It’s becoming apparent that there is a chance that this is becoming a cultural war in between those who value animal lives over the lives of humans, and vice versa.

It’s becoming increasingly scary to see those who would, time and time again, put the lives and safety of humans on the backburner to save the life of an animal.

Defending animals and their livelihoods, especially if they are endangered species is something that is duly important, and something that more people should become involved in.

But in rare and tragic situations like these, wishing death and vitriol against parents and people who most likely feel the weight of the world on their shoulders does not show the compassion that you want to emit, and it does not show the peace that animal activists and humans alike want to see in the world.

While we should take every step necessary in order to ensure that situations like the ones that happened in Cincinnati do not happen again, we should also be aware that in the event that something like this does happen again, we should realize and acknowledge that the zookeepers and the people that if the situation calls for it end the life of the animal have known the animal for much longer than a bunch of keyboard warriors and desk chair activists, and it must pain them to bring the end to an animal that they’ve known for years, but they also have a duty to save a member of our own species, a human child who is just as unrepeatable and irreplaceable as a beloved animal.

This was not a case of willful, premeditated killing. It was a necessity to save a life.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Jere Keys/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

I Run A Pro Life Blog And Am Sick Of The Hate Mail From So Called “Tolerant” People

In an age and generation where people as a whole seem so concerned about being tolerant and respectful of other people’s opinions-regardless of whether or not they agree with them-people very quickly forget about those former words of tolerance and love and become the very thing they seek to defeat.

I would know. I have been on the receiving end of it.

As the writer and the woman behind Pro-Life Female, a popular Tumblr blog that has now reached nearly 1,250 followers in the two years of its existence, I’m used to my fair share of criticism.

By the name alone, you can guess that my stance on abortion is on the conservative side- I am a Pro-life, conservative, Catholic young woman. All rarities, I know. Regardless, my blog-just like my faith and my opinions- are part of what make me who I am.

I come across words of encouragement every day- messages thanking me for using my voice to further the pro-life movement, messages from people who with my words, have had their hearts and minds changed on the subject of abortion.

I have had women who with my blog and through personal messages have been successful in stopping a friend from going through with an abortion.

I even get messages of support from people who do not necessarily agree with my stances on abortion or even with my religion, but respect the fact that I am respectful of others, and do not make people feel horrible and make them feel like they are evil for believing differently than I do.

But then, I also get the messages that would make anyone’s skin crawl.

The ones who try to seem cool or edgy because they believe their words will have such a life changing impact that anyone who reads them will go back and think to change the way they believe, or what they said.

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Such was my experience when I woke up one April morning to find a flurry of about 5 hateful messages, seemingly coming from only one person.

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“Please don’t reproduce, spare our gene pool of your misguided sense of justice & equality,” said the first.

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“Subjecting the unborn offspring and the mother to untold trauma by limiting their resource to legitimate practitioners of abortion is fucking oppressive and you are a cancer to our specie,” said the next.

The consecutive ones were even more aimed towards me than the others.

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“What if you were out one day, got raped and impregnated with a baby you didn’t planned for? God has a fucking plan for everyone? Fuck off with your bullshit sense of justice.”

“How stupid do you have to be to think it’s right to limit other people’s right to exercise choice just because you have a different fucking religious belief? Separation of church and state is a fundamental principal and pro-life & other bullshit ideals on conception have no place outside of the Catholic Church.”

Over the last two years, I had gotten more hate mail, though thankfully nothing as terrible as other like-minded bloggers have gotten; death threats, notes to kill themselves, wishes for rape and other horrific things to be put upon them-just because they hold different beliefs and are not afraid of expressing them.

Even amongst blogs who do not share the same views, hateful speech that is truly threatening to a person’s livelihood is everywhere, and it is time that we all took a stand against it.

In order to truly become a place where we practice what is preached and become more tolerant of other people’s beliefs, we need to be tolerant, not just say we are tolerant to make us sound enlightened.

We need to respect and cultivate a culture where Catholic and Atheist, Pro-Life and Pro-Choice, can engage in complete freedom of debate and in expressing their beliefs without wanting to pull steak knives at each other near the end of the conversation.

Of course, making these changes and advancing towards a more respectful and truly loving society will take time, and it won’t be easy.

But we have to make the effort to do so and practice the tolerance that we so preach and expect in this advanced society.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Terry Johnston/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Miami TV: How Jenny Scordamaglia Used Her Body To Build A Media Empire

Miami is no stranger to pristine beaches, deep glowing suntans and beautiful, mostly half-naked people doing all kinds of things in public.

But one of the most interesting things to come out of this milieu is MiamiTV, an international online and television show based out of the city which was founded in 2007.

The show is described as an “entertainment channel covering the best events, festivals, parties around the world” on the show’s Facebook page.

With nearly 7,200 likes on their Facebook page, the show seems to be gaining popularity.

The popularity could largely be accredited to the show’s main host, Jenny Scordamaglia, who has had a history of hosting nearly 200 shows.

While being an engaging and interesting personality, the other thing the sets Scordamaglia apart from the bunch is that she is willing to broadcast in the buff, or at least close to it. 

She has helped build a sizable media brand by as the Miami New Times described it, perfecting the “nip-slip”.

As Terrence McCoy wrote for the New Times in 2014:

“The nip slip is the defining element of her on-camera presence. In appearance after appearance, she moves through gaggles of gawking bystanders, microphone in hand, nipples flashing like lighthouses in the night.”


Jenny Scordamaglia in the middle of conducting an interview for Miami TV. Photo Credit: Miami TV/ Facebook

But while some may find that distasteful, Scordamaglia is unfazed by the type of content her company produces.

“Unlike most media, Miami TV focuses on real life people and events live as they happen, no script, no cuts, edits or blurs,” Scordamaglia told RISE NEWS in an interview. “The shows are done spontaneous at the moment with a refreshing reality of what would happen if the viewer is there as well. We focus in bringing viewers positive entertainment so that they can distress from their everyday stress and the negative news on TV.”

The show is close to her heart, being that it was a creation between her husband and herself.

“My husband and I built this 8 years ago and made it our dream work, which for us it’s really not work, it’s a hobby because we love what we do, we love communicating with people around the world and bringing a smile to their face,” Scordamaglia said. 

While being based out of Miami, the show reaches an international audience, with audience members in places like Spain, Mexico and Colombia. The show went international after experiencing local success in November 2009. 

WATCH: Miami TV In Action

The production team, along with producing MiamiTV, also hosts other shows, including Hoy Miami, Miami Caliente and Jenny Live, according to the main show website.

The experiences gained by Scordamaglia have stayed with her for the nearly eight years she’s been on the air.

“While I attending a business event in Miami a couple of years ago where without getting into names, a surrounding local Mayor was there and we weren’t filming, also my dress code was more business attire at that event,” Scordamaglia recalls. “When this person comes close to me and says ‘What happened to the real Jenny, where’s the cleavage?,’ smiling. So I then knew, we had made a signature image for Miami TV and had to keep it.”

Jenny Scordamaglia. Photo Credit: Miami TV/ Facebook

Jenny Scordamaglia in the midst of a “nip slip” moment during an interview. Photo Credit: Miami TV/ Facebook

As the show continued to gain traction and popularity, Scordamaglia kept giving what her audience wanted. 

“We had made 727 studio shows where people can interact live via a chat and give their opinions on the life subject we are speaking about,” Scordamaglia said. “This is our audience’s favorite show, they like to interact, they like to be heard and responded to, but we like to also balance it with over 600 outdoor events we have covered.”

Scordamaglia believes that the audience makes the show, and hopes to continue to grow her brand. Whatever that happens to be. 

“To me, it’s imminent to listen to our viewers because they made us grow and we keep attracting new viewers daily,” Scordamaglia said. “We don’t want to become just another corporation, we want to continue to keep it real and the comments that move me the most can be as simple as those that say thank you for brightening up my day, to some deeper life changing stories.”

So there you have it. The most Miami media company ever is actually doing pretty well and they don’t seem to care what the haters think.

——Here’s Something Completely Different: ——

The TV Weatherman Who Is Trying To Save Miami From Drowning

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