Category: Competitions

Dol Miles, Self-taught Pastry Chef in Alabama, Ranked Best in Nation by James Beard Foundation

Dolester Miles brushes egg wash onto an apple crostata in the kitchen of Bottega. (Rob Culpepper/For The Washington Post)

It’s just before 2 p.m., the end of a workday that began at 5:30 a.m. for Dolester Miles, a self-taught pastry chef who, in May, was named the best in the nation by the James Beard Foundation. Wearing a spotless white bib apron over an equally spotless chef coat, with sleeves neatly rolled above her elbows, she stands in the compact kitchen of Bottega restaurant, deftly smoothing a thin layer of whipped cream frosting on a towering, three-layer coconut pecan cake.

She flicks her offset spatula all the way around where the top and sides meet, employing rote precision born of three decades of experience to create a crisp, perfect edge. After she coats the cake with toasted coconut, it’s ready to be picked up by a patron waiting to pay $80 for it, plus tax. Anyone who has eaten that cake, which yields 14 slices, knows two things: that it’s worth every penny, and that the last crumb of it will be snatched up and savored like the last word of a great novel.

Miles, who goes by Dol, oversees a staff of four and the baking production of the four restaurants owned by chef Frank Stitt and his wife, Pardis, including their fine-dining flagship, Highlands Bar & Grill.

In addition to the coconut pecan cake, Miles’s fruit cobblers with flaky biscuit tops, her lemon tarts with swirls of caramelized meringue and her silken panna cottas are legendary in Birmingham. She handles with alacrity the array of Southern, Italian and French favorites found on the menus of the Stitts’ restaurants. A prep list 44 items long on the Thursday before Labor Day revealed the breadth of her work. Production included: chocolate pots de crème; citrus shortbreads; hamburger buns; pizza dough; buttermilk tarts; batches of ice creams, sauces, fig jam and frangipane (an almond-based tart filling); polenta cakes; and crème caramels.

Pear and Almond Tart (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post/Food Styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

Miles was one of 20 semifinalists in the Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef category for five years running, and among its five finalists for the past three years. The awards gala at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House was a celebratory one for the Stitts, too. After being nominated for 10 consecutive years as the nation’s Outstanding Restaurant, Highlands won. The first time Miles was a finalist, she couldn’t believe it.

“I never really understood how the Beard thing goes, how you get nominated and all of that and, you know, from being down South, from Alabama! Most of them be from New York, California, Chicago — all those big places,” she said. “But to be nominated from all the way down here? That was amazing.” (Miles’s fellow 2018 finalists were from New Orleans, Minneapolis, Chicago and Los Angeles.)

Continue reading “Dol Miles, Self-taught Pastry Chef in Alabama, Ranked Best in Nation by James Beard Foundation”

Simone Biles Wins Record 4th All-Around Title at World Championships

Simone Biles competes in the Women’s All-Round Final during day eight of the 2018 FIG Artistic Gymnastics Championships at Aspire Dome on November 1, 2018 in Doha, Qatar. (photo via cnn.com)

by Jill Martin via cnn.com

Simone Biles has won the all-around title at the world championships for the fourth time, the most ever in women’s artistic gymnastics.

Biles, 21, uncharacteristically struggled in the competition Thursday in Doha, Qatar, just days after tweeting she’d put off having a kidney stone removed until after the competition.

But despite a fall on the vault, a fall on the balance beam and stepping out of bounds during her floor exercise routine, Biles still won by 1.693 points — the largest margin of victory of her four titles.

Fellow American Morgan Hurd took bronze, while Mai Murakami of Japan won silver.

In addition to the all-around, Biles, who returned to the sport this summer, led the US this week to team gold. She still can add to her medal haul in the individual vault, uneven bars, beam and floor events.

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/01/sport/simone-biles-wins-fourth-all-around-title-world-championships-gymnastics/index.html

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum Shocks Rivals, Wins Democratic Nomination for Florida Governor

Jordan Thomas Wins Harvard Debate Competition as He and 24 Other Students from Atlanta Make History

Atlanta students celebrate win at Harvard Debate Council (photo via huffingtonpost.com)

by Jenna Amatulli via huffingtonpost.com

A group of 25 black students from Atlanta, competing against hundreds of young scholars from around the world, made history over the weekend with winning performances in a Harvard debate tournament.

Jordan Thomas, from Atlanta’s Grady High School, won the competition. He said in a press release that he “was determined to represent my city and my story. I wanted people to see where I came from and how I could keep up with them.”

“Being a young, middle class, black, public school student from the South created a stigma that automatically set me back in comparison to the competition, most of who were international students or from preparatory schools in the Northeast,” said Thomas.

“To bring the championship back to Atlanta was the most satisfying feeling, and to walk onto the campus of one of the most elite universities in the world and meet personal and council goals, brings a unique and new satisfaction that I’ve never experienced.”

The young scholars were the first backed by scholarships through the Atlanta-based Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project to participate in Harvard’s summer debate council residency.

Harvard Debate Council, which runs the annual summer program at the school’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, divided nearly 400 participants, including high school students from Asia, Europe and Russia, into 12 teams for debate competitions.

Harvard Debate Council (photo via huffingtonpost.com)

The 25 Atlanta scholars, selected for Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project’s inaugural class from about 150 applicants, began the residency program with a daily, 10-hour academic regimen to learn research, analysis, argumentation and political science. Then, using their new skills, they were split into teams for the competition with other high school students from around the world.

Thomas described the project as “not a competition between each other, rather it is an incubator of intellect and a cultivator of brilliance.”

Notably, most of the Atlanta students were inexperienced debaters. They were from 16 different schools in the region. Brandon Fleming, a Harvard assistant debate coach who founded Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project, said the project aims to be a “pipeline that would recruit, train and send students of color to Harvard on full scholarship.”

Ugandan Inventor Brian Gitta, 24, Wins Royal Academy of Engineering’s Prestigious Africa Prize for Bloodless Malaria Test

Brian Gitta, a 24-year-old Ugandan, became the youngest winner of the Africa Prize this week for developing a bloodless test for malaria. (Photo courtesy Royal Academy of Engineering/Twitter)

by Sara Shayanian via upi.com

June 14 (UPI) — A Ugandan inventor has won the Royal Academy of Engineering‘s prestigious Africa Prize for developing a method of testing for malaria without drawing blood.

Brian Gitta, 24, became the prize’s youngest winner Wednesday after he and his team developed Matibabu, or “medical center” in Swahili, the Royal Academy of Engineering said in a statement.

Gitta’s low-cost, reusable invention clips onto a patient’s finger and provides a result within 60 seconds on a mobile phone. A red beam shines through the user’s finger to detect changes in shape, color and concentration of red blood cells — all of which are affected by malaria.

“We are very proud of this year’s winner. It’s a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development — in this case by improving healthcare,” Africa Prize judge Rebecca Enonchong said. “Matibabu is simply a game-changer.”

Shafik Sekitto, a member of the Matibabu team, told BBC News Gitta came up with the idea for a bloodless test after it once took four normal blood tests for medics to diagnose him with malaria — the leading cause of death in Uganda. “[Gitta] brought up the idea: ‘Why can’t we find a new way of using the skills we have found in computer science, of diagnosing a disease without having to prick somebody?” Sekitto said.

Gitta won more than $33,000 as the first-place winner at a ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, where Africa Prize judges and a live audience voted for the most promising engineering innovation. Three runners-up won more than $13,000 each. “We are incredibly honored to win the Africa Prize — it’s such a big achievement for us, because it means that we can better manage production in order to scale clinical trials and prove ourselves to regulators,” Gitta said.

“The recognition will help us open up partnership opportunities — which is what we need most at the moment.”

The award, founded by Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014, is Africa’s biggest prize for engineering innovation.

Source: https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2018/06/14/Ugandan-inventor-wins-Africa-Prize-for-bloodless-malaria-test/9671528995279/

Akosua Haynes, 10, an Aspiring Astronaut, and Rylee Paige Johnson, 13, Healing from Losing Her Mother, Win Writing Awards from Library of Congress

Akosua Haynes, 10, wrote a letter to Margot Lee Shetterly, author of “Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race,” letting Shetterly know her book solidified Akosua’s decision to become a NASA astronaut.

Rylee Paige Johnson, 13, wrote a letter to Gabrielle Zevin, author of “Elsewhere,” thanking Zevin for helping her heal after the sudden death of her mother.

The letters — each a thing of beauty — were part of a Library of Congress writing contest that invites fourth- through 12th-graders to write to authors and let them know the impact of their work. Close to 47,000 students from across the United States entered this year’s contest, which began a quarter-century ago.

Out of those tens of thousands of letters, Akosua and Rylee each brought home first place wins. Akosua, a fifth-grader at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Hyde Park, won the fourth- through sixth-grade division, and Rylee, a seventh-grader at Dwight D. Eisenhower Junior High School in Hoffman Estates, won the seventh- and eighth-grade division.

Their letters are night and day — one born of sorrow, the other born of joy. But they share an authenticity and richness that speaks to the ability of books to guide us through life’s various triumphs and travails.

“One night my siblings and parents were in the living room watching our favorite show,” Rylee wrote to Zevin. “A commercial came on so I got up to make cookies in the kitchen. Then my oldest sister, Sydney, started whispering, ‘Mom? Mom?’ No answer. I looked over to see my dad standing over a shaking body. ‘I’m calling 911!’ She had had an aneurysm and wasn’t waking up. I spent those few days in that hospital room listing all the things I did wrong and what I would change once she woke up. She never did.”

In “Elsewhere,” 15-year-old Liz ends up in an Earth-like place called Elsewhere after being hit and killed by a taxi. From there, she watches the world she used to inhabit.

“Liz tortured herself by going to the observation decks to see her old life every day,” Rylee wrote. “She sat there watching her best friend being happy without her. She watched everyone move on. Everyone except Liz. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I didn’t want to become a ghost person living in the past.”

Rylee said the letter to Zevin was the first time she’d written at length about losing her mom, who passed away in December 2016.

“Last year, I wrote some poems and random paragraphs, but not anything like a full piece of writing,” she told me last week. “I don’t think I was ready before to put it down on paper because things are so much more real when you put them on paper.”

In her letter, Rylee told Zevin that “Elsewhere’s” theme of acceptance really struck her.

“Liz took some time learning how to move on from the life she used to know,” she wrote. “She was stuck. Thandi, her roommate, had no problem at all. From the start she said there was no point being sad at what she couldn’t change. I read that, wishing my heart could catch up like Thandi’s did in two pages. But everyone takes their own time to keep their mind and soul in sync. Knowing that my mom wasn’t coming back home was difficult to even imagine. I had to accept that life would go on without her, but only if I moved on.

“I wanted to live my life and not wait for it to be over,” Rylee wrote. “Thank you for a world where my own mother can see me writing this letter from an observation deck. Thank you for the idea that once I leave this world, I will return. Thank you for the lessons I couldn’t live without, and the book I won’t forget.”

Continue reading “Akosua Haynes, 10, an Aspiring Astronaut, and Rylee Paige Johnson, 13, Healing from Losing Her Mother, Win Writing Awards from Library of Congress”

She’s Back! Serena Williams Wins Her 1st Grand Slam Match Since Having a Baby, at the 2018 French Open

PARIS, FRANCE – MAY 29: Serena Williams of USA celebrates her first round victory during Day Three of the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros on May 29, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

by Britni Danielle via essence.com

Although Serena Williams might just be the greatest tennis player of all time, she still has something to prove.

After giving birth to her first daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., last September, Williams’ climb back to the top has been tough. The tennis champ won her first match back on the court in March at Indian Wells but was sent home by her sister, Venus. Later that month, Williams suffered a first-round defeat at the Miami Open, however, she’s been putting in work to reclaim her crown.

On Monday, Williams kicked off the French Open with a win, defeating the Czech Republic’s Kristyna Pliskova in straight sets.

After the match, Williams praised her opponent. “She played really really well,” Williams said before turning her attention to her comeback. “It’s been two years since I played on clay. It’s been a really long time but I trained really hard on the clay.”

Williams is no stranger to the French Open and has won the Grand Slam tournament three times: in 2002, 2013, and 2015. Still, she said she’s not taking anything for granted. “I feel good. I’m just happy to have won a match here,” Williams said. “I’m just taking it a day at a time.”

Williams, who donned a fabulous all-black catsuit for her return to the Grand Slam stage, said the form-fitting choice was a shout out to “all the moms out there that had a tough pregnancy and had to come back and try to be fierce.”

Source: https://www.essence.com/celebrity/serena-williams-wins-first-grand-slam-since-baby

Ms Geek Africa Competition Rewards Women’s Brains Instead of their Beauty

Niger’s Salissou Hassane Latifa was crowned the 2018 Miss Geek Africa for her innovative new app that promises to help accident victims. (Courtesy of YouTube)

via theguardian.com

After years of women in evening gowns vying for the title of national beauty queen, glamour is giving way to geekery in Rwanda. A group of female tech entrepreneurs decided it was time to ditch Miss Rwanda for a different kind of competition, one that judged women on brilliance rather than beauty. It was time for Ms Geek.

The first Ms Geek Rwanda was crowned in 2014, and the competition has since expanded to include other African countries under the unifying banner of Ms Geek Africa. The event, open to girls and women aged 13 to 25, encourages contestants to use technology to solve everyday problems in their communities. The finalists receive business training and the winner is awarded financial backing to help realise her idea.

This year’s Ms Geek Africa is Salissou Hassane Latifa, 21, from Niger. Her winning design is the Saro app, which helps communication between people caring for accident victims and the emergency services, and allows medical staff to advise on basic first aid before they arrive at the scene.

“Ms Geek has already changed the perception of what girls can do,” says Esther Kunda of the Next Einstein Forum, a founding member of competition organiser Girls in ICT Rwanda.

Salissou Hassane Latifa, the latest Ms Geek Africa winner, has devised an app that promises to help accident victims. (Photograph Courtesy Kigali Today)

The contest was set up as part of a nationwide effort to transform Rwanda from a small agricultural economy into an engine of technological innovation, with women and girls at the forefront of the revolution.

The government has set a target of achieving gender parity in the information communications technology sector by 2020, an ambitious goal in a worldwide industry notorious for its lack of diversity. But through educational campaigns, scholarships and mentorship programmes, Rwanda is determined to become a global leader for women in ICT. “It’s a good place to be a woman in tech right now,” Kunda says of Rwanda.

Before the genocide of 1994, it was uncommon for women in Rwanda to own land, receive a formal education or hold jobs outside of the home. After the atrocity, the country’s surviving population was 60-70% female, according to contemporary accounts.

President Paul Kagame, who has led Rwanda with an iron fist since 2000, realised that advancing women was the only way forward and has championed their rights ever since.

Rwanda now leads the world in female representation in parliament, due in part to a quota system that reserves seats for women. Gender rights are enshrined in the national constitution and laws were changed to give women the right to inherit land and obtain credit.

As a child, Rosine Mwiseneza, who was orphaned during the genocide, recalls watching the women around her stepping into leadership roles in government and civil society. They became police officers, accountants, butchers, shop owners. Girls went to school and competed alongside boys for internships and scholarships.

Mwiseneza was studying business management at Kepler University in Kigali when she entered the Ms Geek contest in 2016. Her idea was for an automated irrigation system that would help farmers cultivate their fields year-round as opposed to just during the rainy season.

Mwiseneza says she was astounded when she won the competition. In that moment, she remembered her parents and all the hardships she had endured. “It was very difficult to believe,” she says. “I started thinking of everything that had passed before that day and I began to cry.”

To read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/28/brilliance-overtakes-beauty-ms-geek-africa-spotlights-tech-genius-salissou-hassane-latifa

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser Awards $4,000 to High Schoolers India Skinner, Mikayla Sharrieff and Bria Snell, who Faced Online Racist Backlash in NASA Competition

India Skinner, left, Mikayla Sharrieff and Bria Snell, 11th-graders from Banneker High School in Washington, will receive $4,000 from the city to further their work on a method to purify lead-contaminated water in school drinking fountains. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)

 via washingtonpost.com

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s administration announced Thursday that it would award $4,000 to help three D.C. high school students who faced a torrent of racist comments when they used social media to encourage people to vote for them in a NASA competition.

The three black Banneker High students — whose method to purify lead-contaminated water in school drinking fountains landed them in the final round of the science competition — were featured in a Washington Post article this week. The all-female team was subject to racist comments from users of the controversial and anonymous online forum, 4chan, who tried to ruin the students’ chances of winning by urging people to vote against them because of their race.

The 4chan posters recommended computer programs that would hack the voting system to give a team of teenage boys a boost, prompting NASA to shut down voting early.

Bowser (D) said in her weekly newsletter that the city should be celebrating the students — Mikayla Sharrieff, India Skinner and Bria Snell, all 17-year-old high school juniors — for their successes.

“Mikayla, India and Bria are reminding us that the good in our world is stronger than the hate, and we want them to know that the District has their back,” Bowser wrote.

The teens said in interviews with The Post that they planned to attend college and graduate school, and they aspire to be doctors and engineers. They volunteer at the city-funded Inclusive Innovation Incubator — a technology lab focused on diversity and entrepreneurship near Howard University — and their mentor at the incubator encouraged them to compete and supervised them on weekends as they built a prototype for the NASA competition.

The $4,000 will be given to the incubator and used to help the students further develop their water filtration system.

“The mayor was inspired by these young women,” said Andrew Trueblood, the chief of staff for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, which provides support to the incubator. “It was a natural next step to say what can we do for these young women.”

The students received a swell of support online this week. Chelsea Clinton tweeted at the teens Thursday, thanking them for using their “talents to tackle big problems!”

“I am so sorry that anyone would ever feel anything but gratitude for your clean water efforts.”

NASA expects to name the competition winners this month. In addition to the public voting, judges assess the projects to determine the winners, who are invited to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt for two days of workshops, with the winning team receiving a $4,000 stipend to cover expenses.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/mayor-awards-4000-to-black-high-school-students-who-faced-online-racist-backlash-in-nasa-competition/2018/05/03/315c3a24-4f08-11e8-84a0-458a1aa9ac0a_story.html?utm_term=.db95415f12d8

Mercer University Seniors Kyle Bligen and Jaz Buckley Make History as 1st African-American Team to Win NPDA National Debate Championship

Jaz Buckley and Kyle Bligen
NPDA Tournament Team Winners Jaz Buckley and Kyle Bligen (photo via news.mercer.edu)

by Kyle Sears via news.mercer.edu

Mercer University seniors Kyle Bligen and Jaz Buckley capped off their collegiate careers as the most decorated debaters in the University’s history on March 26 by winning the 22nd annual National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) National Championship Tournament at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

NPDA is the largest debate organization in the United States, with as many as 250 schools and colleges competing each year. At nationals, Bligen and Buckley defeated more than 45 competing institutions from traditional debate powerhouses such as Notre Dame, Rice and the University of California, Berkeley.

Together, they became the first African-American team to ever win NPDA nationals, nearly three years to the day that Buckley became the first freshman and first African-American to be named top speaker at the tournament.

“Using their own unique brand of debate, Jaz Buckley and Kyle Bligen became the first African-American team to win the NPDA National Championship Tournament. Additionally, Buckley, joining only a handful of women to reach the final round, became the first African-American woman to win this national title,” said Dr. Jeannie Hunt, president of NPDA and assistant professor of communication at Northwest College.

“This is a significant achievement for me, as a woman of color, but also provides much-needed representation for other women in this activity. While both students clearly have strong argumentation skills and implement successful strategies, their ability to frame the debate with a focus on social justice allows them to use their voice for something beyond winning tournaments. I look forward to seeing great things from this team as they move through life,” Dr. Hunt said.

“This is a national victory. This year, Mercer beat Emory, we beat Georgia Tech, we defeated UC Berkeley, we beat Rice and Notre Dame and Stanford, and defeated or outranked hundreds of different colleges and universities across the entire nation. In national parliamentary debate, only one school can be the best in the entire nation – that school is Mercer University,” said Dr. Vasile Stanescu, assistant professor of communication studies and director of debate at Mercer.

“This victory is not only national, it is also historic. In the entire history of the NPDA, among the thousands of debaters who have competed, not a single all African-American team has ever won nationals. This is a ‘first’ in the history of debate, and it is a ‘first’ that will forever belong to Mercer University.”

Individually, Bligen, a politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) major from Peachtree City, was named fourth-place speaker, and Buckley, a political science and women’s and gender studies major from Columbus, was named fifth-place speaker.

Source: https://news.mercer.edu/seniors-kyle-bligen-jaz-buckley-make-history-as-first-african-american-team-to-win-npda-national-championship/