PressReader Newspaper Application: A Review

When I was seven, my favorite place in the world was my best friend Megan’s farm. Even though she needed to shove her cats into the basement and vacuum the entire house so my allergies could be kept at bay, the farm and her mother’s cooking made for many happy memories. Among these were having her mother carefully split the comics section down the middle, serve us pipping hot pancakes and mason jars of milk and digging into two things I have always loved – newspapers and breakfast food.

I graduated from college 15 years later with a journalism degree.

While I’m abroad, my desire for news seems to be more acute. Even Spanish news programs are on at 3pm, the time at which most families are sitting down to lunch. I devour newspapers each morning over breakfast – this time with a cup of coffee instead of a mason jar of milk.

I recently took a test run of PressReader, the largest online kiosk for reading newspapers from around the world on a mobile device, tablet or computer. Over 2,300 newspapers in 54 languages are available for browsing, and my subscription started just before the 2012 Presidential Elections. I opened the application to find loads of information about the impending polling and last minute pushes in swing states, quickly saved a few English and Spanish language newspapers into my favorites and dove right in, cup of tea in hand.

They say no news is good news, but no news makes for a deprived Cat with nothing to do to keep her entertained in the morning. Here’s what I thought of PressReader’s application.

What I liked

The benefits of PressReader stuck out right from the beginning. I could easily move through titles, sections and languages and get a good feel for the applications and its capabilities.

Easy Navigation and Stellar Graphics – When each new newspaper is opened, found through a keyword search or by choosing a language, the front cover pops up and the sections can be found on the right hand side. Here, one can browse the sections that interests them the most, using either the table of contents or the thumbnails of the paper’s actual content. There’s also the option to download the paper to a mobile reading device or to send the article to an email address. The newspaper appears just as it was if it were in your hand, with crisp graphics and the ability to open a separate window with larger text and related articles. If anything, I’d prefer the icons for zooming in, turning the page and closing the article to be floating, rather than on the bottom.

Radio Option –  An automated reading of the piece is available in all languages, perfect for multi-tasking or downloading for later listening. The Spanish readings actually sounded better than the English ones!

The Price – After frustratingly trying to open articles to just browse and get my news fill, having to click to read through Facebook ro other social media was irritating. PressReader offers a close to unlimited number of views for a flat fee of $0.99 cents per download, or a rate of $29.95 a month. Considering you’ve got access to well over 2,000 newspapers and all of its content (including the crosswords!), it’s a great deal for keeping informed.

What could be improved

Small Type – The small type led to problems with me clicking on the wrong articles or links. I couldn’t find a magnifying glass to help me sort it out, either.

Not personalized enough from the beginning – Largely due to the enormous number of newspapers availble, the front page is a big jumble of popular articles, my saved newspapers and a dashboard. Trying to find articles that interested me was tougher than I expected, so I would have liked the application to begin with a short questionnaire about my preferences, geographic location and preferred language, along with the look of my homepage.

Overall Value

While PressReader is great for the traveler and the digital minded, I miss the slight weight of a newspaper and the smell of ink on my hands. Regardless, PressReader offers travelers an easy way to stay in touch with no pesky “two clicks a day” limit and a reasonable price to have it all at their fingerprints, no matter where or when they’re having their coffee and paper break.

PressReader generously offered me a multiple-month trial of their application for my desktop. As always, all opinion are my own.

How to Vote Abroad from Spain

post edited February 4th, 2016

Only a teacher would think to bring a map of the United States, a blue marker and a red one, to an Election Day party in Spain.

“Ok, everybody! Teacher’s here with the electoral map!” Lindsay called out as I hung it on the wall under the TV, and I had miniature US flags waved in my face as a show of solidarity in the upstairs bar of Merchant’s Malt House in Seville.I don’t remember if it was a blustery sort of November that we tend to have In Chicago on Election Night, or which states I colored in, tallying up the electoral votes for each candidate. I do remember the elation of knowing the small team, spearheaded by an incredibly savvy and forward-thinking American woman, had registered dozens of study abroad students and American residents to vote from sunny Spain.

It's easier than ever to vote from abroad as an American citizen or military personnel. Here's how.

For someone who is not overly patriotic on the outside, voting is one of the most important responsibilities I feel I have while overseas. In fact, it’s the only ONLY right I don’t have as a permanent resident in Spain, which makes my voice all the more important when every first Tuesday in November rolls around.

Voting abroad is simple, so there’s no reason to not do it! Here’s how to easily cast your ballot from abroad:

First: Make sure you’re actually registered to vote!

Remember all of those civics classes you had to sit through in high school? By now you should know that no one counts as 2/3 of a person and you can vote as a woman, so there’s absolutely no reason on this big Earth why you can’t do it (unless you’re under 18). Plus, it’s easier than ever to vote from abroad.

Registering to vote is an insanely simple process that can be done in person at a local election office, by heading into the DMV, or even by soliciting this information through the mail. If you’re currently abroad, you can print off these forms and mail, fax or email them back Stateside to your local office.

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If you are already overseas, you will have to print out the forms listed on your state’s election website and mail it to your election office, or complete the online registration at the Federal Voter Assistance Program. You’ll need to provide basic information, including your driver’s license number, or the last four digits of your Social Security number. Each states has slightly different rules – remember Florida in 2000, or the reputed coin tosses during the Iowa Caucuses? – so pay attention to any pop ups you receive while registering. 

Also be sure to tick the elections you want to participate in. If you’re only overseas for the primaries, be sure to notify your election office that you’ll be back for the general election in November. 

Second: Educate yourself, duh.

I don’t like no stupids, so please be a good person and do your research. There are loads of sites out there, but I’ve been following the Inside Gov page and using their political matchers to dive deeper into the issues at stake this election cycle. 

And use the resources you have in your city abroad – study abroad office, US Consulate or interest groups. Many set up informational meetings or even ballot drives to register voters. Get involved!

ThirdRequest an Absentee Ballot

Click to the FVAP’s site, read about the process, choose ‘request an absentee ballot’ from the menu and click on the state you are registered to vote in (this is usually wherever your permanent mailing address or what your driver’s license says is your home address).

From here, you will be directed away from FVAP’s site and to your home state’s election registration page. You’ll have to create a log-in and password before being directed to a wizard. Carefully fill in your pertinent information, using your home address as your voting residence and adding your address abroad in the correct box.

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You can request the ballot by email, fax or regular mail. Do note that, using this method, you can mail in the registration and the ballot at the same time in most states.

You’ll receive a PDF with all of your information immediately. This must be printed, signed and dated, then sent to your local election office, whose mailing address can be found on the second page of your PDF, along with any special instructions for your county. I emailed my request into my local office in Illinois and received my write-in ballot not 12 hours later. Double-check to be sure all of your contact information is correct.

Finally: Cast your ballot and enjoy elections parties around Spain on November 8th!

Your local election office will send you the PDF form of a write-in ballot. Your state will have its own regulations about how to return the ballot and whether there is additional information required of you (Illinois, for example, requires a secrecy waiver). Some states will allow you to email or fax an absentee ballot, or check to see if your local embassy or consulate can do it for you, free of charge. Be aware that ballots dated and received after November 8th will likely not be counted, so make it a priority to cast your vote and make your voice heard.

Your party likely has affiliated members around Spain, so check for election parties and events. Or, get involved with voter registration or fundraising – any large expat enclaves abroad will have larger party organizers. As someone who can’t vote in Spain, I am always sure to fulfill my civic duty.

Please educate yourself, register to vote and exercise your liberties as an American citizen.

For more information, check the Department of State’s Overseas Voting page

Spaniards and the Inauguration

Yesterday I was so anxious about the inauguration and the start of a new presidency, I could hardly sit still. The historic day was darkened by sad news over here in Spain, and I forgot to cancel a class to watch the ceremonies.

What hs stood out most in m mind was the reaction of Spaniards. News pages here in Spain have uploaded videos and transcripts of the speech translated into Castillian and Obama and his supporters’ faces have crossed every broadsheet. Yesterday morning, I read an article on the bus called “Los Siete Pecados de Bush” – Bush’s Seven Sins. While Bush has been shown recently as aged by office, Obama is either shown as relaxing and portraying how normal he is, or looking serious while making a speech. Although President Zapatero warns that Obama can’t solve all the problems that face the US and Spain alike, Spaniards are ever-confident in a president that isn’t theirs. I got lots of congratulations, handshakes, the like. My students in 1D, instead of applauding when I walked down the hall, chanted “O BA MA! O BA MA!”

But by far the most surprising was how all of the women were asking me about what I thought of Michelle Obama’s dress. While I hadn’t spent a lot of time looking at it (I’m listening to his speech for the first time right now, nearly 24 hours after he spoke it), I wasn’t thrilled. Listening chatter about it around the brasero and in the car, they seemed to criticize everything about it. I told them the two dresses were designed by minorities and that, to me, was the message, they just shrugged it off and commented on how the boxy jacket made her look fat.

There’s an interesting saying in Spanish: “Cuando los Estados Unidos estronuda, nos refriamos” -When the US sneezes, we catch a cold. How very true.

Reflecting on the elections

This week has been emotional and historical, to say the least. As I previously mentioned, I’m really not into politics. The democratic process and how our history has shaped our identity as a nation, yes. And it’s apparent that things have changed. Hell, I’m OUT of the country and I see the differences in attitudes now – both at home and here in my home in Spain. People are both reinvigorated and disheartened, ready to move to Canada or excited for a new era to begin.

When Kike visited this summer, we stopped into a Starbucks on Michigan Ave. for coffee (Hello, he’s Spanish. Couldn’t be too American in America!). The woman standing in line behind us was Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Trib. I recognized her by her hair but also by the badge she was wearing, and I told Kike so. He tried to talk to her and tell her I studied journalism, which made me half a second away from slugging him. But since then, I’ve been following her columns, as I had before. She can take ordinary events and find some kind of meaning or bigger picture in them. And she’s done it again in an article published in the Trib this morning, reflecting on the last week as well as the campaign:

Read it here.

2008 Elections

My friend Cat and I at the Democrats Abroad Election Viewing Party
Before my first trip to Spain as a study abroad student in 2005, I was warned that the question “Kerry or Bush?” would only be preceded by “What’s your name?”This year, my coworkers and students have all entered election week with a similar question: “Obama or McCain?”And that wasn’t the end of it. I also had to answer “Who is Joe el fontanero?” and why the symbol of the Democratic party is a donkey, since calling someone an ass in Spanish means you’re calling them stupid. Take that as you will.
Their interest reflects on the rest of their country’s attitude towards America and the elections. The anti-Bush, and therefore anti-Republican, sentiment here in Spain is heard as often as shouts of “Olé!” I picked up an issue of Spain’s political satire mag, El Jueves, last month because it was curiously accompanied by a roll of toilet paper emblazoned with President Bush’s face. Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero famously sat while an American flag was being hoisted at the Olympics Games this summer. And in my mock elections, Instituto Heliche unanimously voted for Obama, with only three or four saying they didn’t care.

I wouldn’t call myself a political junkie – not by a long shot – but this year’s elections have excited me more than I expected, especially being in a country that has a stake in what the next four years could bring. As John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge wrote in 2004’s “The Right Nation,” “American power is so overwhelming that people everywhere watch America’s politicians just as closely as they watch their own…People around the world feel that they are citizens of the United States in the sense that they are participants in its culture and politics.”
Take, for instance, my boyfriend. He’s a fighter pilot in the Spanish armed forces and has been serving in Somalia for nearly two months. If my country were to send troops, he could come back to Seville. He follows election coverage more closely than I do, which is why he saw my interview on Televisión Espanol and I didn’t.
And what about the Spanish public? They’re in the midst of a financial crisis, too, which has forced many of my friends here to scramble for cash. When my country, they say, with one of the biggest economies, gets back on track, they can get on to enjoying themselves more.
The Democratic win was a partial victory for them, too. Zapatero praised Obama and looked ahead to better relations with theUS. I was congratulated by plenty of the school staff and my students on Wednesday morning as if I had just won the position.
My students and the other English teachers were especially engaged this year. We spent the week looking at pictures of the White House, learning the words to “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and why the flag has 13 stripes, and talking about the concept of democracy. I’m not overly patriotic and am glad to be living abroad. But I kind of got chills thinking about the democratic process and how the US had overcome several setbacks before becoming a great and powerful nation. That’s not to say we haven’t had huge screw-ups and upset people in the process. I am an American and my passport says so. I have to endure everything that comes along with that.
Democrats Abroad held an election viewing party Tuesday night at an Irish Pub. I arrived early, at 11pm (5pm EST) so that I could get a seat and have a hot dog before they ran out or the kitchen closed. The top floor of the bar was packed and covered in American memorabilia – flags, red and blue balloons and empty Budweiser bottles. Photogs and journalists were interviewing until the first polls were called around 1:30 a.m. Being the great teacher I am, I brought red and blue markers and a huge map of America, to which I had written all the electoral votes at stake in each state. I colored in New Hampshire while Lindsay colored in red with dismay but without losing any ounce of hope.

Kelly and I are from a blue state!

As the night wore on, people from all over the place and from all ages were gathering to support Obama. There were so many people upstairs that the stairway was blocked off! The whole place was full of cheers and chants whenever a state turned blue, and the nail biter states being won by Obama were celebrated with near tears. It was simple – we were enjoying the democratic process and the chance to exercise their freedoms, a concepts even my 12 year olds could understand.

As Spanish as I sometimes feel, I’m still American and very much so.

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