Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering JFK, 50 Years Later


My latest special report for U.S. News & World Report is live! JFK: 50 Years Later is a comprehensive look at President John F. Kennedy's legacy, on the 50th anniversary of his death. I wasn't around in 1963, but after looking through reams of old photographs and reels of old video, after reading U.S. News coverage from Dallas on the day itself and interviews with news makers during the aftermath, I can't help but feel the impact this amazing man has had on this country.

Click here to see the entire project

I was also fortunate to be able to interview a man who was there at the time. Now 73, Don Rickel was a doorman in the House of Representatives in 1963, and shared his memories with me.

"Friday the 22nd of November in Washington, D.C., the city was very quiet for a Friday afternoon," he told me. "Back up on 'The Hill' in offices of the members of Congress people were dazed, crying, just sitting looking out into space with television sets and radios all telling the story of what was happening in Dallas."

"My personal memories were of the hundreds of people waiting in the lines in the cold to view the body laying in state in the capitol rotunda," he continued. "The number of world leaders that came to pay their respects to a fallen President -- they may have disagreed with his politics, his religion, his family, etc., but came to pay respects to a leader of the USA. At the grave, I was standing behind several of these world leaders, in fact just 10 feet from Charles DeGaulle."

You can read the rest of his story, and view a video of JFK's funeral, at usnews.com/jfk.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

On selfies and social media: Raising boys to respect girls doesn't mean forbidding them to be friends

Miley Cyrus’s VMA twerking exhibition has triggered a wave of helpful and not-so-helpful advice aimed at America’s teenage sons and daughters. Most of it has been levied at the girls, with messages that pretty much all boil down to “You don’t need to make a spectacle of yourself to get attention”; far fewer have reached out to boys to tell them “Please don’t treat women like that.”

So when this post from Givenbreath.com popped up in my Facebook feed multiple times, I clicked through. Titled “FYI: If You’re a Teenage Girl,” it’s written by Kim Hall, a mom of four (three boys, one girl) telling her son’s female friends that they really need to watch what they post on social media.

“If you are friends with a Hall boy on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, then you are friends with the whole Hall family,” she writes, after noting that her sons’ friends sure do seem to share a lot of photos of themselves in their bedrooms, posing in pajamas (or less) and obviously not wearing their bras.

She shares a few photos of her own, pictures of her strapping teenage boys and their sweet little sister, making muscles and posing in bathing suits on the beach. Which seems fine and wholesome until you keep reading: If she sees an inappropriate, half-naked picture of a girl among her son’s friends, she's sorry to have to say, that girl is getting blocked.

“I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel. Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it? You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?” she writes. “Neither do we. And so, in our house, there are no second chances, ladies. If you want to stay friendly with the Hall men, you’ll have to keep your clothes on, and your posts decent. If you try to post a sexy selfie, or an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – you’ll be booted off our on-line island.”

“I know that sounds harsh and old-school, but that’s just the way it is under this roof for a while,” she continues. “We hope to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.”

Hypocrisy aside – featuring half-naked pictures of your sons in a post in which you tell their female friends to cover up? -- it's interesting that she holds the girls responsible for posting the unacceptable pictures, but isn't holding the boys responsible for looking at them. It's like saying that girls shouldn't wear miniskirts while giving boys a pass for ogling at them -- the old "boys will be boys" excuse that blames women when men behave badly.

Rather than force your sons to block their friends, teach them to tell these girls that they’re more than just sexual objects, that they don’t need to pose provocatively in their bedrooms in order to catch a young man’s eye. Teach your sons that they are in control of their own reaction to these photos, that they can tell their female friends “I care about you and want you to be safe, and I think you should take that selfie down.” Teach them that men of integrity not only “don’t linger” over half-naked pictures high-school girls, they actively choose not to objectify women that way.

Mrs. Hall followed up with a second post in which all of her own children are fully clothed, which shows that while she recognizes one of the issues with her original post, she still doesn't see how her advice only addresses half the problem.

Yes, plenty of young women are publishing immodest pictures of themselves online, publicizing things that, a few years from now, they’ll probably regret. But by blocking these girls on her sons’ social media accounts, she’s not just teaching her boys to be “men of integrity” or “men with a strong moral compass.” She’s also teaching them that only certain women deserve respect. She’s teaching them that, if they can’t control themselves, it’s not their fault – those slutty girls shouldn't have posted those pictures to begin with. She’s teaching her sons to judge and shame others, rather than to forgive and inspire. And she’s teaching her young daughter that if a boy treats her badly, it’s probably her own fault.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Last-minute Mothers Day: A way to help others

What do moms really want for Mothers' Day? Someone to say that they get how hard -- and how wonderful -- it can be.

"I always thought that Mothers Day was great, but it always felt like something was missing," Julianna W. Miner, who blogs at Rants from Mommyland, told me in an interview. "I wanted someone to see me and tell me that it was enough. That even though I was not doing everything right, that my efforts counted."

Figuring that plenty of women might feel the same way, Miner teamed up with e-card and gift company Naughty Betty to create Mothers Day cards to honor all moms and say what they really want for Mother's Day. The cards are more than just clever -- they also support a good cause: If people share the free e-cards in time for Mothers Day, SweetRelish.com will donate up to $10,000 to Shelter House, a safe haven for homeless families and victims of domestic violence.

As I mentioned on Yahoo! Shine earlier this week, these Mothers' Day cards speak the truth. Click through to see more...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Barbie Dolls of the World collection: stunning or stereotypical?


Mattel has been offering Barbies dressed in traditional, ethnic outfits since 1980, when it launched its Dolls of the World collection, aimed at kids and adult collectors alike. The first three dolls represented France, England, and Italy, and the line has expanded to include more than 200 different dolls. But the most recent versions, especially ones representing Latin America, are causing controversy online. The 2012 Mexico Barbie is dressed in non-traditional pink, has kind of a princess hairstyle, and carries a chihuahua tucked under her arm; it's being called out by critics for being offensive rather than educational.

If Mattel was looking for authenticity, Mexico Barbie "should have braids woven through with ribbons," Adriana Velez, who describes herself as Mexican-American, writes at Cafe Mom. "She could have a white blouse with colorful embroidery and a woven shawl. Hell, they could have just called up a photo of the most iconic Mexican ever, Frida Kahlo, and copied the look. Instead they gave her some vague pink thing with ruffles."

The interesting thing is, though, that earlier versions of Mexico Barbie looked almost exactly as Velez describes. So what was the reason behind the change?

I called Mattel up to find out, and a representative told me that the company's goal is to introduce girls to the world through play. "We consulted with the Mexican Embassy on the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, especially with respect to the selection of the Chihuahua," a Mattel spokesperson told me.

After looking through the entire collection, I think the problem goes beyond the Latina dolls. Over at Yahoo! Shine, I've pulled together a slideshow of some of the most-popular dolls in the collection. Take a look and decide for yourself: Are these ethnic Barbie dolls stunning, or just stereotypical?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Spending $500 on school supplies? How to keep costs down

I was happy to return to Fox 25 News in Boston today, this time to talk about how to save some money while back-to-school shopping. Here's the clip from the show:




Consumer experts are saying that parents plan to spend $500 or more on back-to-school items this year; the number sounds outrageous, but once you add electronics and school clothes into the budget, it's easy to see how parents can spend that much or more per child. Over at Yahoo! Shine, I interviewed frugal shopping expert Mir Kamin of WantNot.net about ways parents can keep costs reasonable.

Kamin suggests that people pay attention to store sales and shop "outside the box," keeping an eye out for deals at the grocery and drug stores as well as office supply centers and warehouse clubs.

"The thing to remember is that 'loss leaders' like 10-cent Crayolas and such are there to bring you into the store and make you feel like that overpriced comic-character notebook is a deal because you saved so much on glue and erasers," she explains. "So basically, watch the sales flyers, grab the cheap stuff when it comes up -- and grab extra, so you don't need to re-buy halfway through the year -- but don't buy the stuff that isn't dirt cheap."

You can read the rest of her tips here: ""Back to school spending: $500 per shopper?"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tricky interview questions, and how to answer them, on "The Shine"

When I'm not tapping away at my computer, I'm often in front of the camera, talking about news, workplace, and parenting trends. This week, I was back on "The Shine," Yahoo!'s fantastic talk show (you can find previous episodes at Shine.Yahoo.com). Host Alesha Renee and I were chatting about crazy job-interview questions and how to answer them. Here's the clip!
It's a topic I wrote about earlier this year on Yahoo! Shine ("Bizarre Interview Questions (And How To Answer Them)") and it's proven to be pretty popular -- I was tapped to talk about it on Fox Business News as well. Here's a clip of that segment, which aired July 10: What's the strangest thing you've ever been asked in a job interview?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Industries where women out-earn men, on "The Shine"

This week, I sat down with Alesha Renee on "The Shine" to talk about paycheck fairness and the few industries where women make more than men. Here's the clip!
You can find previous episodes of "The Shine" at Shine.yahoo.com.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Revamping your Resume? Keep these items off

I was a guest on Fox Business News recently, talking about the things you should keep off of your resume. It's a topic I've covered for both Yahoo! Shine ("The Worst Things to Put on Your Resume") and for Yahoo!'s talk show, "The Shine,"(you can watch that clip right here) but here's the clip from the folks at Fox:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What to eat if you can't buy organic

I was on Fox-25 News in Boston this morning, talking about the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen Plus" and "Clean Fifteen" lists and offering suggestions about how to avoid pesticides if you can't afford to buy all organic produce. Here's the clip:

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

It's worth noting that, if you draw a line down the center of the tablescape (sweet potatoes, watermelon, and asparagus) those things plus everything to the left of them are perfectly fine to buy conventionally -- that is, the pesticide levels on them are so low that it doesn't make much of a difference whether you eat "regular" versions or organic ones. Everything to the right, though? If you have money to spend on organic produce, those are the things you want to buy. A good rule of thumb is that if the produce has a think skin that you can eat -- so, peaches, apples, grapes, berries, lettuce and leafy greens, for example -- you should try to buy organic.

I wrote about the EWG's lists on Yahoo! Shine recently: "When Buying Organic Does (and Doesn't) Make Sense." The "Dirty Dozen Plus" and "Clean Fifteen" lists are pretty straight-forward, but bear in mind that the benefits of eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables far outweigh the risks posed by FDA-approved pesticides -- the EWG found traces of them on their produce samples, not massive amounts. And while some fruits and veggies absorb chemicals or grew from seeds soaked in pesticides, most had pesticide residue only on the surface; a simple wash in cold running water (without soap or bleach) is enough to remove most of it.

In the Fox-25 clip, I point out that locally grown produce is less likely to have lots of pesticides, but there wasn't time to explain the idea fully. Just because something is local does not mean that it was grown organically, but if the produce doesn't have to travel a long distance to the store (and look perfect once it gets there), chances are it will require fewer chemicals to keep it fresh and pest-free. Also: There are plenty of farmers who are not certified organic but who use only a minimum of chemicals and pesticides on their produce. The bottom line? If you're at your local farmer's market, ask whether the food was grown organically or when the last time it was treated. Still feeling worried? Grow your own (some of the most-contaminated produce, like green beans and lettuce, are pretty easy to grow in a garden or even in pots on a balcony).

Thursday, May 31, 2012

What not to put on your resume, today on "The Shine"

Today on "The Shine," Yahoo! Shine's new online talk show, I sat down with host Alisha Renee to talk about the things you should never put on your resume. Take a look!



Of course, there's always more... check out the video and my article, "The Worst Things to Put on Your Resume," only at Yahoo! Shine.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Change Your World: Women, the media, human rights, and social change

I'm in Washington to represent Yahoo! Shine at "Change Your World," a summit on women, technology, social and digital media sponsored by Yahoo!'s Business and Human Rights Program. I've met a lot of truly inspirational women who are working hard, on and off-line, to change the world, and the day isn't even halfway done yet.

You watch the live broadcast here (I'm hoping that there will be a recording available later, too), and follow along as the attendees Tweet about it at (the hashtag is #YahooCYW).

The panel that I was on was moderated by Lauren Bohn, a journalist and Fullbright Fellow based in Cairo, Egypt, where she is the founder and associate editor of "The Cairo Review," a foreign-policy journal. We were joined by Courtney Martin of Feministing and ValentiMartin Media, Georgia Popplewell of Global Voices, Holly Gordon of 10x10, Lindsay Guetschow of Participant Media, Lisa Belkin of the Huffington Post, and Mikaela Beardsley of Half the Sky. 

Photo courtesy of Helen Rosenthal (@HelenRosenthal)

We discussed the idea of "Media with a Mission" -- can (or should) journalists be advocates for change? Does online media amplify women's voices more than traditional media? Can a movie be entertaining and empowering at the same time?

During the discussion, I met women who are trying to change their communities from the inside, by running for office (and battling stereotypes and discrimination along the way). I met women who are struggling to change lives of girls in impoverished countries, to improve options for education, to bring technology to the far corners of the world. And they're all making a difference.

Stay tuned to Yahoo! Shine as I write more about these inspiring women and the things they're trying to do to make life better for people everywhere.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What makes Time's breastfeeding cover so controversial?

Yesterday, I wrote a front-page piece for Yahoo.com about this Time Magazine cover, which shows 26-year-old attachment-parenting advocate Jamie Lynne Grumet nursing her nearly 4-year-old son.

Does this cover cross the line? (Photo: Time.com)

You can read that piece here: Reactions to Time Magazine's breastfeeding cover: Did Time go too far? Today's follow up, about Grumet's appearance on NBC's "Today" show, is here: Jamie Lynne Grumet defends her Time magazine breastfeeding cover.

One day and nearly 17,000 comments later, I thought I'd write about what I really think about the controversy.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Michelle Obama: 'I would be proud' if my daughters joined the military

Back in Nov. 2011, I sat down with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden for an on-camera interview for Yahoo! News. Our conversation touched on several topics, from what it's like to raise kids in the public eye, why they're focusing on help for military families, and how they'd react if their own children decided to join the armed forces.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden during an interview with Yahoo! Shine Senior Editor Lylah M. Alphonse in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, Nov. 2, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The videos have expired online, but the articles are still available. Take a look at what they had to say about their kids and the military while I work to get the clips back up and running!

Michelle Obama: If Malia or Sasha Joined the Military, "I Would Be Proud"

In honor of Veterans' Day, Yahoo! Shine went to the White House for an exclusive interview with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to talk about Joining Forces, the White House initiative to support military families. Yahoo! and Yahoo! Shine readers submitted nearly 5,000 questions that they wanted us to ask, including how  Mrs. Obama would react if her daughters Malia and Sasha said that they wanted to join the armed forces. Here's what she had to say about the idea.

Jill Biden already knows what it's like--she's a Blue Star mom herself. "Our son, Beau, is Delaware Army  National Guard. He's been in for 10 years," she told Yahoo! Shine. "He joined in his 30s. And he was deployed to Iraq for a year."

"I felt proud when Beau told me that he was going to join," she said. "He's now a captain, and he's soon to be made a major. We'll go to that ceremony, the entire Biden clan will be there. So we're just very proud."

With the troops from Iraq expected to be home from the holidays, some Yahoo! readers wondered what  the Obama Administration is doing to help support military wives and family members who are coping with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that soldiers may be struggling with.

"Well, our husbands, through this administration, have expanded outreach and counseling through  Veterans Affairs, first and foremost," Mrs. Obama pointed out. "But we need more awareness. We need  more trained professionals available. And that's something that Joining Forces is working on--finding the collaborations of universities out there that are going to improve their curriculums to really gain an  expertise in how do you treat and identify post-traumatic stress disorder."

"But we have to realize, as a nation, that this stress doesn't just apply to the men and women in uniform.  That similar stress is happening at home. And I think a lot of Americans don't think about that," she added. "So we need local professionals and neighbors and community members and teachers aware. This is why you have to know who are the military families in your communities, be able to identify... those stressors."

Dr. Biden, who still teaches English full-time at a community college in Virginia, says that schools are on  the front line in treating PTSD.

"We're taking curriculums into the teachers colleges so that teachers could be aware of the children in their classroom who may have a parent deployed, and what they're going through, and making them aware of it," she explained. "And also I think that the services are doing a much better job of working with the  families."

Those who serve in the National Guard live in with their families in civilian neighborhoods, not on military bases, which means that they may not have the same level of support as other soldiers do once they return home, Dr. Biden pointed out. "I think it's the families that help to work within each other and help to recognize some of the problems."

We also asked the First Lady and Dr. Biden about their families' holiday traditions, what they'd do differently as parents, how they maintain their own identities and careers, and what they think people can do to support military families in general on Veterans' Day and every day, only on Yahoo! Shine.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden on maintaining their own identities, careers

Back in Nov. 2011, I sat down with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden for an on-camera interview for Yahoo! News. Our conversation touched on several topics, from what it's like to raise kids in the public eye, why they're focusing on help for military families, and how they'd react if their own children decided to join the armed forces.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden during an interview with Yahoo! Shine Senior Editor Lylah M. Alphonse in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, Nov. 2, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The videos have expired online, but the articles are still available. Take a look at what they had to say about Let's Move!, patriotism, pride, and maintaining their own identities and careers while I work to get the clips back up and running!

Yahoo! Readers Ask Michelle Obama and Jill Biden About National Pride, Let's Move, and Keeping Their Careers

 Yahoo! and Yahoo! Shine readers recently offered up nearly 5,000 questions for us to choose from for our exclusive interview with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. The First and Second ladies answered some of them in clips that aired earlier this week (you can watch them share their families' holiday traditions here, and talk about what they'd do differently as parents here). And, on Veterans' Day, November 11, we'll share what Dr. Biden (a Blue Star mom herself) has to say about helping military families, and how the First Lady says she'd react if her daughters wanted to join the armed forces.

But readers asked questions about other things: opposition to the White House campaign against childhood obesity, whether Mrs. Obama feels pride in her country now that her husband has been in the Oval Office for three years, and how Dr. Biden maintains her own identity and career in spite of her husband's high-profile job. Here's what they had to say:

On maintaining their own identities and careers:

"The real joy for me is I can continue teaching," Dr. Biden told Yahoo! Shine. "I teach full-time at a community college right nearby here and so that, I think, really kind of keeps me grounded. And I love it. I mean, I was this morning grading papers. I'll be in the classroom tomorrow. So I think that this job has been great as Second Lady because I can have a career and I can also do all the wonderful things that I have the opportunity to do by myself or with Michelle."

"I think we both have strong spouses who care deeply about our own happiness and development," Mrs. Obama said. "You can't do it without that support."

Both women acknowledge that ever person's path in life is different, and you have to figure out what works best for you and your families. "And that may change throughout the course of your life with the kids," Mrs. Obama said. "So I would urge spouses to go with that flow and not be defined by what they think they should do. They should do what's best for them and for their families, and know that that is not going to be static."

On having pride in the United States of America:

Mrs. Obama came under fire in February, 2008, when during a campaign stop in Milwaukee she said, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country." She later explained that she was talking about the political process in particular, and that she was "absolutely" always proud of the country, but the criticism continues more than three years later. One Yahoo! reader wrote: "I would like to ask Michelle Obama: What do you think of America now, since your husband has been President for three years? How do you think America has changed, if at all?" So, we asked her exactly that.

"In so many ways we've been changed, and we've grown," Mrs. Obama replied during our on-camera interview. "I think we're growing as a country in terms of our understanding and appreciation for the sacrifices of war. It is very difficult to take for granted the complicated nature of the lives of our men and women in uniform when they choose to serve. We have one percent of the country protecting the freedoms of the other 99 percent of us. That burden is deep, and it is real, and it's something that the rest of us can't take for granted."

Dr. Biden-whose stepson, Beau, is a member of the Delaware Army National Guard-agreed.

"I think that there has been a really positive change," she told Yahoo! Shine. "I lived through the Vietnam War. And seeing those soldiers come back and how they were treated, and seeing now how American embraces military families, I mean, there's a big change."

On Let's Move and childhood obesity:

Several readers wondered whether the administration had ever imagined that people would oppose efforts to inspire better eating habits, but Mrs. Obama says what she sees is support, not a backlash.

"The truth is, is that there is always opposition, it's just a question on whether you focus on it," she said. "The truth is we've seen some tremendous changes, and every industry stepping up."

Pointing to voluntary changes in the restaurant industry, school lunch programs, food manufacturing processes, Mrs. Obama added, "The support has been tremendous. And I think we're making some progress. And it starts with changing the culture."

"We also know that we can't do this alone. You can't ask a family to solve this problem for themselves in a vacuum," she said. "And everybody has been stepping up to provide the kind of support in communities and schools that parents who care -- do care -- about the health of their kids, so that they have that support to make the choices that they need and the changes that they see fit for their kids. So it's been exciting."