Tag Archives: NPR

Being Intent on Always Moving Forward: Dick Van Dyke on Aging

Recently Dick Van Dyke sat down with NPR to talk about his new book and his advice on getting older.  In it, America’s favorite song and dance man of the modern era talk about romance (his wife is 46 years his senior), taking care of his body (he said he owes his body an apology for habits of the past) and on singing and dancing even as he ages ( “Everybody can sing. That you do it badly is no reason not to sing.”)

Van Dyke says he asks a question of people as they age and now we want to ask you:

Of all the things you enjoyed doing when you were younger that you can’t anymore, what do you miss?

Wordplay Wednesday: The 100,000 Mile Ride

When was the last time you were expecting bad news? When was the last time you spent your day with a cloud of apprehension hovering over you as you waited for the other shoe to drop on your current life crisis? 15 year old Noah Silverman St. John was expecting his mothers, who had been married for 20 years, to tell him they were going to get a divorce. He was sure they were going to do it the night his mother Robyn came home and asked if all of them could go for a ride.

What happened is not what Noah expected, or the audience who saw his 2012 NPR Snap Judgement performance of the year when he told the story there at only 15 years old. The uplifting, beautiful way that Noah tells the story also landed him a guest appearance on the ABC Family show “The Fosters” where he told a slightly more polished version of the story. Both versions are worth watching and mesmerizing when you realize he’s still a teenager (seriously, he won’t graduate high school until this Spring. What?!)

What do you think of the videos? Tell us in the comments below

Empower Your Kids for #GivingTuesday

Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 3.41.25 PMIt’s a quiet evening in the Gobes household.  The autumn sun sets early as the rich aroma of Barefoot Contessa’s boeuf bourguignon peaks our appetites.  With a click of the mouse, my cozy, quiet, comfort-food kitchen is suddenly infused with emotion as my family quickly transitions from hunger to contemplation to tears to determination to inspired action.

My children and I are wrapped around the sound of a news story aired by NPR online, brought to living color by Paula Bronstein’s stirring photo of a Filipino expressing his raw suffering after Typhoon Haiyan.

For a long moment we four are suspended in stillness as we connect with his suffering.  His tears flow through our eyes as we watch the computer screen in silence.

I break the hush and spend a few minutes talking about what it means to be human.  This man is a stranger.  He is thousands of miles away, but his pain is as familiar to us as our own breath.

My youngest children are 9, 7, and 5.  They know suffering, or at least they think they do.  Their low points are dredged up by missing sneakers on gym day, by two green brussel sprouts on a dinner plate.  But their imaginations are fertile and their capacity for compassion is immense.  They examine the man’s expression and begin to list emotions he might be feeling.  They, too, feel those things.  They connect the dots.  He’s just like us.

“How can you help him?” I ask.

“We can send him blankets!” suggests one.

“He’s not cold, he’s wearing short sleeves,” says the other.  “How about pillows?”

“How can we get the pillows to him?”

Maybe the best way to help him from so far away is to raise money.  He can use it to import what he needs,” I suggest.

“Can we color him a picture, Mommy?” my little one requests.

“You bet, babe.”

My 9 year-old seems to be experiencing a paradigm shift.  She picks up the house phone and begins to dial with great urgency.  She’s recruiting her besties to lead a fundraising effort – a good old fashioned coin collection.  Empty your piggy banks, fellow third graders!  The people of the Philippines need our pocket change!  She disappears into her bedroom, chittering quickly, hashing out details and coordinating collection locations.

My 7 year-old has settled back into her book Big Nate, but upon absorbing her big sister’s charitable enthusiasm, she ditches the read and picks up a marker.  “How do you spell typhoon?”  She churns out several posters as I type emails to friends soliciting support for the children’s mission.

My 5 year-old is on the edge.  He’s constructing cannons out of Tinker Toys and monitoring the commotion cautiously.  “Mommy,” he ventures, “Can I ask Jack and Billy to give quarters to that man?”  I respond in the affirmative and hear his barely audible, “Yessssss.”  He continues to quietly play with his cannons.

“Can you believe that a 5 year-old boy like you can do something important like this?  You have the power to help a grown man feel better.  You’re like a superhero.  What do you think about that, buddy?”

“Good,” he mutters, not lifting his head.  But I can see past his long bangs that he’s smiling.  The enthusiasm for this project is contagious.

Big sister returns to the kitchen, placing the cordless on my desk.  The plan is a go.  The  primary players are enlisted.  We decide to collect change until Thanksgiving and have a coin counting party on #GivingTuesday.  They’re excited to be part of such a special day.

Dinner is hot and it’s time to eat.  I take a moment to reflect.  In the time it took a pot of stew to boil, my children adopted a cause and took action.  I’m reminded of a quote by Seneca, “It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste of a lot of it.”  No wasted time here.  Giddy-up.

Give what you can, how you can, where you can.  And be sure to give your all on #GivingTuesday.

Health Benefits of the “Mildly Overweight”: Can We Handle Subtlety in Scientific Reporting?

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 11.34.57 AMIf researchers discovered that, contrary to popular belief, carrying a few extra pounds might not actually be that bad for our health – that it could in fact be better for long-term health than being a size zero – would you want to know? Our guess is: Yes, absolutely.

Now imagine a doctor who has worked all his life to combat obesity and promote healthy lifestyles, who has tirelessly preached the dangers of excess weight throughout his career. You can understand that a new report such as this would deeply trouble him – that he might even take steps to prevent its dispersal to the general public.

This is not a theoretical tale from some overly dramatic medical soap opera. The report is real: A review of 97 independent studies, including nearly 3 million people, headed by Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics. Published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Flegal’s study revealed the surprising news that what is medically classified as “overweight” is actually associated to lower mortality rates than both obesity and normal weight.

This of course challenges basically everything we thought we knew about weight and health (apart from the consensus that obesity unhealthy.) And this is where Walter Willett, chair of the Harvard School of Public Health’s nutrition department, enters the picture. A highly quoted nutrition expert, Willett’s research focuses on diet and lifestyle habits (namely alcohol, red meat, birth control pills, and artificial sweeteners, among others) and their correlations with different forms of cancer. Willett is now the subject of considerable public scrutiny for expressing some less-than-professional opinions on Flegal’s report. In an interview with NPR, Willett commented, “This study is really a pile of rubbish, and no one should waste their time reading it.”

Unfortunately, dismissing such a comprehensive report as Flegal’s as “a pile of rubbish” might have been the worst move of Willett’s career. Science is, by definition, a critical and collaborative field. Its findings have power and influence in our society because we trust the scientific method; and we trust it because, presumably, the research is tested, challenged, and peer-reviewed. Willett’s comment reveals a fundamental disregard for this equilibrium, no matter how noble his intentions.

There is certainly something to be said for simplicity in scientific reporting. If the general public needs to hear that excess weight leads to heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illness in order to adopt healthy eating and lifestyle habits, then maybe we can believe that’s all researchers are responsible for reporting. If, on the other hand, we trust that the general public is thoughtful and discerning enough to consider shades of grey and make informed lifestyle decisions, then it would be dangerously irresponsible for scientists to censor their findings. The obsession with weight in our culture has undermined the promotion of healthy body image, self-esteem, and eating habits, particularly among teenagers and women. If Flegal’s report could introduce a bit of breathing room, then it is worth the effort that may need to go into explaining and elaborating on those pesky shades of grey.

What do you think? Can we handle subtlety in scientific reporting? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

The Night My Husband Didn’t Call and the Fear of Losing a Loved One

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 1.39.39 PMThe clock in my kitchen is my go-to for all my timely needs. There are other clocks around the house, but for some reason I always consult the kitchen clock for accurate time. Oddly enough, the five minute intervals read “now” instead of numbers, so time telling is a two step translation process – a process that perhaps took the edge off last night as I was watching that minute hand in orbit, converting “nows” into numbers, waiting for my husband to come home after work.

We were all hungry, dinner was hot. Around 6:0o I called him four times in quick succession. I thought the intensity of my effort might encourage him to pick up, mentally willing him with every ring. Nothing.

So finally at 7:00 I sat the crew down to eat. Dinner was typical. The girls chowed down while my son staged a sit-in across the room. We ate the last half of our meal in intentional silence, doing our best to focus on chewing and tasting. In the silence I had a hard time focusing on anything really. Well, anything but this: Where the hell is my husband???

As the “nows” accumulated, one nagging, irrational thought snagged its claws on my otherwise typical thoughts. If he got into an accident, the hospital would have called me, right? Would I have a sixth sense if he was dead? Would I just know? He’s not dead, though. But he could be. No. Could he be? I’m sure he’s fine. Maybe I’ll watch a little TV.

The phone finally rang after I put the kids to sleep. He was fine, enjoying dinner with a friend visiting from out of town. He had actually told me several times he had plans but I forgot, didn’t write it down, screwed up. Oops. All that worrying for nothing. It’s not as if I didn’t have a gentle reminder telling me to be here and “now”.  Jeez.

The scene brought to mind of a poem I heard by Richard Blanco on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I pulled this off of NPR’s transcripts, so I’m guessing how the stanzas might be broken up. Enjoy…

Killing Mark” by Poet Richard Blanco

His plane went down over Los Angeles last week, again.

Or was it Long Island?

Boxer shorts, hair gel, his toothbrush washed up on the shore of New Haven, but his body never recovered, I feared.

Monday he cut off his leg chain-sawing. Bleed to death slowly while I was shopping for a new lamp.

Never heard my messages on his cell phone.

Where are you? Call me.

I told him to be careful.

He never listens.

Tonight, 15 minutes late. I’m sure he’s hit a moose on Route 26.

But maybe he survived.

Someone from the hospital will call me, give me his room number. I’ll bring his pajamas and some magazines.

5:25, still no phone call.

Voice mail full.

I turn on the news, wait for the report. Flashes of moose blood, his car mangled, as I buzz around the bedroom dusting the furniture, sorting the sock drawer.

By 7:30, I’m taking mental notes for his eulogy, suddenly adoring all I’ve hated, 10 years worth of nose hairs in the sink, of lost car keys, of chewing too loud and hogging the bed sheets,

when Joy yowls. Ears to the sound of footsteps up the drive and darts to the doorway,

I follow with a scowl: Where the hell were you? Couldn’t you call?

Translation. I die each time I kill you.

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Photo credit: LiLit Ghazaryan

Rape Culture: Bay Area Teens Publish Exposé and End Up on NPR

1-art-verde-rape-culture-coverRape is a heavy topic for teenagers to take on in a school magazine or newspaper. Some might even say it’s too advanced or inappropriate in such a setting. The reality, though, is that 80% of rape victims are under the age of 30; and 44% are under 18. So perhaps the problem is that teenagers aren’t discussing this critical issue enough.

In the latest edition of Palo Alto High School’s Verde Magazine, several brave young journalists confronted rape culture head on, focusing specifically on two recent cases from their own school community. The featured piece, “You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped” by Lisie Sabbag, discusses at length the ways in which victims are often blamed for their attacks (and called names like “attention whore,” “liar,” and “slut.”) According to an online survey cited in the article, more than 25% of students questioned agreed that a woman who is raped while drunk is responsible for her assault. These numbers are deeply troubling. By silencing victims, protecting perpetrators, and ascribing to a “boys will be boys” ideology, Sabbag argues, both boys and girls – and society at large – perpetuate a culture of rape.

The nature of high school journalism, even in the largest of schools (Paly hovers around 1,800 students), is that the community is small. Those affected by a certain piece of news in New York City are bound to be dispersed and often anonymous. In a high school setting, almost everyone is affected in some way, and anonymity is not always guaranteed. Sabbag took measures to ensure the two girls included in the article remained anonymous, along with their attackers – also members of the community. But it is a delicate topic in the hands of an unpredictable audience, and too many victims have further suffered from the coverage of their attacks.

But as the students discussed this morning on NPR’s “Forum,” they believe it is essential to create public discourse around sexual assault and rape culture. We applaud these young journalists for confronting the issue courageously and tactfully, and hopefully their work will inspire broader discussion about rape in our culture.

 

Photo credit:  Paly’s Verde Magazine Staff

The Mayan Calendar: Are you expecting an apocalypse?

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 1.42.24 PMWorried about the Mayan calendar and the supposed end of the world tomorrow?

You’re in good company. Almost everyone seems to up in arms about the potential apocalypse, which some say was foretold in the highly accurate calendar of the ancient Mayans. Even NPR, for many the go-to source for sober, reliable news and editorials, discussed the issue on this morning’s Forum – so there must be something to it.

The predicted day happens to fall on the winter solstice, itself a significant event without the compounding issue of catastrophe. And experts say the Mayan calendar has been accurate, thus far, so who’s to say its wisdom would fail us now?

Here is The Chopra Well’s playful, and by no means authoritative, take on tomorrow’s alleged apocalypse. If you’re still here tomorrow to comment, then drop us a line to let us know you’re okay.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well before it’s too late!

Thembi Ngubane’s Story: HIV and AIDS Acceptance


“Our parents struggled against apartheid, they wanted to be free. And it is the same with HIV/AIDS. This is the new struggle.” – Thembi Ngubane

Thembi Ngubane was a 19-year-old South African woman from Khayelitsha township, outside Cape Town. She never thought she would inspire people from around the world with her life’s story. Surely, she never thought she would continue to be an inspiration even after her death.

But when Thembi was given a tape recorder by NPR’s Radio Diaries, and asked to record the day to day experiences of her life as one of South Africa’s millions of HIV+ youth, everything changed. In light of the severe social stigma that remains around HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa, Thembi had until then been relatively silent about her condition. Even when Radio Diaries played segments of her story on National Public Radio in the U.S., she did not want her story broadcast in her home country.

Yet, in the personal to political tradition of so many social change movements in the U.S. – the 1970’s feminist movement, the civil rights movement, and now the body acceptance movements – Thembi took her personal story and connected it to a broader global movement around HIV and AIDS acceptance. She traveled to the U.S. and met with former President Bill Clinton and then-Senator Barak Obama. In March 2007, she spoke to the South African Parliament about the need to address AIDS-based discrimination in her country. Indeed, in the sheer act of telling her story, Thembi galvanized a movement around acceptance of HIV and AIDS both in South Africa and around the world.

To read the rest of this blog, please go to Adios, Barbie!

 

Thanks To You: A Father-And-Son NPR Moment

Although I have been an on-air NPR commentator in Washington, D.C., for more than three years now, it was only recently that I was truly honored to have my most memorable National Public Radio experience to date.

After one of our weekly tapings of the Barbershop segment for Tell Me More, my dear friend and host Michel Martin asked me if I would consider doing an audio commentary with my father for NPR StoryCorps’ “National Day of Listening.”

Needless to say, I said yes without even blinking.

So, during a recent trip back home to Chicago for a keynote speech that I was giving at Northwestern University, my beloved father and I walked into WBEZ-FM Chicago Public Radio at the famous Navy Pier to record a father-and-son conversation.

It was a day that neither of us will ever forget.

“This StoryCorps experience allowed us the unique opportunity to tell our personal story for posterity’s sake,” my father told me shortly afterward.

“Although most fathers and sons around the country may not be blessed with the opportunity to tell their own personal stories to a national radio audience, I hope that our StoryCorps commentary might have touched other fathers and sons around the country.”

I have known my father for all of my 33 years on this planet but in many ways, we both learned new things about each other during that taping.

CONTINUE READING ON NPR.ORG

NPR Right To Fire Juan Williams

 Editor’s note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and legal fellow for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington.

(CNN) — Imagine for a moment that there was a prominent American conservative journalist who ignorantly disparaged an entire minority group on national television, got fired for it by the nation’s largest public radio media organization and then still managed to pull down a $2 million payday with the television network where he made the remarks.
 
Man, it must be nice to be Juan Williams.
 
A quick recap: Williams, a National Public Radio "news analyst," appeared on Fox News Channel’s "The O’Reilly Factor" on Monday to talk about Bill O’Reilly’s recent remarks about Muslims on ABC’s "The View;" the latter’ shows co-hosts, Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg, had walked off the television set in protest.
 
When asked what he thought about the incident, Williams responded: "Look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. …You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. … But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."
When someone begins with the weak disclaimer that he is "not a bigot," you can probably bet the farm that he is about to say something pretty bigoted.
 
Soon after, Williams was terminated as an NPR news analyst — a position he had held for 10 years — for reasons that included his repeated opinion statements that have teetered on the brink of bigoted nonsense in the past.
 
For example, many African-Americans were rightfully shocked in January 2009 when Williams, who is black, said on Fox that the first lady "Michelle Obama, you know. … She’s got this Stokely Carmichael [of the black power movement] in a designer dress thing going. …"
 
In her first interview after the firing, National Public Radio CEO Vivian Schiller told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "There have been several instances over the last couple of years where we have felt Juan has stepped over the line," she said, citing the Michelle Obama remark and others. "This isn’t a case of one strike and you’re out. …"
 
Additionally, during this week’s Fox appearance, Williams kept referring back to the September 11 attacks in describing his uneasiness about people in "Muslim garb."
 
Sadly, this is where he should lose any objective argument with any reasonable observer out there.
As a historical fact, neither the 19 hijackers from September 11 nor the failed "shoe bomber" nor the failed "underwear bomber" ever wore any "Muslim garb" when committing their criminal acts of terrorism on an airplane.
 
Once Williams made that factually wrong statement, he then no longer continued being a "news analyst"; he had crossed over the line into simply voicing his paranoid and irrational fears to the general public.
 
"Juan Williams is a news analyst; he is not a commentator and he is not a columnist," Schiller told an Atlanta Press Club luncheon Thursday. "We have relied on him over the years to give us perspective on the news, not to talk about his opinions."
 
She added, "NPR news analysts have a distinctive role and set of responsibilities. This is a very different role than that of a commentator or columnist. News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation. As you all well know, we offer views of all kinds on our air every day, but those views are expressed by those we interview — not our reporters and analysts."
 
As someone who has been an on-air NPR commentator for more than three years now, I can understand the difference between a news analyst and a commentator.
 
 
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