STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 27th, 2010, by Staff

Bedbugs are having a moment right now. Every day, it seems, brings another story about these hard-to-kill vermin infesting yet another, increasingly incredible place. Movie theaters, retail chains, office buildings. What’s next?

And, while experts agree that bedbugs are becoming a serious problem in this country, very little reportage on the phenomenon does more than instill panic in those of us with even a passing squeamishness about insect infestation.

This story, however, is different. Check out this interview with pest control expert Michael Potter, where he spoke to the bedbug menace in even-handed, informative terms. It’s required listening for anyone (like myself) with any concerns at all about coming into contact with bedbugs. After hearing the segment, you’ll probably still be concerned, but, more importantly, you’ll be informed. And probably a little less freaked out next time you check into a hotel.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 24th, 2010, by Staff
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Senior writer for Salon.com Rebecca Traister, whose first book Big Girls Don’t Cry traces the pivotal campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in the 2008 presidential election cycle, talked to Tavis about how the political landscape has changed for women in America in the past two years.

But in a second conversation that continued beyond the show and is available only on the Web (see below), Traister explains why, in the upcoming midterm elections, big Democratic losses would mean net losses for women in Congress.

“This could be the first time since the 1970s that the total number of women in congress actually decreases, which is very scary, and we need to pay attention to that,” Traister says.

Check out the clip here and share your comments below.

 

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STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 21st, 2010, by Staff

On August 31st, when President Obama announced the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom — the U.S. combat mission in Iraq — he was marking the end of a 7-year war that had taken the lives of more than 4,400 troops and cost U.S. taxpayers $750 billion.

While Iraq is still plagued with insurgent attacks, sectarian violence and political turmoil, most of the 144,000 U.S. troops that were in Iraq when Obama took office had already been withdrawn by the time he delivered his remarks from the Oval Office in August. 50,000 will remain to “advise and assist” Iraqi security forces until the end of 2011.

With reports that more than 35,000 Iraq vets have been seriously wounded during service and that a third of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are reporting symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression or traumatic brain injury, we are left to wonder, what are the real stories of the service personnel returning from Iraq?

So, we want to hear from you. To share your story and be a part of our “Iraq: Faces of the Returning Troops” project, please e-mail the following to returningtroops@gmail.com:

1. A photo of yourself. *
2. Name
3. Age
4. City and State of residence
5. Service/Rank
6. Dates of Deployment
7. Have you had any war injuries or needed medical treatment? If so, what has been your experience with treatment?
8. What have been the biggest challenges since you left Iraq?
9. Have you received adequate support?
10. What would you like your fellow Americans to know about life after serving in Iraq?

*By submitting your photo, you are granting us permission to use it on PBS.org and saying that you have the rights to do so. We can give credit if you supply us with the name of the person who took it. Please send as large a file as possible.

For more on the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, check out Tavis’ recent conversations with London bureau chief for The New York Times John Burns, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post David Finkel and (Ret.) U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 13th, 2010, by MAX LUCADO
MaxLucado-RS

Have you ever heard a question that caught you off guard? Really made you pause?

A few years back, three questions rocked my world. They came from different people in the span of a month. The first question: Had you been a German Christian during World War II, would you have taken a stand against Hitler? Question 2: Had you lived in the South during the civil rights conflict, would you have taken a stand against racism? The third question: When your grandchildren discover you lived during a day in which 1.75 billion people were poor and 1 billion were hungry, how will they judge your response?

I didn’t mind the first two questions. They were hypothetical. I’d like to think I would have taken a stand against Hitler and fought against racism. But those days are gone, and those choices were not mine. But the third question has kept me awake at night.

I do live today; so do you. And we are given a choice…an opportunity to make a big difference during a difficult time. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope?

That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come out to talk to Tavis recently. Tavis is someone who believes we can all make a difference — whether you are a talk show host or a stay-at-home mom. And my message of outliving your life is a conversation I want to have with as many people as possible.

None of us can help everyone, but all of us can help someone.

Max Lucado is a renowned preacher, award-winning Christian writer and minister at San Antonio’s Oak Hills Church. His latest text is Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
August 26th, 2010, by LORI R. WEST
LoriWest-RS

It looks like the end of the beginning of the Gulf oil disaster is at hand. The well has been “killed,” and new oil no longer flows into the water and onto our shores. But this catastrophe is far from over. Entire communities have been deprived of reliable sources of income and production and distribution systems developed over decades have been fundamentally disrupted.

But hope emanates from an unlikely source: Hurricane Katrina. Or, more precisely, the response to that disaster. A number of relief and development groups, including ours, have been working in the region since 2005. Together with federal and state government agencies and private businesses, these groups have implemented successful programs that have made a real impact in the lives of Katrina survivors in Louisiana and Mississippi. The lessons these private groups have learned can and should be applied to those harmed by the oil spill.

Put Income First. A lack of income is a devastating blow and a main source of stress for people suffering from disaster. Timely claims payments and aggressive efforts by governments and private entities to provide alternative sources of income are the best way to avoid depression, substance abuse, and similar negative outcomes. As part of this, it is critical to recognize the large number of affected people who will never file claims because they cannot document their income due to their participation in the cash economy. These citizens must not be allowed to fall through the cracks. To reach and assist them requires aggressive outreach by community-based organizations. 

Help People Plan. BP will pay claims to affected individuals and businesses for a long time to come. Every claim center should include certified financial advisers with knowledge of the needs of the Gulf region. They can advise claimants on the best way to use the payments to not only survive, but to improve their condition. For instance, payments might be best used to start a new business, or receive training for a new job. Advisers who have worked in the region for years assisting Katrina survivors would be invaluable resources to help people use claims money productively.

Engage the Community. There are numerous local, state, federal, and private services available for those impacted by the spill. Having never used them, most people have no idea how to access these services. South Mississippi Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (SMVOAD) has helped thousands of Katrina survivors obtain housing, job training, and other assistance. Volunteers go out into neighborhoods and provide people with lists of service providers, types of services available, and eligibility requirements. At the same time, through their conversations, they obtain data on community needs to inform public and private decision makers as they fashion relief and development programs.

Another example of a successful post-Katrina community-based initiative is YouthBuild. Managed by the U.S. Department of Labor and state agencies, this is a comprehensive program for vocational development, workforce training, and career counseling for Gulf Coast youth. At-risk high school students are trained on how to assist in rebuilding homes. At the same time, trainers assist them to obtain their GED. Thousands of young people have received constructions skills and a high school diploma that makes them attractive to potential employers. This kind of training, geared to the needs and potential of particular Gulf communities, should be a key part of any long-term post-spill strategy.

The Gulf Coast has been pummeled by disasters of natural and human provenance. The response to Katrina was never what it could or should have been. But there are success stories. These community-based initiatives, combined with real resources from the federal government to help rebuild the Gulf, can help residents maintain and even improve a way of life we cherish.

Lori R. West is Gulf Region Director for International Relief & Development, which runs U.S. Gulf Coast Community Resource Centers in Mississippi and Louisiana.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
August 23rd, 2010, by Staff

If you missed the recent “week of rock” with John Mellencamp, when the rock legend debuted tracks from his latest album “No Better Than This,” or if you just want to watch the performances all over again, then you’ve come to the right place.

Check out video of “No Better Than This,” “Pink Houses” and “Save Some Time To Dream” below. To watch performances of “West End,” “Thinking About You” and “Don’t Forget About Me,” click here.

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STAFF & GUEST BLOG
August 17th, 2010, by Staff
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When legendary rocker John Mellencamp recorded his latest (and 25th) album, “No Better Than This,” he decided to keep it simple.

(To see Mellencamp perform live, click here.)

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and his producer, T-Bone Burnett, recorded in mono, went straight to tape with a 1950s Ampex reel-to-reel recorder and used one microphone.

They also set up the recording sessions at three historic locations: Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, TX, where Robert Johnson recorded his blues album in November 1936; Sun Studio in Memphis, TN, where a host of music legends (read: Elvis) have recorded; and First African Baptist Church in Savannah, GA, one of the oldest African American Baptist churches in the country and a part of the Underground Railroad.

In his recent conversation with Tavis, Mellencamp shared the backstory of the decision:

Bob Dylan and I were on tour together and I had written this song called ‘Save Some Time to Dream,’ and I thought, well, this is an awfully good song for me; I’ll just play it live. But I played it, and I thought, I’m going to be in this location and that location, and I started looking geographically that I’m going to be in Savannah, Georgia, where the First African Baptist Church is, where the Underground Railroad started and people went through.

I’m going to be in Memphis, where Sun Studios is located and where Sam Phillips recorded “Howling Wolf” and Johnny Cash, and I’m also going to be close to San Antonio, which is where Robert Johnson recorded back in the ’30s at the Gunter Hotel.

So I started thinking, and things get on your back. So I thought, well, if we’re going to record in these historic locations then we should use that type of gear. Now, those guys, like Johnson, when they recorded him, they recorded straight to disc, straight to the record, so I thought that’s what we’ll do.

But that turned out to be really problematic in this day since nobody does it anymore, so then we went with I think it’s a 1954 mono Ampex field recording machine and an RCA microphone, and recorded in those three locations with the band the old fashioned way — set a microphone up, everybody kind of gathers around it, and you play…the minute we started playing, it was just like well, this sounds like the Sun sessions. It sounds just like Johnny Cash.

And those production choices made for a 13-song album that was released today, but could have been released 50 or 60 years ago. From “Don’t Forget About Me” to “Pink Houses,” the sound is timeless.

But don’t take our word for it!

Watch performances online and tune in each night this week; Mellencamp closes each show with an exclusive, live performance of tracks from the album.

We’re calling it the “week of rock” with John Mellencamp. We know. We know. It truly gets no better than this.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
August 12th, 2010, by Staff
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For those of you who love Grammy Award-winning rock legend John Mellencamp of “Jack & Diane,” “Small Town” and “Hurts So Good” fame, check out our line-up of shows next week.

In a “week of rock” that begins Monday, August 16 and runs through Friday, August 20, the legendary performer will debut songs from his new album No Better Than This during exclusive, live performances each night of the week.

(Check your local listings for air times.)

Mellencamp is currently on a 12-city, limited engagement tour to promote his latest album. The first leg of the “No Better Than This” tour will kick off at Indiana University (Tavis’ alma mater) on October 29. The album will be released August 17.

Rolling Stone has called Mellencamp’s latest project “musical storytelling for hard times: far-fetched, violent, sexy, played for laughs.”

Don’t miss Mellencamp’s exclusive preview! Tune in each night August 16-20. And share your Mellencamp stories below.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
July 29th, 2010, by Staff
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Recent reports about the rising rate of obesity are alarming.

More adults are using canes and grab bars at younger ages to cope with obesity. New research shows that the impact of childhood obesity reaches into adulthood and affects a person’s social and economic outcomes.

And even weight-gain during pregnancy is not off-limits.

Citing an obesity “epidemic” among pregnant women, the UK’s national health organization has issued guidelines that encourage continued physical activity and discourage “eating for two.”

So we thought we’d give you a round-up of previous content that offers information for tackling this difficult issue.

Be sure to check it out and let us know what you do (or plan to do) to stay healthy.

Medical and Diet Expert Ian Smith
“People have to want it for themselves. You can’t want for people to be healthy and they automatically become healthy. They themselves have to say, ‘This is … the change, the lifestyle I want.’ If they don’t want it, you can’t make them take it.”
Watch interview

 

 

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BLOG  | What to Do About Childhood Obesity?
STAFF & GUEST BLOG
July 29th, 2010, by KRISTINA WONG
Headshot and poster by Diana Toshiko.
Headshot and poster by Diana Toshiko.

My earliest memories of even thinking I might be depressed were met with warnings by my mother that if I ever dare seek professional help for depression, even as a kid, my employers would one day find out and fire me. It did bother me that being depressed-but-employed versus happy-and-unemployed was the better of the two (and only two) options, but I heeded her advice and never sought professional help. God forbid anyone know I was once a crazy 12-year-old kid.

So I hid it for years. And not very well. Even into my college years, I managed to turn club meetings, sleepovers, friendships and intimate relationships into my own impromptu therapy sessions. Anything to avoid the stigma of actually seeking professional help. When I introduced myself to a circle of new friends, somehow unsolicited emotional clutter would always spill out with it. Sometimes my friends were halfway decent at playing Freud, but very often, they were so mired in their own messy lives that my problems just exhausted them.

In high school, my best friend was a white girl named Siobhan. She told me about her therapist. How much her therapist listened to her. How much her therapist loved her. I wanted a therapist to listen to me and love me too. But I didn’t have $50 an hour to pay for that kind of love. Instead, I settled for casually asking for help from friends who would jokingly dismiss me with: “You’re a crazy weirdo, Kristina Wong.”

Being called a “crazy weirdo” was enough for me to not show signs of weakness again. So I’d call out other people as “crazy.” I decided that as long as I could call somebody else crazy, I was doing just fine.

Siobhan didn’t seem to care that one day she would be found out as crazy and never get hired for a job. Somehow, she passed off her crazy as cool. In fact, she relished in being “the bad girl with the shrink.” I think Siobhan fed off the energy of everyone thinking she was so bad she needed help. Being branded a “bad girl” was easier than trying to carve out her own identity.

In retrospect, it may not have even been that I was actually clinically depressed. I think I was just very isolated ina predominantly Chinese-American community that shunned ever talking about anything that might be going wrong. My family was so insistent that I project only the best, that during car rides en route to family engagements, my parents prepped me with which highlights of my life to talk about with the rest of our family. It was as if I was a political candidate being prepped for a campaign speech. Except, the people voting for me were from my own family.

I was constantly being introduced by my accomplishments (“This is Kristina. She wins trophies and has a perfect GPA”). This confirmed that the only value I had to the world was my net worth. I was never introduced as who I was… because who was I but my accomplishments? I was living in a fictitious world where the only life worth living seemed to be the one that moved along a specific storyline of success. Simply, I was a living cliché of Asian American teenhood: Get good grades, go to the best college, go to the best med school, marry a Chinese doctor, buy the biggest house on the block, and then have Chinese doctor babies.

Supposedly, after that storyline was complete, I would be successful. And successful would equate happiness. Never mind how unhappy the whole journey was because how could a six-figure income and a Chinese doctor husband not make anyone happy? Right? Right?! Nobody talked about what would happen if I diverged from this storyline, but I could only imagine the worst… Poverty! Obscurity! A single woman surrounded by cats!

I lived in so much fear of failure and struggled to meet an unrealistic prescription of success. I’d break down crying over the unwritten fate that lay ahead if I failed my parents’ expectations.

The misery was becoming undeniable even in high school. I went to a Catholic all-girls school in San Francisco. At the start of religion class, we could go around and set an intention for prayer. Girls would pray for relatives dying of cancer or the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. I’d pray for God to bring me the same thing in rain or shine: “Please God, help the babies dying of cancer and whatever, but especially help me ace that Trig test!”

Now that I’m a grown woman, I’ve learned that having a liberal arts degree does not cause you to self-destruct the moment you graduate. And as evidenced by many of my fellow Asian-Americans thriving in a whole range of professions, there is indeed, life outside of medical school.

And no, you won’t get fired from your job for having gone to therapy at 12, 32 or 65. In fact, I’ve learned you can actually make a career out of addressing the crazy that nobody will talk about in graphic detail. I am now gainfully self-employed as a solo performer and writer. I tour the country and make a living talking about all of the things I never got to talk about as a kid, in front of packed audiences.

It is no cake life to make a living as a performer and writer. I keep late hours, often wonder where my next paycheck is coming from, and I have an extremely difficult time assuring the people I am dating that they will not be part of my shows.

I implode… on stage, and people pay to see it. For the most part, unlike implosions in real life, I can put myself back together again.

My show Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest addresses the stigma and shame around depression and suicide among Asian-American women. Asian-American women have some of the highest rates of depression and suicide in this country. It’s the kind of factoid that simultaneously shocks some and seems intimately right to others.

In the show, I critique the insanely unrealistic pressures some Asian-American women have to please everyone and the dangerous cultural pressure to hide that anything is going wrong. In the show, I use the “Dramatic arc of Fiction” to critique the fictitious lives women like me were expected to live out. It’s been a wonderful poetic justice to take a whole lifetime of angst and confusion and find a way to channel it into something creative.

In talking to women about their depression and getting audience feedback after my shows, I didn’t anticipate how many women would “out” themselves as depressed or suicidal. Many of these women are the women I thought least likely to show their vulnerability. They are professors, professionals, and community leaders. Where were these emotionally open women in high school? Would our lives have been less depressing if we knew each other more honestly? What if we could have been so vulnerable with each other? Would this problem even persist?

Kristina Wong is a writer and performer, who is touring Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The concert film version of the show is available on DVD for schools and libraries.

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