TIME vaccines

How Words Can Kill in the Vaccine Fight

Farrow: Right ideas, wrong words
Farrow: Right ideas, wrong words NBC/Getty Images

To own the argument you've got to own the language. At the moment, the dangerous anti-vaxxers are winning that war

Chances are you wouldn’t sit down to a plate of sautéed thymus glands, to say nothing of a poached patagonian tooth fish; and the odds are you’d be reluctant to tuck into a monkey peach too. But sweetbreads, Chilean sea bass and kiwifruit? They’re a different matter—except they’re not. All of those scrumptious foods once went by those less scrumptious names—but few people went near them until there was something pleasant to call them. Words have that kind of power.

That’s true in advertising, in politics and in business too. And it’s true when it comes to vaccines as well—but in this case those words can have a lethal power. The bad news is that in the vaccine word game, the good guys (they would be the ones who know that vaccines are safe, effective and save from two to three million lives per year) are being caught flat-footed by the bad guys (those would be the ones whose beliefs are precisely opposite—and therefore precisely wrong).

The battle plays out on Twitter, with the handy—and uninformed—handle #CDCWhistleBlower repeatedly invoked by virtually every fevered anti-vax tweet like a solemn incantation. The term refers to Dr. William Thompson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who supposedly blew the lid off of the great vaccine conspiracy by confessing to irregularities in a 2004 study that deliberately excluded data suggesting a higher rate of autism in African-American boys who had been vaccinated. Scary stuff alright, except that the study was poorly conducted, the data was left out for purely statistical and methodological reasons, and the paper itself has now been withdrawn. But the hashtag stain remains all the same—with the usually noble whistleblower label being put to low purpose.

Something similar is true with the widely cited Vaccine Injury Court, another frightening term, except that no such thing exists—at least not by that name. It’s true there is an Office of Special Masters which, under a smart 1986 law, hears the claims of parents who believe their children have been injured by vaccines. The panel was created to provide no-fault compensation in all such cases, since drugs that are as vital and are administered as widely as vaccines could never be manufactured or sold affordably if the companies themselves had to pour millions and even billions of dollars into defending themselves against claims.

It’s true too that the court has paid out about $2.8 billion to parents and families since 1989, but those awards are overwhelmingly for relatively minor side effects that are fully disclosed by the ostensibly secretive CDC for any parents caring to look on the agency’s website. And to put that $2.8 billion in perspective: The money went to 3,727 claimants over an approximate generation-long period during which 78 million American children were safely vaccinated, preventing an estimated 322 million illnesses and 732,000 deaths. If you’re crunching the numbers (and it’s not hard to do) that factors out to a .0048% risk of developing what is overwhelmingly likely to be a transient problem—in exchange for a lifetime of immunity from multiple lethal diseases.

But brace for more anyway because October is, yes, Vaccine Injury Awareness Month. Because really, what does a dangerous campaign of misinformation need more than 31 catchily named days devoted to itself?

Still, there’s no denying that catchiness works, and on this one the doctors and other smart folks are going to have to get off the dime. MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow—who either is or isn’t to your liking depending in part on whether MSNBC itself is—has emerged as a smart, persuasive, often brilliantly cutting advocate for the vaccine cause. And on his Oct. 10 show he deftly filleted the arguments of a vocal anti-vax mother whose child is undeniably suffering from a number of illnesses, but who wrong-headedly blames them on vaccines. In this show as in others he invites his audience to learn the truth about vaccines and to connect with him and one another via the handle #VaccineDebate.

And right there he tripped up. For the billionth time (as Farrow knows) there is no debate. Just as there is no climate change debate. Just as there is no moon-landings-were-faked debate. And just as there was nothing to the tobacco company’s disingenuous invention of a “cigarette controversy,” a fallback position they assumed when even they knew that cigarettes were killers and that they couldn’t straight-facedly say otherwise, so the best they could do was sow doubt and hope people stayed hooked.

Little more than 30 seconds spent listening to Farrow talk about vaccines makes it unmistakably clear where he stands—but the very fact that we now live in a hashtag culture means that it’s by no means certain he’s going to get that 30 seconds. So step up your game, smart people. You want to get the vaccine message out, do it in a way that works in the 21st century. And if that means a hashtag, why not #VaccinesWork or #VaccinesAreSafe or #VaccinesSaveLives. Of course, there’s also the more thorough and satisfying #AntivaxxersDon’tKnowWhatThey’reTalkingAboutSoPleaseStopListeningToThem, but that gets you exactly halfway to your 140-character limit. So keep it brief folks—and make it stick.

TIME Music

Katy Perry Will Play Next Year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show

Katy Perry "The Prismatic World Tour" - Washington D.C.
Katy Perry performs onstage during "The Prismatic World Tour" at the Verizon Center on June 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. Kevin Mazur—WireImage/Getty Images

The "Roar" and "Dark Horse" singer had reportedly been shortlisted by the NFL with Coldplay and Rihanna

Katy Perry is going to perform at the Super Bowl. After over a month of speculation, sources confirmed to Billboard that the artist would perform during halftime at Super Bowl XLIX.

Perry was reportedly shortlisted by the NFL in August along with Rihanna and Coldplay, the Wall Street Journal reported. But controversy arose from reports that the league, which declined to comment on the “Firework” singer’s selection, was asking artists for payment in exchange for performing at its marquee event.

Curiously enough, Perry told ESPN last week that she wouldn’t give anyone money for a performance. “I’m not the kind of girl that would pay to play the Super Bowl,” she said.

Some 111.5 million people watched this year’s Super Bowl, which included halftime performances by Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, setting a new viewership record.

[Billboard]

TIME Style

Urban Outfitters: ‘We Understand How Our Sincerity May Be Questioned’

Following an uproar, the retailer explains how it ended up selling a 'bloody' Kent State sweatshirt in a statement provided to TIME

On Monday, we wrote about the latest controversy to hit clothing retailer Urban Outfitters: a vintage Kent State sweatshirt that appeared to have blood stains on it, an apparent reference to the shooting deaths of four students by National Guardsmen that took place during a May 1970 protest on the Ohio campus.

Though Urban Outfitters apologized soon after the sweatshirt began to make news, on Tuesday the retailer issued a fuller explanation about the incident to TIME.

The company only had one sweatshirt, it says, which it purchased at a flea market. “Given our history of controversial issues,” the retailer says, “we understand how our sincerity may be questioned.”

Here’s Urban Outfitters’ full explanation of how it came to sell the sweatshirt:

Urban Outfitters would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Kent State University and the Kent State community. We are deeply saddened by the recent uproar our Vintage Kent State sweatshirt has caused. Though it was never our intention to offend anyone, we understand how the item could have been perceived negatively. The tragic events that took place in 1970 are not forgotten and our company regrets that people believe we would intentionally make light of such a horrific part of our nation’s history. To promote such an event is disgraceful, insensitive and in poor taste. To further clarify, despite what has been reported, this is a vintage item and there is only one. Once the negative feedback was brought to our attention we removed the item immediately from sale. Urban Outfitters purchased the one-of-a-kind sweatshirt from the Rose Bowl Flea Market as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on the sweatshirt nor did we ever promote it as such. The discoloration that has been mistaken for blood is from natural fading and sun exposure. With all of that said, this truth does not excuse us from our failure to identify potential controversial products head on. We, as a company who caters to a college-age demographic, have a responsibility to uphold to our customers. Given our history of controversial issues, we understand how our sincerity may be questioned. We can only prove our commitment to improving our product-screening process through our actions and by holding ourselves accountable. Again, we sincerely apologize for this unfortunate misunderstanding and are dedicated to perfecting our internal processes to help avoid these issues in the future.

Read more about read why the Urban Outfitters Kent State sweatshirt caused a controversy here, on TIME.com

TIME Style

Why That Urban Outfitters Kent State Sweatshirt Caused an Uproar

Kent State Shootings
Mary Ann Vecchio kneels by the body of a student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. John Filo—AP Photo

The blood-like details on the sweatshirt seem to reference the deaths of four students in 1970

A sweatshirt offered for sale by Urban Outfitters on the retailer’s website caused outrage Monday as it seemed to market a bloody shirt from one of the most shocking episodes of the anti-Vietnam War movement. The sight of a faded “vintage” Kent State sweatshirt with red accents, which is no longer for sale, caused many people to notice that the marks on the fabric looked like blood. From there, the conclusion was simple: the sweatshirt seemed to be a reference to the May 4, 1970, Kent State shootings.

The resemblance was mere coincidence, the company later said, in an apology: “There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray.” Urban Outfitters may not have intended to offend (even though, as a consumer psychology expert told Money this morning, controversy is good for business) and it does seem possible that nobody at the millennial-centric company even thought of — or, perhaps, had ever heard of — a protest that happened more than four decades ago.

So what exactly happened at Kent State?

It took half a century to transform Kent State from an obscure teachers college into the second largest university in Ohio, with 21,000 students and an impressive array of modern buildings on its main campus,” TIME reported shortly after the shooting. “But it took less than ten terrifying seconds last week to convert the traditionally conformist campus into a bloodstained symbol of the rising student rebellion against the Nixon Administration and the war in Southeast Asia. When National Guardsmen fired indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed civilians, killing four students, the bullets wounded the nation.”

On the night of May 1, as students at the Ohio university danced in the street, an unlucky driver attempted to get through the crowd. The mood in the country, amid a wave of student protests over the Vietnam War, was tense, and the confrontation over a traffic jam quickly became more serious, as students in the crowd started anti-war chants. The police used tear gas to get the students back to campus, but the conflict was still fresh when an administration-approved rally began the next day, a Saturday. The protest turned violent, and the local mayor requested help from the National Guard. On Sunday, Ohio governor James Rhodes said that the student protesters were “the worst type of people that we harbor in America” and, despite requests to close the campus, declared a state of emergency instead. When nearly 1,000 students staged a sit-in that night, it was against his order banning all protests.

Though classes started as usual on Monday, the protest ban still rankled students. Many — again, about 1,000 — assembled on campus, flaunting the ban and prompting the National Guard to respond with tear gas. Some students picked up the canisters and threw them back. To the student demonstrators, taunting the Guardsmen was a more serious game of catch. “…Delighted spectators, watching from the hilltop, windows of buildings and the roof of another men’s dorm, cheered,” TIME reported. “Many demonstrators were laughing.”

But then the tear gas ran out. The Guardsmen retreated to the top of a hill, watching the crowd. They fired.

The protest, noisy and chaotic, stopped. Four students were dead. William K. Schroeder, 19, had been a spectator. Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, had been walking to class. Jefrrey Glenn Miller, 20, had called his mother to let her know that he felt he had to take part in the protests. Allison Krause, 19, had recently placed a flower in the rifle of a Guardsman at the protest. Ten others were wounded.

The deaths of the Kent State students inspired another wave of student protests across the country, as well as the Neil Young song “Ohio”:

Read a May 1970 report on the Kent State shootings here, in TIME’s archives: Kent State: Martyrdom that Shook the Country

MONEY Shopping

Why Urban Outfitters Won’t Stop Offending People

Urban Outfitters has made a habit of tasteless products. Can they ever go too far, or is any publicity good publicity?

The world awoke this morning to yet another clothing-related scandal, courtesy of Urban Outfitters. The Philadelphia-based brand, which traffics in try-hard hipster clothing, released what might be its most tasteless creation yet: a Kent State University sweatshirt adorned with what appears to be blood stains. Kent State University was home to the 1970 massacre in which four students were killed and nine others wounded by National Guard soldiers.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.25.29 AM

The thing is, this isn’t the first (or second, or even third) time Urban Outfitters has caught flak for selling horrible products. Making extremely offensive clothes has been almost synonymous with the company’s brand. Before Kent State, there was a top covered front-to-back with the word “depression.” Before that, another Urban Outfitters shirt featured a star that appeared nearly identical to the insignia Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany. (More recently, Zara pulled a shirt from its shelves for the same reason.) And before that there was the infamous “Eat Less” shirt, which prompted One Tree Hill star Sophia Bush to boycott the store in protest of what she saw as a “pro-anorexia message.”

So is Urban Outfitters run by a bunch of jerks? Perhaps, but—and this is an important but—they’re jerks with business sense. Urban Outfitters Inc, the company that owns Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain, and Bhldn brands, recently announced record quarterly sales of $811 million. If courting controversy was bad for the bottom line, Urban wouldn’t be doing it. That begs the question: Is any publicity good publicity, as the saying goes, or will the company eventually suffer if it goes too far over the line?

Kit Yarrow, PhD, a consumer psychology expert and professor at Golden Gate University (and MONEY contributor), believes being repugnant is (regrettably) a good business strategy, especially for clothing brands that target a younger audience. “I think they get encouragement to keep doing it because they do get a lot of attention for it,” said Yarrow. “It’s offensive and a little bit tasteless, but shock value just can’t be underrated these days. In some ways it’s a little bit appealing to consumers to connect with a store that’s on the edgier side, and that’s one of the ways the store tells consumers they’re pushing the boundaries and aren’t your parents lame old store.”

Another factor that may reward an offend-first strategy is that millennials, Urban Outfitter’s core demographic, are especially difficult to reach because they’re constantly bombarded with stimulation and advertising. According to Yarrow, it may take something truly shocking to break through all of the noise. A bloodstained sweater referencing an event most young people only vaguely know about might be what it takes to bring the Urban Outfitters brand to the forefront.

Yarrow doesn’t think the company will suffer for its Kent State gaffe. “If they apologize in any way, and a half-hearted apology is their typical pattern, then they’re partially forgiven,” she explained. Sure enough, the company was quick to post a completely unbelievable mea culpa on Twitter soon after the story broke.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.25.45 AM

Short of expressing explicit prejudice (and even then, there are exceptions), it’s hard for Urban Outfitters or any brand to offend so badly as to experience serious financial harm, Yarrow said. She pointed out that Chick-fil-A has persevered, despite its opposition to gay marriage. American Apparel was ultimately forced to demote CEO Dov Charney after repeated allegations of sexual harassment began to interfere with business, but he is still at the company as a consultant and is paid the same salary as when he was chief executive. CNN reports the company’s financials are improving.

The one thing Yarrow thinks consumers won’t forgive is a failure to push boundaries. Abercrombie, another millennial-focused clothing brand, has had its own share of scandals, but she believes its recent sales troubles have more to do with the company’s perceived arrogance and willingness to rest on its laurels. “One girl told me last week ‘They [Abercrombie] haven’t done a thing differently in a decade,’ ” said Yarrow. “Not being daring is more offensive to Gen Y-ers.”

TIME Television

‘Authentic’ YouTube Stars Clash With Hollywood at the Teen Choice Awards

Teen Choice Awards 2014 - Show
(L-R) Actress Bella Thorne, actress Zendaya, and internet personality Cameron Dallas onstage during FOX's 2014 Teen Choice Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on August 10, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Kevin Winter—Getty Images

YouTube stars with a penchant for truth-telling are now controlling teens' hearts and wallets. That's bad news for the Hollywood PR machine — as a recent scandal proves

There was a controversy at last night’s Teen Choice Awards, although it wasn’t about a midriff-baring red carpet outfit or whether One Direction is better than 5 Seconds of Summer. No, the nature of the scandal was something much more complicated: whether the awards were rigged or not.

Some background: in an era where reality TV is either outlandish wine-throwing or as rehearsed and stiff as a Botoxed Kardashian forehead, teens have begun flocking to YouTube in search of authenticity — real people being honest about their lives. YouTube vloggers and Vine stars, who primarily appeal to a teenage demographic, have accrued millions of subscribers and big endorsement deals with major brands like L’Oreal and Taco Bell. Increasingly, they’re making a bid for mainstream success.

But the tension between old Hollywood (that is, 20-something Hollywood) and new social media stars came to a head when the Teen Choice Awards proudly rolled out social media categories for the first time, honoring the YouTube and Vine stars who, according to a recent Variety cover, have even more influence over teens and their purchasing decisions than traditional superstars like Jennifer Lawrence and Katy Perry. But the decision to highlight social media stars backfired when Vine celebrity Cameron Dallas lost the award for “Best Choice Web Star: Male” (although he won “Choice Viner”). He wrote (and then deleted) a post on Twitter to his 3.1 million followers: “It’s funny how they told me I won the winner award 6 days before the voting ended and made the runners up still tweet to vote for them.”

Another Vine celeb, Matthew Espinosa, tweeted to his almost 2 million followers, “Basically they picked the people almost 6 days before voting was done and used all of us for promotion.” Outraged fans responded with the hashtag #teensdonthaveachoiceawards, which trended on Twitter throughout the night.

It’s no secret that the Teen Choice Awards aren’t entirely democratic. It even says on the site where you vote: “Teenasaurus Rox reserved the right to choose the winner from the top four vote getters.” But Fox, who aired the awards show, can’t be happy that the renewed attention arose thanks to tweets from one of the evening’s winners.

Dallas, Espinosa, and other stars like them are breaking a long tradition of stars gamely cooperating with studios, record labels, corporations and the media. In the 1950s, studios used to employ “fixers” who would hide celebrity scandals at any cost to make sure that actors’ images remained untainted. Those days feel far away in an era where TMZ captures every insult uttered to a paparazzo, every DUI, every wardrobe malfunction. But celebrities have responded by closely controlling the message: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt sell photos of their children taken by their own photographers to magazines so as to control their public persona; many celebs hire people just to run their Twitter account; and high-profile couples like Beyonce and Jay-Z combat rumors of divorce with happy family photos on Instagram.

Sometimes, still, celebs go rogue, like when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift at the VMAs or Jason Biggs tweeted an offensive joke. But for the most part, celebrities have understood that the safest way to work to the top is to make it within the system. Even the most “authentic” celebrities, like Jennifer Lawrence — who has become America’s sweetheart by tripping on the red carpet and admitting that she’s hungry at awards shows after starving herself all day — often hide who they are dating or what they look like without makeup.

Not so for teen celebs on YouTube and Vine who have built a fan following based on their “authenticity.” The seemingly spontaneous clips often involve Internet stars pouring out their hearts. Teens have latched onto these kernels of truth: unfiltered social media personalities have angsty feelings, make mistakes and call out authoritarian figures — just like us! YouTube stars were thought to be more engaging, extraordinary and relatable than Hollywood stars, according to the Variety survey. And they’re prolific: YouTube now reaches more 18-34-year-olds in the U.S. than any cable network, according to Nielsen.

But authenticity is risky business. These stars, like their teenage peers, can be reckless on social media: just look at this most recent Teen Choice Awards scandal, or Nash Grier, the most followed person on Vine, who recorded a video using a gay slur. They’re also not beholden to a big studio or television network; accountable only to themselves, they’re freer to be candid without fear of repercussions.

That makes them hard to incorporate into conventional Hollywood rituals — like the Teen Choice Awards — when anyone can tweet their dissent to their millions of followers. Tweets like Dallas’ could be the death knoll for artifice on awards shows, reality shows or even celebrities’ personal social media accounts; YouTube stars and their followers clearly feel empowered to be transparent about their participation in the PR machine.

If the old guard wants to keep their hold over young viewers’ minds — and wallets — they need to step up their game. Internet celebrities who have spent years baring their souls in vlogs won’t be so willing to feign surprise when they’re given an award. Today’s teens are savvy enough to leverage their personalities into lucrative global brands on YouTube — they’re more than smart enough to call bullshit on traditional media.

TIME controversy

Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz Backtrack on Israel and Gaza Letter

"The Counselor" - Photocall
Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz attend a photocall for 'The Counselor' at The Dorchester on October 5, 2013 in London, England. Dave J Hogan--Getty Images

The Oscar-winning actors issue clarifying statements on the Israel-Hamas conflict, after being heavily criticized for co-signing an open letter lamenting Israel's actions in Gaza

Spanish actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz have each released statements clarifying their position on the war in Gaza after the married couple were heavily criticized for co-signing an open letter in a Spanish newspaper which condemned Israel’s actions.

The letter, published by El Diario earlier this week, included the signatures of many heavyweights in the Spanish film industry and called on the European Union to “condemn the bombing by land, sea and air against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip.”

Since the letter was published, the Oscar-winning couple has faced fierce criticism and accusations of anti-Semitism in Israel and beyond. The response has been so hostile that both actors issued statements in order to clarify their personal intentions. The No Country for Old Men star released a statement titled “Plea for Peace” on Thursday, which read:

“My signature was solely meant as a plea for peace. Destruction and hatred only generate more hatred and destruction.

While I was critical of the Israeli military response, I have great respect for the people of Israel and deep compassion for their losses. I am now being labeled by some as anti-Semitic, as is my wife – which is the antithesis of who we are as human beings. We detest anti-Semitism as much as we detest the horrible and painful consequences of war.

I was raised to be against any act of violence, and the consequent suffering of humanity for it, regardless of religions, ethnicities and borders. Too many innocent Palestinian mothers have lost their children to this conflict. Too many innocent Israeli mothers share the same grief. There should not be any political reason that can justify such enormous pain on both sides. It’s my hope that leaders involved in this complicated struggle will heed the call of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, ‘In the name of humanity, the violence must stop.’

Palestinians and Israelis in the region deserve to have their safety and human rights recognized and respected so in the near future they may find peace and co-existence, for themselves and their innocent children. So generations to come could bring hope, forgiveness and compassion for each other. This is the most basic and necessary way to peace for all of us.”

Bardem’s statement came hot on the heels of his wife’s own public clarification, as Cruz released a statement to USA Today on Wednesday, which said:

“I don’t want to be misunderstood on this important subject. I’m not an expert on the situation and I’m aware of the complexity of it. My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza. I am hopeful all parties can agree to a cease fire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border. I wish for unity, and peace.”

Earlier this week, TIME’s Lily Rothman wrote about the backlash that often follows when celebrities wade into the thorny issue of Middle East politics. Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and Scarlett Johansson have all faced blow-back in recent years after expressing opinions on the situation in Israel, whether on social media or in interviews about endorsements. The public ire is often harsh enough that these celebrities are quick to walk back on — or delete — their original statements.

In the case of Bardem and Cruz, the pair appear to be attempting to neutralize the backlash by expanding on their sympathies for civilians on both sides of the border and emphasizing their wish for peace.

TIME motherhood

The Top 16 Breastfeeding Controversies

Almost any discussion of how and when we feed our babies sets off a national debate. So to mark World Breastfeeding Week 2014 (yes, that exists), here’s a look at 16 nursing controversies, from the fracas over an Angelina Jolie breastfeeding statue to the suckling husbands phenomenon, and of course, TIME’s 2012 cover about mothers who nurse their kids into late toddlerhood:

 

  • What Starbucks Tells Employees About Breastfeeding Customers

    In a sign of how supercharged the emotions have become about public nursing, a Canadian midwife’s tale of nursing her baby at a local Starbucks in Ottawa went a little viral in early July 2014, getting picked up by news outlets around the globe. The story was, to many, a heartwarming one: after a woman complained to a young, male barista that another woman was breastfeeding without a modesty shield, the barista said he’d take care of it. However, instead of telling the nursing mom to cover up, he just brought her an extra coffee for having to deal with the unpleasantness.

    This is not actually Starbucks’ official policy. In fact, Starbucks doesn’t have an official policy on breastfeeding, according to spokeswoman Laurel Harper. The cappu-chain does have an official policy about making customers feel welcome, Harper noted (several times). “We empower our local partners to reach a decision about how best to make a customer’s experience a positive one,” she says. It was up to the employee to decide which customer in this case was going to have a less-positive experience.

    –Belinda Luscombe

  • Why All the Controversy About a Black Woman Breastfeeding?

    When Karlesha Thurman posted a photo of herself breastfeeding during her college graduation ceremony in June 2014, she never expected to stir up a national controversy about breastfeeding and race. She was met with a flurry of negative comments about her decision to nurse her daughter in public.

    “I honestly thought that as a society, people were more understanding of breast-feeding,” Thurman, 25, told the Today Show. “It’s not disgusting, it’s not a bad thing, it’s not a negative thing.”

    The photo put a spotlight on the African American community’s complicated relationship with breastfeeding. After some of the more negative comments were tweeted, the photo was picked up by Black Women Do Breastfeed, a page devoted to celebrating black women who nurse.

    Charlotte Alter

  • Mexico City Breast-Feeding Campaign Draws Backlash

    Mexico City’s May 2014 health campaign to encourage new mothers to nurse has left a sour taste in health advocates’ mouths due to campaign posters that feature topless celebrities.

    The posters show famous women without shirts or bras on, with a banner reading, “No les des la espalda, dale pecho,”or “Don’t turn you back on them, give them your breast,” strategically placed across their chests. Health advocates are peeved that the campaign both sexualizes women and faults those who choose not to breast-feed, rather than simply emphasizing the benefits of doing so.

    Eliana Dockterman

  • ‘My Husband Wants to Breastfeed:’ The Phenomenon Nobody Talks About But Everyone Googles

    It’s the suckle that dare not speak its name. In worldwide Google searches, “my husband wants me to breastfeed him” is a more popular search term than “my husband wants to separate” and “my husband wants a baby”combined.

    Um, what? In May 2014, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz originally reported these numbers in the New York Times, and most of that breastfeeding search traffic is coming from India. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that breastmilk is becoming a delicacy in India, it does suggest a lot of interest. And it begs the question: is this really a thing?

    Absolutely, says Dr. Wendy Walsh, a relationship expert and self-described “dairy queen” who nursed each of her children until they were 3. “Every breastfeeding mother I ever knew said their husband asked to drink it,” she says adding that the father of her child also asked to nurse once in a while.

    Charlotte Alter

  • “If I Could, I Would”: Photographs of Breastfeeding Dads

    Project: Breastfeeding
    Hector Cruz—Project: Breastfeeding

    A March 2014 ad campaign showed photos of fathers in solidarity with breastfeeding mothers. The campaign was spearheaded by Project Breastfeeding and featured shirtless men with their children a caption of, “If I Could, I Would.”

    TIME Photo

  • Controversial Time Breastfeeding Cover

    TIME Cover May 21, 2012
    MARTIN SCHOELLER—TIME

    TIME stirred up its own breastfeeding controversy when the magazine featured a photo of 26-year-old Jamie Grumet breastfeeding her 3-year-old son on a May 2012 cover. Critics questioned both the decision to breastfeed a child that old and the choice to put the photo on TIME‘s cover.

    In the onslaught of reaction that followed, including death threats sent to Grumet, the mother restated her support of both her breastfeeding choice and the magazine’s cover photo decision. “The statement that I wanted to make was this is a normal option for your child and it should not be stigmatized,” Grumet said. “I’m never saying this is for everybody, but it should be something that’s accepted.”

    Joan E. Greve

  • Sarah Palin Slams Michelle Obama

    First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at Arlington National Cemetery's Women in Military Service for America Memorial Center, Tuesday, March 3, 2009, in Arlington, Virginia.
    First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at Arlington National Cemetery's Women in Military Service for America Memorial Center, Tuesday, March 3, 2009, in Arlington, Virginia. Alex Brandon—AP

    Michelle Obama probably didn’t expect her February 2011 campaign to promote breastfeeding to cause such a fuss. Then Sarah Palin weighed in: “It’s no wonder Michelle Obama is telling everybody you betterbreast-feed your baby. Yeah, you better — because the price of milk is so high right now!” After that, mom blogs on both the right and the left piled on, saying that Obama was putting too much pressure on mothers to nurse. Meanwhile, a number of newspapers dug up information showing that as governor of Alaska, Palin herself promoted breast feeding.

    Susanna Schrobsdorff

  • The Realistic Breastfeeding Baby Doll

    Breast Milk Baby Doll
    Amazon

    The Breast Milk Baby — boringly renamed from the unfortunately titled “Bebé Glotón” (Glutton Baby) — is nothing if not good at grabbing headlines. The Spanish doll that simulates breastfeeding caught the attention of American morning shows in 2010 before it had made it across the ocean. The $69 doll made news again in 2011 after its manufacturer, Berjuan Toys, announced that the product was being released in the U.S. market.

    The doll, which is sold with a brassiere-like harness for a child, suckles when pressed against strategically placed magnetic daisies positioned precisely where any real baby goes to nurse. Plenty of people, including women, have recoiled and squealed “gross!”, but why the toy nursling is so controversial goes to the roots of Americans’ squeamishness with breast-feeding in general.

    Bonnie Rochman

  • Julie Bowen’s Revealing Photo

    The star of ABC’s smash hit Modern Family, Julie Bowen, made waves in May 2010 when she released a photo of herself topless and breast-feeding her twin sons in what’s called the “football hold” — a position that allows twins to nurse simultaneously. The image, taken from above, shows Bowen’s bare chest with the two babies latched on. When Bowen told George Lopez on TBS’ Lopez Tonight that she wasn’t allowed to show the photo on ABC’s The View, he promptly displayed it for so long that Bowen got a little embarrassed. And that was before Lopez put up Photoshopped images of the babies suctioning up various other things like the Gulf oil spill. And while Bowen may regret ever releasing the image, at least she didn’t pass judgment on women who don’t breast-feed.

    Susanna Schrobsdorff

  • Breastfeeding School-Age Kids

    A still from the documentary Extraordinary Breastfeeding Extraordinary Breastfeeding

    There’s lots of debate over how long to breast-feed, yet most Americans would agree that by the time a child reaches kindergarten, it’s time to stop. But not Amanda Hurst. The 29-year-old mother made headlines in 2010 by defending her decision to breastfeed both her 6-year-old and her 5-month-old. And she’s not the most extreme case. A 2006 British documentary, Extraordinary Breastfeeding, featured a mother who breast-fed her 8-year-old; viewers on YouTube have likened the practice to child abuse. And while nursing past the age of 1 is considered “extended breast feeding” in the U.S. and most Western countries, in India and parts of Africa, children are more commonly weaned later, usually between the ages of 3 and 4.

    Susanna Schrobsdorff

  • Facebook Accused of Censoring Breastfeeding Photos

    In 2009, Facebook endured the wrath of women who noticed that photos of them breast feeding were being deleted from their profiles — even when the photos were designated as viewable by friends and family only. Facebook countered by saying that photos with nipples showing are a violation of their policies (which permit the removal of photos deemed obscene or pornographic). The company added that almost all the images they removed were flagged by other users.

    The controversy hasn’t seemed to hurt Facebook much. In fact, instead of quitting the social network in protest, some of the mothers started a Facebook page to organize their cause. The“Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding Is Not Obscene” page now has more than 250,000 members and nearly 7,000 photos of babies nursing. The page has become somewhat of a hub for news about breast-feeding rights and other mothering issues.

    Facebook has since updated its policy to allow for photos of mothers nursing on the social media site. “We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we’re glad to know that it’s important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook,” their policy now reads.

    Susanna Schrobsdorff

  • Salma Hayek Breastfeeds an African Baby

    Actress Salma Hayek opened up a whole new kind of breastfeeding debate in 2009 when a video of her nursing a hungry baby boy in Sierra Leone surfaced on YouTube. Hayek told ABC’s Nightline that she fed the newborn in an effort to promote breastfeeding in a region that has one of the highest infant-mortality rates in the world, mainly due to malnutrition.

    And while HIV transmission via breast feeding is a concern throughout Africa, and international health guidelines advise HIV-positive mothers to avoid breast feeding when an alternative source of nourishment is “acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe,” those conditions aren’t often met in places like Sierra Leone where starvation is an immediate threat.

    Hayek won praise for her mission, and the video prompted a wave of discussion over whether Western countries should be donating breast milk to nations in need instead of, or in addition to, infant formula.

    Susanna Schrobsdorff

  • A Proformula Onesie?

    Old Navy

    A simple $5 Old Navy T-shirt for babies set off a firestorm in 2009, thanks to what the company thought was a clever illustration of a baby bottle and the words “Formula Powered.” Breast-feeding advocates called for a boycott of the chain for encouraging baby formula over breast milk. “It was not meant to be anti–breastfeeding,” said Louise Callagy, spokeswoman of Gap Inc., Old Navy’s parent company, who also pointed out that Old Navy also manufactures nursing bras and tops. The onesie was part of a fall clothing collection with a racing theme. Cate Nelson, a blogger at the green-parenting site Eco Child’s Play wasn’t convinced. In a statement sure to inflame bottle-feeding parents, she said, “Formula simply isn’t the healthy option. So, why doesn’t Old Navy know it?”

    —Susanna Schrobsdorff

  • The Angelina Jolie Breast-Feeding Statue

    Daniel Edwards

    In 2009, sculptor Daniel Edwards took it upon himself to depict actress Angelina Jolie seated while feeding twin infants simultaneously for an odd-looking work entitled Landmark for Breastfeeding. The New York–based artist favors celebrity subjects, including a much publicized sculpture of Britney Spears giving birth nude, which he described as “pro-life.”

    Edwards says the sculpture was originally inspired by W magazine’s 2008 cover of Jolie nursing one of her newborn twins, Vivienne and Knox. And while that image of Jolie was widely welcomed by breastfeeding advocates, it’s not entirely clear whether the grim-looking Jolie statue would inspire an increase in nursing.

    —Susanna Schrobsdorff
  • Woman Kicked Off a Plane for Breastfeeding

    Women breastfeed their babies at the Hir
    Women breastfeed their babies at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington on February 12, 2011 during a "nurse-in." Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images

    A legal dispute over public breastfeeding began in 2006 when Emily Gillette said that a Delta Connection flight attendant told her to get off the plane when she refused to cover up while nursing her 22-month-old daughter. Gillette filed a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, claiming that she was sitting discreetly by the window with her husband in the aisle seat when a flight attendant gave her a blanket. After Gillette declined the blanket, she was escorted off the plane.

    The incident sparked “nurse-ins” at Delta counters across the country. And while both Delta and its partner Freedom Airlines, which operated Gillette’s flight on behalf of Delta, have apologized and reaffirmed the right of women to breastfeed on their planes, Gillette filed a civil suit against Delta in the U.S. District Court in the fall of 2009.

    Gillette settled with the airlines for an undisclosed amount in March 2012.

    Susanna Schrobsdorff

  • Redbook’s Breastfeeding Cover

    In 1997, Redbook magazine came out with what was then a fairly revolutionary cover featuring actor Pierce Brosnan gazing adoringly at his girlfriend Keely Shaye Smith as she breastfeeds their infant son. The image didn’t reveal more of Smith’s bosom than your average Oscar gown, but nonetheless, that cover only appeared on newsstands while a more traditional image of the family was on the version that went to subscribers. Editor in chief Kate White explained that the magazine produced two covers for the first time in its history because the editors didn’t want “to force the image on anyone.” Meanwhile, some convenience-store-chain owners said that if customers complained, they reserved the right to move the controversial breast-feeding cover behind the counter along with risqué men’s magazines like Playboy.

    Susanna Schrobsdorff

TIME controversy

Emails: Former IRS Official Lois Lerner Called Republicans ‘Crazies’ and ‘—holes’

Former IRS Director Lois Lerner Testifies To A House Oversight Committee On IRS Targeting Scandal
Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner exercises her Fifth Amendment right not to speak about the IRS targeting investigation before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on March 5, 2014 in Washington. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp released new emails from former IRS official Lois Lerner as part of investigation examining potential criminal wrongdoing

Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official at the center of a scandal involving that agency’s targeting of conservative groups, called Republicans “crazies” and “assholes,” according to emails released Wednesday.

Lerner’s messages were released by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp as part of an investigation looking into possible criminal wrongdoing at the IRS. The emails released by Camp’s committee were redacted to use the language “—holes,” but a Camp spokesperson confirmed the original emails read “assholes.” Lerner resigned from her post overseeing tax-exempt groups last September.

In work emails exchanged November 2012 with an unidentified person, Lerner knocks the “whacko wing” of the Republican Party and conservative radio shows. Camp said in a statement that he hopes the released emails urge the Justice Department to “aggressively pursue this case” and appoint a special counsel. In May 2013, Lerner acknowledged that the IRS chose groups with “tea party” in their name for additional review in determining their tax-exempt status as social welfare groups.

A spokesman for Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, did not respond to a request for comment.

 

TIME movies

Paramount Apologizes for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 9/11 Snafu

Paramount Pictures

The film studio’s tweet stirred controversy online

The film studio Paramount has issued an apology after deleting a controversial tweet aimed at advertising the September 11 Australian release of the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.

From Twitter handle @ParamountAU, the studio tweeted on Tuesday a picture of the movie poster, which features the turtles falling from an exploding building, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

The accompanying text read: “Check out the official poster for #TMNT in cinemas September 11!”

Though apparently unintentional, the combination of imagery and release date predictably elicited outrage online, for evoking the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, during which desperate victims were seen on camera leaping from the burning World Trade Center.

The tweet was quickly deleted but preserved online.

“We are deeply sorry to have used that artwork for the marketing materials promoting the September 11 opening in Australia,” Paramount Australia said in a statement. “Combining that image and date was a mistake. We intended no offense and have taken immediate action to discontinue its use.”

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