A bullet to the head killed Zhang Xianling's son near Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Since then, she has led a group demanding the truth and accountability for those deaths.
Almost half the states have passed laws easing access to marijuana for medical or recreational use. But most Americans have reservations, especially when it comes to access by young people.
One thing that has fascinated me for a long time is how huge, multi-billion dollar companies can make really obvious mistakes, mistakes that even a child could see.
Do people lose touch with the hoi polloi when they've been enjoying the perks of the executive cafeteria for too long?
Is it a product of the 'yes man' corporate culture, where some out-of-touch CEO has a shower epiphany which rips unchecked through vice presidents, middle managers, and teams of consultants to be broadcast nationwide?
Take what happened today: I'm looking at a photo of one of the biggest, most expensive branding decisions McDonald's has made in a long time. Happy, the new mascot of the Happy Meal.
This is an updated version of the old mascot, which was a Happy Meal box with a yellow smile drawn on it. Simple. Classic. Totally solid mascot. It seems logical, obvious, even, to give that old tried-and-true mascot an update. Bring it to life: add arms, legs and a face. What could possibly go wrong?
Crazy Eyes. That's what.
Happy looks crazy. Not evil, serial killer-crazy (which would actually, I think, be better) or even evil genius crazy... it's a desperate, deeply-needy, sad kind of crazy.
Happy's eyes say: "Hi! I'm Happy! Will you be my friend? Please? I have a lot of trouble reading social cues! Oh my God, I'm so lonely!"
Happy has the kind of expression on his face that you sometimes see on an internet date or a person you are sitting next to on a transatlantic flight. The kind of expression the person in the aisle wears that makes you think, "How much time can I spend in the bathroom before it becomes rude to the point of cruelty?" Shortly before ordering the strongest possible drink as fast as you possibly can.
In its press release, McDonald's says Happy will serve as "an ambassador for balanced and wholesome eating... and will encourage kids to enjoy fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and wholesome beverages such as water or juice."
Happy accompanies a new yogurt option (alternative to french fries) in the Happy Meal. So, Happy is telling kids to eat their fruits and vegetables.
Kids, who will take one look at Happy and know that if they sat next to Happy in the lunch room, their social life would be over until they went to college. If you thought kids hated eating their fruits and vegetables before, now those fruits and vegetables are associated with being a social outcast... which makes me think that maybe, just maybe, Happy isn't the marketing snafu it first appears to be.
Maybe Happy is ACTUALLY a piece of marketing genius.
Consider this: McDonald's serves burgers, sodas, fries, Filets-o-Fish, McRibs, Egg McMuffins and basically everything that is bad for you and can fit inside of a sesame seed bun. McDonald's might SAY it's embracing healthy eating, but it's not.
If everyone in the world started eating what their doctor told them to, McDonald's would go out of business inside of two weeks. So what does McDonald's do? It rolls out a mascot for healthy eating, to tell kids how great "fruits, vegetables and wholesome beverages" are; a mascot that is so deeply unsettling to look at, any child who sees it will probably never want to go within 100 miles of fruit, vegetables or wholesome drinks ever again.
You know what doesn't have any fruits or too many vegetables? Burgers. Fries. Filets-o-Fish. McRibs. Egg McMuffins and basically everything else McDonald's serves.
McDonald's has not rolled out a messed-up mascot, it's invented the anti-mascot. Happy is reverse-psychology marketing in action.
Children, highly impressionable children, will now forever associate "balanced and wholesome eating" with the kid who sits alone in the corner of the cafeteria and brings his cousin to the Homecoming dance.
Sure, Happy might have crazy eyes... but I would submit that they might just be crazy, like a fox. Crazy like a fox that will spend the rest of its life thinking trans-fats are what the cool kids are eating.
Well played, McDonald's.
The Rural School and Community Trust has released its "Why Rural Matters" report for 2013-2014, tracking the conditions of rural education in each of the 50 states. Using a combination of measurements, including student diversity, socioeconomic conditions and educational outcomes, the nonprofit organization categorizes in its report the overall need for support of rural education in each state.
In particular, the report highlighted the fact that rural schools, which serve 20 percent of U.S. schoolchildren, are experiencing higher growths in enrollment rates compared to non-rural schools. Rural schools also serve an increasingly diverse demographic and a growing percentage of students live in poverty, according to the report.
The moves come as part of the network's effort to eliminate budget deficits. Tell Me More host Michel Martin will remain with NPR.
There is word that Britain's National Health Service has just commissioned a big study to see what mobile phones are doing — if anything — to our kids.
This is one of the biggest stories I'v seen so far while broadcasting this week from London, and yet it has received very little coverage outside of these isles.
Here is the part that stopped me in my tracks: Researchers say this is not something that has been studied much. It should be said that perhaps there are no significant health, cognitive or developmental effects of young people using cell phones the way they do. But until this new research starts bearing fruit in a few years these will remain open questions.
The study will recruit parents and children at about 160 middle and high schools around London. They have to agree to let a special app monitor the phones of children as young as 11. The app will track how the phone is used, as a speaker phone, via headphones or how often it's held up against the ear.
Researchers, coordinated by the Imperial College London, are interested in any effects of radio waves emitted by the phones but also how the regular use of mobiles might change the way kids think or remember information. It's not just the effects of phones they are interested in, but other digital devices such as tablets as well. Alarmist nonsense? It is being noted here that the World Health Organization has said there is an urgent need for this kind of research with youngsters.
It is interesting that for a while now the National Health Service over here has had guidelines urging that phones should only be used by kids for "essential purposes." If you have ever seen a kid stuck in that praying mantis pose with a phone in hand, you know that is not always the case. That is to say kids have been known to use smart phones for more than just calling home for a ride or checking if the teacher had sent an email.
The lead investigator in the new British study is quoted by the BBC saying, "As mobile phones are a new and widespread technology central to our lives, carrying out the study is important in order to provide the evidence base with which to inform policy and through which parents and their children can make informed life choices."
What I am wondering is where they are going to find kids for the study's control group: the kids who never use phones are becoming a very rare breed.