Posts Tagged ‘ President Obama ’

Government Questions Whether Mobile App Companies Violate Child Privacy

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether mobile apps marketed to children may violate kids’ rights to privacy, and may be misleading parents with confusing and inaccurate privacy policies. The FTC has already identified a number of companies that are engaging in the dubious practices, tracking children’s mobile behaviors without the consent of parents. The FTC is also poised to vote on a new set of rules that would limit such companies’ ability to track pre-teens on their mobile devices. The Washington Post has more:

“The agency and the Obama administration have pushed for stronger protections for children who are spending more time than ever online, thanks largely to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets in homes and schools.

While current law puts strict limits on advertising to children in print or on television, it provides fuzzier guidance on mobile technology, which can be far more invasive. Tech companies, for instance, can instantaneously locate a user, track a person’s social-media habits or keep a record of every Web site visited.

Those kinds of data, however sensitive to parents,have allowed companies to target ads and develop programs for children with a kind of precision that wasn’t available just a few years ago. The push by the government to update child privacy rules has faced resistance from Silicon Valley giants, including Facebook, Apple and Google, as well as the companies developing mobile apps. While they agree that children should be afforded special protections, they also argue some of the proposals would stifle a nascent and innovative industry.

Still, the FTC said it would launch “multiple” investigations into mobile apps companies that may have violated laws on deceptive practices or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a 1998 law that public interest groups say badly needs an update. The agency declined to identify the names or the number of companies that it would target in its probes.”

Image: Young girl texting, via Shutterstock

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Looking Forward to Post-Sandy Humanity in a Second Obama Administration (OPINION)

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

The editors of Parents.com have been reporting on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we chose three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them offered a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Sharon Lerner

The moment has finally arrived and, as with all much-anticipated events, Election Day isn’t what I once imagined it would be. Way back when this race was first getting going, it seemed like we election watchers would stay singularly obsessed with the race to the end. It almost seemed like time would stop on November 6.

But, as with all points on the timeline, the Big Day brought with it a new future, as well as present that wasn’t quite what I expected. I still desperately want Obama to win, of course. I’m already glued to the battleground election results. And I can’t stop checking Nate Silver’s blog, which, as of this writing, puts Obama’s chance of winning at 90.9 percent.

But it’s perhaps because of my faith in Silver that I’m already looking ahead. And there in the post-election tomorrow I see not just a country where we don’t have to discuss legitimate rape, Paul Ryan’s abs, or the idea that 47 percent of the country really doesn’t matter. I see a country where people care for and about the needy in a new way.

No doubt, a large part of this is Hurricane Sandy. While this may be just another election day in parts of the country less affected by the storm, here in the New York area, things are still decidedly not back to normal. Thousands of people are still without power, homes. Food and fuel are scarce. And another storm is on its way.

The beautiful thing, the compelling thing that can’t help but push the election to the back burner once you witness it, is the kind, humane and authentic response real people have to the disaster. All around me, neighbors and friends have jumped in to help, collecting coats, blankets, warm food. During the worst of the storm, a home health aide made her way against all odds from the Bronx to Brooklyn to care for my dying father-in-law. After making her way back through our ailing transit system to her own family, she called to check on him.

Sandy is, of course, a wake-up call about the importance of climate change and the size of government, FEMA in particular. But it’s also a reminder of the ties that bind us to one another and how, despite the ugliness of this election season, they have turned a nation of little folks overshadowed by politicians into one where the actual people clearly matter more.

The impulse to look out for one another is so much more compelling than anything either candidate has said, it’s made the past few months of bickering and lies seem even more heartbreaking than it actually was. Looking at the people lined up at my polling place, waiting for hours to cast their ballots, I’m heartened that, despite everything — the storm, the meanspiritedness, the endless political ads — people remember what really matters.

So on this Election Day, I’m getting on that long line and looking forward to a second Obama administration that, I truly hope, will honor and support the real needs of real people.

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What I Will Teach My Children About Our President (OPINION)

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

The editors of Parents.com have been reporting on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we chose three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them offered a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Amy Julia Becker

Yesterday, I tried to talk to my kids about the election.

William, who is four, was setting out a game based on Richard Scarry’s Busytown. “So, William, do you know there’s an election tomorrow?”

He shook his head.

“Do you know who our President is?”

“Obama,” he said, without looking up, placing Huckle and Sally into their respective holders.

“Do you know what the President does?”

He shook his head again. “Mom,” he said, finally meeting my eyes. “I’m ready.”

I abandoned the conversation.

When Penny, who is almost seven, came home, I said, “Pen, do you know there’s an election tomorrow?”

She looked at me earnestly but also shook her head.

“Do you know who our President is right now?”

“Barack Obama.”

She went on to tell me that he should be president again because she loves him. She also made it clear that she has no idea what a President does, and when I mentioned that he lives in Washington, D.C., she promptly pointed to the state of Washington on the map of the United States. Clearly our family civics lessons are not up to par.

But then I thought back to my own childhood, and I realized that although I had a vague awareness of the Reagan/Mondale contest in 1984, the first election I can remember with any detail was in 1988, when I was eleven years old. One of my father’s best friends was working for the Dukakis campaign. My father is a lifelong Republican, so I was intrigued by the dinner conversations between these two. Up until then, I recall no interest in or even awareness of the political life of this nation. My kids may well be following in my footsteps.

After months of attending to this campaign, I plan to vote for President Obama today, and I hope I will have occasion to explain my choice to Penny and William in the years to come. I am voting for Obama because I think he is the more credible of the two candidates, given Romney’s history of equivocation on abortion, health care, and clean energy. I am also voting for Obama because I am liberal enough to support (in broad terms) his economic policies and health care reforms, and because I am conservative enough to think a transition will be more disruptive to our economy than a continuation of the past four years. Not only will I vote for Obama, but I think he will win, and I look forward to talking to my children about his victory.

But if Romney wins today, what I want my kids to understand won’t differ much. Although I suspect that Obama and Romney are more similar on many issues than their campaigns and fervent supporters might want, I know they are different men with different backgrounds and different policy positions. The reason my words to our children won’t change is that no matter who holds the office of the President, no matter their policies on economics or education or international relations, we will continue to live in the United States of America. And I will teach my children to be proud and grateful that they are growing up as citizens of this nation, no matter which man becomes the next President.

The wonder of American elections is that we routinely watch power transfer from one party to the next without fear of bloodshed. Sure, politics in America can look ugly. We’ve endured an election filled with attack ads that misrepresent both men’s positions. We’ve heard accusations of communism and racism and elitism. And yet Election Day comes, and each and every adult citizen of this nation has the opportunity to cast their vote, to participate in choosing the one(s) who will lead us for the next four years.

It will be a while before I’m talking with my children about the Constitution, or checks and balances, or the philosophical role government should play in the lives of ordinary people. But as a parent, I am relieved to think that I will go to bed tonight without fear. No matter who comes to power, our country will not erupt into civil war. No matter who comes to power, ethnic or religious groups opposed to the person in power will not be targeted for elimination. No matter who holds the highest office in the land, we will still share in common our constitutional rights, our declaration that each and every human being has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As my children get older, I hope I will do my part to educate them about American history and politics and economics and social issues. I hope they will watch Presidential debates and argue with me and with one another when it comes to defense spending and the minimum wage and abortion rights. But I’m also glad that they don’t need to pay attention to this election. I am grateful to be a citizen of the United States of America, and to rest secure in the integrity of this union, come what may.

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Mister Rogers Wouldn’t Approve of Obama’s Lena Dunham Ad (OPINION)

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Nancy French

Call it the Mister Rogers Effect: Moms want their kids to grow up in a neighborhood where the adults are virtuous. Whether it’s the baker, the postman, the mayor, or even the President, we want our children to have role models who are kind, generous, truthful. The kind of people your children could safely emulate.

During the most recent debate, some of us sat down with our children to see President Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney discuss foreign policy. They disagreed on many things, particularly on Romney’s auto bailout position. For a few uncomfortable minutes, one accused the other of lying, until Romney suggested people at home should simply look it up. They did. For the days following the debate, Romney’s 2008 editorial about how he’d handle the Detroit automakers was the most-read story on the NYT’s website. So, who was telling the truth? Romney was deemed more accurate, but his success in this particular exchange is hardly earth shattering. What is significant is that voters, rather Americans, are realizing the President is not who we hoped he was.

“Here’s what upset me last night, this playing fast and loose with facts,” David Letterman said on his show. “Now, I don’t care whether you’re Republican or Democrat, you want your president to be telling the truth… And so when we found out today or soon thereafter that, in fact, President Obama was not telling the truth about what was excerpted from that op-ed piece, I felt discouraged.”

“Discouraged” is a far cry from the sunny optimism that at one time characterized Americans. Even those who disagreed with the president’s politics were a little misty eyed at seeing the first black man to sit in the Oval Office. When my husband and I later adopted a toddler from Africa, part of me was delighted by the fact that she was immigrating to a country with an African-American leader. But since those moments of hope, something strange happened.  Obama—and consequently, our neighborhood—somehow managed to get smaller, more crass, more cynical.

The most recent example is when his campaign released an ad featuring hipster Lena Dunham comparing voting to Obama to surrendering one’s virginity:

“Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy… someone who really cares about and understands women…  It’s super uncool to be out and about and someone says ‘did you vote?’ and [you reply] ‘no, I didn’t feel—I wasn’t ready.’ ” The Weekly Standard wrote, “The President of the United States running a campaign ad implying that young women who don’t let themselves get pressured into sex are ‘super uncool’ is more than enough to make any normal person’s head explode.” Of course, Twitter did erupt. “Is it too much to ask that the President’s campaign ads be workplace safe?” someone tweeted. Parody ads popped up. But the damage was done. The President had released an ad mocking sexual purity, just to win votes among the college age demographic.

We wanted him to be great. To inspire. To soar. Instead he became smaller, almost bent on taking us down with him.

Recently, a friend’s first grader was assigned a biography of the president for Great Americans Day. “How bad would it be for me to ask my child to switch books?” the mom asked me. There was a time in the very recent past when I would’ve responded with a gentle reprimand. “Come on,” I would’ve said. “He’s our President, he’s a good man, he’s accomplished a great deal.”

Rather, that’s how I would’ve answered it. She happened to ask me six weeks after extremists murdered four American diplomats in Libya, and the President had still not told us what really happened. In the second debate, when Obama defended his lack of military response to the attack, his focus was all on semantics. He parsed his words, he covered his legacy. It was tragic and disappointing, because we wanted justice. We wanted to understand. We wanted honesty. We didn’t want a President to assign blame, before heading off to Las Vegas for a fundraiser.

In fact, it was Fred Rogers who said, “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”

Moms know this: a complex world requires nuanced responses to terrible events, but we want our leaders to be honest, courageous, and responsible. We are raising children to become adults, to build families, to create businesses, to serve this country in uniform. Sadly, none of us really live in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood, with its astroturf lawns and closets full of perfectly pressed sweaters. Life is complicated and dangerous and sometimes scary. We want leaders who rise above it and illustrate how to navigate the complexities of this world with as much virtue and grace as possible.

The problem with this campaign season is not that moms are realizing Obama is not the President we wanted him to be. Much more tragically, he’s not the man we wanted him to be.

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Lower Abortion, Teen Pregnancy Rates Due to Free Birth Control, Study Finds

Monday, October 8th, 2012

A new large-scale study has found that access to free contraceptive pills is part of the explanation for well-documented drops in the rates of both teen pregnancy and abortions.   The finding comes just before the Obama administration’s health care law takes effect, including provisions that will offer birth control coverage to women nationwide. The Associated Press has more:

When price wasn’t an issue, women flocked to the most effective contraceptives — the implanted options, which typically cost hundreds of dollars up-front to insert. These women experienced far fewer unintended pregnancies as a result, reported Dr. Jeffrey Peipert of Washington University in St. Louis in a study published Thursday.

The effect on teen pregnancy was striking: There were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study. Compare that to a national rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens in 2010.

There also were substantially lower rates of abortion, when compared with women in the metro area and nationally: 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women overall in the St. Louis region, Peipert calculated. That’s lower than the national rate, too, which is almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women.

In fact, if the program were expanded, one abortion could be prevented for every 79 to 137 women given a free contraceptive choice, Peipert’s team reported in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Image: Birth control pills, via Shutterstock

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