Monday, November 12th, 2012
Kevin Clash, the “Sesame Street” puppeteer who has voiced Elmo since 1985, has taken a leave of absence from the show following allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor, TODAY reports. The 23-year-old accuser alleged that his sexual relationship with Clash began when he was 16. Representatives from Sesame Workshop concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated, but added that “Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding Internet usage and he was disciplined.” In a statement, Clash added, “I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was.” No date has been set for Clash’s return.
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Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
The beloved children’s character Elmo–a Sesame Street Muppet–went on the radio in New York City this morning to talk directly to children who were feeling unsettled and frightened in the wake of the superstorm Sandy, which had particularly damaging effects on the city and surrounding areas. From NBC News.com (the Elmo segment is linked to from the NBC page):
On Tuesday morning, “Sesame Street’s” Elmo visited Brian Lehrer’s WNYC’s radio show and spoke directly to his young audience. And as it turns out, the Muppet is a hurricane pro, having been through a scary storm on “Sesame Street” in the past.
Well, the wind started blowing really bad, and we had to put tape on windows and stuff,” he explained of the episode. He even had to help his pal Big Bird put his nest back together after the storm destroyed it.
Joining Elmo and host Lehrer was Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, the vice president of education and research for Sesame Workshop. She explained that the episode was created long before Sandy or even Hurricane Katrina. It was meant to help parents if their kids should ever face a similar storm.
“‘Sesame Street’ is based on a whole child curriculum, and so we focus not only on the cognitive skills, but social and emotional skills of children,” Truglio said. “We wanted to have a community show like this where we could model for parents tips — so that we could model how you prepare for a storm and how you get through the storm with activities … and keeping your child calm and safe.”
As for Elmo, he took a question from a fan who wanted to know if he was scared on Monday night, as Hurricane Sandy hit his hometown.
“Yeah, but Elmo was with his mommy and daddy, so Elmo asked a lot of questions and learned a lot about what was happening,” he assured.
Image: Elmo, via PBS.org
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Friday, October 12th, 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
In the first debate between Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, the GOP nominee ruffled some feathers by saying that he’d cut the budget by eliminating non-essential costs, like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Because the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, is employed by PBS, Romney added:
“I’m sorry Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things,” he said. “I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too.”
I’m sure moms everywhere have seen the clip a dozen times. As soon as Romney said those words, the social media universe exploded. Immediately, a fake Twitter account for Big Bird was set up. The first tweet was, “WTF, Mitt Romney?” and another was, “Yo Mitt Romney, Sesame Street is brought to you today by the letters F & U!” Celebrities also chimed in. In one of the 17,000 tweets per minute, Whoopi Goldberg lamented that Romney wanted to “kill Big Bird.” Calls were made for a “Million Muppet March” on Washington. A photoshopped picture of a forlorn Big Bird sitting on the Sesame stoop holding a “Will Work for Food” sign flew into inboxes across America. The next day, the President, still reeling from the previous night’s debate debacle, made fun of Romney for “getting tough on Big Bird.” Even PBS sent out their own press release, which read, “Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating.”
More than anyone else, moms have affection in our heart for lovable Elmo, the mysterious Snuffleupagus, and even the garbage-dwelling Oscar the Grouch. But would a change in funding be “devastating?” PBS’s self-importance is a little much for Americans who are struggling to pay the bills and find work.
So why does the government subsidize this show anyway?
The Public Broadcasting Act was passed in 1967 to address the paucity of quality children’s programming. Now, however, moms know television is brimming with vibrant, entertaining, and educational offerings. Is Gordon more educational, for example, than Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer? Does Maria provide more diversity than the Disney Channel’s Doc McStuffins? Are the Sesame Street writers more clever than the ones who create the hilarious Phineas and Ferb? Children’s television has come a long way since everyone had platform shoes, bell bottoms, and pet rocks. Sesame Street is no longer the only game in town, so is it really so vital to the republic? If so, couldn’t this important cultural institution thrive by itself? Michelle Malkin addressed this issue in National Review:
According to the 990 tax form all nonprofits are required to file, Sesame Workshop president and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 — nearly a million dollars — in compensation in 2008. And, from 2003 to 2006, Sesame Street made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales.”
Moms might not know these specific figures, nor do we precisely know how many Sesame Street books, stuffed animals, and lunchboxes we have in our homes at this moment. But we do know this show created the “Tickle Me Elmo” mall riots and that the show can survive without us reaching into our own pockets. (After the debate, the new unfortunate name for the formerly in-demand doll is “Subsidize Me Elmo.”)
Even the President realizes that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is bloated beyond reason. His Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction commission said “the current CPB funding level is the highest it has ever been.” Malkin writes, “Doing away with the appropriation would save nearly $500 million in 2015 alone. Over ten years, those savings would total $5 billion (or roughly ten Solyndras). In these tough times, that’s more than chump change and child’s play.”
To make matter worse, President Obama released an official campaign ad mocking Romney’s promise to eliminate funding to PBS. He also sent out a campaign fundraiser telling voters that Romney “wanted to kill Big Bird.”
But the public didn’t respond like he anticipated. On Twitter, people said they wished Obama was as serious about protecting our embassies as he is about protecting Big Bird. Then, Romney said, “You have to scratch your head when the President spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird,” he said. ”I actually think we need to have a President who talks about saving the American people and saving good jobs.” Worst of all, Sesame Street asked the President to take down his ad. This prompted a Drudge headline with a photo of Big Bird saying, “Leave Me Alone, Obama!” and a NY Post cover of Big Bird in the Oval Office over the headline “Cheep Shot!” To top it all off, the Washington Post said his fundraising letter was incredibly misleading by writing, “How did ‘I love Big Bird’ turn into ‘kill Big Bird’? Only through a spin machine going on hyper drive.”
Recently my four-year-old asked me if we could get her face painted with silver glittery paint at a high school football game.
“I don’t have a dollar,” I said, realizing I’d spent all I had at the concession stand. She looked at me with huge tears in her eyes, unable to understand why she couldn’t have her face painted like her friends.
It’s a hard lesson. But since Sesame Street prides itself to teaching lessons to children, PBS and the President should use this momentous occasion in history — when America has a national debt of over $16 trillion — to teach children a lesson about money. When it runs out, you stop spending.
As much as we love you, Big Bird, it’s time to fly by yourself.
Read more blog posts from Nancy French
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Thursday, January 26th, 2012
A number of social networking sites, including Facebook and the comedy website Funny or Die, have come under fire for taking down photos or videos of women breastfeeding, citing the “obscenity” clauses in the sites’ terms of service as justification.
The New York Times has more:
In recent weeks social networks like Facebook have come under fire for deleting pictures that show children breast-feeding and for closing accounts of the mothers who posted the photos. In some of these cases the mothers were told they had violated the site’s terms of service by publishing sexual or obscene material. A separate online campaign has urged the children’s television series “Sesame Street” to show more images of breast-feeding.
Funny or Die, which is directed at an 18-and-over audience, often posts R-rated movie trailers and other bawdy content. But it does not appear to have a strict no-nudity policy: bare breasts can be seen in blooper videos on the site, and in the short “Jon Benjamin’s Ultimate Trick Shot Video” the camera frequently lingers on the genitals of a naked man.
Image: Breastfeeding mom, via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
Lily, a new Sesame Street character whose family uses a food pantry.
The PBS children’s program Sesame Street will air a special October 9 devoted to raising awareness of childhood hunger, a problem that affects as many as 16 million American children. The show hopes to educate families about ways they can help alleviate hunger, from growing a vegetable garden to volunteering at a food pantry to organizing a food drive. A new Muppet, Lily, is also introduced to the show, revealing to Elmo that she and her family sometimes visit the food pantry.
“What’s still missing is that we’re not seeing the face of hunger up close,” Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Street’s Senior Vice President for Outreach and Educational Practices told NPR, which reports:
The show doesn’t rely on the Muppets alone. Four documentary vignettes comprise a good chunk of the special and feature kids who’ve experienced hunger directly. In one of them, Josie, 7, says that when her father wasn’t working, there was no money for snacks at school.
“So what I would do is just drink some water from the fountain,” she says, “until my stomach’s full of water,” she says.
The special airs October 9 on PBS.
(image via: http://insidetv.ew.com/)
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