Blog Posts by Vera H-C Chan

  • ANALYSIS: Disciplining children over fake guns may be wrong lesson

    A 5-year-old faced with a pile of Legos did what boys have done since the dawn of time: He fashioned a weapon, ran about and made shooting sounds.

    That's when the Massachusetts elementary school sent a letter to his parents and warned that the next time, their son Joe would be suspended. "I said listen, he's a 5-year-old, I think maybe a redirection would be more appropriate," his mother, Sheila Cruz, told a local radio station. "She (the principal) said, 'it's a threat to other children, and other children could have been scared.'"

    In the gun debate following the Newtown massacre, a spate of media reports has centered on cases of very young children being disciplined for playing with fake guns or making aggressive gestures: A 6-year-old boy was suspended for pointing a finger and saying "pow." A fifth-grade girl's paper gun, crafted by her grandfather, got her searched before classmates and threatened with arrest.

    The zero-tolerance policy applied to children existed well

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  • Presidential inaugurations, the second time around

    FILE - This Jan. 20, 2009 file photo shows the crowd on the National Mall looking from the Capitol toward the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial listening to the inaugural address of President Barack Obama. While Washington won’t likely see the record-setting turnout from the last inauguration, officials are planning for a bigger-than-average crowd making plans for a second chance to see a president’s swearing in. District of Columbia officials have pieced together early data projecting 600,000 to 800,000 people will crowd onto the National Mall on Jan. 21. That’s based on past attendance and data including hotel and restaurant reservations and chartered buses. The inauguration is the biggest event every four years in the nation’s capital, followed by July 4th celebrations. The 2009 inaugural drew 1.8 million. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File), Mass-media firsts, Marine bands, frozen canaries, poisoned pigeons. Now that's a party?

    The presidential inauguration is a chance for the nation to celebrate a milestone—its continued peaceful transition of power. The Fourth of July might bring communities together in street parades and backyard barbecues, but the inauguration is a time when all eyes focus on the nation's capital for fine speeches, political reflection, and high-powered inaugural balls.

    Understandably, second inaugurals tend to be smaller affairs since, among other things, the bloom's off the rose, so to speak: Gallup Inc. notes that among post-war presidents, only Richard Nixon had higher approval ratings at his second inauguration than at his first (and that didn't last). The presidents themselves have become careworn with the realities of the office—they'd probably benefit more from a spa retreat than a Washington, D.C., gala event.

    While first inaugurations get more of the pomp, the second ones are more

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  • Analysis: When families of murder victims speak out

    People walk past a makeshift memorial in Sandy Hook, after the December 14 shooting tragedy when a gunman shot dead 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary, in Newtown, Connecticut, December 28, 2012 REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW EDUCATION)This is a group nobody wants to be part of.

    How do you broach the the topic of tragedy to bereaved families? Here are some tips from the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children (POMC), which provides support to help families reconstruct a new life and help with the criminal justice system. For more information or to donate to the POMC, visit its website.)
    Understand there's no timetable for grief. Each person has a right to grieve in his or her own way.
    Be a good listener.
    Offer very specific help, such as laundry or grocery shopping on certain days. Bring food that can be easily heated or eaten cold. Groceries can be a painful experience as many foods are reminders of the victim.
    Do not say, "If you need anything, call," especially if you don't really want to help for whatever reason.
    Let friends and family members cry. They do not have to be strong. They grieve because they love, and the strength of that love will help them through.
    Respect the way they grieve. There
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  • ANALYSIS: "Zero Dark Thirty" opens wide ... to controversy

    In this undated publicity photo released by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Jessica Chastain, center, plays a member of the elite team of spies and military operatives, stationed in a covert base overseas, with Christopher Stanley, left, and Alex Corbet Burcher, right, who secretly devote themselves to finding Osama Bin Laden in Columbia Pictures' new thriller, Kathryn Bigelow may have been denied a chance to repeat Academy Award history, but her film "Zero Dark Thirty"—which expanded to wide release on Friday—has made the best picture list for the Oscars, Golden Globes and multiple others.

    The story about the 11-year hunt for Osama bin Laden also made hit lists of a different sort. On the day of its Dec. 19 premiere, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., sent aggrieved letters to the CIA and Sony Pictures objecting to the "clear implication" that intelligence derived from enhanced interrogations eventually led to bin Laden's capture. Protesters from groups like Amnesty International turned out at the movie's Washington, D.C., premiere to decry the film as a "Pentagon-sanctioned movie." An Academy voter has urged fellow members not to cast a best picture vote for the film.

    "Zero Dark Thirty"—the military term for half past midnight, the time Navy SEALs landed in bin Laden's compound in Pakistan—has

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  • Yuletide eats across America

    Prime rib's a Christmas favoriteHo ho yum, what's on your Yuletide table?

    The turkey may be the culinary centerpiece for Thanksgiving, but Christmas entree options are broader. A Dickensian-style Christmas goose? Ham, with all its trimmings? A nicely steamed crustacean?

    Judging from recipe searches on Yahoo!, Americans have been slicing into prime rib: That roast beef slab has led prep searches — that is, lookups on Dec. 24 — in the past three years. In 2012, people have been seeking tips for "prime rib au jus recipe," "boneless prime rib recipes, "lawry's prime rib recipe" and "prime rib rub recipe."

    Ham seems to have had a bit of a renaissance, at least among procrastinators: Those queries have tied with prime rib, with searches for "brown sugar ham glaze recipe" (+72%), "honey baked ham glaze recipe (+584%), "christmas ham recipes" (+12%), and "slow cooker hame recipes" (+46%). Other last-minute recipe searches checked on how-tos for turkey, lasagna, meatloaf, chicken, pork tenderloin, shrimp, salmon, and

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  • Top News Stories: #9 Connecticut school shootings

    On Dec. 14, a spree shooting left 28 dead in the Connecticut town of Newtown.

    America had already been roiled by eight rampages in 2012—among them the shootings at Oikos University in Oakland, Calif., (7 dead); the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., (12 dead); and the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., (6 dead). The horror in Newtown—which saw its last homicide in 1984—unfolded among its most vulnerable residents. The gunman, Adam Lanza, shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, in her bed. With his mother's guns—a Glock, a Sig Sauer and a semiautomatic .223 Bushmaster—Lanza then headed to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where his mother is said to have volunteered and where he had once briefly attended. There, he allegedly shot 20 children and six adults, then killed himself after police arrived.

    The investigation into his motives has surfaced questions about his mental capacity (Lanza was reportedly a genius diagnosed with Asperger syndrome) and his motives (rumors are surfacing about his mother's

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  • Top 10 Lists-O-Rama

    What can online searches — especially a billion or so — tell us? In a way, the nonstop stream on Yahoo! can be an instant poll of our online curiosities and interests. Stepping back and taking a year's view can give insight into our collective behavior — what distracted us, what obsessed us, what involved us. In addition to the annual Top 10 Searches, News Stories, and other major trends, we've also pulled together a few more (let's say 30) wide-ranging rankings that span everything from questions we type into the search box to our favorite sports teams.

    A note about our methodology: To develop the Yahoo! Year in Review, we editors analyze Yahoo! Search queries based on a number of factors, including absolute volume and the growth from previous periods, to see which themes and trends bubble to the surface. Individuals and their Search queries always remain anonymous. Top searched refers to searches with the highest volume. Spiking refers to searches with the greatest change from one

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  • Female Fights: #1 Sandra Fluke

    In 2012, women put up a good fight to defend their interests, even as others fought for their favor. Here are the year's top female fights, as measured by search volume and percentage spikes compared with 2011 on Yahoo!.

    The biggest contraceptive controversy emerged in the friction over the proposed Blunt amendment to the Affordable Care Act. A Feb. 16 House committee hearing, to consider whether religious freedom trumps contraception coverage, deemed Georgetown third-year law student Sandra Fluke as an "unqualified" witness, leaving only men to testify at the first panel. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., countered with an unofficial hearing on women's health solely featuring Fluke, who spoke about a gay female friend who couldn't afford birth control pills to control a cyst and ended up in the emergency room to remove her ovaries.

    The story might have been just so much Beltway bickering, until radio host Rush Limbaugh declared that Fluke was "a slut ... a prostitute

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  • Top Searches: #1 Elections

    The United States is sometimes criticized for its citizens' apparent lack of interest in politics, at least beyond the celebrity angle. But "elections" was this year's most-searched term on Yahoo!, even though the long campaign probably made a lot of people weary toward the end.

    In the dozen years Yahoo! has ranked its annual Top 10 searches, only two other news events captured the top spot: the BP oil spill in 2010, and Michael Jackson's death in 2009. This year the half-billion people who visit Yahoo! every month typed the word "elections" more than any other.

    Hobbled by a struggling economy and acrimonious partisanship, elections became something of a turning point for the United States. However, political news often dominated headlines in the months before. For instance, the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling made corporations legally similar to human beings in terms of campaign contribution limits, raising concerns that campaign spending would zoom out of control. And

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  • Analysis: Why Mitt Romney may have taken so long to concede

    Challenger Mitt Rommey reportedly only wrote a victory speech for Election Day, so revisions would have taken some time.  But did the obsession with polls and tracking also delay his concession?

    In an election season dominated by names like Gallup, Rasmussen and Nate Silver, the Romney number crunchers had their own methods. A campaign release described Project ORCA as a "massive undertaking" involving nearly 35,000 volunteers and designed to "conduct the world's largest exit poll" and win the White House.

    The project operates via a Web-based app volunteers use to relay the most up-to-date poll information to a "national dashboard" at the Boston headquarters. ... Another key component to Project ORCA is state-of-the-art dashboard. For the past several months, a "brain" has been built into this dashboard and it will take in, analyze and recommend actions on the millions of pieces of incoming data. In the fast-paced environment of an Election Day command center, having this
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