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Anne Michaud: editor & senior writer
Anne Michaud

Sweeping up ‘Mad Men’-era policies

February 13th, 2014

girls in dcFirst published in Newsday

If you’re a woman and you vote, prepare to become very popular.

Democrats and left-leaning groups are jockeying to hold onto congressional seats in this year’s midterm elections by appealing to voters’ economic misery and sense of fairness. They are cultivating women generally, and moms in particular.

“Today’s policies for women and children need some cleaning up,” reads an invitation to a Rockville Centre workshop sponsored by the National Association of Mothers’ Centers.

The invitation depicts the U.S. Capitol, a baby and a smiling woman with a broom. She’s apparently there to sweep up what President Barack Obama called “Mad Men”-era workplace policies last month in his State of the Union address.

NAMC, a support and advocacy organization, wants to advance paid family and medical leave and paid sick days, as well as universal pre-K and affordable child care. Increasing the minimum wage and fair pay for men and women are also on the agenda. More »

Schools experiment with meditation to improve grades and attendance

February 6th, 2014

Lotus position yoga relaxation detailFirst published in Newsday

A woman I had just met was so upset that she began to confide in me about her high school daughter. The girl had burst into tears when she got a 92 on a test, and she was concerned that if she didn’t attend a summer study program, she wouldn’t be able to compete with her peers for college admission.

“Why are kids so anxious now?” the mom asked. “Was life such a treadmill when we were young?”

This family lives in one of Long Island’s better public school districts – with plenty of academic pressure – but these questions are being raised all around. A poll released in December – conducted by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health – said that 40 percent of parents believe their high school kids are stressed over school.

Admirably, some schools are trying what could be a stress antidote: mindfulness and meditation. More »

Congress should extend unemployment benefits

January 30th, 2014

down arrowFirst published in Newsday

When leading libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says extending unemployment benefits discourages people from taking a job, he’s right. Many economists back him up. People have been out of work 7 percent longer after the Great Recession, according to one study, because of the federal extension that allowed benefits for 99 weeks.

But what Paul doesn’t seem to understand is that 7 percent of a job search – an extra 3.6 weeks in a year – might be the smartest investment a family can make in its future.

My husband was out of work during the 2001 recession for – well, let’s say he fell into the category of “long-term” unemployed – more than six months, the same as 4 million Americans today.

Saying that halting unemployment checks at six months would give these 4 million an incentive to work – even at a lower salary or a lesser job – sounds like an accusation of laziness. Maybe she’s taking a six-month vacation and will only get serious about work when the checks stop. Maybe he’s spending a half-hour a day shooting out resumes on, and then retreating to the couch for “Judge Judy.”

Perhaps some tough love, Rand Paul-style, is what’s called for. More »

Break by Swarthmore Hillel is emblematic of generational divide on Mideast

January 16th, 2014

First published in Newsdayswarthmore

Students at a small liberal arts college outside Philadelphia have inserted themselves into one of the most uncompromising debates in world history: the question of Israel and Palestine.

Swarthmore College’s Hillel, the Jewish student association, is the first in the nation to defy its parent organization and announce it will host groups and speakers who do not support Israel. The move earned the 100-student group at Swarthmore a public rebuke from the president of Hillel International, Eric D. Fingerhut, who said he will not allow the Swarthmore chapter to continue using the name Hillel.

The outcome of this clash is yet to be determined, but I am inspired by the students’ brave defense of intellectual freedom. Their openness to hearing diverse ideas and beliefs runs opposite to so much of what we see today: the gridlock in Washington, the struggle over gun control, the fundamentalist and ethnic hatreds fueling wars. More »

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