Opinion

The Great Debate

This Father’s Day, get him what he really wants: paid paternity leave

 Steve Caniglia holds his six-month-old son, Boden, in San Francisco

Recently at the supermarket with my daughter, I bought a box of cereal that looked pretty healthy. When I brought it home, I found myself bothered less by the realization that it was actually borderline dessert, and more by something else on the box: the words “Mom’s Best.”

I get the marketing wisdom: mothers do the grocery shopping. Those who carry the purses control the purse-strings; a variety of sources say women control 73-85 percent of household budgets. And so, those “mom-approved” labels on parenting products seem ubiquitous — from strollers to diapers to books. Since Kix cereal debuted its slogan “Kid tested, mother approved” in 1978, the so-called mom market has become saturated with such pitching.

But the thing that mothers approve of most is a dad who pushes that stroller, changes that diaper and reads that book. And while mothers continue to do a larger share of parenting, fathers are more involved than ever. Still when we talk about parenting, it’s a mom’s world.

We exclude dads from the parenting conversation on all levels. This isn’t just an issue about who we’re targeting with advertising, but about a change that needs to happen in order for parents nationwide to find some support and sanity. We remain the only industrialized country without paid leave to help balance responsibilities at work and at home. (And though the cost of infant day care is rising faster than college tuition in 31 states, forget about the hope of state-supported childcare.) Our family leave policy is on par with Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Surinam. Many of us groan about the challenge of being modern-day mothers, instead of annexing a nation of similarly overwhelmed dads.

California Army National Guard helicopter pilot David Duran hugs his daughter Luz after surprising her on Valentine's Day at Gates Elementary School in Los AngelesOur work/life crisis has been branded a lavender-tinted motherhood issue, and rarely challenged as such, even as fathers are spending almost triple the time caring for children as they did the year “The Feminine Mystique” was published. A recent Pew Research Center survey asked parents about their stress around juggling work and family life: the result revealed an “insignificant” difference in the level of stress experienced by fathers and mothers.

from Breakingviews:

China’s Hong Kong experiment faces biggest trial

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

China’s experiment with Hong Kong is facing its biggest trial. The former British colony has mostly thrived in the 17 years since it was handed back to the People’s Republic. But a planned “Occupy Central” democracy protest is about to test Hong Kong’s openness – and China’s patience.

Hong Kong has defied the gloomy predictions of its demise that greeted the 1997 handover. Despite competition from Singapore and Shanghai, it has become a stronger financial and commercial centre. The authorities in Beijing have mostly respected Hong Kong’s special status, which former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping summarised as “one country, two systems”. Many citizens who decamped to Canada or Australia before 1997 have returned.

Post Iraq, U.S. must rely on covert action

devine -- afghan-militia-1024x736

Covert actions are now crucial to U.S. foreign policy. After the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Washington should rely more on CIA-driven covert operations and less on military force in the world’s hotspots.

Ukraine could be a case in point. For covert action means not just collecting information (espionage), but also political or paramilitary efforts that help support political organizations, local media and on occasion, insurgents. Under the CIA’s charter, the government maintains plausible deniability for all these actions.

I’ve long advocated for greater use of this tool of statecraft — and not only because I ran the CIA’s Afghanistan Task Force during the successful effort to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan in 1986-87, along with many other covert operations during my 32 years at the intelligence agency.

from Breakingviews:

Brazil’s companies need soccer team’s global clout

By Dominic Elliott

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Brazil’s corporate squad pales beside its soccer stars. The country’s national football side has unquestioned world-class quality in almost every position on the pitch. Yet if there were a World Cup for businesses, Brazil would struggle to get past the group stage.

“A Seleção”, as Brazil’s soccer team is known, has won the sport’s biggest prize a record five times. Its skill on the ball is described by the exhortation “joga bonito” - “play beautifully”. Brazil has some corporate champions that are both skilled and strong. But it’s doubtful the world’s seventh-largest economy could field a world-beating team of corporate stars.

What does Eric Cantor’s loss mean? Gridlock until 2023

Cantor and Boehner hold a news conference after a Republican Party caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington

Gridlock is likely to rule the federal government until at least 2023.  Why 2023?  Because it may not be until after the 2020 Census that the Democrats have a good chance of regaining control of the House of Representatives.

As long as Republicans rule the House, compromise with Democrats is out of the question.  Look at what happened to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in Tuesday’s GOP primary.  Cantor is nobody’s idea of a compromiser. But because he did the minimum necessary to keep government operating — like voting to raise the debt ceiling and to end the government shutdown — Cantor was branded a traitor to the conservative cause.  Cantor’s ultimate transgression?  His Tea Party opponent displayed a photo of the House majority leader standing next to President Barack Obama.   Oh, the horror!

The 2010 Republican landslide gave the party control of most state governments. The GOP-controlled state governments, which reconfigured congressional district boundaries after the 2010 census, drew lines that would protect and expand GOP control of the House. The next census is in 2020. That’s two presidential elections away.

Why Hillary Clinton needs to follow a California dream

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks about Syria during an event at the White House in Washington

Given the historic enmity between California Governor Jerry Brown and former President Bill Clinton, it is ironic that Brown may have written the political playbook for Hillary Clinton in her possible 2016 presidential bid.

During the Democrats’ nasty 1992 presidential primaries, Clinton and Brown clashed –and clashed over Hillary Clinton — in increasingly heated exchanges. In a one fiery Illinois primary debate, Brown jabbed his finger at Clinton and accused the Arkansas governor  of “funneling money to his wife’s law firm for state business.”

Clinton jabbed back and angrily responded, “I don’t care what you say about me, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumpin’ on my wife. You’re not worth bein’ on the same platform as my wife.”

How to recruit more primary care physicians — for the VA and nationwide

A patient has her knee examined by Dr. Narang at University of Chicago Medicine Urgent Care Clinic in Chicago

“Can I give you a hug?” a patient recently asked me, just before breaking into tears and wrapping her arms around me in gratitude.

Hugs weren’t on my list of pros and cons when I chose to become a primary care physician, but they sustained me through some tough years. I am devoted to my patients and my profession. But, like many colleagues, I wonder whether I would choose primary care now if I had to choose again.

Primary care physicians have a high risk of burnout. My colleagues continually announce early retirement, conversion to part-time, and changes of profession.

Excuse me, is that snake oil gluten-free?

Store worker Sam Issa walks past rows of herbal, vitamin and mineral pill products at a suburban pha..

As consumers, we like to think of ourselves as savvy and rational. But marketers have always known better. The health food and dietary supplement industries, in particular, have long made a mockery of the rational consumer.

They delve into our wounded hearts with evangelical calls to detox and purify. They bend our minds with pseudoscientific drivel and armies of so-called experts who tell us that instead of fresh, nourishing food, we need supplements and specially treated products.

Never mind that mounting evidence suggests the contrary. Our self-control is subverted by clever ads and our rationality crumbles when everything from upscale health stores to 7-Elevens stock pills, powders and products that would make a snake oil salesman blush.

from Breakingviews:

Investors cheer for Brazil World Cup rout

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

At the opening of the Confederations Cup in Brasilia a year ago, President Dilma Rousseff was booed by thousands of soccer fans for all of Brazil to see. It’s easy to understand then why she isn’t planning to speak at Thursday’s opening ceremony of the World Cup. An embarrassing turn as host of Earth’s biggest sporting event - or crushing repeat of the 1950 Maracanaço - may be the greatest obstacle to her clinching a second term.

With each dip in Rousseff’s poll numbers, the Bovespa Index kicks up a notch. Investors are hoping her experimental economic policies will come to an end at the ballot this fall.

Election laws that prevent elections

spivak -- conyers

After a half-century in the House of Representatives, Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.), now the second longest serving member of Congress, may be an unsympathetic victim to show how election laws can be unfairly used to keep potential challengers off the ballot.

But recent court rulings on Conyers as well as a New Jersey recall attempt highlight how election laws are frequently designed to benefit those in power — and block potential challengers.

Due to its mix of an embarrassing level of incompetence and Conyers’ long service, his failure to get enough signatures got attention. Conyers needed 1,000 valid registered voters in his district to sign his petition in order to get on the ballot. His supporters collected enough raw signatures, but many people either didn’t live in the district or weren’t registered voters. After striking these and other nonconforming signatures, Conyers only had 455 valid signatures. The county clerk struck Conyers from the ballot.

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