Stories by Barbara Kantrowitz

  • ‘First Momma’ in the White House

    When Gerald Ford became president after Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, he proclaimed himself “indebted to no man and only to one woman.” His job was clear: to heal a nation torn apart by Watergate and Vietnam. But what about that woman? Betty Ford has called Aug. 9, 1974, “the saddest day” of her life. The transition was not easy. Her press secretary, Sheila Rabb Weidenfeld, remembers her first job interview with the new First Lady. She asked Ford what a First Lady’s press secretary should do. Ford replied: “How should I know? I don’t even know what I am supposed to do.”Within a month, Ford and Weidenfeld had their answer. Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. Weidenfeld says it was at Ford’s insistence that the press statement talked honestly about the First Lady’s health. It was a decision Ford made “on the operating table,” Weidenfeld says. At the time, it was a radical move. “Cancer was not a word that could be mentioned out loud,” Weidenfeld...
  • Autism: What Happens When They Grow Up

    Teenagers and young adults are the emerging face of autism as the disorder continues to challenge science and unite determined families.
  • A Gulf War Link to Lou Gehrig's Disease?

    A diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is devastating. Victims of this fatal neurological disease lose almost all muscle control, even the ability to breathe on their own. That’s why it might seem alarming that a new report from the Institute of Medicine, released today, suggests a possible connection between military service and later development of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease (after its most famous victim). But the chairman of the committee that wrote the report cautions against overreaction. “It’s a rare disease, and it’s rare in veterans,” says Dr. Richard Johnson, a neurologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “I served in the military, and it didn’t cross my mind that this would increase my risk of the disease.”The report analyzed five studies that examined a potential link between military service and ALS. Three of the studies focused on Persian Gulf War veterans and found that their risk of developing ALS was as much as two times...
  • Brush With Perfection

    Without the fat lip and the funeral, who knows how this story would have turned out? The fat lip belonged to New York Times writer Alex Kuczynski. The funeral was for her close friend Jerry Nachman, a journalist who died of cancer in 2003. As she grieved, Kuczynski faced a dilemma: the service was the same day as her regular skin-rejuvenating session with her plastic surgeon. Appointments were hard to get and she didn't dare skip one. So she decided to squeeze in a little microdermabrasion between the funeral and a tribute afterward at a Manhattan restaurant.What happened next was not pretty. After the funeral, Kuczynski sped across town to her doctor, who blasted her skin with crystals that swept away dead cells. Then she asked for a quick injection of Restylane, a mucouslike substance that she hoped would plump up her upper lip. The needle had barely been withdrawn when Kuczynski felt a strange mass on her face. Her lip was so grotesquely swollen (eventually reaching the size of a...
  • Is Your College a Lemon?

    When you're in the market for a new car, you read reviews of various makes, visit dealers and go for a few test-drives. You want to know about things like gas mileage, repair costs and resale value. That kind of careful consumerism is exactly what Education Secretary Margaret Spellings would like to bring to the process of picking a college. "We need to make higher education more accountable," says Spellings, "by opening up the ivory towers and putting information at the fingertips of students and families."Making data more accessible is a major recommendation of a new report from a commission Spellings created to study the future of higher education. With the annual bill at $40,000 for elite private universities, college is a huge investment and a source of enormous future debt. But it's almost impossible for students to compare schools in differ-ent states to see which ones are really worth those big bucks. Families generally rely on what they hear from relatives, friends and...
  • The Royal Treatment

    When Helen Mirren was growing up in postwar London, millions of Britons revered the royal family. Mirren's parents were not among them. "They didn't like the class system, and the royal family is the pinnacle of the class system," she says. "I was brought up very antimonarchist." Mirren recalls being "a bit cheeky" herself about the royals in her younger days: "I was a little uppity about why the queen won't smile. 'Does it hurt her to smile? Isn't that what she's there for?' "Mirren has since tried the crown on twice. Just a month after winning an Emmy for her lusty turn as Elizabeth I on HBO, Mirren's nuanced performance as Elizabeth II has won her the best-actress award at the Venice Film Festival--and made her a top Oscar contender. In Stephen Frears's marvelous, and surprisingly intimate, new movie "The Queen," she plays Elizabeth II in the days after Diana's shocking death on Aug. 30, 1997. It was a week when Her Majesty seemed strikingly out of touch with not just her people...
  • Health: Reducing Your Risk

    Can you still fit into the dress you wore to your high-school graduation? If so, congratulations. You may have significantly reduced your risk of breast cancer, according to a study last week in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital looked at data from 87,145 women whose weight changes were followed for more than two decades. Among women who never used postmenopausal hormone therapy, weight gain since the age of 18 correlated with increased risk. The more weight a woman put on, the greater her risk. For example, women in this group who gained 55 pounds since they were 18 had double the risk of women who maintained their weight.But the JAMA study also suggests that it's never too late to drop pounds. Non-hormone users who maintained a weight loss of at least 22 pounds after menopause lowered their breast-cancer risk by 60 percent compared with women who didn't take weight off. This is actually encouraging news, says lead...
  • The Future is in Their Hands

    Chad Lewis is a burly 18-year-old with a passion for engines. In an ordinary high school, that passion might have distracted him from required courses in history, English and math. But Lewis has spent the past two years on the campus of Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, N.C., where he's been studying hydraulics, suspension and electrical systems as well as more-traditional high-school subjects. Along with receiving his high-school diploma,He's in line to get an associate's degree--the equivalent of two years of college--in heavy equipment and transport technology. What that means, says Lewis, is that he is qualified to fix "anything with a diesel." What it also means, says math teacher Marsha Jensen, is that "he'll be making more money than I will."Lewis just wants a job that allows him to "be hands-on, get dirty, go home, take a shower and feel good about what I do each day." But to North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley, students like Lewis are on the front lines of...
  • Parenting: How to Let Your Kids Go

    As parents, boomers face their final frontier: how to stand aside as their children become independent adults. Where's the line between caring and coddling?
  • The Quest for Rest

    Like many mothers of young children, Martha Yasso was tired all the time--so tired that whenever her 3-year-old son went down for a nap, she grabbed the chance to rest as well. But even with those precious extra minutes of sleep, she was still so exhausted by late afternoon that she could barely keep her eyes open. One day last fall, as her son played in the den of their New York home, Yasso's eyelids got heavier and heavier. Just before she nodded off completely, she felt her son's hands on her face. He was shouting, "Mama, Mama! Wake up!" That was the turning point. "I knew it was something more than just being tired because of everything a mother does as CEO of the family," says Yasso, 36. She called her doctor, who referred her to the NYU Sleep Disorders Center. After a night in the sleep lab, with electrodes monitoring her brain waves, breathing and movements, Yasso finally understood what was behind her overwhelming fatigue. NYU pulmonologist Ana Krieger told Yasso that during...
  • What Makes a High School Great?

    Gold stars: The answer depends on the school, and the student. With its annual list, NEWSWEEK honors top schools that help regular kids succeed in college. From the issue dated May 8, 2006. Click here to read Newsweek's 2007 Top High Schools coverage.
  • The Quest For Rest

    Millions of women suffer from sleeplessness at stages throughout their lives. Researchers are beginning to understand why--and to develop new ways to help.
  • Health: Building Strong Bones

    For years, doctors have been telling women to take calcium after menopause to keep their bones strong and prevent fractures. And women have complied, making calcium the top seller in the multibillion-dollar dietary-supplement industry. In 2004 alone, the total calcium tab was about $993 million. But last week a study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) questioned whether women were wasting their money. The study of 36,282 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 found that calcium had only a small effect on bone density and no significant effect on the rate of fractures. And although calcium is generally considered safe, researchers found a 17 percent increase in kidney stones among women taking the supplements.This is the second time in a month that results from a WHI study have challenged long-held beliefs about nutrition and health. Another WHI study reported that low-fat diets do not protect against breast or colorectal cancer or heart disease. And in 2002, the WHI issued the...
  • Sex & Love: The New World

    More middle-aged people than ever are single, and they're finding the rules have changed. STDs and Internet dates. Aging bodies and kids at home. Who knew?
  • When Women Lead

    As a growing number of female executives rise to the top, how will they change the culture of the workplace?
  • FOOD: THE SCHOOL OF JULIA

    In the summer of 2002, Julie Powell's prospects seemed bleak. Despite a degree from Amherst and "seven years of three-quarters-finished novels in drawers," she was still a 29-year-old New York secretary with rapidly fading big dreams. "As 29-year-olds are wont to do," says Powell, "I started obsessing over all of this, spinning my wheels and getting all bent out of shape." Out of "this stew of angst and anxiety" popped an idea--a rather bizarre idea. Over the next year, the lifelong picky eater and indifferent chef would cook every recipe in her mother's dog-eared copy of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."What's really bizarre about Powell's idea is that it turned out to be her salvation, thanks in part to her husband, Eric's suggestion that she start a blog to chronicle her occasionally triumphant but always hilarious attempts to channel her inner Julia. The blog, called The Julie/Julia Project, created an online community that kept her going all the way from...
  • WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? EVERYTHING.

    For the true commitment-phobe, living among the Na people in southwestern China would be paradise. The Na are the only known society that completely shuns marriage. Instead, says Stephanie Coontz in her new book, "Marriage, a History," brothers help sisters raise the children they conceive through casual sex with non-family members (incest is strictly taboo). Will we all be like the Na in the future? With divorce and illegitimacy rates still high, the institution of marriage seems headed for obsolescence in much of the world. Coontz, a family historian at Evergreen State College in Washington, doesn't proclaim the extinction of marriage, but she does argue that dramatic changes in family life over the past 30 years represent an unprecedented social revolution--and there's no turning back. The only hope is accepting these changes and figuring out how to work with them. The decline of marriage "doesn't have to spell catastrophe," Coontz says. "We can make marriages better and make...
  • The 100 Best High Schools in America

    THE GOAL: NEVER HAS HIGH SCHOOL HAD TO DO SO MUCH FOR SO MANY. NEWSWEEK UNVEILS THE TOP SCHOOLS ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND SUGGESTS WHAT OTHERS CAN DO TO MAKE THE GRADE.
  • LEGAL AT LAST

    It took more than three decades, countless illicit assignations, two divorces and then perhaps a bit of divine intervention to keep threatened rain away. But last week, under clear skies, amid a sea of fabulous hats only English women can get away with, Prince Charles finally married the woman he says he's always loved: Camilla Parker Bowles. Their big day began when they pulled up to Guildhall in Windsor in a Rolls-Royce lent to them by the queen. Charles, 56, looked serious but Camilla, 57, seemed happy and relaxed. After a brief civil ceremony--the only option for these two divorced people in the Church of England--Camilla was transformed from The Other Woman to HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, the second most senior female royal. Only the queen now outranks her. Then the newlyweds headed across the street to Windsor Castle, where they confessed their sins, were blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and promised to be faithful to each other. At a reception afterward hosted by the...
  • NOW YOU ASK ME?

    He loves her. She loves him. That's the short version. The longer story is... well, much longer, and involves upending royal tradition and a religious crisis--along with the cuckolding of the Silver Stick in Waiting and erotic chat about a tampon. The announcement last week that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles would finally marry on April 8 seemed almost anticlimactic compared with the Sturm und Drang of their 35-year affair. They have stuck with each other through marriage to others (both), divorce (both), scandal (both), parental scorn (Charles) and a reported pelting by rolls in a Wiltshire grocery (Camilla). After the news broke, the 57-year-old bride-to-be appeared before reporters at Windsor Castle blissfully flashing The Ring, a platinum-and-diamond royal heirloom. As cameras flashed, she disclosed that Charles, 56, had gone on his knees to propose. Her breathless reaction: "I'm just coming down to earth."As charming as it is to see rather ordinary middle-aged folks...
  • SEX AND SCIENCE

    When Amber Post started grad school in physics at Princeton, her goal was the same as her male colleagues': a tenure-track job at a major university. Now with her Ph.D. just a year away, Post is thinking instead about working for a policymaking agency in Washington. Even though Princeton is generally welcoming to female scientists (the president, Shirley Tilghman, is a molecular biologist), Post, 25, senses that her reception in the larger academic world might be chillier. At elite universities, the percentage of women earning doctorates in science and engineering is considerably higher than the percentage of women professors--which means that a lot of talented women Ph.D.s like Post leave campus for jobs in government or industry instead of climbing the faculty ladder.Stopping this female brain drain has been a challenge for years, and universities from MIT to Stanford are pushing hard with mentoring programs and stepped-up recruitment efforts. But Harvard president Lawrence...
  • SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGH

    Susan Hockfield has many goals as MIT's new president, but the first she mentions is this: "I want to provide optimism and aspiration for people whose phenotype doesn't match the dominant phenotype." She's already fulfilled that ambition just by being herself, a distinguished neurobiologist whose last job was provost of Yale University. When her appointment was announced in August, Hockfield, 53, didn't think gender would be a big deal. After all, women run many prestigious universities, including Princeton, Brown and the University of Michigan. But it is still a very big deal when a woman presides over one of the world's most elite scientific institutions. Five years ago, MIT issued a highly publicized study describing bias against its female faculty members. Women are now about 17 percent of the faculty, compared with 11 percent in 1993. And MIT is not unique; at the nation's top research universities, women faculty remain scarce in science and engineering.Against that background,...
  • EDUCATI0N: NOT HEAD OF THE CLASS

    Charter schools are key to President George W. Bush's education policy, but an analysis released last week by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) indicates they may be less than a miracle cure. The study found that students in charter schools--publicly financed schools with flexible hiring and curriculum--generally do not do as well as their public-school peers. That's vital info for parents, but they might have trouble finding it. The results are contained in the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which included the first national sampling of charter schools. The bulk of the NAEP results were released in November, but the AFT charged that the government delayed public reporting of the charter-school results. To complete their analysis, AFT researchers pored over raw data available on the Web.A spokesman for Education Secretary Rod Paige denied any political agenda. "This is special-interest hyperbole to insinuate that the department hid the data," says...
  • HOT SCHOOLS

    Pull apart the DNA of a student's dream school and you'll find so many different strands. Perhaps it's the location, either in the rolling country- side far from anything resembling a sidewalk, or in the midst of a hip urban neighborhood. It could be a college's unique educational mission or the array of quirky personalities. Maybe it's the outstanding labs or libraries or theaters, even the fitness center. All the colleges on the Hot List for 2005 have one thing in common: they provide an outstanding education. But what makes them hot is their differences.Although all have demonstrated continuing excellence, various qualities made many of them stand out this year. The Iraq war, as well as its aftermath, highlighted the importance of well-educated military leadership and made some students think of applying to Annapolis or West Point. The debate over Early Decision (ED) admissions policies prompted a number of applicants to try schools like Yale or Stanford that have led the effort...
  • What Dreams Are Made Of

    NEW TECHNOLOGY IS HELPING BRAIN SCIENTISTS UNRAVEL THE MYSTERIES OF THE NIGHT. THEIR WORK COULD SHOW US ALL HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF OUR TIME IN BED
  • AMERICA'S 25 HOT SCHOOLS

    COMPETITION'S INTENSE AND THERE ARE SCORES OF COLLEGES. LARGE, SMALL, PUBLIC, PRIVATE, URBAN, RURAL--WHAT'S BEST FOR YOU? HERE ARE OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE PLACES THAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT FOR 2005
  • FOR THE 'INNER AUSTEN' IN EACH OF US

    Jane Austen fans can be fervent--seeing in her novels everything anyone would need to know about love, family relationships, the nature of happiness and the importance of a fat bank account in selecting a mate. Count among them novelist Karen Joy Fowler, whose witty new best seller, "The Jane Austen Book Club," is the hot choice for book clubs around the country. Fowler, 54, fell for the author four decades ago and has reread the novels many times, always finding new meaning. "I'm astonished that whatever is my current obsession in my private life, suddenly Jane Austen seems to be about that," she says.A couple of years ago, Austen gave Fowler the greatest gift a novelist can ask for: inspiration. She spotted a sign for a Jane Austen book club in a bookstore and briefly thought it was an ad for a new novel with that title, one that would be "exactly for me." When she realized her mistake, she decided to write the book she wanted so much to read. The plot revolves around six...
  • DROPPING THE H BOMB

    At some point in their encounters with the outside world, Harvard students are forced to admit that they do attend Harvard, not just some school "in Boston" (the preferred understated approach). This is known in Cambridge as "dropping the H bomb." "It's an awkward thing you have to say and get over," explains junior Camilla Hrdy. Last fall, Hrdy and her friend Katharina Cieplak-von Baldegg, a sophomore, decided that--awkwardness aside--H Bomb was the perfect title for a magazine they wanted to start about a subject that just doesn't get enough attention: sex.The two earnestly filled out forms to win university approval (plus $2,000 from the undergraduate council) and were ready to roll this winter when The Harvard Crimson published an article describing the project as a "porn" magazine. The resulting ruckus drew national headlines but didn't deter the two editors. Last week they finally dropped their H Bomb on Harvard, during finals. The premiere issue includes erotic fiction, nude...
  • Parenting For Dummies

    Researchers have been studying parenting for decades, and they know a lot about what it takes to raise a happy, independent child. Unfortunately, few of those findings reach the people who need help most: the mother of a toddler throwing a tantrum on the supermarket checkout line or the father of a teenager repeatedly breaking curfew. That gap between academia and the real world inspired Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg to write "The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting." Those principles, he says, apply to all children--no matter what their age, sex or family makeup--although the way parents use them varies (No. 4: adapt your parenting to fit your child). Although Steinberg says parents should explain rules and decisions (No. 9), the conversation with a 5-year-old would clearly be much simpler than with a 16-year-old.The most important principle may be the finding--consistent in the research for at least 60 years--that parents have a profound effect on...