Stories by Barbara Kantrowitz

  • A Bitter New Battle Over Partial-Birth Abortions

    EVEN BY THE HEATED STANDARDS OF the abortion debate, the arguments last year over partial-birth abortions were remarkably emotional. Right-to-life groups and their congressional allies portrayed these procedures as ghastly events: late-term fetuses being extracted from the womb and killed. Pro-choice groups battled back with real-life tales of pregnant women opting for those procedures only in the most extreme circumstances. Congress voted to ban the operations. President Clinton vetoed the bill. Both sides returned to their corners to fight again. ...
  • Off To A Good Start

    Science confirms what wise parents have long known: kids need lots of time and attention ...
  • Modem Moms

    SO THE 2-YEAR-OLD THROWS A zillion-decibel tantrum in the supermarket, the 4-year-old refuses to go to bed before midnight and the 6-year-old redecorates the living room in a peanut-butter-and-jelly motif. Beleaguered parents will (a) catch the next flight to Paris (sans enfants), (b) swallow a bottle of Valium or (c) peruse the World Wide Web looking for child-rearing advice. If you picked (c), you're thinking like a new-media mogul.This week Disney launches its redesigned multipart Family.com Web site, joining the growing list of parenting sites backed by such high-profile companies as Starwave, Time Warner and Procter & Gamble. Family-related sites are hot because they attract women--in the minority on the Internet but usually in charge of the household budget. Publishers with a steady female audience can find major advertisers willing to support the sites, which are still mostly free to users, says Diana Simeon, an analyst with Jupiter Communications, a new-media market...
  • Gay Families Come Out

    THERE WERE MOMENTS IN Claire's childhood that seemed to call for a little... ingenuity. Like when friends came over. How could she explain the presence of Dorothy, the woman who moved into her Chicago home after Claire's dad left? Sometimes Claire said Dorothy was the housekeeper; other times she was an ""aunt.'' In the living room, Claire would cover up the titles of books like ""Lesbian Love Stories.'' More than a decade later, Claire's mother, Lee, recalls silently watching her daughter at the bookcase. It was, she says, ""extremely painful to me.'' Even today, Lee and Claire--now 24 and recently married--want to be identified only by their middle names because they're worried about what their co-workers might think. ...
  • A Woman Of The World

    AT THE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' dinner in 1993, Barbra Streisand was seated next to Pamela Harriman, the U.S. ambassador to France. Streisand asked Harriman the question surely on the minds of many women in the room: ""What's your secret?'' In Reflected Glory (559 pages. Simon & Schuster. $30), her new biography of Harriman, Sally Bedell Smith says Harriman laughed but did not answer. Fortunately for Streisand and other inquiring minds, this meticulously detailed book comes as close as anyone probably can to explaining the success of the woman Smith describes as the century's greatest courtesan. ...
  • The Jargon Jungle

    IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR WHEN DAZED and confused parents of school-age children try to find their way through the jargon jungle. Portfolio assessment, critical thinking, multiple learning styles, metacognitive skills, whole language--after a few classroom conferences, parents must begin to wonder whether some of these teachers ever speak standard English. Fortunately, two longtime guides through the pedagogical wilderness-- E. D. Hirsch Jr. and Theodore Sizer --have weighed in with new books that should help education consumers work past the muddle. ...
  • Standing Room Only

    IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A DAY FILLED with promise; instead, Jose Barahona was full of frustration as he waited with his daughter Elizabeth in the auditorium of PS 149 in Queens, N.Y. Dressed in a crisp yellow-and-white gingham dress, Elizabeth was eager to start first grade. But her classroom this year is one of four bright red trailers parked in the playground. It could have been worse; her school is one of New York City's most crowded, with 1,100 kids crammed into a space meant for 650. "Education is very important," says Barahona, a cabdriver who fled his native El Salvador more than a decade ago. "The school has to supply a better place to learn." ...
  • Browser Buys

    ANYONE WHO'S HAD THE luxury of full Internet access knows the World-Wide Web is great browsing territory. But for those who want to wander the Web and don't yet have access through a SLIP or PPP connection, there's now another way in: it's SlipKnot, a shareware browser ($29.95) that lets you do almost everything Netscape and NCSA Mosaic do-just at a slightly slower speed. (For information, send a blank e-mail message to slipknot@micromind .Corn). A top commercial browser for SLIP or PPP connection is Internet Chameleon (by NetManage, $199). Besides a slick browser, it includes a newsgroup reader, mail, FTP, Gopher and other Net utilities-and a quick way to sign up for full access.
  • Tech Wear

    IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR THE perfect gift for a computer jock who already has a top-of-the-line multimedia Pentium with all the trimmings, consider these techie ties. The circuitboard design from Ralph Marlin is $20; the hand-painted keyboards, $65, are available exclusively at Knot Shops in Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles. Another fave: Flying Toasters from Berkeley Systems. if he likes them, next year try matching boxer shorts.
  • Tinkerer's Paradise

    A major problem with translating books into CD-ROM format it that some stories are best told in print; the electronic versions just look silly. Fortunately, that's not the case with the Dorling Kindersley version of David Macauley's popular "The Way Things Work." The disc, like the book, is an explanation of dozens of machines and inventions. On screen, many of the parts move when you click on them, and there are well-done hypertext links to related topics. In the unit on the personal computer, for example, you can link to microprocessors and smart cards, among other things, by clicking on a "see also" button. There's also a mini-encyclopedia of inventors, and animated explanations of scientific principles to go along with all the machines. In all of these features, the disc makes good use of the animation and sound possibilities available on CD-ROM. And, as with all Dorling Kindersley projects, the illustrations are first-rate--appealing to both children and adults.
  • Gifts For The Digitally Aware

    ARE THE HOLIDAYS GIVING you the urge to finally chart that family tree? Remap the vegetable garden? Send out some slick New Year's party invitations? Maybe even make your own stack of 150 Christmas cards? (Well, OK, you can skip the cards.) Whatever your creative impulse, Visio Home 3.0 can probably make the job more fun though not necessarily more sophisticated, given the coloringbook tone of some of the images. The program ($49) is Shapeware's newest expanded version of the company's original drag-and-drop drawing program for Windows. It provides templates for everything from home-remodeling designs to treasure maps, flashcards and football playbooks. Once you've chosen a template, add any of dozens of geometric patterns and cartoon images.If you weren't the one to get the artistic genes in your family, never fear: Visio Home does most of the drawing for you, and is intuitive and lively enough for a 10-year-old.
  • Find A Forgotten Friend

    IF THE IDEA OF TRACKING DOWN AN OLD COLLEGE roommate -or a microbrew in Topeka-intrigues you, ProPhone's CD-ROMs, containing the nation's more than 80 million white and yellow page listings, should thrill you. just enter the name or phone number of a person or business, and ProPhone's $199 Select Phone program delivers the listing. (The company also offers a $69 version without business listings or reverse searching capability.) Top competitors include PhoneDisc PowerFinder by Digital Directory Assistance, and 11 Million Businesses and 70 Million Households by American Business Information.
  • Wired/Tired?

    IS HOTWIRED, WIRED MAGAZINE'S Web site, too cool to live? Here's an excerpt from the FAQ. Judge for yourself-. "HotWired is new thinking for a new medium. We call it a cyberstation, a suite of vertical content streams about the Digital Revolution and the Second Renaissance with an integrated community space. While HotWired is currently bound by technological limitations that restrict bandwidth, it represents the genetic blueprint that will evolve into the overarching media environment of the next century ... HotWired is live, twitching, the real-time nervous system of the planet ... It's Way New Journalism. It's Rational Geographic." Wow.
  • New Year's Eve Surfing

    IF YOUR NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION IS TO FINALLY GET ONLINE, check out First Night celebrations in New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C. There will be computers at various sites, such as New York's Grand Central Terminal and The Other Side Cafe in Boston, where revelers who have purchased First Night tickets can log on for free. If you're a newbie, don't worry; expert advisers Will be standing by, First Night organizers say. The online service Echo is coordinating things from New York, where a bank of computers will be installed in Grand Central, with large-screen monitors overhead.
  • Deck The (Virtual) Halls

    Dear Santa: For Christmas, I would like (1) some money to give to charity, (2) a Christmas tree that won't shed all its needles by New Year's, (3) a rough idea of what Rudolph likes to snack on, (4) an instant response to this letter. Please." ...
  • Culture Time

    CULTURE VULTURES HAVE another World-Wide Web site to explore. The School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois has opened an online art gallery that functions much like a regular gallery, with individual artists showcased for six to eight weeks. Currently on view at "@art gallery": California artist Carol Flax, who presents three series of images, "Family Works," "Political Works" and "Scotland Project." The online gallery, housed in a computer dubbed Gertrude, can be reached at http://gertrude.art.uiuc. edu/gart/gallery.html
  • In Search Of The Sacred

    Rita McClain's spiritual journey began in Iowa, where she grew up in the fundamentalist world of the Pentecostal Church. What she remembers most about that time are tent meetings and an overwhelming feeling of guilt. In her 20s she tried less doctrinaire Protestantism. That, too, proved unsatisfying. By the age of 27, McClain had rejected all organized religion. ""I really felt like a pretty wounded Christian,'' she says. For the next 18 years, she sought inner peace only in nature, through rock climbing in the mountains or hiking in the desert. That seemed enough.Then, six years ago, in the aftermath of an emotionally draining divorce, McClain's spiritual life blossomed. Just as she had once explored mountains, she began scouting the inner landscape. She started with Unity, a metaphysical church near her Marin County, Calif., home. It was a revelation, light-years away from the ""Old Testament kind of thing I knew very well from my childhood.'' The next stop was Native American...
  • A Great Big Hug

    If this picture isn't familiar, you've been living on Mars for the last few years. Barney, star of toy stores, lunch boxes, T shirts and TVs everywhere, has his own WorldWide Web site. You can download Barney's photo albums, Barney cartoons, a Barney target-shooting game, and Barney sound clips and other Barneyabilia. Why you would want to is another question. The address: http://www.galcit.caltech.edu/ ta/barney/barney.html
  • Virtual Votes

    REAL-TIME Politics are coming soon to an Internet node near you. From now until the Nov. 8 election, political junkies can follow California gubernatorial, Senate and other statewide races from World-Wide Web and Gopher servers at Digital Equipment Corp. in Palo Alto. Detailed information on candidates. ballot measures and campaign spending, along with district maps, ire available at the Web site (type http://www.election. digital.com or http://www.election.ca.gov) and at the Gopher server type (gopher.election.digital.com or gopher.election.california.gov). On Nov. 8, results will be available seconds after precincts report in. The data can be selected; for example. you can filter out everything except the Senate race.
  • Chipheads Or Blockheads?

    We're all for any effort to popularize technology, but the promotional material that arrived with Software Etc.'s new clothing line, Chiphead, hit us the wrong way. Are while guys with glasses the only people who use computers and would be interested in this stuff? Chiphead includes T shirts, sweat shirts, boxer shorts and mugs with slogans like THE ONE WHO DIES WITH THE MOST RAM WINS and MEN WON'T ASK FOR DIRECTIONS ON THE INFO HIGHWAY EITHER. A hint for Software Etc.: Chipheads come in all flavors, but their money is the same.
  • If Only It Were So Easy In Real Life

    Divorcees can now fradicate their previous partners from photographs without resorting to a scissor job. DiverceX from Western Pro Imaging Labs of Vancouver, Canada, is a service that scans a photograph into a computer and then alters it electronically. The gap can then be filled by a new partner. The technology can also make people thinner, younger, and can remove double chins or scars. According to company president Keith Guelpha, one customer was a man about to be married. "He had gone traveling around Europe before becoming engaged. There was a different girl in each photo and he wanted them all removed."
  • Calling All Couch Potatoes

    NICK WEST, a researcher at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program, produces a public-access show, which he says is "interactive television for Joe or Jane Six pack." All you need is cable TV and a phone. "Yorb: The Electronic Neighborhood" (Thursday at 11 p.m. on Channel 34, for Manhattanites) allows up to four call-in viewers to navigate through a computer-generated world. They can watch from home as one viewer steers using the touch-tone telephone keypad; press 2 to go north, 6 to go east, etc. You drive through an eerie landscape from behind a 3-D dashboard- where a live chat session from the ECHO bulletin board scrolls by. The show started in 1993, but West has redesigned the software partly to avoid on-air crashes that plagued the earlier version -and has added a digital art gallery and a drive-in theater, featuring video clips by New York artists. Says West: "We're aiming to have it on 24 hours a day Ion NYU campus TVJ." Pass the coffee. please.
  • Meet Mr. Simcity

    An earthquake tears the ground asunder. Torrents of water flood the streets. Fires race from block to block. It's a full-fledged disaster -- the kind of calamity only SimCity fans could love. Since its debut in 1989, the best-selling computer game has introduced millions of SimMayors to the trials of running a complex urban system. Make good choices in zoning and budgeting and the city prospers. But players are always just a few moves away from mayhem. ""It's a chaotic system in the same way that societies are chaotic,'' says SimCity's 34-year-old creator, Will Wright. ""You can't predict what's going to happen.'' ...
  • Colorless, Odorless And Deadly

    By the look of the room, Vitas Gerulaitis never knew he was in danger. When a maid discovered the 40-year-old former tennis star's body lying on the bed last week in a poolside bungalow in Southampton Village, N.Y., the television was still on. Gerulaitis, who had been playing on nearby courts earlier in the day, looked as though he were just taking a quick nap. Although Gerulaitis had battled substance abuse, it was only after drawing blood that investigators discovered the real culprit: carbon monoxide, probably from a malfunctioning pool heater that vented into the cottage. "His body was saturated with carbon monoxide," says Robert Golden of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office. "If he was tired, he may very well have succumbed to the effects while he was sleeping." Golden said that the room became a de facto gas chamber as odorless, colorless fumes built up inside. ...
  • A New Tack On Health Care

    Any chance for healthcare reform this year seems to rest in the Senate, where Majority Leader George Mitchell is trying to salvage a last-minute deal -- with some hope of success. Even if the Senate approves modest reform, passage in the House is no sure thing. Incremental reform may be rejected by some of the roughly 100 Democrats who still support the liberal Canadian-style single-payer plan. And the White House needs the liberals because Clinton can't count on any Republican support in the House. Clinton aides worry that in the end the House will choose to pass nothing rather than small reform, denying the president even the semblance of victory. If health care does fail completely, count on Clinton to spend the fall making a big push for reform of the political system. Clinton has long supported measures to limit campaign spending by interest groups and require more complete disclosure of lobbying activities. So far, though, the president has not devoted much energy to pushing...
  • Phony Roots?

    Tobacco giant Philip Morris hired a Washington lobbying firm to get people to write letters against proposed federal regulations banning workplace smoking. Bonner & Associates earned at least $1.4 million for a campaign that produced 7,300 letters, according to a source who worked on the campaign, and an additional $100 each for more than 1,500 faxes to congressmen. Philip Morris is getting ready to bring up to 500 smokers to Washington, all expenses paid, to testify at a Sept. 20 hearing, the source says. Philip Morris says the numbers cited are inaccurate but won't discuss the details.
  • War Games

    Although U.S. diplomats say a Haitian invasion appears likely, Gen. Raoul Cedras, the leader of Haiti's military junta, apparently still thinks he can make Bill Clinton back down. Diplomats in Port-au-Prince say Cedras might retire as military dictator and run for president. By the reckoning of some Haitian legislators, Cedras's term expires on Oct. 12 (the general says the date is Jan. 31). His retirement would make an invasion diplomatically awkward even though it would not fully meet U.N. demands for the military to relinquish power. The regime has already scheduled elections in November -- without saying if the presidency will be up for grabs.
  • Early Eulogy

    Senior Taiwanese officials led by President Lee Teng-hui recently convened a secret meeting to draft the most sensitive of public statements -- condolences on the death of China's Deng Xiaoping. That means that the very tapped-in Taiwanese intelligence agency thinks Deng, who turned 90 last month, is gravely ill. The Taiwanese rejected a draft that harshly criticized Deng for crushing the pro-democracy movement. Instead the statement affirms China's market reforms, says a Lee adviser. The goal is to convey Taipei's wish that Chinese moderates keep power after Deng's death.
  • Dirty Dancing

    Fasting and dancing until the vision is altered and the body weak -- that's a ceremony. But when 27 Native American dancers at last month's Gibson Sun Dance in Idaho fell ill with vomiting, lung disorders and blackouts, tribal leaders ended the three-day rite early. Health officials say the illnesses are a mystery, but members of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe, who hosted the festival, blame pesticides sprayed on reservation land leased to local farmers. Now the Shoshone-Bannock are calling for a ban on pesticides on all U.S. reservations. "We should be role models in keeping the earth clean," says sun-dance chief Robert (Dude) Perry. "We have to start practicing what we preach."
  • A Peek At Lennon's Fbi File

    It's hard to imagine why J. Edgar Hoover's FBI compiled a huge file on John Lennon. According to documents obtained by the ACLU of southern California, reports on the former Beatle included the revelation that Lennon contributed $75,000 to an apparently nonexistent peace group. Was Lennon a national-security threat? Not according to the files. One agent noted: "Lennon and his wife are passe about [sic] United States politics." The files do show that Nixon aide H. R. Haldeman was aware of the surveillance. Maybe Nixon was a fan.