Jessica Bennett

Stories by Jessica Bennett

  • Free Lolita! A Whale Story

    It's been nearly four decades since Lolita the killer whale was snatched from her family in the waters of Puget Sound. Now activists want to bring her home.
  • Spider-Man and Mary Jane's Breakup

    In the latest installment of the Spider-Man comic series, Peter Parker is pictured kissing a woman other than his longtime sweetheart, Mary Jane. Fans are not happy.
  • Word of the Year: W00t!

    A quirky online gaming term is crowned Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year. A proud day for geeks everywhere.
  • Yo! E-E-Eat Vegetables!

    Preschoolers aren't the only ones gaga for "Yo Gabba Gabba!", Nick Jr.'s new sing-along TV series for kids that's best described as a cross between "Sesame Street" and "Soul Train," with daily doses of beat-boxing by rap pioneer Biz Markie. Hipster parents—and their single friends—are digging it, too. "Biz's Beat of the Day" segment has become a YouTube fixture, and the show's '80s throwback animation and culturally savvy flourishes (the title is a reference to punk icons the Ramones) have earned it a following among tykes and twentysomethings in just a matter of months."Yo Gabba Gabba!'s" co- creators, Christian Jacobs and Scott Schulz, say the whole idea was to rope in kids and adults alike—and to create a kids' TV program that didn't make them want to gag. Their show teaches simple life lessons through clever songs: "Party in My Tummy" is about eating your veggies (carrots get sad if they can't go to the party), and "Don't Bite Your Friends" is … pretty self-explanatory. "These...
  • An Anti-Abuse Coloring Book

    The New York Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic church has an unusual new weapon against child abuse.
  • Smile! You’re On Camera.

    The average American is caught on tape some 200 times a day, but for many of us the notion that we're being watched—at all times—has yet to sink in. That's what makes Adam Rifkin's acclaimed new film, "Look," so shocking. Shot entirely through the point of view of security cameras (and co-produced by Barry Schuler, the former head of AOL), the film is a glimpse into just how public our private lives have become. Its characters run the gamut: a high-school English teacher who has an affair with an underage student, a gas-station clerk who dreams of a music career, a department-store manager who uses his warehouse as a secret sex refuge. Yet all are connected by surveillance footage that, in the end, determines their destinies. Producer Schuler spoke with NEWSWEEK'S Jessica Bennett: ...
  • Film Shot Spy-Camera Style

    Shot entirely through the view of public surveillance cameras, a new film gives viewers a glimpse into just how public our private lives have become. What 'Look' reveals may shock you.
  • We’re Here, And We’re Also Queer

    If you drew up a list of gay-friendly states, Alabama, which still treats homosexual conduct as a crime, and Utah, home of a large, conservative Mormon community, probably wouldn't be near the top. But according to a new UCLA Law School study, the gay population is booming in both places. In the past 17 years, Utah's gay population has shot from the 38th largest in the country to 14th. Birmingham, Ala., meanwhile, is now home to all-night gay bars and pride parades; the South's gay tally has outpaced any other region. "What many of the bigger cities like New York were experiencing during the late '60s and '70s is happening here now, but quietly," says Danny Upton, the head of Equality Alabama.Growing acceptance of homosexuality is a big factor, says Gary Gates, the study's author, but so is money. Gay and lesbian travel accounts for $55 billion of the U.S. market, according to a survey last year, and the bigger the community, the more gay tourists will flock. That's why travel...
  • Euro Euro Bill, Y’all

    Hip-Hop culture has long glorified the almighty dollar. But the greenback has fallen on such hard times—it hit a new low this month against several foreign currencies—that even rap moguls are turning on it. In the video for his new song "Blue Magic" (off an album called "American Gangster," no less), Jay-Z can be seen flashing stacks of euros. On the official Web site for Wu-Tang Clan, the New York rappers who coined the phrase "dolla dolla bill, y'all," the group lists its new CD price in euros only. And reports flew last week that supermodel Gisele B?ndchen is insisting on being paid in euros, not dollars, though her sister, also her manager, has denied it. (Jay-Z and Wu-Tang did not respond to requests for comment.) "When pop culture starts doing what the most sophisticated financiers are doing, it makes you think we might be really screwed," says Howard Davidowitz, chairman of a New York investment firm. New euro worship could spark what market pundits call the "point of...
  • Why Some Men Grow Breasts

    Junior high school isn't easy for anyone. But for Merle Yost, it was constant dread. He was tortured with bras hung over his locker, the constant assignment to the "skins" team during gym class, and a particularly brutal nickname ("Tits"). "I learned really early to cover up and hide, and I spent the next 20 years wearing big shirts to cover my chest," he recalls.
  • American Apparel: Buy or Boycott?

    American Apparel has become famous for its well-designed, comfortable clothes, and an ad campaign that makes many of us supremely comfortable. My personal dilemma.
  • What You Like

    The goal of social search is to combine Facebook's personal touch with Google's speed.
  • Is Age Just a Number?

    Whether you're a MySpace addict or a Luddite who logged on once to see what all the fuss was about, you've likely met Tom. As the public face of MySpace, cofounder Tom Anderson has become a celebrity since the site launched in 2003 because he's every user's first "friend": when you join MySpace, your profile is automatically linked to his. But it turns out that Tom, who, along with cofounder Chris DeWolfe, made a fortune when News Corp. bought MySpace for $580 million in 2005, may have a secret: his real age. According to public documents obtained by NEWSWEEK—including professional license information, voter registration and utility and telephone service applications—Anderson is five years older than he claims. His online profile currently lists his age as 32, but it appears he was actually born on Nov. 8, 1970, meaning he'll turn 37 next week, not 33. (Happy birthday, Tom!)Is it a big deal? Anderson, who has said he was 27 when MySpace launched, built an empire by tapping into the...
  • Lessons in Proper Netiquette

    It wasn't so long ago that anyone with a personal Web page was either a dork or an egomaniac. Now sites like MySpace and Facebook have turned online socializing into the norm. But the latest hit site, LinkedIn, intended for professional networking only, has created some quandaries because it blurs that fuzzy, frequently awkward line between work and play. For instance:My boss invited me to join. Workplace hierarchy doesn't stop at the computer screen. But what if your boss is lousy? "It's an invitation you sort of have to take," says Mark Webster, a New York creative director whose former boss invited him to link up while they worked together.A subordinate invited me. A boss is one thing, but what about that annoying intern who wants to piggyback on all your contacts? "There's never a polite way to say no," says David Hansson, a blogger and software developer. Besides, who knows? Someday that intern might be your boss.I don't want to be a reference. LinkedIn isn't just about...
  • Online: Do You Know Your Googlegänger?

    Eve Fairbanks knew something was up when her mother drove six hours to her college to have lunch with her. After a meal of risotto came the moment of truth: "I know about the porn," her mother told her. It was an honest mistake: Eve's name had been showing up on X-rated sites when her mother Googled her to keep tabs. But that Eve Fairbanks wasn't her Eve—it was a "Googlegänger," a virtual doppelgänger linked by a shared name thanks to the search engine Google.Much the way "Google" became a common verb, the term "Googlegänger" has caught on with a generation defined not so much by their accomplishments as by how Google-able those accomplishments are. A Googlegänger, they're finding, can be friend or foe or a bit of both.Matthew Slutsky considers his virtual double, for instance, to be a rival in a race to the top of the Google hit list. "Knowing that he's out there keeps me on my toes," says the 26-year-old Washington political blogger. But it's a friendly rivalry: Slutsky has met...
  • Should Carriage Horses Be Banned?

    After the death of a mare in Manhattan, a call to ban the city's famous horse-drawn carriages has sparked a national debate.
  • Scientists Confirm ‘Hobbit’ Species Was Human

    A new study of a skeleton of a member of a race of three-foot-tall 'hobbits' who lived 12,000 years ago in Indonesia shows that they were a species of human—and that the evolutionary path to Homo sapiens has been tortuous indeed.
  • Selling Your Children for Marriage—Online

    A controversial Web site purporting to be a place for families to sell their teenage daughters as brides is revealed to be bogus. Wait till you see what the would-be grooms wrote in--and what states actually allow.
  • Virtual Epidemic

    We all know the warnings: addiction, isolation, a waste of time. But what if online games like World of Warcraft could be a new weapon for fighting infectious diseases?That's what epidemiologists at Tufts University argue, after studying a virtual disease outbreak that the creators of World of Warcraft introduced as an extra challenge to the game—and were shocked by how it raged. A virtual fluke? Maybe. But that plague is helping scientists plan for real life—illuminating the unexpected ways a disease can spread, and how we humans might react. In World of Warcraft, animals played a key role in transmission, while what scientists call the "stupid factor" (people getting up close to look, not thinking it will affect them) was another surprise. Virtual residents reacted in different ways: some selfless, some selfish—some purposely infecting others. Maybe those games aren't such a waste of time after all.
  • Recycling Hot Air

    We all know it's possible to save energy by recycling waste, but it's also possible to recycle waste energy. Physicists at the University of Utah have found a novel way to do it—by first turning waste heat into sound, and then turning the sound into electricity. They developed a cylindrical "heat engine" that soaks up the heat and pushes it to one end of the cylinder. Once it reaches a certain temperature threshold, it passes through a valve, which makes the air vibrate (much like a flute). From there, it's a simple matter to make electricity by passing the sound through a "piezoelectric" device, which converts pressure into current. Orest Symko, a physicist leading the effort, says it holds promise for a cheap method of harnessing solar energy, as a portable energy source for electronics and ultimately as a way to generate electricity from waste heat released from power-plant cooling towers.
  • How Wiki Software is Changing Communication

    The United Nations, notorious for endless deliberations, is trying a technological quick fix. Its Global Compact Office, which promotes corporate responsibility, has embraced a once fringe social technology—the wiki—in hopes that it will help staff in 80 countries share information and reach consensus with less deliberation and more speed.The office has done this by enlisting the public in its review of progress reports from more than 2,000 companies—an effort to make sure each is complying with established social and environmental guidelines. It's debatable whether encouraging public input is a good way to increase efficiency, but the move is the latest example of a quickly growing trend. Wiki software—easy-to-use programs that let anyone with Internet access create, remove and edit content on a Web page—first gained popularity thanks to Wikipedia, the user-generated encyclopedia that has come to be hailed as one of the Web's greatest resources. Now the technology is increasingly...
  • Ex-Liberian President on Trial for War Crimes

    He is accused of backing rebels in some of the most atrocious crimes of our time: the slaughter and looting of entire villages, the use of child soldiers, rape, and the systematic amputation of hands and limbs by axes and machetes. So when it was determined that Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, would be brought to trial--the first African head of state ever to be tried for war crimes--the indictment was hailed as a landmark for war-torn western Africa. Taylor, who was elected president in 1997, would face charges of crimes against humanity by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a tribunal created by the United Nations to seek justice for Taylor's role (which prosecutors have described as "the very worst humans are capable of”) in the neighboring nation's 10-year civil war.But last Monday, the 59-year-old Taylor plunged the opening day of his trial into chaos, boycotting the hearing and firing his court-appointed lawyer, who walked out of the courtroom after receiving...
  • Books: Tim Gunn's Guide to Style

    Fashion guru Tim Gunn details his new book, his hopes for American fashion and what he expects to see in this season's 'Project Runway.'
  • The Escalating War Over AIDS Drugs

    The battle between Big Pharma and AIDS victims in poor countries is heating up. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton has now thrown his weight behind developing countries that want to offer the drugs at low cost. His charitable organization, The Clinton Foundation, announced agreements Tuesday with two Indian generic drug makers, Cipla and Matrix, to lower the price of AIDS drugs used to treat resistant cases. These so-called second-line anti-retroviral treatments cost 10 times as much as first-line treatments. Under the Clinton plan, the price would fall by 50 percent for middle-income countries such as Thailand and, for low-income countries that already get a discount, by 25 percent. Clinton also negotiated a deal to make a once-a-day anti-retroviral pill available for less than $1 a day.Clinton’s move comes as Thailand's health minister is in the United States to explain why his country decided in January to defy patents on three drugs. Thailand, of course, has the right to do so,...
  • Columbine Father on Va. Tech Shootings

    The father of a Columbine victim talks about the massacre at Virginia Tech, the grieving process, and why he thinks kindness is the best way to prevent further attacks.
  • Korean-Americans Brace for Backlash

    Korean-Americans fear that hatred toward the Virginia Tech killer will spill over into their community—and fuel negative typecasting.
  • The Call for Draconian Cuts

    One of the criticisms of Al Gore’s message on climate change is that he exaggerates the imminence of the threat—implying, for instance, that sea levels may rise more quickly than scientists feel comfortable saying. But a few people think Gore is actually sugarcoating the catastrophe predictions.Most prominently, the renowned British scientist James Lovelock thinks that the world is already approaching a tipping point, beyond which temperature rise will run out of control and major ecosystems will collapse. The dying Amazon rainforest would begin releasing carbon, making things even hotter. The permafrost would melt, releasing carbon and causing sea levels to rise. Environmental writer George Monbiot has taken Lovelock’s pessimism and come up with a plan in "Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning" (South End Press). To avoid hitting the "critical threshold," he says, the world’s total carbon emissions must be reduced to 60 percent below current levels by 2030—a target that would...