Jessica Bennett

Stories by Jessica Bennett

  • Hungry, Thirsty and Ready to Spend

    For some air travelers, it was toothpowder travel packs that made newly liquid-free flights just a little more bearable. For others, it was Pepto-Bismol--the tablets, not the syrupy pink fluid. To help travelers cope with restrictive carry-on rules in the wake of last week's purported foiled terror plot, airport retailers are coming up with creative solutions.Contrary to some early reports of falling sales, many airport retailers weathered last week's period of uncertainty and are dealing with the new restrictions just fine. Some may have even profited--at least in the short term. Though many items, like perfume, toothpaste and lotion, were taken off the shelves, they've been replaced by others. Retailers and restaurants have opened early and closed late to accommodate passengers who want to grab a snack after a tedious commute or fill up on liquids before they board the plane. Many travelers buy books or magazines to occupy them while they wait in security lines for hours. Still...
  • Plastic Predicament

    Credit-card debt has nearly tripled in the last two decades, leaving many Americans stuck in a sinkhole of fees and penalties. Who's to blame, irresponsible spenders or predatory lenders?
  • Reflective Criticism

    It’s hard to picture genocide, gangsta rap and Las Vegas sharing the pages of the same foreign-policy book. What could they possibly have in common? But add a chapter on SUVs, Halliburton and George W. Bush and you’ve got six of 100 ways that one foreign-policy expert says the globe's most powerful country is “screwing up” the world around it.From the present-day consequences of the cold war to more recent American trends—like “Seinfeld” or Wal-Mart—John Tirman lists what he calls American blunders in the context of its founding ideals, and hopes his commentary will serve as a call to arms. “It might seem cranky or clownish ... but there’s a serious point to this,” writes Tirman, head of the center for international studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of the new book “100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World” ( HarperCollins ). NEWSWEEK’s Jessica Bennett spoke with Tirman about the inspiration behind his top 100. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Where did your...
  • Minimizing Your Risk

    Research groups indicate that identity theft affected more than 9 million Americans last year. But despite those numbers, the revelation this week that the personal information of 26.5 million veterans had been stolen from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee came as a shock. The information—mainly from veterans discharged since 1975—included the veterans' Social Security numbers, birthdates and, in some cases, a disability rating—a score of between 1 and 100 indicating how disabled a veteran is. NEWSWEEK spoke with The USAA Educational Foundation, a non-profit sponsored by the USAA financial services company, as well as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for some tips on how to protect against ID theft, and what to do if you think you're a victim. Excerpts:10 Tips to Prevent ID TheftMemorize your Social Security number. Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse.  Store your wallet or purse in a secure location while at work or public places...
  • ‘Zero Impact’

    They marched in big cities and small towns. They boycotted work and businesses, and withdrew their children from school. Some walked out of their jobs. And as hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants took to the streets yesterday, they hoped for a dramatic impact: to prove to America that their work was significant to the successful function of the U.S. economy.In certain industries, they made their case. In the West and Midwest, a number of meatpacking companies were forced to close. In California and Arizona, produce fields were absent of migrant pickers. And in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, a number of businesses lacked sufficient staff to operate.But the protests didn’t bring the economy to a halt, as some organizers had hoped. And that, says one economist, is because Americans overestimate the actual impact undocumented workers have on our economy. “It’s a positive benefit, but it’s not the be-all end-all of the economy,” says James P. Smith, an economist at the Rand...
  • This Week Online

    Lisa Murkowski, Alaska republican senator: These standards haven't been updated in almost 30 years. When I was in school, you either brought your lunch from home or you had the hot lunch the lunch lady made. Now we've got vending machines in just about every school, and if our kids don't like what's being served, that's where they get their food. Unfortunately, those machines offer items that hold very little nutritional value. This is not some crusade to dump all vending machines. We just want to make sure that what we provide in the schools is a healthier alternative to what's there now. ...
  • Credit Cruncher

    Americans are buying with plastic at a staggering rate. From lattes to vacation packages, car payments to home-equity loans, our reliance on credit is increasing. Even the Internal Revenue Service endorses credit cards as a "convenient" way to pay your taxes. The average American family carried about $9,300 in credit-card debt in 2005 reports the nonprofit Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Dallas. But what happens when borrowers who already have sizable debts are offered more credit?Director James Scurlock, 34, set out to tackle that question in "Maxed Out," a documentary he intended as a comic portrayal of consumer irresponsibility. What the self-described "finance geek" and former publisher of a financial newsletter ended up with however, is a much starker tale—one of struggle, suicide and desperation. "I think the people in the film would like nothing more than to pay off their bills, but they've just gotten to a point where it's not possible," says Scurlock. "And at some...
  • A Consuming Life

    You're allowed to buy soap, bread, cat food. Prohibited: ice cream, tissue, soda. Haircuts are OK, but focaccia bread is not. What about hair gel? Organic French-roast coffee?For Judith Levine, the idea of cutting ice cream out of her diet for an entire year was not easy. For her partner, Paul Cillo, the challenge was the red wine that ran like water among his Italian family and friends. But on New Year's Day 2004, the couple, who spend half their time in Brooklyn, N.Y., and half in Hardwick, Vt., began a rather odd resolution: to go a year without shopping.The idea began after a holiday purchasing frenzy that culminated in a maxed-out credit card. "I was schlepping a big shopping bag across New York City and dropped it in an icy puddle," says Levine, 53. "I thought, 'There must be more to life'."Her new book, "Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping" ( Free Press ), released this month, is Levine's witty depiction of a year living relatively free from the constraints of a credit...
  • Poultry Pioneer

    For the seven children of the late unsung poultry pioneer Robert Baker, it was summer jobs at the family chicken concession that raised money for their college funds. It was neighborhood chicken barbecues that heralded the arrival of each new spring. And it was chicken experiments at the dinner table that paved the way for some of the biggest poultry inventions in modern history. "Bob would bring different products home, and he always said that if the dog wouldn't eat it he knew it was a loser," says Baker's wife, Jacoba, 85.At the Bakers' home in upstate New York during the postwar era, it was those family taste tests that led to the invention of the chicken nugget, the chicken hot dog, chicken bologna and chicken steak. So when Baker passed away at the age of 84 this month, suffering a heart attack at his North Lansing, N.Y., home, his family didn't want his funeral to be a mournful event. Instead, they saw no better way to celebrate his life than with a neighborhood chicken...
  • Big Brother's Big Business

    In a world of fear, American cities and corporations are spending billions on high-tech surveillance equipment. A look at the economic engine and privacy concerns surrounding 'smart cameras' and other devices.
  • SAT Slip-Up

    For college-bound students—and their parents—it was ghastly news. An estimated 4,000 students who took their SATs last October received reduced scores because of what the College Board, which administers the test, described as technical problems. The organization said about 1 percent of the 495,000 students who took the test were affected, with some scoring more than 200 points lower than they should have. The College Board discovered the problem in late December, after two students questioned the scores they had received.The news prompted a scramble among colleges and universities, with many rushing to revisit applications they had already considered. How much of an impact has the error had? And can it be corrected? Susan Wilbur, director of undergraduate admissions for the University of California's nine campuses, spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Jessica Bennett about the College Board mistake, its effect on students and the importance of the SAT in college admissions. NEWSWEEK: When did you...
  • Addicted to Sudoku

    Not since the Rubik's Cube of 1980 has a puzzle been this hot. From its mind-teasers have sprung clubs, competitions, computer-games and a cult-like following. It has become a fresh way to procrastinate. And some experts are even asserting that it can lower your blood pressure, relieve stress -- even make you smarter. It might just be the least-harmful addiction around.As nearly everyone knows by now, Sudoku resembles a traditional crossword puzzle, with a nine-by-nine box grid. But the game relies on logic -- not knowledge. The goal is to have the numbers 1 through 9 in each row and column of the puzzle's grid, filling in the empty spaces until the box is complete. The game, whose name suggests that it was developed in Japan, was actually invented in the United States, first published in the Dell puzzle magazine in 1979. Five years later, it was picked up by a Japanese magazine and then by a retired New Zealand judge living in Japan, who wrote a computer program for it. In 2004,...
  • Crescent City Comeback

    Delisea Holloway didn't speak with her family for three months after she fled Hurricane Katrina. During that period she traveled by car, helicopter and plane from the Louisiana Superdome to a shelter in Washington, D.C., to Sulphur, La., and finally back home. But home was no longer home—it was a hotel room in the downtown New Orleans La Quinta Inn, where Holloway had worked in food services. "It felt really strange being back," says Holloway, 36, whose Garden District home was severely damaged in the storm. "I was thinking: 'how am I going to get my life in order?' But I had the will to live ... I wanted to come back to New Orleans to rebuild my life, and I think a lot of people feel like that."In some ways, Holloway was lucky: she'd been at an armory shelter in Washington, D.C. for just two weeks when she was able to get in touch with her boss, Joseph O'Connor. He sent her a first-class plane ticket to Sulphur, La., where he'd set her up with a job, and a room at another La Quinta...
  • Melody Makers

    Television is all about the images, but don't forget the sound--especially music. Joel Beckerman has built a career on figuring out how music plays on emotions and hooks television audiences. His New York-based firm, Man Made Music, creates promos and themes for some of the biggest shows on the air. He collaborated on production of the NBC News theme and worked with artists like Fatboy Slim and Sting for Showtime and CBS.As TV networks struggle to retain increasingly fragmented audiences, the music becomes even more crucial, Beckerman says. And on the other side, new singers and musicians are more dependent on television exposure to make it big. "You can't break a band on MTV anymore. You also can't break a band on the radio very easily anymore ... Television is one of the places where you can break new bands and new records," he says. NEWSWEEK's Jessica Bennett spoke with Beckerman about the new ways these two industries are collaborating. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: How important is music...
  • Blogs: The Secret Is Out

    Everyone has a good secret. And, as it turns out, there are a heckuva lot of people who like to share theirs with Frank Warren. For the past year, Warren has operated a surprisingly successful Web site, post secret.blogspot.com, where he has solicited, and published, anonymous postcards that people send to him confessing something. Warren started the project by distributing 3,000 self-addressed postcards throughout the Washington, D.C., area, asking people to participate. When those cards ran out, "people started homemaking their own postcards, and they started coming from around the world," Warren says. Now he gets about 400 submissions each week.The entries come with magazine clippings and wedding invites; photos and ads. One, an abstract image of the Twin Towers, reads: "Everyone who knew me before 9/11 believes I'm dead." Another confesses to eating the marshmallows from a spouse's Lucky Charms cereal.The site didn't stay a secret for long. Technorati rates it as the third most...
  • You've Got Confessions

    The postcard is an abstract black-and-white image of the twin towers, smoke rising from the gaping holes. "Everyone who knew me before 9/11 believes I'm dead," it reads. Another, a picture of a pink razor, says, "I've written my suicide note four times. And never followed through because I didn't like the way my letter sounded."Not all the confessions are as tragic--one, a magazine cutout of strappy sandals, tells of plans to blow a paycheck on heels. Another confesses to eating the marshmallows from a spouse's Lucky Charms cereal. But all are unique--and, in the past year, the anonymous postcards have arrived by the thousands in the mailbox of Frank Warren.A small business owner, Warren's venture began as an experimental art project: he distributed 3,000 blank, self-addressed postcards near his suburban Washington, D.C., home. He left them at bus stops, in restaurants, and between the pages of library books, encouraging people to confess a secret and send them back."Slowly, they...
  • Who's Responsible?

    Former Army major Tammy Duckworth lost both her legs in Iraq. The helicopter pilot--a major in the Illinois Army National Guard--was flying a Black Hawk over hostile territory when a rocket-propelled grenade hit her aircraft. Duckworth spent the next 13 months in hospitals and rehab centers, in a wheelchair or on prosthetic limbs, trying to relearn the skills she'd once taken for granted. "It's the very little things," that can be the hardest, she says. "It's something as mundane as trying to do your laundry. For me, it was changing the sheets on my bed. How do you do that if you have no legs?"Duckworth is now running for Congress as a Democrat, hoping to win Henry Hyde's seat representing Chicago's western suburbs. But she's the exception: most of the more than 8,000 American soldiers severely injured in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't doing nearly so well. With record numbers of soldiers surviving injuries that would have killed them in earlier wars, veterans' organizations are...
  • 'We Weren't Ready for It'

    Maj. Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Army National Guard, was piloting a Black Hawk helicopter over Iraq when it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in November 2004. Duckworth lost her right leg and most of her left as a result of the attack. Now, she's running as a Democrat for a congressional seat representing Chicago's western suburbs, replacing Republican Henry Hyde, who is retiring after 32 years.Duckworth spent nearly 11 months during her rehabilitation at the Fisher House at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, one of 35 facilities started by Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, the founders of the Intrepid Fund, which provides accommodations for family members of soldiers undergoing treatment. NEWSWEEK's Jessica Bennett spoke with Duckworth about the challenges and issues surrounding her return from service. Excerpts: ...
  • Parallel Trends

    Ariel Sharon always attracted controversy. From his early years as a hawkish commander of the Israeli army to a centrist-leaning prime minister who forced right-wing Jewish settlers to withdraw from Gaza last summer, he drew criticism and praise both in Israel and abroad. In Israel, the end of his career has thrown the nation into political turmoil. For America's 5.2 million Jews, it raises questions about the future direction of the Zionist state and how a new leader will affect the Bush White House's approach to the Middle East.NEWSWEEK's Jessica Bennett spoke with Jonathan D. Sarna, director of the Jewish Communal Service program at Brandeis University and author of "American Judaism: A History." (Yale University, 2004) about Sharon's political legacy, his relationship with Jewish Americans and the similarities between Israeli and U.S. politics. Excerpts: ...