Karen Springen

Stories by Karen Springen

  • Publishing The Book With No Name

    A forthcoming HarperCollins book is a real whodunit--but not because it belongs on the mystery shelf. The publishing house is shopping a new title to booksellers--with a 300,000 initial press run--but the company's not saying who wrote it, what it will be called or even what it's about. It's saying only that the 320-page nonfiction work, to be released Sept. 12 by imprint William Morrow, is a "must-read tell-all" that will get "major national media attention"--and that it's not by a Bush administration official. (Insiders suspect it's about a celeb, says Rachel Deahl, Publishers Weekly news editor.)The marketing ploy seems to be working. Barnes & Noble is buying the title for all its U.S. stores--and other booksellers are following suit. But not everyone is. "I just got really annoyed about blind ordering," says Ann Christophersen, co-owner of Women & Children First bookstore in Chicago, who decided against placing an order. "I didn't like feeling manipulated." >
  • Going For Broke

    Last year, the number of personal bankruptcies ballooned to two million as people rushed to beat last deadline for a new law that made it harder and more expensive for consumers to declare themselves broke. The increase was followed by a slump, with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts reporting this week that personal bankruptcies for the year ending June 30 fell to 1.45 million—the lowest level in five years.Does that mean Americans are in better financial shape? Not quite, according to bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren, a professor of law at Harvard University and co-author (with her daughter) of "The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke"  (Basic Books; September 2003) and "All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan" (Free Press; March 2005.)  NEWSWEEK's Karen Springen spoke with Warren about why she thinks the current legislation helps lenders at the expense of ordinary Americans and how the nation can get out of a debilitating...
  • Health Hazards

    Four years ago, Candice Jackson, then 12, racked up about $90,000 in uncovered medical bills because an uninsured driver hit her while she was getting off a school bus in Windthorst, Texas. She spent four months in the hospital. The ambulance ride alone was cost some $10,000. Meanwhile, her mom needed two knees, adding another $20,000 or so to the family's medical bills. This April, Candice, now 16, swerved off the road to miss a deer and wound up with another head injury which required brain surgery. Candice's dad, Lanny Jackson, who works in the service center of a car dealership, can't even guess what the total cost of Candice's latest mishap will be. Overwhelmed, he is filling out the paperwork to file for bankruptcy. He feels as though he's in a hole, with no way out. "We're just a normal, small-town family with solid values," he says. "You get to your limit."The Jacksons, while particularly unlucky, are hardly alone in their struggle to manage their medical bills. Health-care...
  • Series: Lemony's Last Laugh

    Young readers, already worried about Harry Potter, now face a new threat. Lemony Snicket (a.k.a. Daniel Handler, 36) says at least two characters will die in his 13th and final "A Series of Unfortunate Events" book, "The End." The fate of the Baudelaire orphans and their nemesis, Count Olaf, will be revealed when 2.5 million copies go on sale at 12:01 a.m. on the appropriately unlucky day of Friday, Oct. 13. The first dozen "Unfortunate" books have sold more than 50 million copies.Booksellers applaud the timing. Mary McCarthy of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee hates to see the series end, but says "certainly 13 is the way to go." In a Potter-less year, "this will fill sort of a void," says Becky Anderson, owner of Anderson's Bookshops in Illinois. On Oct. 13, her stores will hold trivia contests with "unfortunate prizes" like moldy cheese and socks with holes. And Barnes & Noble will raffle off 797 autographed copies (one at each of its stores). "The books have a...
  • Kids’ Checkups: A Checklist

    Childhood is a time for vaccinations and medical checkups. A guide to when youngsters should see a doctor—and what their parents should expect.
  • Cafeterias: Big Mother Is Watching

    Darin Jones, 15, liked to buy three slices of pizza, a Gatorade and a cookie for lunch at his Vero Beach, Fla., high school. But that stopped once his school started using MealpayPlus.com, which allowed his mom to prepay for his food--and go online to track his purchases. "I noticed stuff I had no idea he was buying," she says. This year Darin will have to stick to the $2 healthy entree (or face a talk with Mom).Parental checkup systems like MealpayPlus and ParentOnline.net recently started popping up in schools nationwide; this fall, the parents of an estimated 1.5 million kids will be able to use them. Schools are signing up because they make lines move quickly--and, for some, they're free. MealpayPlus doesn't charge for its system; it makes money on transaction fees when parents put money on kids' accounts.It's worth it for parents who want a say in their children's eating habits. They can even specify foods they don't want their kids to eat. If the child tries to buy a...
  • Technology: A Digital Photo Finish

    For the best snapshots, photographers are now clicking more with their computers. Credit online photo sites, which are growing in a ... flash. (We couldn't resist.) This year, U.S. consumers will spend $300 million ordering prints or photo booty--mugs, mousepads, calendars--over the Internet, up 50 percent from 2004. Many of the sites now offer other bells and whistles, too. Where should you send your vacation photos? We put them to the test: ...
  • Medicine: Arriving Full Term

    Last year one in eight babies in the United States was born prematurely--a 30 percent increase over 1981 rates, according to a report last week by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine. Babies born too early are at greater risk for health problems like cerebral palsy or mental retardation. What can women--especially those over 40, who are more likely to deliver prematurely--do to ensure a full-term birth? Don't drink or smoke, avoid toxins like lead, eat a balanced diet and get "a reasonable, not excessive" amount of exercise, says Richard Behrman, chair of the report's committee. Speak to your doctor about urinary-tract infections, which increase the odds of preterm delivery, and learn the risks of in vitro. Implanting more embryos increases the odds of multiple births, making early delivery more likely. Nearly two thirdsof twins and more than 97 percent of triplets and other higher-order multiples are born preterm.
  • Books: On the Road Again

    The "Magic School Bus" series is flying back onto shelves. After a seven-year absence, the beloved series about an airborne schoolbus that takes kids on farfetched educational field trips is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a new book in September and possibly even a movie and a computer game. "The franchise doesn't need to be reinvented," says Deborah Forte, president of Scholastic Media. "It needs to be extended."The series, featuring the eccentric teacher Ms. Frizzle, continues to have a huge following. The TV-cartoon spinoff, for 4- to 7-year-olds, launched on PBS in 1994 and has become the longest-running children's TV science show ever. The series' Web site is Scho-lastic's most heavily trafficked site after Harry Potter; it gets 3 million visitors per month. Scholastic has sold 58 million copies of "Magic School Bus" books and 12 million related videos, DVDs and CD-ROMs over the last 20 years.Though there have been many spinoffs of the original 10-book series (there are...
  • The Premature Birth Problem

    Last year, one in every eight babies in the United States was born prematurely—a 30 percent increase over 1981 rates, according to a report released Thursday by the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine. The study notes that babies born prematurely are at greater risk for health problems ranging from cerebral palsy and mental retardation to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and crossed eyes. The report put the economic burden of preterm births at $26.2 billion last year—or about $51,600 per infant—most of that stemming from the costs of medical care. Dr. Richard Behrman, chair of the committee that wrote the report, is a clinical professor at Stanford University and at the University of California, San Francisco, and a pediatrician who has been treating premature babies since 1965. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Karen Springen about the growing and mysterious problem. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Why such a big jump in premature births?Richard Behrman: We know many factors that...
  • Yes, People Like Me Do Get HIV

    A decade ago, Regan Hofmann was shocked to learn that she had contracted HIV—the virus that causes AIDS—from her boyfriend. Then a 28-year-old editor, Hofmann hardly fit the stereotype: she was a white, well-educated, straight divorcée in a monogamous relationship. Worried about the reaction she would get from friends and colleagues, she only revealed her status to her immediate family and to her boyfriends. Four years ago, she began recounting the reactions she got from those she disclosed her status to in an anonymous column for POZ, a health and lifestyle magazine for HIV-positive readers.Six months ago, she stopped writing anonymously and decided to go public—very public—with her status. She became editor in chief of POZ, and made herself the cover girl of the April issue. Now, as POZ editor and member of the board of directors for the National Association of People with AIDS, she is working to spread the message to all Americans about the importance of getting tested. With June...
  • Health: Bitten By the Bug

    At least 20,000 Americans a year are afflicted with Lyme disease, a bacterial infection caused by ticks. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the heart, joints and nervous system. Later this year, the Infectious Diseases Society of America is expected to recommend that doctors prescribe a single dose of antibiotics to people whose tick bites put them at high risk for the disease. Here's how to lessen your odds of getting infected: Insect repellent should contain DEET, which wards off ticks with its smell. Dress in light colors so it's easier to spot ticks. They feed on humans for at least 72 to 96 hours; use tweezers to remove them. "Favorite areas are under the armpits and in your groin," says Dr. Gary Wormser of New York Medical College. If you show symptoms of Lyme--fever, headache, fatigue and a rash at least the size of a half dollar--see a doctor. He'll probably prescribe a two-week course of medication.
  • Microchips: Fido Once Was Lost, But Now He's Found

    A few weeks ago Chelsea, a cavalier King Charles spaniel, escaped from her home. A Wayne, N.J., animal-control officer waved a scanner over a micro-chip embedded in the skin between Chelsea's shoulders--and looked up the address that matched her ID number. "Within minutes they were able to reunite her with us," says her owner, Robert Gordon, a vet who routinely inserts microchips into pets.Microchips aren't new--the technology's been around for two decades--but they've been slow to catch on in the United States. In Europe, one in four pets has been chipped; just 5 percent have in the States. Part of the problem has been that--unlike in Europe and Canada, where the devices use the same frequency--competing U.S. companies keep separate registries and require different scanners. But in July, Bayer HealthCare plans to start selling ResQ, a universal scanner that can read all brands of pet microchips. It's already shipping 20,000 free ones to shelters and pet hospitals nationwide.Some...
  • Health: Can You Really Botox The Blues Away?

    Smooth the brow, brighten the eye ... " the pioneering psychologist William James wrote in 1890, describing a self-help technique for overcoming depression, "and your heart must be frigid indeed if it does not gradually thaw." In James's lifetime there was no easy way to follow this advice because Botox hadn't been invented. But today, smoothing the brow by paralyzing the corrugator supercilii muscles is the work of minutes--or so reasoned Eric Finzi, a dermatologist in Chevy Chase, Md. A few years ago Finzi got the idea of in-jecting botulinum toxin A--the compound marketed as Botox--into the foreheads of patients suffering major clinical depression. According to a paper published last week in the journal Dermatologic Surgery, it helped in nine out of 10 cases--nearly twice the success rate claimed for antidepressants.That's despite the fact that it seems to make no sense. Frowning is an expression of an underlying emotional state. To cure depression by banishing frowning is like...
  • Family: Exhibit A--Bring Kids

    The kids are almost out of school ... and the museums are ready with new exhibits. Some favorites (more at childrensmuseums.org ):^ Chicago Children's Museum ( chichildrens museum.org ). The new "My Museum" exhibit lets kids crawl through a kaleidoscope, paint on oversize 3-D letters and mold faces out of clay.^ Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, in Texas ( fortworthmuseum.org ). Its "Risk!" exhibit, which lets kids lie on a (safe!) bed of nails, is open through the summer.^ Kidzu Children's Museum, in Chapel Hill, N.C. ( kidzuchildrensmuseum.org ). From May 12 to Sept. 10, the three-month-old museum hoststhe traveling exhibit "GoFigure," which teaches kids about math through fivepopular stories.^ Children's Museum of Manhattan ( cmom.org ). The traveling exhibit "Adventures With Clifford the Big Red Dog" is open May 27 to Sept. 5. Woof!
  • Books: The Choice Is Yours

    You're a high-school sophomore who's moved to a new school. Should you hang out with the cool kids--or is that not your scene? What should you wear? What's more embarrassing: riding the bus to school or having Dad drive you? These are the choices you'll make reading "What If ... Everyone Knew Your Name," one of two "What If ... " books soon to be published by Random House. They're inspired by the popular'80s "Choose Your Own Adventure" series by R. A. Montgomery; his stories have been updated and return nationwide to bookstores this week. In July, Lean Forward Media is releasing a DVD, "Choose Your Own Adventure: The Abominable Snowman," with 11 possible plotlines. And next year, HarperCollins will sell an interactive adult novel called "Pretty Little Mistakes." "You can become rich and famous, but you can also end up joining a cult," says the book's editor, Alison Callahan. But not everyone's behind the pro-choice movement: last week net execs at CW passed on the Aaron Spelling...
  • Libraries: Graphic-Novel Idea

    A half century ago, psychologist Frederic Wertham testified to Congress that comic books contributed to juvenile delinquency. "Comics were thought to rot your brain," says David Saylor, creative director of Scholastic Trade Books. That thinking's changed: librarians are stocking shelves with long, bound kid-lit comics (a.k.a. graphic novels), and publishers are giving them plenty to choose from.Librarians and parents like the dialogue by wholesome characters and the fact that these comics can be "a bridge between picture books and chapter books," says Jennifer Holm, who co-writes "Babymouse." (In the last half year, Random House has printed 350,000 copies of the first three "Babymouse" graphic novels; Scholastic has sold 500,000 copies of Jeff Smith's "Bone" books.) Librarians also like that long-form comics may help kids in future careers. "The work force increasingly relies on the marriage of images and text," says Hollis Rudiger of the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the...
  • Pets: What Big Teeth ...

    Every year, 4.7 million people--mostly children--are bitten by dogs, and 150,000 of them are rushed to emergency rooms. With National Dog Bite Prevention Week coming up, here's how to stay safe and scar-free:Teach your kids never to approach an unfamiliar pooch, says Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh of Long Island Plastic Surgical Group in New York, who treated a girl bitten after she jumped in front of a dog. They also shouldn't look a strange dog directly in the eye, run away from it or scream at it.How to treat a minor wound: Cleanse the bite area with soap and water. Then, to stop bleeding, apply pressure with a wet washcloth. Infections are more likely tooccur with dogs that eat fresh meat, because of bacteria, so check out Fido's diet with his owner. Get your bite looked at by a doctor within six hours.If the wound is severe, a plastic surgeon can meet you in the ER to minimize scarring. For a referral, call 888-4-PLASTIC or see plasticsurgery.org . Whether you will get glue or stitches...
  • Viagra: Not Just for Dad

    Aging boomers aren't the only ones using Viagra--college men are, too. In a new anonymous survey of 234 sexually active male students at three college campuses, researchers at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago found that 6 percent have used erectile-dysfunction medications. While about half of the 18- to 25-year-olds said they took Viagra, Cialis or Levitra to treat erectile dysfunction, says researcher Najah Musacchio, others popped the pills because they wanted to "have more sex," "have more fun" or simply "to try it." (For men with normal erections, a drug won't make their erection stronger, though it may shorten the recovery period between sexual bouts.)This could be a dangerous trend. Not only did nearly all the men get their pills without a prescription (the medicine's available online), but 64 percent mixed the meds with alcohol or illicit drugs, such as ecstasy or methamphetamine. Certain illicit drugs can cause blood pressure to plummet when combined with Viagra. The...
  • The War on HPV

    Amelia Togba-Addy, a nurse at Emory Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta, had always been in good health. But last October her gynecologist called with disturbing news: Togba-Addy's latest Pap smear showed abnormal cells on her cervix. First, doctors removed the suspicious tissue and examined it under a microscope--then they diagnosed Togba-Addy with cervical cancer. In January, she had a hysterectomy. "Even though the doctor says she believes I'm cured and my faith tells me I'm cured, there's still a little part of me that worries," says Togba-Addy, 39. "Before all of this, I didn't even think about cervical cancer."Few women ever do. Until the Pap smear was introduced in the 1940s, cervical cancer was the No. 1 cancer killer among women. Since then, routine screenings--which detect damaged cells before they become cancerous--have made enormous strides. Over the past 50 years, deaths in the United States have plummeted by more than 70 percent to less than 5,000 a year. But the disease...
  • Books: For Children, Some New Looks at Past Horrors

    Anne Frank's 1947 "Diary of a Young Girl" is the most famous of its genre, but it's not the only one. With Holocaust Remembrance Day this week, there are dozens of new kid-lit titles about the war's atrocities. While Holocaust books for children aren't exactly new, the sheer number of titles in the past year is. "We may hear from booksellers that there are too many," says Simon & Schuster's Emma Dryden. "On the other hand, we sell them." One reason for the books' success is that schools are snatching them up: 25 state curriculum regulations require the Holocaust to be taught, and 24 others implicitly encourage it. Another reason is that the books are genuinely good. Last year's "Hitler Youth" won a Newbery Honor award and is now in its fifth printing. Kids like the stories, which don't sugarcoat the truth. "Everybody gets to learn about what happened so it won't happen again," says Talia Fishbein, 10, from Highland Park, Ill. That's especially true in "Weedflower" and "Dear Miss...
  • Gender Equality

    Lauren Kennedy was only 9 years old when she snuck her first sip of her dad's whiskey. At 12, she started drinking margaritas with friends. Two years later, she drank so much hard alcohol at a friend's house that she passed out. Despite the blackout, Kennedy, now 21, says she loved the feeling of being drunk. "It made me forget all my worries," she says. But her drinking also led to more worries for her family. After a lifetime on the honor roll, Kennedy says she “stopped caring about school.” She got her first D her sophomore year of high school, dropped out a year later and started experimenting with marijuana and even crystal methamphetamine. "Every time I did [the drugs], I was under the influence of alcohol," she says. "I never thought I'd actually get addicted to them." But she did. Kennedy’s been sober now for two years, but only after spending more than a month at the Betty Ford Center at age 19 to treat her alcohol and drug addiction.Not every young woman who picks up a...
  • The War on HPV

    Amelia Togba-Addy, a nurse at Emory Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta, had always been in good health. But last October her gynecologist called with disturbing news: Togba-Addy's latest Pap smear showed abnormal cells on her cervix. First, doctors removed the suspicious tissue and examined it under a microscope--then they diagnosed Togba-Addy with cervical cancer. In January, she had a hysterectomy. "Even though the doctor says she believes I'm cured and my faith tells me I'm cured, there's still a little part of me that worries," says Togba-Addy, 39. "Before all of this, I didn't even think about cervical cancer."Few American women ever do. Until the Pap smear was introduced in the 1940s, cervical cancer was the No. 1 cancer killer among women. Since then, routine screenings--which detect damaged cells before they become cancerous --have made enormous strides. Over the last 50 years, deaths in the United States have plummeted by more than 70 percent to less than 5,000 a year. But...
  • Adventure: Greener Rooms

    In the spirit of Earth Day, why not stay at an ecofriendly hotel? Some resorts are recycling more, cleaning without bleach or ammonia, using low-flow toilets and replacing mowed grass with native ground cover, among other things. Hotel Triton ( hoteltriton.com ) in San Francisco has 24 rooms with organic cotton towels and energy-saving motion-sensor lights. The Lenox Hotel ( lenoxhotel.com ) in Boston composts its food waste and offers "Eco-chic" weekend packages. To find ecofriendly hotels near you, see ecotourism.org , greenseal.org and the Green Hotel Association's greenhotels.com .
  • This Week Online

    Harvard doctor and author, "the denial of aging": What we need to do is to recognize that we can't necessarily prevent some degree of disability or frailty in old age. But we can try to make sure that old age is as good a time--despite disabilities--as it can be. What's reflected in people trying to change their appearance is that they're responding to a prevailing attitude that says aging is undesirable, bad, something to be avoided. We've got to figure out better places to live, better ways to become engaged with the world. Aging is just a natural part of life. ...
  • Fashion: Corn Clothes

    Corn on the ... bod? This week, at the Biotechnology Industry Organization convention in Chicago, Ford fashion models will strut down a catwalk in dresses by designers like Oscar de la Renta made of fabric produced from corn kernels. Called Ingeo, the material is "thin and comfortable" and "doesn't stretch or rip," says Melissa Sack of Moral Fervor, which is launching an Ingeo T-shirt line. (Armani is putting an Ingeo knit shirt in its spring-summer 2006 collection.) "But the main reason we're using it is it's sustainable." Unlike nylon and polyester (oil-derived synthetics), Ingeo is made from a renewable crop: animal-feed corn, of which U.S. farms produce about 12 billion bushels annually. There are downsides, however. The fabric is machine-washable but can melt if ironed; it costs a bit more than cotton or polyester. Still, corn-derived materials are versatile. Among other uses, they can be made into beer cups, as they are for Minnesota T-Wolves games. If you're tempted to nibble...
  • Health: He's Got Your Eye

    April is national Donate Life month. But in addition to the 91,000 Americans waiting for organs, thousands more need new heart valves, corneas and tendons. Here's how to help: when you sign up as an organ donor, you're usually also signing up as a tissue donor, too. But each state has different laws. Look up your state's at donatelife.net . You can sometimes specify what's off-limits. But "most people want to donate everything," says Dena Reynolds of LifeNet, one of the nation's largest tissue banks. As in organ removal, the body isn't disfigured when you donate tissue, and it can still be displayed in an open casket. Doctors put you on a ventilator to keep your heart beating for the transplant, which typically occurs within 24 hours. If you donate your skin, it's removed from the back--in a small square, about two inches wide--for burn victims. Eyes are used for patients who need corneal transplants --last year 33,000 were completed--because of post-cataract-surgery complications...
  • Beverly Cleary, Age 90

    If you haven't raised a child between the ages of 7 and 11--or been a kid yourself in recent years--you probably don't realize that Beverly Cleary is a phenomenon. One of America's most successful living authors, she's written 39 beloved books since 1950 and sold 91 million copies worldwide--not far behind the "Harry Potter" series, at 120 million. Most remarkable is that all her books have stayed in print. Despite the lure of electronic games, the Internet and ever-more-violent TV, kids today still connect to Cleary's clear-eyed stories of ordinary boys and girls even though she's never updated them with new toys or gadgets--or even removed such arcana as Ellen Tebbits's woolen underwear.But kids haven't really changed, and Cleary has a gently comic gift for getting inside their heads; she knows what gives them bubbles of happiness, as well as those universal feelings of injustice, shame or disappointment. Take Ramona Quimby, her most popular creation, who fights with her bossy big...
  • Case Study

    Published in The New England Journal of Medicine; led by A. John Rush at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. KEY FINDING: About half the patients who take antidepressants for depression do not get better after initial treatment and should try a different medication.While the study does raise questions about the effectiveness of treatments, don't give up right away. Among the patients who improved, about half failed to see benefits until eight to 10 weeks into the study. "The side effects are immediate. The therapeutic benefits take a long time," says Dr. Andrew Leuchter of UCLA, who helped oversee the study. If you still don't notice any results after 14 weeks, ask your doctor for a new medication. ...