March 17th, 2012
The HUFFington Post / Lisa Belkin
Again, Media OUT OF TOUCH with reality.
Huggies is sorry. Very very very sorry.
So sorry, that it rushed representatives down to Austin this weekend to apologize, repeatedly, to 200-plus Dad bloggers gathered at their first ever convention, called Dad 2.0.
The company thought it had a winner of an ad campaign -- a series of spots all filmed during five days spent in a house with real dads and their babies. "To prove that Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything," the female voice-over explains, "we put them to the toughest test imaginable -- Dads."
The marketers at Kimberly-Clark, which owns Huggies, figured it was a combination that couldn't miss. It showed fathers parenting! It included adorable babies! It was light-hearted and fun, what with those poor hapless dads responsible for their own children for five whole days!
After all, marketers knew, men behaving like actual parents is the "new" thing in advertising (I use the quotation marks because we have seen waves of this before, so perhaps we should say it's the latest rediscovery of a new thing.) Clorox shows cool Dads making a wildly fun mess with the kids and then, quite matter of factly, doing the laundry. Apple shows a brand new Dad shattered that the hundreds of photos of his baby's life are lost when he loses his iPhone, only to remember that they are in the cloud. Jetta chronicles a boy growing into a man, replacing backpack with baby carrier, and evolving from asking "Is it fast?" to "Is it safe?" Microsoft's ad has Dad grocery shopping while his giggling kids are back home remotely adding items like candy and chocolate cake to his list.
Embracing this trend -- Dads doing Mom stuff! -- Huggies figured they would charm women (who purchase 75 percent of all diapers) and possibly convert a few men (who buy five percent; the other 20 percent are joint purchases.) What they didn't take into account, however, was another trend -- the one where the growing number of men who consider themselves involved, equal parents (according to the US Census, one in three are their child's primary caregiver) are more than a little sensitive about being portrayed a the butt of an advertiser's joke.
Which is how more than a few men interpreted the Huggies series of ads, particularly the one in which the fathers are so involved watching TV sports that they appear to ignore their babies' overflowing diapers. The addition of an invitation to Moms on the brand's Facebook page, suggesting that they "Nominate a Dad ... Hand him some diapers & wipes and watch the fun ... Tell us how it went on Facebook!" certainly amplified the impression that Dads were being mocked.
The reaction was swift. Taking a page from the mothers who rose up against a Motrin ad a few years ago that some saw as insulting to "baby-wearing parents", fathers (and a few mothers) filled the Huggies Facebook Wall with complaints. "Thanks for contributing to the perception that fathers are incompetent parents who let babies lay around in their own waste until they can be rescued, was one typical comment. Another: "The narrow view of gender roles...hurts dads AND moms. We should all be free to fill our family roles in the way that makes sense based on our skills and interests, not on some antiquated, stereotypical gender binary."
Soon, there was a petition. Created by Chris Routly, a father from Breiningsville, PA, it was titled "We're Dads, Huggies. Not Dummies." And it said:
Why is a dad on diaper duty an appropriate or meaningful test of the product in any way a mom using them is not? Why reduce dads to being little more than test dummy parents, putting diapers and wipes through a "worst-case scenario" crash course of misuse and abuse? Is that what HUGGIES thinks dads do? We leave our children in overflowing diapers because sports is more important to us? Really?
These HUGGIES ads literally use the line "Dads push diapers and wipes to the limit." No, HUGGIES, dads don't do that. Poor manufacturing does that. A large bottle before naptime does that. Feeding your kid too much fiber does that. Babies do that. But dads don't use diapers and wipes any differently than moms.
And there were more than a few suggestions of what Huggies could do with their series of ads. Jim HIgley wrote on the blog of The Good Men Project:
Swap out a couple of those chairs with moms. So you've got a room full of moms and dads (collectively, we call them "Parents.") ... Get over the gender thing, will ya, Huggies? Because, as best as I can tell from all the comments you're ignoring on Facebook, most of us parents have been over the gender thing for years.
Huggies did not take all that advice. What it did was pull one of the series -- the one with the men watching sports. (I can't show it to you because the company may not be perfect at reading its intended customer, but it is dynamite at scrubbing all links from the internet.) It replaced that one with this, a spot about babies napping happily on their dads' chests, though, for the moment at least, it carries the same "dads...put diapers to the test" message.
That tagline will change soon, promises Aric Melzl, the brand director for Huggies, who rushed from Wisconsin to appear at the conference, where the snowballing Dad-blog movement was gathered in one place.
Huggies loves and respects fathers, he assured me during a day spent mending fences and smoothing feathers with any blogger who would listen. This ad campaign was meant to be a "celebration" of Dads who ably care for kids, he said, but "clearly our intent wasn't coming through." Himself the father of three children, ages 9, 8 and 5, he knows first hand that "dads are doing that more and more, and we thought this was a great way to shine a light on that," he said. "But that doesn't seem to have been the takeaway for many dads."
And what was the takeaway for the company?
"That the social media space is a great way to get immediate feedback," he said.
Why all this effort, I asked him. After all, by the company's measure, men really don't buy all that many diapers. Is it because they are an untapped potential market? Because they are newly vocal and empowered? Because the reality of this new media age is that you have to respond to every fire with conviction?
Not really, Melzl said. Huggies is reponding to unhappy men, because those men have the ear of women. "All of this," the initial campaign, the full-on response, is targeted at moms," he said. "I don't want there to be any question about who we we're going after."
I suspect all those rankled fathers will be unhappy to hear that.
March 17th, 2012
The New York Times / By JACK HEALY
BAGHDAD — An American man who said he had been kidnapped nine months ago by Iraqi militants was handed over to United States officials in Baghdad on Saturday night in a bizarre and murky series of events that caught diplomats here by surprise.
Speaking at a news conference in Baghdad, the camouflage-clad American, identified as Rand Hultz, said he was a former soldier who had returned to Iraq as a civilian contractor before being kidnapped last June by a Shiite paramilitary group loyal to the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr. He said he had been shuffled from house to house around Baghdad before his release on Saturday.
“It was explained to me that this is a gift to me, my family and the American people who opposed the war,” Mr. Hultz said in a stilted, sometimes halting deadpan during the news conference. “Without a doubt I and my family thank Saeed Moktada al-Sadr.”
At the news conference, Sadrist politicians called the American’s release a demonstration of the “humanitarian and moral standards of the Iraqi Islamic resistance” meant to cultivate good will after the American military’s withdrawal from Iraq.
They said there had been no negotiations with the Americans — Mr. Hultz was released to United Nations officials, who then turned him over to the Americans.
Officials at the United States Embassy were scrambling on Saturday night to understand what had happened. They said they had no records of any American citizen still considered missing in Iraq, and some learned of his resurfacing from news reports. The State Department confirmed that the United Nations had transferred an American citizen to the embassy in Baghdad, but cited privacy laws that prevented them from releasing his name, or any details about him, without his consent.
Americans face a near constant risk of kidnapping in Iraq, both inside and outside the protected International Zone where diplomats work and live.
Although American officials would not confirm details of Mr. Hultz’s background, information found online suggests he is a former Army sergeant who served in Iraq in 2004 and was lured back by the promise of wealth in a country that has attracted its share of adventurous investors.
Mr. Hultz’s ex-wife, Kendra Hultz, said in a telephone interview that she knew Mr. Hultz had been in Iraq, but that she and their daughter and son had little contact with him and did not know what he had been doing in Baghdad. “He just disappeared,” she said.
In May 2008, an NPR report about Western entrepreneurs in Iraq featured Mr. Hultz, who said he had returned to Baghdad to help oversee investments for a venture called the Iraq Fund. He described real estate deals, the feeling of ferrying bags of cash in the streets and a few of the challenges facing Iraq’s economy.
In 2004, a military public affairs article about life in Iraq’s war-torn south described Sgt. Rand Hultz as a former National Guard officer who signed up for active duty after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In the article, Sergeant Hultz talked about the bonds that form during a long deployment.
“It’s funny,” Sergeant Hultz was quoted as saying. “The more we hate each other, the closer we move together.”
March 17th, 2012
Police and organizers shut down proceedings at one of Missouri’s largest caucuses today, as Ron Paul supporters feuded with local GOP leaders.
“It’s like the Hatfields and the McCoys around here,” St. Charles County’s former GOP chairman told ABC News, after police arrived on-scene with a helicopter and removed Paul backers.
In St. Charles, an exurb of St. Louis and one of the state’s largest GOP counties, Paul supporters sought to elect their own chairman and adopt their own rules when proceedings opened — both of which are part of standard caucus rules and procedure. But as they argued with the caucus chair, Paul supporters held video cameras — against caucus rules, according to a GOP official who was there — and things became contentious.
“It turned into a little food fight within the caucus, between the caucus chairman trying to control the caucus and certain elements, I guess with Ron Paul, trying to be heard,” said Tom Kipers, a former chairman of the St. Charles GOP, who attended the caucus at Francis Howell North High School.
An off-duty police officer, hired as security, eventually filed a trespassing complaint against the Paul supporters and notified on-duty police in the area municipality of St. Peters, who, along with police from other jurisdictions, arrested two Paul supporters and ended the caucuses early. A joint-jurisdictional police helicopter arrived on the scene. Kipers said about 10 officers arrived in total.
“Two people were arrested for trespassing after receiving numerous warnings to leave the school property,” the St. Peters police said in a press release. “Both subjects were transported to St. Peters Justice Center where they were booked for Trespassing and released on a summons.”
The St. Peters police identified the Paul supporters as Brent Safford, 45, of O’Fallon, Mo., and Kenneth Suitter, 55, of St. Charles.
Caucus business never really got started. The St. Charles GOP said in an official statement that it still plans to send delegates to the congressional-district and state conventions, but none were elected at the caucus on Saturday.
Saturday’s episode was a near repeat of 2008, when Paul backers succeeded in overwhelming other factions at the St. Charles caucus, according to Kipers. Their elected delegates were subsequently tossed from the congressional-district convention for being verifiable Libertarians (by primary voter rolls) and not Republicans, although Missouri has no voter registration by party.
At the state convention, in a spirit of reconciliation according to Kipers, they were reinstated and the officials who had barred them were themselves barred for having done so.
“Did I expect this to happen? Kind of,” Kipers said of Saturday’s episode. “That’s why we hired … policemen.”
It’s too early to tell which candidate performed best, and the Missouri GOP said anecdotal evidence indicates that very few counties chose to “bind” their delegates to any particular candidate.
The county caucuses are Missouri’s main event in the 2012 primary season. There will be no traditional “winner”: caucusers did not vote on presidential candidates, even in a “straw-poll” or “beauty-contest” sense, as in Iowa. Instead, caucusers chose first-tier delegates to Missouri’s congressional-district and state conventions, who will then elect and allocate 49 of the state’s 52 national delegates.
Rick Santorum won the state’s nonbinding Feb. 7 primary, 55 percent to Mitt Romney’s 25 percent. Newt Gingrich was not on the ballot, having made no attempt to qualify. The state party tried to cancel that event after a complex intra-state political saga.
Santorum supporters prevailed in Chesterfield, one of the largest caucus sites in St. Louis County, the only Missouri county holding multiple caucuses. Attendees elected slates of first-tier delegates who support Santorum, according to a local GOP official.
Paul supporters, meanwhile prevailed in Boone, a mid-sized county that encompasses Columbia and the University of Missouri. The county elected a slate of 48 Paul-supporting delegates and five who back Romney, the local GOP chairman said.
Paul supporters and local officials get along well in Boone, chairman Bruce Cornett said, although one 75-year-old county GOP member referred to them as “loud” and “obnoxious” at Saturday’s event.
The caucuses won’t end until next week. Nearly all the caucuses took place today, but Jackson County, which encompasses Kansas City and is one of Missouri’s largest counties by GOP votes, will not caucus until March 24.
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March 17th, 2012
Henryville, Indiana (CNN) -- Standing side-by-side behind the front window of their home, Lenora Hunter and her husband, Wayne, shot videos of the powerful tornado barreling toward this southern Indiana town.
The images and sound of the couple talking with each other have taken on a decidedly tragic air since the March 2 EF4 twister -- with sustained winds of between 166 mph and 200 mph -- moved through Clark County.
"It was my last time with him," Lenora Hunter told CNN.
Wayne Hunter, 62, did not survive the storm. He was among 39 killed, 13 of them in Indiana, by a powerful Midwest and Southern storm system.
Amazingly, the Hunters' cameras survived the powerful winds that flattened their home. Lenora Hunter shared the dramatic footage publicly for the first time with CNN.
"I always wanted to see a tornado, but not like that. That was huge, huge," she said.
Wayne wasn't particularly a fan of storms, but Lenora, 59, was.
"We watched 'Twister' (the movie) quite a bit," she said. "I could quote practically all of it."
But this twister was the real thing.
The Hunters, married 41 years, are heard on the video describing the tornado heading their way. Lenora Hunter says it wasn't clear at first that it would stay on course toward their home.
Then things changed.
"It looks like it's heading right toward us," Wayne Hunter is heard telling his wife.
"Maybe we should get away from the window," she replies.
Her husband utters an expletive under his breath and laughs nervously as they describe the tornado's funnel changing colors and picking up more debris.
"We'll need to close the window. I've got to close the door," Lenora Hunter says.
"Oh my gosh," she says breathlessly.
The tape on her camera then cuts off.
At that point, Hunter said, the couple ran to the center of their single-story home, which had no basement. "It was time."
Her husband grabbed his wallet and she grabbed her purse. "They're going to know who I am," she recalled thinking.
"I was still cracking jokes. We were going to be OK. I kept telling him we'll be fine."
"We hunkered down. Put the blanket over us. We had arms around each other," Lenora Hunter said Friday, her voice breaking, as she showed CNN how the couple crouched and held each other tightly.
"He said 'I love you.' I said, 'I love you, too.'"
They were the couple's last words to each other.
Lenora Hunter describes hearing a roar and her ears popping. Then she blacked out. "I remember waking up and yelling, screaming, 'Help us!'" she said.
"I mean my whole body, it was like I was just crushed. And I couldn't see anything," says Hunter.
Neighbors Cole Belcher and Michael Sipe heard sounds like a baby crying. They found Lenora Hunter.
"All you could see was her head and a bunch of blood," said Belcher. The woman was badly bruised, but suffered no broken bones.
"We just knew we needed to get her out of there somehow," Sipe said.
But, first, they found Wayne Hunter.
He was lying next to his wife, covered by a refrigerator.
"I remember shaking his arm saying, 'Wayne, Wayne,' and he never responded," Belcher said.
'I said, 'Is he (Wayne) OK?," Lenora Hunter recalled. "He (Belcher) said, 'No, ma'am,' which was the perfect answer, because I wouldn't have wanted someone to say, 'Well, I think he'll be OK.' I saw him. And I knew."
As softball-sized hail landed, Sipe took Lenora Hunter by the hand, covered her head with a roasting pan, and led her to safety.
While sitting on the concrete steps that used to lead to her front door, Hunter cried softly as she recalled another section of their final home videos.
On the tape, Lenora initially sounds excited as the tornado approaches.
"I have never seen one. I finally get to see one," she tells Wayne.
"Maybe the last one I see," she tells him. Wayne laughs and replies, "That's true."
As she recalled those recorded words, Lenora buried her head in her hands and cried. "It was. It was for Wayne."
Wayne Hunter, a retired emergency room nurse, served in the Army and was stationed in Korea during the Vietnam War, according to his son, Rodney.
Wayne's widow intends to rebuild in the same spot where their home once stood and where the couple planned to enjoy the rest of their retirement. The residence will include a basement.
"This is our home. And it will be my home forever," Lenora Hunter told CNN.
She has the support of her two grown children and grandchildren -- and says her faith will pull her through.
"I will make it. Sometimes it's hard, but I'm going to be OK."
Lenora Hunter dabs her eyes. "I'm gonna miss him. A whole lot."
CNN Photojournalist Jung Park contributed to the story.
March 17th, 2012
NEW YORK — Oprah Winfrey's OWN network is pulling the curtain on "The Rosie Show" after five months on the air.
The show premiered in October to about 500,000 viewers but lost about half that audience within days of its debut.
Recently, it changed the format from taping before a studio audience to a one-on-one interview setting with celebrities such as Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler and former Illinois first lady Patti Blagojevich.
In a statement released by OWN, Winfrey thanked O'Donnell. She called O'Donnell "an incredible partner" who worked to put on the best show "every single day."
O'Donnell also was quoted as saying she loved working with Winfrey and in Chicago and "wished" the show had better ratings.
The final episode will air March 30.
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