Archive

Carrie Fisher's openness about her bipolar disorder motivated me to talk about mine

    Soon after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in my late 20s, I remember looking for stories of people who were living successful lives with the condition. I had been through the trauma of losing touch with reality, a symptom of my illness during manic episodes, and needed to find examples of people who could show me that it got better, that I could find stability. Carrie Fisher was one of the first celebrities I learned also had bipolar disorder, and she had found a way to cope: through writing, performing and talking openly about her mental illness. Her openness was inspiring, refreshing and motivated me to start writing about my illness, too.

    What impressed me the most about the way Fisher spoke about the horrific and unpredictable ups and downs of bipolar disorder, and also her battle with drugs and alcohol, was how she did so without shame. She admitted it took her a long time to get to that point, but once she did there was no looking back. Fisher had pride for her struggle. She turned her "issues" into consumable entertainment in the form of books and plays for which she received rave reviews and awards.

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Carrie Fisher gave new hope to geeky girls like me

    I was devastated by the news of Carrie Fisher's passing. Fisher was so many things: a writer, an actor, a script doctor, an author and one of the funniest women out there. She spoke frankly about her struggle with drugs and mental illness, letting people know it was OK to have flaws. She laughed at her own struggles, tweeting in 2011, "If my life wasn't funny it would just be true and that is unacceptable." Part of what she laughed at was the fame she earned playing Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" films. It was not all she was, but the role she played changed everything for me, and for millions of little girls around the world.

    Back in the 1970s, girls didn't have a lot of strong role models in mainstream entertainment. The women we saw in films and on TV were waiting to be rescued or draped artistically over the hero. They were decoration, or prizes to be won. We read books and fairy tales where the only accomplishment of the lead female was to be lovely enough to catch someone's eye. Even the smart ones were smart only until they found a man.

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Want to visit Mars? Start with a new moon mission

    Fifty years ago, the U.S. had the moon to itself. Starting in 1969, when the first of six Apollo missions touched down, it seemed likely that American astronauts would make a long-term home on the lunar surface. Instead, the U.S. sent its last manned mission there in 1972, and won't be returning anytime soon. That's a shame: The moon is now a more compelling destination than ever.

    Other countries, seeing new scientific and commercial potential there, have started to fill the exploration gap, including China, Russia and Japan. Perhaps the most ambitious effort is the European Space Agency's "moon village," which is intended to be a permanent international outpost on the lunar surface. In recent weeks, the concept has gained considerable momentum as Europe's science ministers and private space companies have embraced it.

    If the U.S. wants to join them, and resume its historic role as the leader in lunar exploration, it'll need a major shift in priorities.

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Year’s End Quiz

    Happy almost New Year! Wow, we’ve been through a lot. Let’s take a look back at 2016 and see how much of the silliness you remember. We’re not going to talk about Hillary. Too sad. But here’s an end-of-the-year quiz about:

 

Republicans We Once Knew

   

    1. It’s been a long year for Chris Christie, but he made history when... 

    A) The National Governors Association voted him “Least Likely to Succeed.”

    B) A Quinnipiac poll in New Jersey showed his job disapproval rating at 77 percent.

    C) He did the tango on “Dancing With the Stars.”

   

    2. Ted Cruz said that when his wife, Heidi, became first lady... 

    A) “She’ll put prayer back in the prayer breakfast.”

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Trump signals a 180-degree turn on China policy

    The U.S.-China relationship is ending 2016 on its most ominous note in years. President-elect Donald Trump has questioned the one-China policy that has been the default American position and angered mainland China by taking a congratulatory call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-Wen. China has reciprocated with barely veiled aggression, adding visible anti-aircraft systems to the artificial islands it has dredged out of the South China Sea and seizing an underwater American drone from under the nose of a U.S. warship.

    The big question for 2017 is whether the two sides will let the relationship unravel further. Will their cool war become more "war" and less "cool"?

    Until now, the rival strategic interests of China and the U.S. have been mitigated by shared economic interests. But economic cooperation can quickly end over disagreements on currency and trade -- reducing the Sino-American relationship to raw, zero-sum geopolitical competition.

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Taking 2016 'literally,' but not all 'seriously'

    Our long wait is over. The time has come to honor the most quotable quotes, in my opinion, from a bizarre political year that many of us wish we could forget.

    I call my award, which includes no prize other than a firm handshake, "the Earl." That's my salute to the late Earl Bush, long-time press secretary to the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley or, in the memories of many Chicagoans, Richard the First.

    Bush is famously remembered for telling reporters: "Don't print what (the mayor) said. Print what he meant."

    Indeed, one of the nation's most powerful politicians sometimes seemed to speak English as though it were his second language.

    Even reading from a prepared text did not save him on one occasion from misreading "plateaus" to declare, "We shall reach greater and greater platitudes of achievement."

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N.D. Democrat tiptoes through Trumpworld

    Like North Dakota's whooping cranes and black-footed ferrets, Heidi Heitkamp is part of an endangered species. Less than two years from now, the first-term Democratic senator will be running for re-election in a state where Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 36 percentage points. Even for a centrist as popular as Heitkamp, that's a mountain to climb.

    Some of the reasons for Trump's lopsided victory in North Dakota are peculiar to him, but others can also be laid at the feet of the Democratic Party. Democratic presidential candidates make little effort to appeal to rural voters, who make up most of North Dakota's population and who care less about transgender bathrooms or Katy Perry than about guns and growing things.

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Donald Trump's pivot through Asia

    President Barack Obama will have to wait until after he leaves office to see if some of his most touted foreign-policy achievements - such as the opening to Cuba and the Iranian nuclear deal - survive his presidency. But even before he exits, it is already obvious that his signature policy in East Asia, the "pivot" or "rebalance," is deader than a dodo. And, no, it's not just resting; it's nailed to the perch.

    China's brazen seizure of a U.S. underwater drone on December 15 in international waters makes that clear. That China handed it back a few days later hardly makes up for this act of thievery without any conceivable legal justification, given that the area in the South China Sea where the drone was taken is outside even the fanciful limits claimed by Beijing in its "nine-dash line." Unless this was an insubordinate act of a lowly naval captain (which no one in Beijing has suggested), it was a message that China can do what it wants in the Western Pacific and the United States can't stop it.

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America's concern for the poor is about to be tested

    Poor Americans are facing the gravest threat to the federal safety net in decades as President-elect Donald Trump takes office accompanied by a Republican-controlled Congress.

    The risks to essential benefits for tens of millions of low- and moderate- income Americans include losing coverage extended to them by the Affordable Care Act, threats to the fundamental structure of the Medicaid health- insurance program for the poor and further reduction of already squeezed funding for scores of other important programs serving the most vulnerable Americans.

    First, Republicans are expected to seek significant cuts in what's known as non-defense discretionary spending, which includes many important programs for low- and moderate-income people, such as rental vouchers for low-income families, programs to fight homelessness, job training, funding for poor school districts, Head Start for young children and Pell grants to help low-income students afford college.

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December 30th

America owes its working class, yes. But the working class has duties, too.

    Members of the working class are not solely the victims of economic change and inadequate public policy. They themselves bear some of the responsibility for the frustration and anger they feel. They have agency. The degree to which our public conversation after the election has implicitly denied this basic fact has been concerning.

    As a culture, we feel more comfortable discussing what we want than what we owe. This is generally true. Applied to this specific situation, we want working-class Americans to lead flourishing lives that include meaningful employment, and society as a whole has a moral obligation to work toward making this the case. But working-class Americans have duties as well.

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