Wednesday, 22 June 2011

With so much bad news out there, this brought a smile to my face...

June 21, 2011
After 3,000, Even Dirt Will Sell
Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit will be a cause for celebration, marketing and — not least of all — digging up dirt.

After the game, a groundskeeper will tote a shovel and bucket onto the field to scoop five gallons of dirt from the batter’s box and shortstop’s patch. In baseball’s version of preserving the chain of evidence, the bucket will be sealed with tape and verified as the dirt beneath Jeter’s feet with tamper-proof holograms.

“It will be scooped in our presence,” said Cosmo Lubrano, an authenticator for Major League Baseball who would prove the dirt’s veracity if the 3,000th hit occurs at Yankee Stadium as he follows a bucket-carrying groundskeeper, probably Dan Cunningham. “We’re there as a witness.”

The dirt — from Yankee Stadium if all goes perfectly, but from some ballpark, perhaps Citi Field July 1 to 3 — will find its way into a vast and lucrative universe of celebrity memorabilia and collectibles, much of it orchestrated by a company named Steiner Sports. Tablespoonfuls of the dirt will be poured into capsules to dangle on key chains; ladled into disks to be framed with photographs of the hit (in what is called a dirt collage); and glued into the interlocking NY carved into commemorative bats.

“That bucket of dirt will go a long way,” said Brandon Steiner, the chairman of Steiner Sports, who has a memorabilia partnership with the Yankees and a marketing deal with Jeter.

The selling of Jeter’s historic hit — he is six short of 3,000 as he waits to heal from a calf strain — actually has its own campaign name: “DJ 3K,” and a logo that will appear on much of the merchandise capitalizing on his achievement. It is quite a list: T-shirts, caps, jerseys, bobbleheads, decals, cellphone skins, wall murals, patches, bats, balls, license plates and necklaces made by two dozen M.L.B. licensees.

Modell’s, the venerable New York sports goods chain, is not going to miss out. The chain’s Times Square location will stay open past its midnight or 1 a.m. closing time as long as fans keep shopping on the day or night of the accomplishment.

”We’re locked and loaded,” said Mitchell Modell, the chief executive of Modell’s.

The ingenious and sometimes crass rush to cash in on sports achievements is hardly new, whether it focuses on championship teams or great players. Each new chapter, however, adds some new flourish in the grab for nostalgia dollars, whether in the form of a new product or a different commercial approach.

The so-called “hot market” for Jeter’s 3,000th hit — the player’s equivalent of a World Series championship — will test his sky-high popularity during a season in which he is batting .260.

“I’ve been here for 13 years,” said Howard Smith, the senior vice president for licensing of Major League Baseball. “And other than the home run race in 1998, this is the most significant business we’ve done for a hot market for a player.”

Warehouses of some of the biggest licensees, like Majestic and New Era, which are accustomed to supplying stores with World Series merchandise, are ready to deliver their Jeter material to retailers. Modell’s distribution center in the Bronx is preparing to ship to its 94 New York and New Jersey stores.

“Between the New York market and how revered Jeter is, it’s going to be a huge event,” said Michael Johnson, a spokesman for Majestic, which is producing an array of jerseys and T-shirts.

And already, John Killen, the president of Wincraft, one of the 24 licensees, said he has booked substantial business for his Jeter flags, lanyards, pennants, travel mugs, pins and magnets.

“Short of someone of Jeter’s caliber retiring, you won’t get an event bigger than this,” he said.

And, Jeter will get a cut of some of it. For all the licensed products sold by the likes of Rawlings, Nike, Majestic, Louisville Slugger, Fathead and New Era, he will share royalties with M.L.B. and the players’ union; he will also share in the sale of products sold under his deal with Steiner Sports. Already, he has designated proceeds from the sale of a silicone bracelet to benefit his Turn 2 Foundation.

Everything Jeter touches or wears as he pursues his 3,000th hit carries value. So will the bases he steps on. In deciding what to provide for sale, Jeter controls his cleats, wristbands, bats and batting gloves. The Yankees control what they provide to him, like his uniform, warm-up jackets, and caps, as well as the dirt, the bases and the pitching rubber.

And Steiner, through his deals with the Yankees and Jeter, can sell whatever he gets.

Jeter will probably ask to keep things — perhaps the most valuable items like the 3,000th hit ball — for himself.

“When the time comes,” said the Yankees’ president, Randy Levine, “we’ll sit down with Derek and his representatives and reach a mutual accommodation that’s good for everybody.”

Steiner said that he has already collected the jersey, batting gloves and cleats Jeter wore when he got his 2,994th hit on June 13; Steiner expects to get those items, and his cap, for every hit through 3,000. The dirt and bases (which could be switched every inning) will be added to the bounty only for hit No. 3,000.

Jeter is not likely to provide an extra bonanza by changing into a new game-perspired jersey every inning.

“That wouldn’t be Jeter-like,” Steiner said. “He’d never wear 10 jerseys in a game. Maybe two.”

Steiner also plans to sell the official lineup card, and replicas of it, and package fans’ ticket stubs into collectibles. He also hopes to develop photographs of the hit at Yankee Stadium to sell before fans leave.

“This won’t be the circus coming to town,” Steiner said.

Smith, the M.L.B. executive, said Jeter approached the marketing with some trepidation, fearing that it might seem all too much. Smith said that during a recent meeting with Jeter and his agent, Casey Close, “I explained how appropriate it was for us to market these products. And Derek is like, ’I don’t want to take the limelight’; he felt weird about it. I said, ’It’s appropriate to be recognized; you’re a generational athlete.’ “

Jeter’s return is scheduled for June 29, when the Yankees play the second game of a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at home, followed by trips to Flushing and Cleveland, before returning home to play Tampa Bay ahead of the All-Star Game.

“We have to be ready,” said Lubrano, the Yankee Stadium authenticator. “He could go 5 for 5.”

Thursday, 16 June 2011

How is this possible in the 21st Century?

ELEANOR HALL: Afghanistan has topped the list in a poll of the most dangerous countries in the world for women.

The international legal aid centre TrustLaw surveyed more than 200 gender experts.

And the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch says she was surprised by the appearance of India high on the list as Sarah Dingle reports

SARAH DINGLE: No nation would want to be top of this list.

The TrustLaw poll found that Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world but some of the lowest opportunities for women to access education or healthcare.

One judge said the lack of hope that the situation would improve meant Afghan women faced an even worse situation than women in other troubled nations.

Linda Bartolomei is from the Centre for Refugee Research at the University of New South Wales.

LINDA BARTOLOMEI: Women from Afghanistan along with their families have been fleeing as refugees very topically to Australia for many years. So tragically I am not particularly surprised.

SARAH DINGLE: Ms Bartolomei says she's worked with female Afghan refugees in Australia and overseas.

Recently she visited a large community of Afghan refugee women in New Delhi, India, a country which also features on the list for its rates of human trafficking and female infanticide.

LINDA BARTOLOMEI: The stories they shared of rape and sexual abuse in Afghanistan, of the denial of women's rights were really quite horrifying.

SARAH DINGLE: Coming in a close second to Afghanistan is the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC.

TrustLaw's 213 gender experts including aid workers, health professionals and journalists, said the ranking was mainly due to staggering levels of sexual violence in the country's east.

Last month one of the authors of a study into this issue found that on average four women were raped in the DRC every five minutes.

Linda Bartolomei says these numbers are horrifying.

LINDA BARTOLOMEI: We worked in a refugee camp in Africa where there are a number of women from Congo.

And I do now remember being deeply moved by an account of a woman who was parenting not only her own large numbers of children but also the child of one of her daughters which was a child of rape in Congo.

And in discussion with that family I came to learn that this was actually something that was very common.

SARAH DINGLE: Pakistan and India were ranked the third and fourth most dangerous countries in the world for women respectively.

The South Asia director of Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly says at first she was taken aback

MEENAKSHI GANGULY: They were looking at women at risk which is just survival risk. Now as soon as you consider survival you will look at South Asia and you realise that the child, the girl child is at risk every stage of her life because she is just not as valued as her brother is.

SARAH DINGLE: Meenakshi Ganguly says there's also been a recent spate of honour killings against women in India as arranged marriages become less common.

MEENAKSHI GANGULY: The truth is that as India advances and as women step out they do find their own partners and those partners are not often popular with their relatives. And in an effort to dissuade them there have been attacks on both women and men who have married out of choice.

This is a new phenomenon. This is sort of almost like the cost of progress.

SARAH DINGLE: She says globally attitudes towards women have to improve. But also people who violate the law have to be seen to be brought to justice.

ELEANOR HALL: Sarah Dingle reporting.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

being a parent is tough, anyway you come at it.

Warnings and tips for stepparents

(CNN) -- I marvel at how many people live in blended families and how well they seem to manage.

Forty percent of Americans have at least one steprelative in their family, either a stepparent, a stepsibling or half sibling, or a stepchild, according to the Pew Research Center.

My husband grew up in a blended family, with steps and fulls and halfs. He had a very close relationship with his late stepfather and even has a friendly relationship with an ex-stepmother.

We have a big trip planned this summer with the all the siblings, three full and three steps. Sometimes I feel like an anomaly. I live in, and grew up in, a nuclear family. My husband and I have been married for 13 years. My parents have been married for more than 50.

Stepparenting includes emotional minefields

Knowing how hard parenting is in a traditional family, I couldn't help but wonder what additional issues stepparents face along the way? And how do they manage to forge meaningful relationships with their stepchildren? I decided to interview some stepparents to find out.

I found that the parents willing to share had many similar insights, even if they may have used their words cautiously. I also spoke with some experts on the subject.

The biggest challenge to the majority of the stepparents I interviewed was the ambiguity about their role in terms of discipline.

Vicki Peet, stepmother of two, described a "feeling of uncertainty" in dealing with her stepdaughters, particularly in challenging situations.

The plight of stepmoms on Mother's Day

Dave Larmore, a stepfather to two boys, noted that "trying to figure out where out where you fit in, in terms of discipline, is the hardest part."

Matt Olmstead, stepfather of three, agreed that "the hardest part is discipline." In his case, his stepchildren have a very active and devoted father, so he said, in terms of discipline, he "wants to be respectful of that other parent."

Mark Haffenreffer, stepfather of two, also told me that the hardest part for him was, "learning to discipline in a way that was acceptable to everybody."

Stepparents have "a lot of responsibility but none of the authority," says Jenna Korf, a stepparenting coach and writer for the website,, which is devoted to stepparenting with the focus on the stepmom/ biological mom relationship. She added that, "a great deal of the challenge and stress that is experienced in blended families is due to the dynamic between families."

Psychologist Dr. Sally Howard of South Pasadena, California, is a stepparent and a psychologist who leads workshops on stepparenting.

"Very often, the stepparent feels like an outsider to the position of the biological parent, who is the insider with the child," she said.

Peet shared a similar sentiment, saying that she sometimes felt it was "three and one," (her husband and his two kids -- and then her.) Even now that Peet has two kids with her husband, she added, "sometimes, I still feel separate, that it is the three of us (she and her two kids) and her husband and his children.

Howard describes stepparenting as a multistaged process. In the beginning, there is "a fantasy stage where the new couple dreams of a new and unified family," she said. "The kids often dream of getting the old family back together."

Stage two, she said, "is often one of culture shock" as "there are two distinct family systems and cultures being lived in a very intimate space." She recommends "maintaining a sense of curiosity, and attempting to put words to feelings instead of going into blame." She also added, "patience is important."

The following stages involve experimentation and "trying things that are different, and using understanding to create a stepfamily culture."

The honeymoon stage arrives "when there is more intimacy, authenticity and spouses have a team problem solving ability. There is a new sense of "this is the way we do things." She added that the entire process can take four to seven years.

Howard said she has found stepparenting to be "humbling."

"I grew up in a stepfamily. Both my husband and I are mental health providers. I imagined stepparenting would be smoother for us than it was," she said.

So patience and self-compassion seem to be important elements in this multifaceted process, but what other nuggets of wisdom could be learned from these modern families? What one piece of advice would these stepparents pass on to new stepparents, especially in light that all of them seemed to have forged loving, meaningful relationships with their stepchildren?

I found it interesting how many of them said the same thing: "Let your stepchildren come to you," Peet said. Korf's statement mirrored that, "let [the relationship] evolve naturally."

Larmore advised: "Don't be too heavy handed, and take (your stepchildren) on their own terms."

Haffenreffer agreed, "Don't be overly zealous, let them come to you."

Olmstead said, "Don't overthink it."

Tiffany Payne, stepmother of one, added, "Keep your focus on what's best for the child, and don't let the grown-up nonsense get in the way."

Dawn Olmstead, who has one stepdaughter, said, "Think of yourself as a champion. You're not there to replace anyone, but to champion their feelings, and sense of security."

Korf suggested that stepparents seek community. "Support is out there. It is not always easy to find, but it is there, and people who are not stepparents are not really going to understand."

"Becoming a Stepfamily" by Patricia Papernow has been an invaluable resource to Howard and her patients.

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