- Dan Kloeffler and Mary-Rose Abraham at Newsmakers1 day ago
Katy Perry does not live in a bubble.
Despite having an army of more than 48 million Twitter followers, loads of music awards, and the constant heat of the spotlight, a four-day trip to Madagascar burst any kind of illusion that was surrounding her.
“The experience still continues to change me and reshape my thinking,” said Perry. “Everyone should take this kind of trip. It popped my bubble for sure.”
On Tuesday, UNICEF appointed her a Goodwill Ambassador, joining the elite but humble ranks of David Beckham, Susan Sarandon and Orlando Bloom. On behalf of the United Nation’s children’s agency, Perry will make additional trips to underdeveloped parts of the world, where she would like to focus attention on children with disabilities.
During her April visit to Madagascar, she visited some of the island nation’s most remote areas. Perry met young children who had never heard her infectious hits like “Teenage Dream” or “Roar,” songs that have earned Perry a consistent spot at the top of the charts.
“When I’m in the field with UNICEF, no one is my fan. They don’t even know who I am. They just see a person coming to help them, to spread the love and joy that UNICEF has.”
- Bob Woodruff and Michael Mendelsohn at Newsmakers10 days ago
When four-star general Peter Chiarelli took up the post as the U.S. Army's vice chief of staff in 2008, it quickly dawned on him that his most difficult challenge would be to reduce the rate at which soldiers were committing suicide.
Two years into Chiarelli's tenure, more military personnel were dying at their own hands than were dying in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. The fact that combat deaths were subsiding might have been celebrated if only it didn't call attention to the problem of returning soldiers nursing psychological traumas that were not being sufficiently treated.
Enter Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Finkel, whose new book, "Thank You for Your Service," chronicles the lives of soldiers returning to America after months and years of conflict, or — just as life-altering — the all-consuming threat of conflict.
Regarding his choice of an ironic title, Finkel says of veterans, "Everyone wants to buy them a drink. Everyone wants to clap them on their back. Everyone wants to say, 'Thank you for your service.' They don't question whether such sentiment is genuine.
- ABC News at Newsmakers12 days ago
On the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, President Obama said that although the tragedy transformed the U.S. Secret Service, which protects him and his family today, he doesn't spend much time worrying about his personal safety.
"It's not something I think about," Obama told ABC News' Barbara Walters in an interview today. "Mainly because we have a Secret Service that does an outstanding job every single day."
"And, obviously, tragedy reshaped the Secret Service in many ways, but they do an outstanding job and it's thankfully not something I spend a lot of time worrying about," he added.
Obama also reflected on JFK's untimely death, which came nearly three years into his presidency, and its lasting impact on the country.
"And it's been an incredible legacy but JFK in particular, I think, captured the idealism, the ability to imagine and remake America to meets its ideals, in a way we haven't seen before or since," Obama said.
"And I don't know of anyone who has had that same impact on a generation and inspired so many people as JFK has," he added.
- Paula Faris at Newsmakers12 days ago
It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but this holiday season it is an all-out war for business as retailers offer their most competitive prices on electronics in years.
“It’s like a civil war for electronics,” said Mark Ellwood, author of “How to Shop in a Discounted World.” “It’s bloody brutal and they’re going to be a lot of casualties.”
The reason behind the cut-throat competition: This year’s holiday shopping season is 26 days long, down from 32 in 2012.
Retailers are trying to lure customers into their stores first by offering ridiculously low prices on flat-screen TVs, hoping buyers leave with much more.
Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly told ABC News that his store was offering students a free year of Sprint service with the purchase of a smartphone.
“We’re price competitive and our strategy is to be price competitive,” he said. “What’s happening? It’s almost Black Friday every day.”
According to Nielsen, the average family has three TVs. Walmart has ordered 65 percent more televisions and twice as many tablets for Black Friday as in 2012 and it plans to slash prices. One flat-screen TV is being sold for $98 while an iPad mini comes with a $100 gift card.
- Jeff Zeleny at Newsmakers13 days ago
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor leveled sharp criticism today at the Obama administration for its handling of the Iranian nuclear talks, declaring in an interview: “Our strategy with Iran should be distrust and verify.”
“I think the policy is very naïve,” Cantor told ABC News. “To try and go strike a deal for a deal’s sake could jeopardize U.S. security interests.”
With fresh negotiations underway in Geneva between the United States and five other world powers, Cantor raised skepticism of an emerging deal that calls for relaxing economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran agreeing to halt the development of its nuclear program.
Cantor, a Virginia Republican, also said the Obama administration had not spoken out forcefully enough to condemn the comments of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who described Israel as “the rabid dog of the region.”
“The information that I'm hearing out of Geneva is very startling to me,” Cantor said, particularly noting the supreme leader’s comments about Israel.
- Aditi Roy and Mary-Rose Abraham at Newsmakers13 days ago
Roy Choi credits two events as turning points in his life.
The Los Angeles-based chef, best known for his gourmet taco truck, Kogi BBQ, traveled a bumpy road to his culinary career. In his mid-20s, poor decisions and “a lot of addictions” burned pretty much every bridge. Then, one day, he was lying on the couch watching “Essence of Emeril” on TV, featuring chef Emeril Lagasse.
“It was one of those epiphany moments,” Roy, 43, recalled. “I felt he was talking to me. I didn’t have a purpose in life. I didn’t have a way to channel what I was feeling inside. The moment I saw that show, I felt like this is something I want to do.”
The epiphany is one moment he writes about in his new book -- part memoir, part cookbook -- called “L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food.” Long after that transformative moment in front of the television propelled him to the Culinary Institute of America and a series of restaurant jobs, including one at New York’s famed Le Bernardin, Choi got the chance to tell Lagasse about the experience while they were both guest starring in an episode of Bravo's “Top Chef.”
- Reena Ninan and Mary-Rose Abraham at Newsmakers15 days ago
When Ismael Cruz Córdova was growing up, “Maria” from “Sesame Street” was one of the people who helped him learn English. Now, as the newest cast member on the long-running children’s show – making his debut as “Mando” this season -- Córdova finds himself right alongside Maria teaching a new generation of children.
“It's definitely a full-circle kind of experience because I did grow up on the show in Puerto Rico,” said Córdova. “I learned a lot of English watching the show. Now I'm doing songs in Spanish and working more of the Spanish components. So it's monumental in that sense.”
Both Córdova and Sonia Manzano, who has played Maria, joined the show as it committed to greater diversity on the Street, though nearly four decades apart. While Córdova joined “Sesame Street” after the show’s first-ever open casting call last year, Manzano became a series regular in 1974.
- Dan Kloeffler and David Miller at Newsmakers17 days ago
Dr. Steve Amstrup spends much of his career dodging frostbite and following one of the world’s most powerful land predators. For him, it’s a childhood dream come true.
“I am one of the few people in life who ended up doing what they wanted to do since they were little.”
For more than 30 years, Amstrup has been covering the Arctic tundra, following every move of the polar bear. Now that he’s chief scientist for Polar Bears International, Amstrup’s office is the deep freeze barrens of northern Arctic countries where polar bears thrive. Since he was four-years-old, Amstrup has been captivated by bears, knowing from a young age that he wanted to work with these animals in some capacity. And now that he’s ‘on top of the world,’ or at least geographically closer than most of us will ever get, he’s using his position to call attention to the plight of the polar bear.
- Linsey Davis and Mary-Rose Abraham at Newsmakers21 days ago
Were it not for coming across a couple of photos of her grandmother, Amy Tan’s readers would be treated to a tale about a mother and daughter banished from home after a fire.
Instead, Tan abandoned that novel – as she has many stories over the last quarter-century of writing – and delved into the mystery of her grandmother’s images.
“There’s so much in my life I didn't realize had been affected by the history of my grandmother, and my mother,” said Tan. “You know, we don't start off necessarily as just a blank slate. We have a particular mother and whatever her history is sometimes gets imprinted on us to some degree.”
Tan believed that her mother and grandmother not only served as her muses but her grandmother’s studio portrait and her uncanny resemblance to courtesans of that era, led her to write about the courtesan culture of early 20 th century Shanghai in The Valley of Amazement , her first novel published in eight years.
- Muhammad Lila at Newsmakers22 days ago
TEHRAN -- She’s one of the most powerful people in Iran: A vice president in charge of a critical portfolio, a key reformist and ally of Iran’s new president.
But in America, she’s still known as Sister Mary.
Masoumeh Ebtekar was born in Tehran to a middle-class family, but gained notoriety as the English-speaking spokesperson for the Iranian students who occupied the U.S. embassy in 1979. For days on end, Ebtekar, who spoke fluent English, became a fixture on American television sets, often translating for western journalists, even as 52 Americans were being held hostage inside.
It’s a role she was well-suited for. At the age of three, Ebtekar’s family moved from Iran to the United States, where her father went on to earn his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. For six years, first living in Worcester, Mass., then in Upper Darby, a sleepy suburb outside of Philadelphia, Ebtekar’s received an ordinary, suburban American upbringing.
Later, her family returned to Iran, where she enrolled in Tehran Polytechnic university, then a hotbed for student activism during the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
She still smiles when she talks about how she got the name Mary.