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21 September 2017

$1 Million Donation Goes to Help 'The Grief Girl' Save Lives

R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide - book cover
R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide
Kristi Hugstad, author of "What I Wish I'd Known: Finding Your Way Through the Tunnel of Grief" and "R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide" recently received an incredible gift: an anonymous "angel" donated 100,000 copies of her book "R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide" for distribution to schools and youth organizations around the country.
The donation, which is the retail equivalent to $1 million, will help Hugstad in her mission to open an important conversation with teens – one that seeks to dispel the stigma associated with depression and mental illness, and offers hope to teens considering self-harm or suicide.
"This donation is an amazing display of generosity and faith in my cause," Hugstad said. "I visit schools and talk to teens on a regular basis and I know that many are struggling without the resources they need to cope in a healthy manner. This book can help open up the conversations that save lives." 
Those conversations are happening, thanks to Hugstad's mission as a health educator, grief counselor, public speaker, blogger and host of her own podcast and radio show. Previously a health and fitness guru, Hugstad's career – and life – took a new trajectory four years ago when her husband, Bill, completed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train.
"It was an experience that no one should ever go through," Hugstad recalls. "But in dealing with it, I found my true mission in life – helping others who are going through what my husband went through."
That mission now includes distributing the 100,000 copies of "R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide" where they are needed most. As part of this endeavor, Hugstad has asked for nominations for schools or organizations to receive copies of the book. 
To request books for a school or organization, please visit The Grief Girl. According to Hugstad, the lives of teens you love could depend on it.
"Teens today have so much to deal with, from depression to bullying to social media pressure to gender confusion to alcohol and drug abuse – and the list goes on," Hugstad said. "This book is my way of saying, 'hey, we understand what you're going through and we want you to know there's help out there.'"
Kristi Hugstad, The Grief Girl
Kristi Hugstad, The Grief Girl

About Kristi Hugstad
Kristi Hugstad is the author of "What I Wish I'd Known: Finding Your Way Through the Tunnel of Grief" and "R U OK? Teen Suicide and Depression." She is also a professional speaker, certified grief recovery specialist at South Coast Behavioral Health, grief and loss facilitator for Addicts in Recovery, and credentialed health educator. Hugstad hosts "The Grief Girl" Podcast and "The Grief Girl" OC Talk Radio Show, and is a longtime blogger for Huffington Post. 

For more information on Hugstad, visit
SOURCE: The Grief Girl

20 September 2017

Rapper Offset Launches $500K Fundraising Campaign for the American Cancer Society

Offset Launches $500K Fundraising Campaign for the American Cancer Society
Offset Launches $500K Fundraising Campaign for the American Cancer Society
Rapper Offset, of the chart-topping hip-hop trio Migos, is teaming up with the American Cancer Society and mobilizing his fellow artists, corporate sponsors and passionate fans to raise $500,000 for the organization.
Offset's dedication to the fight against cancer is personal. His inspiration for working with the American Cancer Society is his late grandmother, Sallie Ann Smith, a significant role model in his life who died of bladder cancer in 2012. After Mrs. Smith's cancer diagnosis, her family learned firsthand about the positive impact the American Cancer Society programs and services make on families.
"It was really tough losing my grandma to cancer and one of the hardest things I have dealt with in my life. She motivated me to do my best and go for it; one of my biggest coaches," said Offset.
Fellow Migos members Quavo and Takeoff, along with their record label Quality Control Music are rallying their networks to help Offset reach his fundraising goal because cancer has impacted all members of Migos. 
"We're proud to support Offset's efforts to help raise money for the American Cancer Society, so they can address cancer in underserved communities," say Quavo and Takeoff. "We encourage all our fans to donate if they can."
Despite recent progress against cancer, not all Americans have benefited equally. African- Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group in the United States for most cancers. The causes of these inequalities are complex and reflect social and economic disparities. Much of the disparity is due to unequal access to health care.
Offset is honoring his grandmother through this campaign by helping raise funds to promote cancer prevention and access to care in underserved communities. In addition, money raised through this effort will also help fund an ACS Research Grant focused on bladder cancer research.
"I am thankful to be partnering with the American Cancer Society to help save lives against this horrible disease. It's especially important for me to give some love to my community and do what I can to help," Offset says.
Offset's mother, Latabia Woodward, an American Cancer Society supporter and volunteer for over a decade, is proud of her son. "Losing a loved one to cancer is devastating, and we need to continue to help educate our communities about early detection and screening guidelines. I am incredibly proud of Offset's desire to help save the lives of others, genuine heart and talent as an artist."
Offset hosted a launch party yesterday at Main Event Entertainment in Atlanta, Georgia, where he spent the day with teens and young adults whose lives have been impacted by cancer. In addition, Offset's fans can also donate to a special Prizeo campaign – – which will enter them for chance to win a shopping spree with Offset.
"We are honored that Offset chose to work with us. His inspiration and support for the American Cancer Society is one that makes him a unique artist – one who wants our world to be better." said Sharon Byers, chief development and marketing officer, American Cancer Society. "Offset's fundraising campaign is a significant opportunity to leverage the music industry and his contacts to support our mission which is why we are very appreciative to be able to partner with him." 
To join Offset's fundraising campaign, visit For more information about Offset's work with ACS, please go to
About Offset
Offset was born and raised in North Atlanta where he began his music career and still calls home today. He is one-third of the platinum selling group, the Migos. In 2017, Migos, won two BET Awards and were nominated for multiple Billboard and MTV Video Music Awards for the success of their album Culture and chart topping single Bad and Boujee

The Video:
SOURCE: American Cancer Society

19 September 2017

Book "The Forgotten Ones" by Ellipsis International Founder Natalie Herrington Helps Children Find Freedom From Trauma in Hurricanes' Wake

The Forgotten Ones, - cover
The Forgotten Ones, by Natalie Stephens Herrington with Brindy Epal
In light of the recent natural disasters and calamity caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, trauma is on the radar.  America is unifying around these issues despite differences in politics, race, religion, and region.  
The survivors of such trauma need immediate assistance to meet basic needs.  But more than that – once the waters recede, homes are rebuilt, and lives slowly return to normal – one thing will remain… memories, fear, and, ultimately, trauma.  
Each time it rains, each time a storm forms nearby, these fears and memories of what once happened will surface just as quickly as the waters rose.
More than the basic necessities of life, the will to survive in the years to come will be much more difficult.  Many lost everything, including precious family members who can never be replaced. Rebuilding must include more than what meets the eye.  
The Forgotten Ones, released by Natalie Stephens Herrington, sheds light on this very topic.  Though not unearthed through the aftermath of an actual storm, the experiences she faced in meeting some of the most traumatized children in the world gave her insight into what children need beyond the basics – to survive and thrive.
Dancing after a monsoon at Freedom Camp
Dancing after a monsoon at Freedom Camp
The Forgotten Ones tells of an orphan in the Philippines who lost both of her parents by the age of 10. She found comfort in the commonality shared with the others in her orphanage.  It wasn't until she left that she recognized her deep pain from losing her family and her need to begin healing. Herrington's unexpected friendship with Brindy caused her to discover a way to bring freedom to traumatized kids.
The same trauma found in the Philippines can be found in children affected by the recent hurricanes. They may seem to move forward in their lives in the coming months, but the deep effects of trauma will remain until someone guides them to understand that what has happened to them doesn't define them.  
"There are so many kids out there with similar stories, traumatized and growing up without having dealt with it. The situations these stories convey cause kids to stay in the mindset in which they were left—unless someone steps in to help," said Herrington.
The Forgotten Ones points out the important fact that the sooner trauma is vocalized and understood, the sooner breakthrough and freedom comes.  
Herrington is the founder and president of Ellipsis International, a non-profit focused on helping kids break free from the trauma of their past in order to realize their full potential. 
Their program called Freedom Camp is a five-day intensive experience teaching kids about identity, burdens, freedom, community, and hope.  Ellipsis plans to bring Freedom Camp to the hurricane-affected areas in the near future.  
To learn more, visit  To bring a Freedom Camp to your community, contact

The Forgotten Ones is on or Amazon.

SOURCE: Ellipsis International

18 September 2017

Rock Band Daughtry Boosts Habitat For Humanity's Response To Hurricanes Harvey And Irma


Rock band Daughtry is making a major contribution to Habitat Hammers Back, the initiative effort helping to repair and rebuild in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The band is donating $50,000 and is encouraging their fans to contribute as well.
Click on the video below to hear their message...
"We've been struck by the images coming out of Texas and Florida after these two devastating storms," said Chris Daughtry, lead singer of the band. "The destruction is enormous, but so is the love and compassion we've seen with people helping each other out. Habitat for Humanity is already on the ground helping folks assess damage, dig out and repair their homes. We're making a donation to Habitat, and we'd like to ask you to join us by visiting to make a contribution today."
Working through its local offices as well as by deploying trained Disaster Corps volunteers, Habitat conducts rapid assessments of storm damage and helps clean out homes damaged by winds and floodwaters. Habitat's long-term post-disaster recovery efforts include repair of damaged homes and construction of new affordable homes. Construction plans are determined after evaluations and are dependent on the level of support received from donors, volunteers, corporate partners and other community organizations.
Habitat has been responding to disasters since 1997 and to date has helped more than 230,000 families in 52 countries through its disaster response work. Following Hurricane Katrina, Habitat organizations along the Gulf Coast built more than 6,000 homes and removed debris and cleaned more than 2,500 homes in preparation for rehabilitation. Habitat also mounted responses to Superstorm Sandy, tornadoes through the South and Midwest, and earthquakes and typhoons overseas.
More information on Habitat for Humanity's response to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma can be found at

About Habitat for Humanity
Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia

The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in more than 1,300 communities throughout the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. 

Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. 

To learn more, visit

SOURCE: Habitat for Humanity International

17 September 2017

Courageous Canine Who Was Victim Of Dog Fighting Wins Top Title Of "American Hero Dog" At The 2017 American Humane Hero Dog Awards

Abigail, a courageous canine who overcame terrible injuries and now works to end dog fighting, was named the 2017 American Hero Dog at this year's American Humane Hero Dog Awards
AMERICA'S TOP DOG: Following nearly 1 million votes, Abigail, a courageous canine who overcame terrible injuries and now works to end dog fighting, was named the 2017 American Hero Dog at this year's American Humane Hero Dog Awards

Following nearly a million votes by the American public and the opinions of an expert panel of celebrity animal lovers and dog experts, Abigail, a one-year-old pit mix from Lehigh Acres, Florida has been named this year's most courageous canine, besting 187 other heroic hounds and capturing the top title of "American Hero Dog" at the 2017 American Humane Hero Dog Awards. 

The seventh annual Hero Dogs Awards is sponsored by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc. and will be broadcast nationally on Hallmark Channel October 26 at 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm Central Time.

Abigail is a gal that did not ask for the life she was forced to live. She was found as a stray in Miamiand taken to a rescue center where she was examined. She was anemic and infested with ticks. Scars covered her bloody head, neck, back legs, and half her face was missing with the skin ripped off down to the eardrum. She smelled terrible because of multiple infections, and was covered in dried mud. Experts suspected she was a victim of dog fighting. Her injuries were at least a week old and she almost lost her life. Abigail had several major surgeries and extensive skin grafts. She had weeks of hospitalization and daily bandage changes, which led to the launch of her "mission." Her vet and her vet tech were changing her bandages, and the way they held the gauze on her head made them looked like bonnets. In solidarity people from all over the world started sending bonnets and now the Facebook page "Bonnets for Abigail" has more than 12,000 followers. 

Despite the terrible injuries inflicted on her, Abigail is a heroic example of bravery and overcoming, and is using her public platform to teach forgiveness and bring awareness to the importance of ending dog fighting. For her extraordinary bravery and good works, Abigail won the American Humane Hero Dog Awards' "Emerging Hero Dog" category for ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things. 

This year, the Emerging Hero Dog category is sponsored by the maker of NexGard (afoxolaner) Chewables. They helped draw attention to Abigail's story and spotlighted the remarkable ways dogs are capable of forgiveness and moving on to do good things for others even when they themselves were in need of help.

A Galaxy of Stars Honors Hero Dogs Including Jay Leno and Billy Crystal
The sold-out, star-studded awards honoring America's most courageous canines were hosted at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last night by television and film star James Denton and model and animal advocate Beth Stern, accompanied by a galaxy of celebrity stars and presenters including Josie Bissett, Lacey Chabert, Danielle Fishel, Vivica Fox, Daisy Fuentes, Carrie Ann Inaba, Bailee Madison, Kellie Martin, Debbie Matenopolous, Cameron Mathison, Danica McKellar, Brandon McMillan, Barbara Niven, Alexa and Carolos Penavega, Mark Steines, Alison Sweeney, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Alicia Witte and more.

Jay Leno and Billy Crystal provided delightful pre-taped video skits. Richard Marx provided the lead musical performances. Before the show, the audience was treated to the artistry of The Alex Donner Band and a special appearance by Hallmark Channel's Goodwill Ambassador Happy the Dog.

The Hero Dog Awards were created to celebrate the powerful relationship between dogs and people and recognize extraordinary acts of heroism performed by ordinary dogs. The event will be broadcast nationwide by Hallmark Channel on October 26 at 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm Central. The program will air as part of Hallmark Channel's Pet Project, the network's cross-platform advocacy campaign designed to celebrate the joy and enrichment animals bring to our lives.

"The American Humane Hero Dog Awards were created to honor some of the most extraordinary heroes the world has ever known, the very best of our best friends," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane, the country's first national humane organization. "These courageous canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives on the battlefield, comforting the ill, aged and afflicted, bringing hope to those who have lost it, and reminding us of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people. All seven category winners tonight exemplify what it means to be a hero, and we hope that their stories – and Abigail's – will inspire people to value our animal friends and to recognize and honor how much they do for us every day."
"It is an honor to support an effort to recognize the best of our best friends,'" said philanthropist Lois Pope, who has been the awards' presenting sponsor for six years. "From those who defend our country to those who help us heal, guide us, protect us, and help find the lost, every single contender exemplifies the courage and heroism we seek to spotlight in the Hero Dog Awards campaign. Through this national forum we have helped educate America about the lifesaving, life-affirming work of our nation's canine heroes."

The winner is chosen through a combination of public votes and voting by a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges including Jennifer Arnold, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Philippe and Ashlan Gorse Cousteau, Carolyn Hennesy, Joanne Horowitz, Blake Koch, Bailee Madison, Adrienne Maloof, Agent Jerry Means, Laura Nativo, Shara Strand, Lisa Vanderpump, and Lou Wegner.

All Finalists Are Winners
Abigail was the one chosen as 2017 American Hero Dog, but all seven finalists were winners in their categories, and we salute them for their courage, service and compassion. Here are their official nominations:

Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs category (sponsored by K-9 Courage Program from Zoetis)
Ice (Olympia, WA) – In the early hours of July 21, 2016, a team of officers from the U.S. Forest Service and deputies from the Trinity County Sheriff's Office were investigating an illegal marijuana garden on public lands within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Two suspects attempted to flee and Ice was deployed to capture one of the suspects. As Ice was apprehending the suspect, the suspect used a large knife to stab Ice twice in the chest as well as in the face and muzzle. Despite Ice's serious wounds, Ice continued to apprehend the suspect until the suspect was taken into custody. Ice's bravery likely saved the other officers from being stabbed or injured. 

Despite his trauma, Ice didn't let out a whine or whimper. Ice's handler and the team immediately bandaged and dressed his wounds. As the area was extremely rugged and remote, a California Highway Patrol helicopter was dispatched. Ice's handler and other team members then took turns carrying Ice approximately three-quarters of a mile over rough terrain and through dense vegetation to a suitable landing location. Ice was airlifted to VCA Asher Animal Hospital in Redding, CA and taken immediately into surgery where the doctors and staff were able to repair his wounds. Ice has since made a full recovery and has returned to duty. 

This wasn't Ice's first scrape, and though he is a tough-as-nails working dog, Ice also has an extraordinary ability to interact and socialize with people. Both of these amazing abilities make Ice a truly special dog and partner.

Guide/Hearing Dogs category
Pierce (Palm Bay, FL) – While serving with the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division during the first Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), Don sustained an injury that eventually claimed his vision. In the more than two decades that followed, Don navigated through life with his white cane, along with the support of his wife, Peggy, and two children. 

As an experienced cane traveler who moved about the world quite well, Don had not seriously considered getting a guide dog until one day he now remembers as a turning point in his journey. Last year, on a family vacation, Don and his son, Jordan, set out to explore historical monuments together. At the conclusion of the trip, Don asked Jordan to describe his favorite part of the tour to which the twelve-year-old responded, "Dad, I wasn't paying much attention…I wanted to make sure you didn't fall." Heartbroken at this admission, Don knew Jordan needed the freedom to be a kid and not a sighted guide. 

And the payoff in having his guide dog, "Pierce," has been even greater than relieving this burden from his son; Don is experiencing life with refreshed independence and freedom. 
His wife, Peggy, shares, "I have seen a new confidence in Don and I can't thank Fidelco enough for their part in it. Don's guide dog is a very loving companion and dedicated to his work. We have all fallen in love."

Military Dogs category (sponsored by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and the K-9 Courage Program from Zoetis)
Adak (St. Cloud, MN) – Adak is a 13-year-old German Shepherd. His longevity and accomplishments as an explosive detection dog are unmatched. During his career he has provided support to dignitaries and celebrities, and at events across more than 10 states and three countries. He was a Contract Working Dog (CWD) for the U.S. State Department in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army, Ft. McCoy and for a private business, Dogs for Defense Inc. (D4D). 

Adak's first assignment was in Iraq in 2006. Adak was assigned to support the U.S. embassy and dignitaries. Adak performed a sweep of the Baghdad Central Station prior to the arrival of a dignitary. While performing the sweep, Adak alerted to a vehicle in the area, canceling the event. 

On January 14, 2008, the Kabul Serena Hotel was subjected to a complex terror attack. During the attack numerous guests were trapped in the hotel. Adak's was the first K-9 team to arrive, with terrorists still inside the hotel. Adak led a team of Americans who went room to room inside while terrorists were still active. Adak came across dismembered, deceased victims during his search and performed flawlessly. Over 20 people were evacuated, and a total of six people died, including one American. 

In 2009 Adak was conducting a sweep of the Ministry of Agriculture when he had an alert. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit arrived and identified the threat as a mortar shell. Working for D4D gave Adak constant opportunities to do unique detection work across the U.S. until he was 13. 

His transition from war to family member was incredible. Sadly, Adak recently passed away.

Search and Rescue Dogs category (sponsored by Compassion-First Pet Hospitals)
Luca (Grand Prairie, TX) – On March 15, 2016, Fort Worth Police were dispatched to a missing endangered male. Two elderly men visited a large salvage yard when one suddenly realized that his elderly friend with Alzheimer's was missing. After a brief search, he realized he needed help and called police. Many officers responded due to the age/medical condition of the missing man. After an extensive search, Sgt. Medrano asked Officer Brock if Luca would be of any help. Luca is Officer Brock's retired Search-and-Rescue (SAR) German Shepherd, who was 10 years old at the time of this call. 

Luca excelled in area, water, avalanche and forest/desert searches. Officer Brock believed Luca excelled in this and it meant a helicopter ride, which Luca loved. Officer Brock picked Luca up from his home and Luca fell back into his training and used his SAR skills to search for the missing man. Luca alerted at an opening of brush at the Trinity River, which led to a very steep hill followed by a steep drop-off. Due to terrain, a PD helicopter responded and immediately observed the lost man in the river, stuck in waist-high mud on the opposite bank of the river where Luca alerted. Officers shed their gear, swam across the river, rescued the man and brought him to safety. 

Had Luca not tracked the man's trail and located him, the man would have drowned in the river, which still had very cold, high, fast-paced water or succumbed to the temperature. Luca's love and dedication to SAR shows the resilience of older dogs and how training doesn't go away just because they retire.

Service Dogs category (sponsored by Modern Dog)

Atlas the Wonder Dog (Dayton, OH) 

"After coming home from Iraq, struggling with PTSD and dealing with the effects of a TBI from a roadside bomb, I was virtually lost, locked in my own personal prison. I began getting treatment while still Active Duty, which consisted of talk therapy and a single prescription. After getting out of the Marines, I continued treatment with the VA system, and nearly a decade later, the "treatment" consisted of more than eight different prescriptions totaling more than 33 pills a day.…my life felt very sad, hazy, and hopeless……I was lost. Until I found Atlas. 

Atlas is not only my service dog but my lifesaver. Atlas is a grounding and solid presence when flashbacks, hypervigilance, and the lingering effects of war begin again to creep up my spine. Atlas has been trained to sense these changes in me and then acts to redirect my attention and focus during these overwhelming instances. Whether it is to nudge my hand if I am getting anxious, wake me up in the throes of a nightmare or just stand behind me so I know someone has my back. With his presence, I am able to take an active, positive role in my children's lives. Atlas has not only completely changed my life, but as the "face" of, and inspiration behind the creation of The Battle Buddy Foundation, he is also a beacon of hope for so many others struggling to cope. 

A regal reminder that there is hope, that there IS a way to find yourself again after combat and trauma, and that your pains and struggles have value."

Therapy Dogs category (sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food)
Aladdin (Haddonfield, NJ)  

"Aladdin was found severely emaciated in 2013. Both of his back legs and tail had been broken. He was missing 12 teeth and had open wounds. I foster emaciated dogs and he came to me. From the moment I met him, his little tail never stopped wagging, despite his horrific condition. Aladdin had a rough recovery but he overcame the obstacles put before him. He greeted every person with a lot of hope and despite the abuse he suffered he trusted enough to learn that no one would hurt him again. Within the year he was a certified therapy dog bringing love to everyone he meets. 

Aladdin is a Ronald McDonald House Ambassador dog, his favorite duty! He visits schools doing a humane education, anti-bullying program. He is a trained crisis response dog and spent a week in Orlando last year after the shooting doing therapy visits and fundraising for the Victims Fund. He works with the Philadelphia Police fundraising for the Fallen Officers Fund and attending the events they do with special needs children. He is an ambassador dog for Tito's Vodka for Dog People Campaign and together they have raised over 300,000 for rescues and shelters all over. He also works with veterans and PACT for Animals. Most importantly he is a model/ambassador for Show Your Soft Side, a nationwide animal abuse campaign and he is the spokesdog for the rescue I work with, Lilo's Promise. Lilo's takes in medical needs dogs like Aladdin. 

Heroes come in all shapes & sizes, Aladdin has taught me that each time I watch him work."
Each of the seven finalists received $2,500 to be donated to one of American Humane's charity partners. Abigail won an additional $5,000 for her charity, Dogs On Deployment. In this way, more heroes may be nurtured.

Heroes Who Save and Keep Our Hero Pets Healthy All Year Round Also Honored
Behind every hero pet is a hero vet or vet tech. Each year at the Hero Dog Awards, American Humane also announced the winners of its Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Technician Awards, sponsored by the leading animal health company Zoetis. 

After a nationwide search and tens of thousands of public votes, Dr. Patricia Canchola from Pueblo, Colorado, who performs thousands of spay and neuter surgeries every year, and helps abused and neglected animals, runs a low-cost pet health clinic and a pet food bank, was named 2017's American Hero Veterinarian. Jeni Hudson from Decatur, Illinois, who founded a rescue organization that takes in pups with cleft palates and other disabilities, was declared 2017's American Hero Veterinary Technician.
"To us, all vets and vet techs are heroes and this is why we want to honor the best of the best in their fields," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane president and CEO. "Indeed, Dr. Canchola and Ms. Hudson are tremendous animal welfare advocates and we are so proud to learn of their laudable accomplishments aiding the animals in need in their communities and beyond. And our thanks go out to our friends at Zoetis for sponsoring this special national campaign because we know how committed they are to recognizing the achievements of the veterinary community."
"Behind all hero dogs there are hero veterinarians and veterinary technicians providing vital healthcare services, and Zoetis is again proud to sponsor these special awards recognizing outstanding veterinary professionals," said Michael McFarland DVM, DABVP, Executive Director, U.S. Companion Animal Marketing at Zoetis. "Dr. Canchola and Jennifer are both dedicated to excellence and providing compassionate care to every animal they see in their clinics, helping cement the human-animal bond between owners and their pets."

World's Leading Friends of Animals Receive Humanitarian Awards
American Humane bestowed its top honors on several individuals whose abiding passion for and support of animals deserve special recognition. The organization awarded the Global Humanitarian Award to Wolfgang Kiessling for his lifetime efforts to protect and preserve the remarkable and endangered creatures of the Earth. Kiessling is the founder of Loro Parque, which is the first zoological institution to be Humane Certified by American Humane, and was recently named "The Best Zoo in the World" by TripAdvisor. 

American Humane also gave its prestigious National Humanitarian Medal to three extraordinary animal advocates: Timothy Lane, one of the world's leading international business figures (CEO of Everest Advisors, Inc., former CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International for Asia and the Middle East, Inc., and former CEO of Holiday Inn Worldwide), who has been devoting his time to advancing the 140-year-old mission of American Humane as a member of the board of directors and interim COO; Philanthropist, policy and public affairs expert and board member Amanda Bowman, who chairs American Humane's capital campaign; and Dawn Assenzio, philanthropist, board member, and vice-chair of American Humane's National Ambassador Council.
"These remarkable people are among the world's most stalwart friends of animals," said Dr. Robin Ganzert. "Few have the ability to make the impact they have, personally and professionally, on so many lives. For the millions you have helped and continue to help, we thank you, and salute your passion and devotion to improving life for the animals of the world."

And Thanks to Sponsors
Finally, American Humane honored the many generous sponsors who support the Hero Dog Awards and made them possible. 
"We thank the animals, their dedicated owners and handlers, and the generous sponsors who have helped bring about that recognition," said Dr. Ganzert. "Thank you to Lois Pope and the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation; Hallmark Channel; Zoetis, sponsor of the Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Technician Awards; Military Dog sponsors the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and the K-9 Courage Program from Zoetis; Law Enforcement/Arson Dog sponsor K-9 Courage Program from Zoetis; Search and Rescue Dog sponsor Compassion-First Pet Hospitals; Emerging Hero Dog sponsor, the maker of NexGard (afoxolaner) Chewables; Service Dog sponsor Modern Dog Magazine; and Therapy Dog sponsor Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food, the official pet food of the 2017 Hero Dog Awards. Dogs may be our best friends, but these caring organizations are theirs."

American Humane Association logo
American Humane Association logo. (PRNewsFoto/American Humane Association)
About American Humane
American Humane is the country's first national humane organization, founded in 1877. For more information, please visit

SOURCE: American Humane

16 September 2017

Beyond Atomic Blonde: Cinema's Long, Proud History Of Violent Women

Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde
Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde. (87Eleven, Closed on Mondays Entertainment, Denver and Delilah Productions.)
By Janice Loreck, Curtin University

Whenever a film like Wonder Woman or Atomic Blonde is released, one thing is certain: critics will take notice of the violent heroines who lead the story. It happened with Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Evelyn Salt in Salt and Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill. Whenever a heroine appears, some critics will argue that she is a landmark, as in the case of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.

Some will complain that she is simply “acting like a man”, whereas others will celebrate her, as in the case of Theron’s smart, combat-ready action spy”. And there will inevitably be talk of a new era of female empowerment and “butt-kicking” heroines.

But there is nothing special or unusual about women kicking butt in film. Murder and violence are ever popular subjects in cinema, and women have taken part in the bloodshed from the beginning.

Read more: The truth about the Amazons – the real Wonder Women

An early heroine
One of the earliest heroines who aspired to violence can be found in a silent film from 1923, La Souriante Madame Beudet. The titular character is a bored housewife who despises her boorish husband. So great is her dislike, in fact, that she fills a handgun with bullets in the hope he will accidentally shoot himself.

Monsieur Beudet discovers the bullets, but it never occurs to him that his wife had ill intent toward him. Instead, he stupidly concludes that she must have meant to kill herself rather than him.

Nearly 100 years after the film’s release, the joke appears to be on us. Monsieur Beudet’s reluctance to think that his wife is capable of murder mirrors our own surprise whenever violent women appear onscreen.
In this early film, Madame Beudet’s near act of violence is a form of feminist commentary. It is a cry of frustration and a desperate act caused by an unsatisfying marriage.

Film noir
Women’s desire to escape their circumstances also appears as a motivating factor in film noir. Translating as “black film”, film noir is a genre made up of crime dramas and detective thrillers. They were first made in the USA in the 1940s and 50s – well-known examples include The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep and The Lady from Shanghai.

Noir films are diverse, but their hallmarks include male protagonists, violent crimes and the femme fatale (“fatal woman”), a beauty who sexually manipulates men for personal gain. Femmes fatales don’t always conspire to kill people, but some do go to such lengths. Phyllis Dietrichson of Double Indemnity, Cora Smith of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Kathie Moffat in Out of the Past all spring to mind.
These femmes fatales are not violent simply because they’re “bad”. Phyllis, Cora and Kathie all kill for money, which would help them achieve independence. Indeed, Cora repeatedly says she wants to “make something” of the business that she runs with her husband. The grim reality is that she can only accomplish this by murdering the dolt.

Highbrow and lowbrow
In other films, the purpose of women’s violence can be quite different. Some filmmakers use deadly women to shock audiences and challenge our values. Interestingly, this strategy appears in films at opposing ends of the cinema spectrum: “highbrow” art films as well as “lowbrow” exploitation cinema.

Read more: How to reduce sexism in screenplays

Exploitation” cinema is a genre named for the way these films “exploit” taboo topics to lure audiences. Themes include drug use, vigilantism, gratuitous sex and, in many cases, homicidal women.

Violent heroines correspond with the forbidden pleasures of exploitation cinema. As the “nurturing” sex, women “shouldn’t” kill people and it is scandalous to see them do so. Female killers thus appear aplenty in exploitation genres: in rape-revenge films like Ms .45 and I Spit on Your Grave, in blaxploitations Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones, and in prison films The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage.
Violent women’s subversive power also explains their appearance in some art films: thematically and aesthetically ambitious works that challenge established film norms. Violent women provide a means of pushing the boundaries. Feminist art film classic Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles famously ends with a housewife committing an act of murder. Extreme French film Trouble Every Day concerns cannibalistic Parisians plagued by sexual longing. Provocative art-horror film Antichrist is a story of spousal conflict that ends in violence.
In each of these films, the female characters’ aggression expresses their alienation and angst. Each film is concerned with the extremes of human experience: oppressive domesticity, taboo desire and marital strife. Through their violence, women in these art films “speak” their unspeakable emotions, making them spectacular and bloody onscreen.

Violent women today
Violent women have been around for decades. So why are we still so surprised by them?
One reason is that we are in two minds about women’s aggression. On one hand, thinkers from Aristotle to Sigmund Freud have characterised women as the passive sex. On the other, our narrative tradition is filled with tales that portray women as the nastier gender. The Gorgons, Euripides’s Medea, and the duplicitous femme fatale all suggest that, however tough a man might be, women are “more deadly than the male”.

Medea by Ernest Legouvé (1807-1903).

The incompatibility of these two ideas dooms us to endless surprise. We fall into the habit of thinking that women aren’t as violent as men, and so are impressed anew whenever another deadly woman appears.

One explanation for the enduring appeal of violent women in film is that cinema provides a space where we can realise our fantasies. Whether they are good or bad, deadly women offer enjoyable images of empowerment. Talking about her love of film noir, Angela Martin calls this “the treat of seeing women giving as good, if not better, than they got”. Physical vulnerability is an everyday reality for women, so the idea of fighting back is appealing.
And as Carl Jung has written, cinema “makes it possible to experience without danger all the excitement, passion and desirousness which must be repressed in a humanitarian ordering of life”.
Another explanation is simply that violent heroines provide product differentiation in a marketplace saturated with male action heroes. For example, when the first Alien film appeared in 1979, the film’s heroine, Ellen Ripley, helped distinguish her franchise from masculine competitors. Wonder Woman has a similar function today, standing out from the numerous male-led Marvel franchises.

A new feminist era?
Whenever a new “butt-kicking” heroine appears onscreen, some will be tempted to see her as evidence of a new feminist era. Certainly, there does seem to be some correlation between violent women and past feminist movements. Film noir emerged when women found new freedoms in wartime America, and many female-led vigilante films of the 1970s coincided with second-wave feminism.

The ConversationSuch links are compelling. However, it is more accurate to say that violent women appear consistently throughout cinema history. Sometimes they facilitate discussions of feminist issues, but they also offer remarkably consistent pleasures across the decades. They are fantasy figures, subversive mavericks, and an enduring part of our narrative tradition.

About Today's Contributor:
Janice Loreck, Adjunct Research Fellow in Communication and Cultural Studies, Curtin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation

1 September 2017

"Post-Truth’ Media Really Is Shifting The News Agenda – And More Subtly Than It Seems


File 20170831 22561 few5ex
Proceed with caution. (Gil C via Shutterstock)
By Precious N Chatterje-Doody, University of Manchester

As stories of Russian “information warfare” in various Western countries continue to mount, governments, intelligence agencies and journalists are fretting over the influence of global media outlets funded by autocratic governments. But while these organisations are clearly meant to serve their sponsor governments’ agendas in various ways, is the West right to be so worried about them?

Information campaigning in various forms is as old as politics itself, and nor is it the sole province of political bogeymen. Research shows that democracies are better than autocracies at influencing foreign public opinion, and businesses, politicians and states all use the mass media strategically for their information campaigns.

Whether this is public relations, public diplomacy, or propaganda is a matter of perspective. But the names we give a particular information campaign not only reflect our inferences about its aims; they can in fact amplify its power and advance its goals.

A case in point is the Kremlin-funded international broadcaster RT, formerly Russia Today. The network has been sanctioned by media watchdogs for its “misleading” coverage, even as it gathered five Emmy nominations for its investigative reporting. It was even cited by Hillary Clinton in 2011 as an example of an “information war” she said the West was losing – unwittingly describing things to come in her own career.
The network’s PR strategy skilfully uses these criticisms to cater to the biases of an anti-establishment generation. Its motto encourages viewers to “Question More”, and its various advertising campaigns have successfully exhibited Western contempt and suspicion as a badge of honour.

Yet despite the concerns of high-ranking figures, the US State Department has claimed none of the US$80m recently allocated by Congress for informational countermeasures, and the bulk of the funds will expire if not claimed by the end of September 2017. Some fear that the US is reluctant to risk a Russian backlash by leading a counter-disinformation offensive, leaving the legwork to initiatives like the controversial new Hamilton 68 dashboard, which claims to track Russian-backed influence campaigns across the web and social media.

But just how much influence RT and similar outlets wield is very much open to question.

Flattering bias
While many in US intelligence and politics seem to take RT’s self-reported audience figures as read, the channel’s official data is optimistic compared to its externally verified viewing figures. And despite RT’s pride at being “the most watched news network on YouTube”, most of its views go to apolitical clickbait human interest stories and coverage of natural disasters.

Some argue that RT’s smaller political audience is self-selecting: those who mistrust the mainstream establishment and are partial to conspiracy theories. However, this is all guesswork: so far, there has been little scholarly attention to RT’s audience engagement, despite its social media advantage over its competitors during breaking news events. (The University of Manchester and Open University will soon address this knowledge gap with the Reframing Russia project, the first systematic examination of RT’s audiences, ethos and multiplatform output.)

While RT may have limited capacity to influence those not already sympathetic to its aims, its reach across social and traditional media, and freedom from any commitment to impartiality, equip it perfectly for an atmosphere of rumour and counter-rumour.

This brings us back to Donald Trump and his ongoing crusade against the mainstream media.

Trump echoes RT’s line that all news reporting is biased in some way, and his social media output clearly flatters the views of his followers and allies. Trump’s tweets are, intentionally or not, perfectly calibrated to exploit the same effect as RT: audiences seek out content that accords with their political beliefs, and ignore information that does not correspond to their biases.

This effect is even clearer where people have strong political beliefs and ideologically segregated social media networks, because algorithms lock our preferences into our social media experience. Counterintuitively, we’re most likely to enter into debate with people with similar views to our own, not those who we perceive as being different and who can offer an alternative world view.

Worst of all, if much of your social media following is made up of automated “bots” primed to repeat, circulate and amplify particular messages – as seems likely in Trump’s case – then the volume of echoes increases exponentially. The result? Political opinions are polarised, with completely fabricated stories more widely shared (and believed) than genuine news.

Playing the mainstream
These patterns are strongest among more ideologically motivated groups, especially those on the political “fringe”. While less partisan audiences still look to the mainstream media, the agenda of the mainstream media is nonetheless shifting in response to fringe groups’ online interactions. As mainstream outlets report on social media trends, they amplify stories that originated in fringe groups, particularly when the stories reflect their ideological stance.

But the effect is not uniform across the political spectrum. Research on the US media shows that conservative news websites are more likely than liberal ones to propagate fabricated stories, and conservative individuals are more likely to believe them – but that liberal media outlets are more likely to change their agenda in response.

Crucially, fact-checking disputed stories does not help. Fact-check articles are less influential than the stories they attack, and can actually help disseminate falsehoods to audiences who are prone to misremember them as fact. More than that, merely fact-checking articles on fringe topics only makes those topics objects of mainstream discussion.

Fears about particular outlets’ “propaganda” stories are misplaced, since those stories generally only influence self-selecting “fringe” groups. What’s really concerning is how these groups repeat and amplify their preferred messages, and how their efforts influence media agendas and shift the parameters of political debate. With trust in the media declining fast, people are increasingly consulting partisan alternatives.

The ConversationThat not only opens the field for players like RT, but polarises social discussion to the point of outright conflict. And as recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia prove, that conflict is not confined to the online world.

About Today's Contributor:
Precious N Chatterje-Doody, Post-doctoral Research Associate, Reframing Russia for the Global Mediasphere, University of Manchester

This article was originally published on The Conversation

Bonus Picture:
There is nothing like a war to divert media attention  So Mr Trump started a war with the media
Image via Trumpton Facebook Page

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