Why Frank Sinatra still matters

_ George Schlatter, a friend

Let’s get one thing straight.


There can’t be another Frank. These days, you don’t operate on that plane and get away with it. Was he in the Mob? Was he an informer? Did he ruin Ava Gardner, sleep with Marilyn, throw a plate against a restaurant wall just because they cooked the pasta too long? Come on, al dente!

Act like that today and you’d be TMZ’d faster than you can tweet Alec Baldwin. But that’s just behavior. Flip on your TV and you’ll understand the other reason nobody can match Sinatra. In this age of the media megatropolis, of over-saturated, over-exposed, over-everything, competition is just too fierce for one figure to so dominate the spotlight. If Milton Berle were starting out now, he wouldn’t get a 30-year deal from NBC. He’d be cross-dressing on Comedy Central to beat out Guy Fieri on a Wednesday night.

With Frank’s 100th birthday approaching, I’ve been talking Sinatra over the last week, on the phone, at neighborhood barbecues, with other music fans. I’ve been throwing on his records, from the classics (“Come Dance With Me!”) to the spottier (“Trilogy: Past, Present, Future”), sifting through good books and that Kitty Kelley paperback and scouring YouTube for every scrap of visual data.

Truth is, celebrity anniversaries are nothing more than dates and dates nothing more than marketing opps for album reissues, tribute concerts and related product. But for me, an unrepentant fan, it’s a great time to remind everyone why Frank still matters.

It goes well beyond the tough-guy themes, torch songs and “Duets” albums that, while sterile and disappointing, launched an entire industry of songbook-styled projects. Some of them are even quite wonderful.

What’s most startling, when you focus on Frank, is how ever-present he is 18 years after his death, how regularly he bullies his way into your living room.

There he is, on David Letterman’s “Late Show” farewell week, channeled through Bob Dylan, the greatest songwriter of our time, who decided to croon a classic made famous by Sinatra. There’s “The Theme to New York, New York,” played 81 nights a season, without fail, after the final out at Yankee Stadium. Even in death, Frank can insert himself into the middle of a nasty domestic squabble. Third wife Mia Farrow taking a swipe at Woody Allen by suggesting that Ol’ Blue Eyes, not her film-directing ex, may have fathered son Ronan. And his staying power is undeniable, even as the icons of yesteryear — Ray Charles, Liz Taylor, even Hemingway — fade away.

“As far as touching him goes, nobody touches him,” Dylan said in a surprisingly personal interview earlier this year, explaining why his new record featured 10 songs made famous by Sinatra. “Not me or anyone else.”

“The word ‘icon’ is much overused, but if it applies to anyone in American popular culture, it is Frank Sinatra,” critic Terry Teachout said in the Alex Gibney documentary that aired on HBO in April, “Sinatra: All or Nothing at All.”

Let’s play a quick parlor game. Try to come up with a contemporary equivalent of Sinatra. I tried. You can at least take a good stab with Jimmy Stewart (Tom Hanks), John Wayne (Clint Eastwood) or Jackie Wilson (Bruno Mars.) With Sinatra, you’ll need to combine superpowers, taking Robert Downey Jr.’s swagger, Beyonce’s Forbesian reach and Justin Timberlake’s triple-threat skills. And that still doesn’t fill out the man.

“He conquered every medium — television, recording, films,” Tony Bennett said after his death. “He was just born for what he did.”

The “fully emancipated male,” Gay Talese called Sinatra in his famous 1966 Esquire profile, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.”

Then take on that other quote, the one that sounds, at first blush, like enough jive to knock your DeSoto out of second gear.

This, to me, is about authenticity. It’s a word often tossed around but rarely practiced. It is about being real in everything you do, on or off stage. Remaining authentic is no small feat when you’re hanging around presidents and movie stars, selling millions of records, and when your very identity comes from singing songs written by others.

Yet Sinatra, with all of his qualities and flaws, remained completely authentic. As a singer, he didn’t just adapt, he crawled into each phrase. On those rare moments were he chose poorly — listen to his corny take on the Beatles classic “Something” — the singer still feels 100 percent committed. As a public figure, he never hid, whether accused of having ties with the Mafia or playing out his marital splits in public. There would be no joint press releases on a “conscious uncoupling” with Gardner, Farrow or anyone. To the end, Frank confessed that he knew nothing more than the average galoot.

“I’m supposed to have a Ph.D. on the subject of women,” he is quoted in Bill Zehme’s wonderful “The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin'” “But the truth is I’ve flunked more often than not. I’m very fond of women; I admire them. But, like all men, I don’t understand them.”

He came from a different world. Frank Sinatra was born in 1915, before TV, before radio, to a pair of Italian immigrants. He grew up in Hoboken, dropped out of high school and then, after working an odd job or two, scored a recording contract with bandleader Harry James. That led to the Tommy Dorsey band, fame and the first stage of his career as the baby-faced big-band crooner.

Eventually, everything came apart: his first marriage, to Nancy Barbato; his singing career (Columbia Records cut him loose in 1952); and his confidence. In the early ’50s, Sinatra tried to kill himself, once with sleeping pills, a second time by slashing his wrists. (He denied the attempts.) It wasn’t until his Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1953’s “From Here to Eternity” that Sinatra’s luck seemed to change. He signed with Capitol Records and reinvented himself. He sang in a lower register and his material stretched, from winks and highballs to smoky, dark confessions.

“At times, the lowest note of a melody becomes almost spoken, giving him a much greater sense of intimacy,” Elvis Costello wrote in Mojo.

These days, we marvel at the entertainers atop the Forbes list, Dr. Dre raking in hundreds of millions from headphones, Taylor Swift defying all with her Spotify grab. Frank Sinatra did this 60 years ago, at a point when artists were usually too busy being ripped off to become corporations. Yet Frank had “his own film company, his own record company, his private airline, his missile-parts firm, his real-estate holdings across the nation, his personal staff of seventy-five,” as Talese wrote.

(Sinatra also, the writer revealed, had a woman on his payroll at $400 a week to follow him around with one of his many hairpieces.)

As far as he got from New Jersey, as much as he reinvented himself — there was the second “retirement” in 1971, before a return two years later — Frank never forgot his roots. He took pride in his Italian heritage, even if part of that pride came from feeling mistreated because “my name ends with a vowel.”

How much was true, how much was simply who he hung out with? The FBI had more than 1,000 pages on Sinatra, but never charged him with anything. Mario Puzo created the fictionalized Johnny Fontane in “The Godfather,” a crooner whose career is saved multiple times, in ways mirroring Sinatra’s life, by the Corleone family.

There are a lot of Sinatra albums and a lot of people who have pontificated on them. Most start by praising 1957’s ode to pathos, “Only the Lonely.”

But to me, the greatest Frank record is from a June show in 1962. He’s playing with his sextet in Paris, and it’s as loose as a show can get. “It’s obvious what his trouble is — girls,” Frank tells the audience as he introduces the saloon ballad “One for My Baby. “Cherche la femme. Which in French means ‘why don’t you share the broad with me?'”

At other moments, he coughs, clears his throat and apologizes. “I’ve gotta stop sleepin’ in the park.”

Jokey or not, his performance is impeccable, whether swinging through “Goody, Goody” and “Without a Song” or breathlessly roaming through the verses of “My Funny Valentine” and “One for My Baby.” More than anything, this performance — stripped down from his orchestral heft and captured in its entirety, unlike the other live recordings released during his lifetime — gets to the essence of what made Sinatra Sinatra.

It is how a man takes a song written by somebody else, performs it for decades, and it still sounds as fresh, pained and passionate as the first time it emerged. It is a special gift and one we don’t need a special birthday to recognize.

4. The Song

3. Reinvention

2. Beyond imitation

1. Presence

Mideast allies ask U.S. ‘What’s going on?’ after Iran deal

“Sometimes it’s difficult for us to know what the U.


S. strategy is,” General Mashal al-Zaben told Carter in remarks overheard by reporters during a photo opportunity Wednesday evening in Amman. “What’s going on?”

Carter is traveling through the Middle East this week trying to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to traditional allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia. His tour, however, only underscores the depth of discontent over an accord that is upending an already tumultuous region.

“Despite our best efforts, most of the region sees this deal as a glass half empty for them,” says Vali Nasr, a former senior adviser to the State Department. “There’s a very clear disjuncture between the way we see it and the way the rest of the region sees it.”

With much of the Arab world mired in conflict or chaos, the prospect of an Iran unfettered by international economic sanctions and exercising greater regional influence explains the disquiet that greeted Carter Wednesday in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Al-Zaben’s confusion is shared across the Arab world, though it’s felt perhaps most acutely in Saudi Arabia. Forces aligned with the Saudis confront Iranian allies in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Carter visited Iraq on Thursday, as his spokesman said that U.S.-backed Iraqi forces may be ready to retake the town of Ramadi from Islamic State terrorists within weeks.

The regional contest has both sectarian and historic overtones — pitting the Sunni Muslims of the kingdom of Saud against Iran’s Shiites in a battle that recalls the ancient rivalry of the Arab and Persian empires.

“We feel targeted,” says Jamal Khashoggi, former media adviser to Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal. “Iran’s campaign and expansionism is aimed at us.”

Carter arrived in Jeddah, the Saudi kingdom’s second- largest city, after getting an unfiltered dose of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the deal during talks in Tel Aviv.

“The prime minister made it quite clear that he disagreed with us on the nuclear deal with Iran,” Carter said later.

In Jeddah, Carter met with King Salman and his defense minister and son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to discuss improved military cooperation, including on counterterrorism, special forces, cyber security, and air and missile defense.

U.S. officials argue that by preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the agreement will make Israel and the Arab states more secure. In the U.S. view, the allies’ fears that the sanctions relief encompassed in the pact will unleash Iran to provide additional support for terrorism — and eventually replace the Arab states at the center of the U.S. Middle East strategy — are exaggerated.

“Even with this deal, we’ll continue to have serious differences with the Iranian government, its support of terrorism, proxies that destabilize the Middle East,” President Barack Obama told the Veterans of Foreign Wars this week. “So we can’t let them off the hook.”

Likewise, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to continue opposing U.S. policies, which he described as “180 degrees” away from those of Iran.

Despite such talk from both Washington and Tehran, Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, says the Iran agreement is forcing Israel and much of the Arab world to recalculate long-standing balance-of-power assumptions.

“Bringing a country the size of Iran, and with its broad regional ambitions and broad regional purview, out from the cold is a seismic event,” says Nasr. “It completely rearranges the chessboard.”

In Iraq, Iranian and American military forces already operate in a tacit partnership in the fight against Islamic State. A broader U.S.-Iranian rapprochement could facilitate a political settlement of the Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 210,000 people and made refugees of an additional 4 million.

The nuclear accord, which begins to reverse more than 35 years of open hostility between the U.S. and Iran, comes as the Middle East already is immersed in multiple armed conflicts and profound historic change.

Century-old borders have been erased by the rise of Islamic State, leaving open the question of whether Iraq and Syria will stay intact. Elsewhere, largely ungoverned spaces in Libya and Yemen offer sanctuary for terror bands.

While congressional opponents of the nuclear deal focus on the prospect of Iran cheating, “the region is worried about what happens if Iran abides by it,” said Suzanne Dimaggio, director of the Iran Initiative at New America in New York.

A primary focus for critics is the more than $100 billion in Iranian funds held in restricted accounts outside the country. As Iran complies with provisions of the agreement, that frozen money will be returned to the Islamic Republic.

Netanyahu says Iran will use the added funds to arm regional proxies. The U.S. has branded Iran a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984 and just last month described Iran’s support in 2014 for groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Jihad as “undiminished.”

Some Israeli national security officials are less alarmed about any potential financial windfall. While more Iranian money may go to helping Iran’s allies, including the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, Ami Ayalon, the former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, says “this is not the major issue to believe that the deal is good or bad.”

U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, note that the Arab states far outspend Iran on defense.

The Saudi military budget alone is almost six times that of the Islamic Republic. The six Gulf Cooperation Council countries collectively outspend Iran almost 10 to 1, according to an April report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“If they organize themselves correctly, all of the Arab states have an untapped potential that is very, very significant,” Kerry said in an interview with Al-Arabiya.

Any financial infusion also will challenge the Iranian government to balance its citizens’ desire for a better life against the regime’s regional ambitions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected in 2013 on an economic reform platform. With parliamentary elections scheduled for February, and his own re-election bid expected one year later, he faces popular demands to boost spending on domestic needs.

Iran will start its post-agreement life in a deep economic hole. The economy shrank by 9 percent over the two years that ended in March 2014. Years of international financial and oil- related sanctions have left gross domestic product 15 percent to 20 percent smaller than it otherwise would have been, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in April.

Investment withered under sanctions, falling from about $30 billion annually to roughly $6 billion, said Djavad Salehi- Isfahani, an economics professor at Virginia Tech University.

“We had almost no investment for three years in a row,” he said. “You have hundreds of development projects, government-owned projects that are in a standstill, and the government owes private contractors — the engineers who do all the work — $30-to-$50 billion.”

Rouhani doubled investment in his first year in office, but Salehi-Isfahani says the remaining backlog could absorb perhaps $35 billion.

As Iran’s funds return, officials must keep the 16.5 percent inflation rate from soaring, says economist Heydar Pourian, editor-in-chief of Iran Economics magazine. The central bank will need to sell government securities to avoid an unhealthy expansion of the money supply, a “sterilization” process it lacks experience with.

Whatever eventually happens inside Iran, the Middle East is undergoing a slow-motion earthquake. For the U.S., the challenge is how to balance reassurance for uneasy allies against preserving the option for a better relationship with Iran.

“That’s the hardest single question for us going forward,” says Ilan Goldenberg, a former Iran team chief at the Pentagon. “How do we balance?”

Strikers end Heat’s BBL finals hopes

Travis Head again pushed his Twenty20 World Cup case by helping Adelaide Strikers reclaim the Big Bash League top spot and end Brisbane Heat’s finals hopes with an eight-wicket win at the Gabba on Friday night.


Dropped twice, Head rode his luck to thrash four sixes in a 25-ball 50 to help guide the Strikers to 2-179 in front of another record crowd.

Openers Tim Ludeman (57 not out) and man-of-the-match Mahela Jayawardene (53) set the platform for Adelaide to eclipse Brisbane’s 6-175 with eight balls to spare.

Chris Lynn (34) mis-fired for Brisbane but national selector Mark Waugh said the Heat captain and Head were in the mix for March’s World Cup.

“You can’t bat as well as they are and not have your name up in lights,” Waugh told Ten Network.

The left-handed Head was dismissed for the first time in three BBL innings, a run that included 201 runs and a match-winning ton on New Year’s Eve.

Lynn tops the BBL run-scoring with 321 runs at 64.20 with a 169.84 strike rate.

Brisbane had to win the match to keep alive their finals hopes.

Their fifth loss in six games ensured a Gabba domestic T20 record crowd of 33,783 – eclipsing the old mark of 32,969 in 2013-14 – went home disappointed.

Adelaide’s only concern is Sri Lankan great Jayawardene who suffered a suspected quad strain.

He pulled up lame after a quick single and tried to save his legs by striking five fours and three sixes.

He was eventually trapped in front by Windies spinner Samuel Badree (1-23 off four), ending an 86-run stand with Ludeman.

Jayawardene, 38, hoped he would be available for the Strikers’ run to the finals.

“I think it is a quad. It probably has something to do with age,” he told the Ten Network.

“Hopefully it is nothing serious.”

The 19th century Cherokee leader who paved the way for MLK

Studying the 19th century is like being a parent.


You have flashes of recognition that your children behave as you once did. You wonder if your ancestors acted like you, too.

Similar patterns emerge when researching the political ancestors of modern leaders. The 1820s and 1830s — the era when our modern democracy began to take shape — were full of recognizable figures, such as a Georgia governor who fulminated in 1825 against a perceived conspiracy by Washington elites. (He was paranoid that Supreme Court justices and an untrustworthy president would free his state’s slaves. Today his political positions are outdated, but his rhetoric lives on.)

Even more striking is an early-19th-century civil rights leader. Nobody called him that, of course. But John Ross fought for his rights with tactics that perfectly prefigured America’s 20th-century civil rights battles.

What people actually called Ross was an Indian. Eventually, he was the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, resisting efforts to drive his people out of their historic homeland in north Georgia and the surrounding states. Seeking to influence a democratic society, John Ross of Georgia used tactics similar to those of Martin Luther King Jr. of Georgia. Their parallel experiences say much about what has and hasn’t changed in America.

Ross was of mixed race. His ancestors included Scottish traders who lived among Cherokees in colonial times and married Cherokee women. Born in 1790, he grew up in a changing world. Cherokees had been an independent nation for centuries but were overwhelmed by spreading white settlement in the early 1800s.

Unlike many Indian leaders, who rebelled against the new order, the Cherokees decided to join it. They signed treaties accepting the protection of the federal government. They adopted white styles of clothing, religion and business. Some — including Ross — copied the white use of enslaved laborers.

Ross’s English-language skills and education suited him for leadership during this time of adaptation. “We consider ourselves as a part of the great family of the Republic of the U. States,” he wrote early in his career. He aspired to make the Cherokee Nation a U.S. territory or state.

That was never likely. White settlers wanted Indian land, not the Indians on it. Today, schoolchildren learn the ending of the story: the Trail of Tears in 1838, when 13,000 Cherokees were forced to move west to what is now Oklahoma. Thousands died during that time — the victims of a ruthless, government-sponsored campaign of segregation.

Less well known is the long prelude to this disaster. Ross spent more than 20 years fending off expulsion. His epic battle against Andrew Jackson, the iconic hero of the United States’ emerging democracy, did much to shape the nation we inherited.

As a young man, Ross joined the Cherokee Regiment, raised to assist the United States in the War of 1812. The unit fought in an Army commanded by Gen. Jackson. When the war ended, Ross highlighted his military service. Joining a Cherokee delegation to Washington, he argued that Cherokees had proved their “attachment” to the United States in war, so their rights must be respected. Ross also recruited newspapermen, who described that service in print.

He was pioneering a tactic that African Americans would later use. Frederick Douglass urged black men to enlist in the Civil War and earn the freedom of black slaves (“Let us win for ourselves the gratitude of our country, and the best blessings of our posterity through all time”). A much-decorated black regiment called the Harlem Hellfighters returned from World War I expecting equality. This didn’t always work — African Americans, of course, would wait decades before winning civil rights — but it worked for Ross in 1816. Federal officials handed Cherokee heroes ceremonial rifles to commemorate their service and awarded them a temporary victory: The government blocked a plan to seize 2 million acres of Cherokee land. That plan had been orchestrated by their former commander, Jackson, who was in charge of military affairs in the South.

In 1828, Jackson was elected president. He was on his way to founding the Democratic Party, and he was profoundly expanding presidential power. He was also determined to move numerous Indian nations west to make way for white settlement. He said it would be better for Indians to be “free from the mercenary influence of white men.” Some Indians agreed that they were endangered by white culture, greed and guns, and had already moved. But most did not.

To lobby against this separate-but-unequal scheme, Cherokees under Ross started a newspaper, the first ever published by Native Americans. Just as later generations of African Americans would make themselves heard in the pages of the Chicago Defender, Cherokees spoke through the Cherokee Phoenix. Copies were mailed to other newspapers, and its articles were reprinted widely, spreading Cherokee perspectives.

And like later civil rights leaders, Ross found white and religious allies. He appealed to white missionaries who proselytized to Native Americans. The Cherokees flipped the missionaries, who spread word back to the white population that Cherokees were Christian, civilized and worth defending. They activated a powerful network of preachers, publishers and politicians. One Christian writer and activist wrote two dozen articles against removal in the National Intelligencer, the era’s nearest approximation of the Washington Post. He even encouraged a national movement of women, who could not vote but petitioned Congress.

The agitation was not quite enough. In 1830 Congress narrowly passed, and Jackson signed, the Indian Removal Act, offering transportation and land to natives who “voluntarily” moved west of the Mississippi. Yet Ross refused to give up. Facing pressure from Georgia, which imposed racist laws on the Cherokee Nation, Ross sued, much as the NAACP later sued in Brown v. Board of Education.

Ross scratched together money for a legal team. He personally made a hazardous trip to deliver a summons to Georgia’s governor, fearing that no one else could be relied upon to do it. The Supreme Court threw out the case on a technicality, so Ross pursued another case, Worcester v. Georgia, which succeeded in early 1832. Georgia had imprisoned two white missionaries who supported the Cherokees. Chief Justice John Marshall’s magisterial opinion said the missionaries must be freed: Georgia had no right to impose its laws in the Cherokee Nation, where Cherokees were “the undisputed possessors of the soil, from time immemorial.”

Incredibly, Marshall’s ruling came to nothing. Georgia refused to recognize it. Jackson denounced it and used sharp political maneuvering to make it go away. (His administration quietly arranged for the missionaries to be freed, making the court case moot, and he simply ignored Marshall’s broader finding.) Denied the shelter of the law, Ross steeled his people for passive resistance, in the spirit of the nonviolent civil rights demonstrators of the 1960s. Ordered to leave in the spring of 1838, Cherokees instead planted crops as if they’d be around for the harvest. The government sent soldiers to begin expelling the tribe. In defeat, Ross had one consolation: The Army’s rousting out of peaceful Indians fixed this tragedy in our national memory. “You can expel us by force,” Ross wrote in 1838, “. . . but you cannot make us call it fairness.”

Passive resistance also yielded some practical results. Horrified by the prospect of a humanitarian disaster, federal officials at least improved the terms of removal. Ross’s Cherokee government was promised more than $6 million for its land, probably a fraction of its real value but still a substantial sum. In exchange, Cherokees agreed to organize their own journey west rather than going at bayonet point. Ross billed the government for the Cherokees’ travel, charging every cent he could.

The final departure of Cherokees and other native nations made way for the creation of what we call the Deep South, with its economy based on plantations worked by black slaves. On this same ground, more than 100 years later, a new movement for minority rights emerged.

One reason Cherokees could not prevail is that American institutions were less developed than they later became. Imagine if, in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower had defied or undermined Brown v. Board of Education.

There was a deeper reason, though. While American democracy was expanding in the early 19th century to embrace nearly all white men, including those from poor backgrounds, like Jackson, it remained an openly racist democracy: government “on the white basis,” as Jackson’s political heir Stephen Douglas later put it during the Lincoln-Douglas debates. In the 1830s, even some of the Cherokees’ political sympathizers saw them as an inferior race whose doom was inevitable. The great Sen. Henry Clay publicly declared that honor required the United States to uphold Indian rights, but he privately said that Indians’ extinction would be “no great loss to the world.”

Later generations of Americans began to confront that underlying racism, recognizing that government “on the white basis” must be wrenched onto a broader and stronger foundation. This made it possible for minority groups to secure their rights using tactics that did not quite work for John Ross. We are indeed repeating the patterns of our ancestors, but we are gradually enjoying different results.

Steve Inskeep is a co-host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” and the author of “Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab.”

ADHD: Still more questions than answers about how to treat it

The label ADHD trivializes the disorder, asserts Russell Barkley, a neuropsychiatrist and professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina who has published more than 300 peer-reviewed articles on the condition.


“ADHD is not simply about not being able to pay attention. Describing it as such is like calling autism a ‘not looking at people’ problem,” he said, and there is much more to ADHD.

Some practitioners and researchers say drugs are by far the most effective treatment. Others argue that long-term drug use addresses symptoms only and does not provide important tools to help people manage their inattentiveness. They say it’s more helpful to focus on behavioral interventions, nutrition, exercise and special accommodations at school.

The American Psychiatric Association says there is no doubt that ADHD exists — and it estimates that 5 percent of U.S. children have the condition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the figure higher, reporting that 11 percent of U.S. children age 4 to 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011.

Whatever the number, many parents of kids with attention problems struggle with how best to help them. They seek guidance on whether to medicate. They want to know how to advocate for them in school and with their doctors. They look for ways to help them grow into well-adjusted, successful adults.

Science recognizes ADHD as involving brain development, although there is disagreement over what exactly happens in the brain to trigger ADHD symptoms. Barkley says there is an inherited aspect, though he also says the condition is sometimes triggered by environmental factors such as exposure to smoke and alcohol before birth. ADHD impairs self-regulation of behavior and emotions. And it impairs regulation of thoughts involving planning, organizing and problem-solving, he said.

Research shows that the maturation of brain regions associated with these functions is delayed by about three years in people with ADHD. Studies also suggest that these regions are smaller than normal and that they are less active. Also, imaging tests show dysfunctions in the networks of nerve cell fibers that allow brain regions to communicate with one another.

“Some of these networks affect working memory, which allows us to retain information. This explains the forgetfulness and difficulty completing tasks,” Barkley says. “A network tied to timing of our actions explains why these people are chronically late. A network tied to impulse control explains why they have five times more speeding tickets and why their relationships often head south. A network affecting ability to sustain attention is why they, for instance, have three times more car accidents.”

— — —

Whether children should be treated with medication sets off debate. “Some families say medications changed their child’s life for the better; others tell you horror stories,” said Ruth Hughes, former chief executive of Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Advocacy groups such as CHADD suggest a mixed approach that may include medication but also entails the application of parenting skills, behavioral interventions and school support.

Studies have produced contradictory results on the effectiveness and safety of medications for ADHD. A 2014 article in the Journal of Health Economics, based on a 14-year study involving 8,643 children with ADHD, concluded that “expanding medication . . . had little positive benefit and may have had harmful effects, given the average way these drugs are used in the community.” Yet a 2014 meta-analysis of 25 studies concluded, “Short-term [drug] treatment is safe and superior to placebo for ADHD symptoms and secondary outcomes.”

Hughes says parents should decide with their children’s doctors whether to use medication; for additional advice, she recommends “ADHD: Parents Medication Guide,” a booklet prepared by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and American Psychiatric Association.

“It’s based on science, but it’s not all about ‘Yes, medicate your kid,’ ” Hughes said. “It takes a thoughtful approach.”

— — —

Hope Scott, a developmental pediatrician in Reston, Va., prescribes medication to most of her ADHD patients. But drugs are only one part of the plan.

“Medications improve distractibility,” Scott said. “But they do not touch development of time management or organizational skills. They help you focus on cleaning your room, but you still need to learn how to do it.”

To teach such skills, she suggests ongoing behavior management measures such as reward tokens redeemable for such things as sleepovers with friends. Scott also recommends educational support, including classroom accommodations, such as more time to take tests or working on homework assignments during school hours for students who can’t focus after a full day of school.

Nitya Ramachandran, an Olney, Md., integrative pediatrician focusing on nutrition and other complementary and alternative medical protocols, has parents keep a diary noting what their children eat and when their symptoms worsen. Some studies, including a recent one in European Child Adolescent Psychiatry, suggest that food additives provoke ADHD behaviors, though the National Institutes of Health reports only a small percentage of children improve by restricting these additives.

“From the diaries and what parents tell me, many kids find it harder to focus, are tired or hyper when they eat processed foods and, in some cases, food additives like artificial dyes,” Ramachandran said.

Sometimes symptoms subside when these ingredients are eliminated. Ramachandran prescribes fish oil and probiotics to promote nutrient absorption. She checks thyroid hormones, vitamin D and iron levels — studies suggest deficiencies in these areas may be associated with ADHD — and emphasizes the importance of sleep.

Nearly 70 percent of her patients take low-dose medication; about half are weaned off them once they can focus on academics and their stress levels subside — usually within several months.

“They do well,” she said. “But they follow this integrative approach looking at overall health.”

— — —

ADHD is hard to diagnose because there are usually coexisting conditions with related symptoms, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or learning disabilities including dyslexia, said Barry Ekdom, a Fairfax, Va., neuropsychologist. Like many neuropsychologists, he assesses for ADHD by taking the patient’s history and testing several functions such as memory retrieval, which in some cases may be an indicator of ADHD and or other cognitive problems.

“People with ADHD get it when they study, but they blow the test — that is memory retrieval. The knowledge is learned and remembered. But they can’t retrieve it when questioned,” Ekdom said.

He suggests having ADHD children practice accessing information, such as repeatedly answering review questions before a test rather than simply reading material to be covered.

Auditory and visual cues — such as to-do lists and recorded messages — can help, some experts say.

Cary Euwer, a 29-year-old from Chevy Chase, Md., did well in high school, dealing with ADHD by studying late into the night and getting up early. The increased demands of college were too much for him. He lacked organizational skills and he couldn’t focus.

A turning point came when he took a college class where he was helping fourth-graders with science, a subject he loved but struggled with. “The way I was taught was too abstract for me. But I got to do hands-on work with these kids, which was more concrete and made it easier.”

Euwer also worked with a coach from the Edge Foundation, a national nonprofit that offers assistance to people with ADHD. “We focused on organization strategies like breaking tasks in small steps. We worked on time management, to help me think about how long something would take and planning ahead.” Taking breaks and exercising were also tremendously helpful.

The coaching, he said, helped him learn how his mind worked. Now he is completing a graduate program at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, focused on developing design concepts (such as communications tools) to address social problems.

“Once I had skills,” he said, “it was okay that I have a million thoughts coming at me at once.”

Hillary Clinton calls for sweeping expansion of voter access

In a speech at a historically black college here, Clinton called for federal legislation that would automatically register Americans to vote at age 18 and would mandate at least 20 days of early voting ahead of election days in all states.


Making her most fiercely partisan political speech since her first, failed run for president in 2008, Clinton attacked Republicans for what she characterized as a calculated attempt to turn back the clock on voting rights — and called out several potential 2016 opponents by name for backing voter restrictions as governors.

“Today Republicans are systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting,” Clinton said during a speech at Texas Southern University. “What part of democracy are they afraid of?”

The pointed attacks and sweeping policy proposals signal that Clinton intends to make voter access a major plank in her campaign platform — a move aimed at firing up the Democratic base and portraying her GOP opponents as suppressing votes. Her campaign’s top lawyer, Marc Elias, has co-filed lawsuits over voting access in Ohio and Wisconsin — both key presidential battleground states with Republican governors who may join the 2016 race.

The Republican National Committee accused Clinton of being “misleading and divisive” and noted that her home state of New York does not provide early voting. “Her exploitation of this issue only underscores why voters find her dishonest and untrustworthy,” RNC spokesman Orlando Watson said in a statement.

During her speech, Clinton said Republican state legislatures are intentionally restricting voting by curtailing early access to the polls and other measures in an effort to suppress Democratic turnout. Among the potential opponents she singled out for criticism were New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who announced his own second run for the White House on Thursday.

“Today there are people who offer themselves to be leaders whose actions have undercut this fundamental American principle” of a free vote, Clinton said.

Perry spokesman Travis Considine said Clinton’s remarks demonstrate “how truly out of touch she is with the people of Texas.”

“While it is unfortunate, Gov. Perry is not surprised that Hillary Clinton would come to Texas and call for weakening the integrity of our election process,” Considine said in a statement.

Nationwide mandatory voter registration would generally help Democrats, whose support frequently comes from younger, poorer and minority groups that may also be less likely to sign up to vote at 18 on their own. That change and a mandatory minimum period for early voting would have to be approved by Congress — now controlled by Republicans — so it is unlikely to happen in time to benefit Clinton in the 2016 election if she is the Democratic nominee.

“None of them will come easily,” she acknowledged in her speech.

Clinton also alleged that Republican efforts to limit voter registration have a disproportionate impact on “people of color, poor people and young people from one end of our country to the other.”

Under universal voter registration, every citizen would be automatically registered to vote on their 18th birthdays, unless they actively opt out.

About 71 percent of eligible adults nationwide are registered to vote, according to census figures, and a lower percentage actually show up at the polls. Registration and turnout tend to be higher among older and relatively affluent white voters, who are also more likely to vote Republican.

The requirement for in-person early voting that Clinton seeks would also mandate that polling places have weekend and evening hours.

Although early voting has become fairly common in the past decade, many Republicans say it increases the opportunity for fraudulent voting. Republicans have raised similar objections to same-day registration and other efforts — many of them led by Democrats — to make voting easier or more convenient. Clinton dismissed such complaints as unfounded.

Election analysts generally agree that voter fraud is rare, although there have been a handful of well-publicized examples of fraudulent names being added to the rolls.

Clinton’s address comes as Democrats are pursuing legal challenges to voting rule changes approved by Republican legislatures in several states.

“This is, I think, a moment when we should be expanding the franchise,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said in an interview Wednesday. “What we see in state after state is this effort by conservatives to restrict the right to vote.”

In recent weeks, Elias has co-filed lawsuits over voting access in Ohio and Wisconsin — both key presidential battleground states with Republican governors who may join the 2016 race.

“This lawsuit concerns the most fundamental of rights guaranteed citizens in our representative democracy — the right to vote,” the lawyers wrote in a federal complaint filed Friday in Wisconsin.

Walker spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said voter access restrictions make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat” and added, “This is a bipartisan issue and Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are on the wrong side.”

Since the 2010 Republican wave, 21 states have implemented new laws restricting voting access, some cutting back on early voting hours and others limiting the number of documents considered valid identification to vote, according to a new analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan think tank at the New York University School of Law. For 14 of those states, the 2016 contest will be the first presidential election with the new restrictions in place.

Some limits also flowed from the 2013 Supreme Court decision that invalidated some parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The day that decision came down, Perry praised it as a “clear victory for federalism and the states” and vowed to proceed with the implementation of a strict photo ID requirement, previously blocked under the law. That requirement is currently being challenged in court, with a resolution expected as soon as this summer.

About three dozen states and the District offer early voting of some kind, allowing voters to cast ballots before Election Day without an excuse. The average early voting period is roughly 22 days, the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures reported earlier this year.

Oregon’s breakthrough “new motor voter” law passed earlier this year is the closest any state has come to the kind of automatic registration endorsed by Clinton. She praised Oregon as a leader in modernizing antiquated voting procedures, including paper registration.

Under the new law, all Oregonians applying for a new or updated driver’s license are automatically added to the voter rolls, unless they opt out. The state has estimated that the law will add about 300,000 voters to the rolls.

Younger voters are the least likely to be registered and have tilted toward Democrats in recent years. In 2012, the Census Bureau reported 57 percent of citizens under 30 were registered to vote, compared with 78 percent of those 55 and older. Voters under 30 supported Barack Obama by a 29 percentage-point margin over Mitt Romney, according to network exit polls (66 percent to 37 percent).

In 2008 and 2012, African-American turnout rates surged to match or exceed turnout among whites for the first time, but a central question in 2016 is whether blacks will turn out at similar levels when President Obama is not on the ballot.

Hispanics and Asians — groups Obama won by wide margins as well — vote at far lower rates than whites and African-Americans, representing a large untapped pool of Democratic support. Automatic registration among these groups may encourage more voting participation.

Exit polls in 2012 found that Obama racked up a seven-point lead over Republican Mitt Romney among early voters, compared with a one-point edge among those casting ballots on Election Day.

Democrats’ advantage among early voters was less clear according to voter registration data tracked by the U.S. Elections Project. In five of seven states where data are available, Democrats made up about the same percentage of early voters as they did on Election Day.

– – – –

Chokshi reported from Washington. Scott Clement contributed to this report.

NATO maneuvers to keep cool war with Russia from becoming hot

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, in the midst of a week-long trip to Europe, is reassuring nervous allies that the trans-Atlantic alliance would ride to the rescue if Russia attacked.


The three tiny Baltic nations, Russia’s neighbors and parts of the former Soviet Union before they joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2004, are especially anxious.

“We have reasons to believe that Russia views the Baltic region as one of NATO’s most vulnerable areas, a place where NATO’s resolve can be tested,” said Sven Mikser, Estonia’s defense minister.

On Tuesday, Carter tried to meet the test, saying that the United States is moving about 250 tanks, howitzers and Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Estonia, population 1.3 million, and five other alliance nations as a show of force.

“While we don’t seek a cold war, let alone a hot war, with Russia, we will defend our allies,” he told reporters in Tallinn, the Estonian capital.

Still, the U.S. defense chief confronts doubts about both NATO’s capability and its willingness to act. His campaign of deterrence, while reminiscent of the Cold War, is playing out on a vastly different political, military and economic landscape.

The Cold War’s tidy us-versus-them face-off has been replaced by a web of commercial and cooperative ties among Russia, the United States and European nations. Russia provides almost a third of the European Union’s natural gas needs and is Europe’s third-largest trading partner.

Those ties have contributed to doubts about NATO’s willingness to fight for its newest members. Majorities of the public in Germany, France and Italy oppose defending NATO allies on Russia’s periphery if they come under attack, according to a June 10 Pew Research Center survey.

“Nobody’s going to war with Russia over Estonia,” said Leon Aron, a Russia specialist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Doubts about NATO’s will to act are matched by concerns about its ability to fight. The alliance is fielding a new rapid reaction force that’s intended to reach trouble spots within 48 hours — far faster than the minimum 30 days needed before the Ukraine crisis.

Even that quicker tempo, however, may not be fast enough. A repeat of the murky circumstances that governed the opening phase of the Ukraine crisis — operations by armed units with no insignia, coupled with stage-managed pleas for help by local ethnic Russians — could present NATO with a difficult choice.

Carter said allied officials later this week will discuss ways to ensure that the “speed of decision-making” matches military needs.

That hasn’t always been the case. In 2003, it took a month after a U.S. request to NATO for Patriot air defense missile batteries to arrive in Turkey.

“It’s pretty clear they would not be there in time,” said Terrence Kelly of the Rand Corp., a nonprofit policy research organization, who’s participated in Baltic war games. “Our research clearly indicates that Russia could get to the Baltic Sea very, very quickly.”

Some doubt that the Russian threat will materialize. Ukraine, with a special, emotional importance to Russian culture, wasn’t a member of NATO, and the deep reservoir of public support from ethnic Russians in Crimea would be difficult to replicate in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania.

“The Russian speakers in these countries have been living in the West for a long time,” said Sean Kay, a former Defense Department consultant and director of the international studies program at Ohio Wesleyan University. “It’s not the Donbass,” he said, referring to the disputed eastern region of Ukraine. “They’re citizens of the European Union.”

U.S. officials see the Russian leader’s support for pro- Russian separatists in Ukraine as only part of a broader campaign to split the Western alliance — what Rand analysts labeled a “cool war” in a March 25 study.

“Weakening, if not destroying NATO, is one of Putin’s key national security objectives,” said Kelly, director of the strategy, doctrine and resources program for the Rand Arroyo Center, funded by the U.S. Army.

Prepositioning equipment for one armored combat brigade spread among Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland — the allies closest to Russian soil — is intended as a signal to Putin.

No one expects Russian armored formations and thousands of soldiers to pour across the borders. The fear is a repeat of the deft propaganda and irregular militias that Russia has employed to devastating effect in eastern Ukraine.

Or Russia could launch an offensive across virtual borders using cybertools that didn’t exist in the Cold War. In 2007, during a dispute between Estonia and Russia over the relocation of a Soviet war memorial from the center of Tallinn, “denial of service attacks” crashed Estonian government websites.

Carter on Tuesday toured an Estonian cybersecurity research center housed in a handsome stone building that served in the 19th century as a barracks for the Russian czar’s army.

Since Russia used such “hybrid warfare” to swallow the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, allied military forces have staged a near-continuous series of military exercises to demonstrate resolve while political leaders have vowed to counter any further Moscow moves.

“The United States and the rest of the NATO alliance are absolutely committed to defending the territorial integrity of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, just as we’re committed to defending all of our allies,” Carter said.

If today’s Russian threat differs from that of the Cold War, Europe’s military balance also has evolved. The U.S. remains in the midst of a long drawdown of its European forces despite the Ukraine crisis.

The U.S. has about 65,000 troops in Europe today compared with an early-1990s peak of more than 300,000. Repeated headquarters staff cuts have made U.S. European Command the smallest combatant command in the U.S. military.

In April, the U.S. Army announced the withdrawal of 24 Apache and 30 Blackhawk helicopters from Germany.

U.S. forces in Europe “have been sized over the last two decades for a Russia that we were looking to make a partner,” Air Force General Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April.

Russia’s military, too, pales in comparison to its Soviet predecessor. From a 1986 peak of 4.3 million men under arms, the Russian military has shrunk to fewer than 1 million in uniform, according to a March 31, 2014, Congressional Research Service study.

Putin has launched a multiyear program to expand and modernize his military, but “mismanagement, changes in plans, corruption, manning issues, and economic constraints have complicated this restructuring,” the report concluded.

The military balance may not matter as much as perceptions in rival capitals, though. Putin already has misjudged the consequences of seizing Crimea, and and allied officials want to make sure he doesn’t miscalculate again.

“NATO collectively is far superior to Russia today,” said Mikser, the Estonian defense chief. “In global terms, Russia is no match literally to the U.S., to NATO. But here in this, our corner of the world, Putin believes he enjoys superiority, regional superiority. That makes us vulnerable.”

Over the past year, the U.S. has taken several steps to shore up its deterrent. Under the $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative, the Pentagon has increased the frequency of European exercises. It’s flown A-10 attack aircraft to bases in Romania and funded improvements to railheads and landing strips that would be needed in the event of trouble along NATO’s eastern or southern flanks.

The prepositioning of enough equipment for 5,000 soldiers announced Tuesday is a further warning. But it may not be enough.

“That will end up being an initial step,” said retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander and now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. “The Baltics’ desire to have a small permanent presence of U.S. troops — companies or battalions — will continue to grow. I think we’ll end up in that position in another year or so.”

Sesame Street’s educational impact is comparable to preschool, study finds

NEW YORK — Most Americans born since the mid-1960s have a favorite “Sesame Street” skit.


Jennifer Kotler Clarke watched hers on a black-and-white television set in her family’s Bronx apartment. There were two aliens: One of them had long arms that didn’t move, while the other had short, moving arms. The aliens wished to eat apples from a tree, and they succeeded, after a couple of minutes, by working together. “Let’s call this cooperation,” one of them says. “No,” the other replies, “let’s call it Shirley.”

Clarke grew up to be the show’s vice president for research and evaluation, and she has long believed that the program’s laughs and lessons stick with children. Now, landmark academic research appears to back her up.

The most authoritative study ever done on the impact of “Sesame Street,” to be released on Monday, finds that the famous show on public TV has delivered lasting educational benefits to millions of American children — benefits as powerful as the ones children get from going to preschool.

The paper from the University of Maryland’s Melissa Kearney and Wellesley College’s Phillip Levine finds that the show has left children more likely to stay at the appropriate grade level for their age, an effect that is particularly pronounced among boys, African Americans and children who grow up in disadvantaged areas.

After “Sesame Street” was introduced, children living in places where its broadcast could be more readily received saw a 14 percent drop in their likelihood of being behind in school. Levine and Kearney note in their paper that a wide body of previous research has found that Head Start, the pre-kindergarten program for low-income Americans, delivers a similar benefit.

The researchers also say those effects probably come from “Sesame Street’s” focus on presenting viewers with an academic curriculum, heavy on reading and math, that would appear to have helped prepare children for school.

While it might seem implausible that a TV show could have such effects, the results build on Nixon-era government studies that found big short-term benefits in watching the show, along with years of focus-group studies by the team of academic researchers who help write “Sesame Street” scripts. Several outside researchers have reviewed the study, and none are known to have questioned its results.

The new findings offer comforting news for parents who plopped their children in front of public TV every day and/or memorized entire Elmo DVDs, unwittingly.

They also raise a provocative question, at a time when many lawmakers are pushing to expand spending on early-childhood education: Do kids need preschool if a TV show works just as well?

Yes, say the economists — and the “Sesame Street” educational team. Head Start, Kearney and Levine write, was designed to provide more than an academic boost: It delivers family support, medical and dental services, and development of emotional skills that help kids in social settings.

Levine and Kearney see the study as a clear lesson in the value of a (very cheap) mass-media complement to preschool. The potentially controversial implication they embrace from the study isn’t about early-childhood education. It’s about college, and the trend toward low-cost massive open online courses, or MOOCs.

“Sesame Street,” Levine and Kearney write, was the original MOOC. “If we can do this with ‘Sesame Street’ on television, we can potentially do this with all sorts of electronic communications,” Kearney said in an interview. “It’s encouraging because it means we might be able to make real progress in ways that are affordable and scalable.”

The research can’t say whether the show continues to deliver such high benefits to children, said Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, who has read drafts of the paper and given feedback to the authors.

But, she said, it clearly shows “the importance of childhood education, which is really having its moment right now.”

The economists’ study was brought to you, so to speak, by the letters U, H and F.

“Sesame Street” debuted in 1969 with a diverse cast of humans and brightly colored fuzzy Muppets, including Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, and, of course, Big Bird. It was the country’s first explicitly educational children’s program, and it was an immediate hit: In the early 1970s, one-third of all American toddlers watched it.

That’s a Super Bowl-level audience share. But it’s even more striking because another third of the nation’s toddlers couldn’t have watched the show if they wanted to — they didn’t have the right kind of antenna to tune in to their local public television station.

This was well before the popularization of cable. TV broadcasts arrived over the air, on two different kinds of signals. The higher-quality signal was known as VHF, or Channels 1 to 13 on a standard TV set. The lower-quality signal was called UHF, and many households at that time were unable to tune it in. By a quirk of federal licensing, the public broadcasting channels in many major cities, including New York and Boston, aired on VHF channels, while others, including Los Angeles and Washington, aired on UHF.

As a result, about two-thirds of the nation’s households were able to watch “Sesame Street.” The other third weren’t.

Levine read about that divide in early 2014. He realized it was the sort of rare natural experiment that economists live for — two groups of people, divvied up by fate and the Federal Communications Commission, who could be compared over time to see whether there was a difference in their educational outcomes.

“It’s econometrically phenomenal,” he said, “because it’s essentially random, who had UHF and who had VHF.”

Levine and Kearney pinpointed which cities had high or low levels of access to the show. Then they used census data to track children from those cities throughout school, to see whether they were staying at grade level. They couldn’t study individual people, or even determine whether people in particular areas watched the show. But they found a large and statistically meaningful effect on the educational progress of children who, because of where they lived, were much more likely to be able to watch. (The effect appears to fade out before high school graduation, they also found.)

“Sesame Street” writers design their shows to have those effects.

From the start, the program rooted its scripts in an academic curriculum designed to help children — particularly low-income urban kids — prepare for school.

At first the writers focused on basics: letters, numbers, cooperation. Over the decades they expanded to incorporate research on what children needed to succeed in the classroom and in life. “We’re constantly changing the show, for good reasons,” said Rosemarie Truglio, the senior vice president of global educational content at Sesame Workshop.

When writers wanted to emphasize science learning, Truglio said in an interview in “Sesame Street” offices just off Central Park in Manhattan, they turned the inquisitive monster Super Grover into a one-Muppet embodiment of the scientific method.

When they realized that media-soaked children needed more help paying attention and controlling impulses, they decided to make an example out of Cookie Monster — the googly-eyed character who famously cannot resist sweets.

“As an educator, I was a little worried about that,” Truglio said. “Because he was going to fail, a lot.” Then she realized that was the point: Children needed to see someone struggle with the attention issues they struggle with, and try multiple techniques to overcome them. In one recent skit, modeled on the “Karate Kid” movies, Cookie Monster needs three tries to learn a special move from his sensei, but he finally masters listening with his whole body and, as a reward, he earns a cookie belt.

Which he eats.

“Sesame Street” researchers aggressively test their shows via focus groups to see what works. Their success, they said, rests on a simple formula that wraps education in entertainment, harnessing the power of human narrative. They said the approach could easily extend to college students — to MOOCs — as well as preschoolers.

“Storytelling is critical,” Clarke said. “If you organize information in storytelling, children are more likely to learn it. And adults are, too.”

Like Clarke, Kearney grew up loving “Sesame Street.” (Levine, her co-author, was of school age when the show hit the air.) Kearney remembers running through her house with her sisters, singing a Big Bird song about the alphabet. Her favorite character was the Count — the one who most resembled an economist.

Gay marriage legalized by Supreme Court in landmark ruling

Voting 5-4, the justices said states lack any legitimate reason to deprive gay couples of the freedom to marry.


Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the court’s four Democratic appointees in the majority, bringing gay weddings to the last 14 states where they were still banned.

“The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person,” Kennedy wrote. “Couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”

The ruling is a legal landmark, on par with the 1967 Supreme Court decision that guaranteed interracial couples the freedom to wed. It punctuates a period of sweeping change in the rights of gays, coming only 11 years after Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriages.

The decision is likely to meet resistance in parts of the country and spark new legal fights. North Carolina has a new law that lets court officials refuse to officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies. Pike County, Alabama, currently isn’t issuing marriage licenses to anyone.

In other parts of the country, same-sex marriage started almost immediately after the high court ruled. Travis County, Texas, began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples at 10:30 a.m. local time. County judges in Ohio, North Dakota, Nebraska, Michigan, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky had either begun issuing licenses or stood ready to do so Friday morning, according to local news reports.

Same-sex couples in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama were told they will have to wait.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented, with each writing a separate opinion. Roberts read a summary of his dissent from the bench for the first time in his 10 years on the court.

Roberts wrote that the gay couples “make strong arguments rooted in social policy and consideration of fairness.” But, he said, “under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be.”

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Kennedy’s opinion without adding any separate comments.

The decision comes at a time of record support among Americans for same-sex weddings. A Gallup poll conducted in May showed 60 percent favoring legalized same-sex marriage and 37 percent opposed.

“This ruling will strengthen all of our communities by offering to all loving same-sex couples the dignity of marriage across this great land,” President Barack Obama said in a statement at the White House.

Immediately after the ruling, Obama placed a call to Jim Obergefell, the Ohio man whose name will forever be attached to the ruling. Obergefell became the lead plaintiff after seeking to have his name on the death certificate of his partner of two decades, John Arthur. Obergefell and Arthur married on an airport tarmac in Maryland in 2013 just months before Arthur’s death.

“Your leadership on this issue, you know, has changed the country,” Obama told Obergefell, who was in the courtroom for Friday’s announcement.

A party-like atmosphere developed outside the court in the hours after the ruling. Gay-marriage supporters cheered, sang songs and took pictures of themselves at the site of history.

“This means finally equality for not only the entire gay community but for myself as well,” said Dan Fitzgerald, a 19- year-old gay man from Washington and student at American University.

Hundreds of companies — including Amazon杭州桑拿会所,, Google and Walt Disney — pressed the court to legalize gay marriage nationwide. They said it would help them attract able workers and simplify their employee-benefit packages throughout the nation.

The ruling “will help families across the country, make it easier for businesses to hire and keep talented people, and promote both economic growth and individual freedom,” Goldman Sachs said in a statement on its website.

The Supreme Court case involved 31 people from Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky. A federal appeals court had ruled against gay weddings, saying changes to marriage laws should come through the political process, not the courtroom.

Kennedy rejected that reasoning, saying the democratic process must give way to the Constitution.

“The dynamic of our constitutional system is that individuals need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right,” he wrote. “The nation’s courts are open to injured individuals who come to them to vindicate their own direct, personal stake in our basic charter.”

Kennedy said same-sex marriage bans violated two guarantees protected by the Constitution’s 14th Amendment: the fundamental right to marry and the right to equal protection.

Gay couples “ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” Kennedy wrote. “The Constitution grants them that right.”

His 28-page opinion said marriage was an institution that had “evolved over time.”

“Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations, often through perspectives that begin in pleas or protests and then are considered in the political sphere and the judicial process,” he wrote.

Kennedy said people with religious objections “may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

The ruling doesn’t resolve all legal questions about gay rights. Civil-rights advocates are still trying to win anti- discrimination protections, both at the federal level and in the dozens of states where people can be fired or denied housing because of sexual orientation.

The people seeking marriage rights included Michigan residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, nurses who have adopted four children, two of them with special needs. Obergefell was the lead plaintiff in the Ohio case.

The high court ruling means that “our love is equal,” Obergefell said outside the court building. “The four words etched onto the front of the Supreme Court, ‘Equal Justice Under Law,’ apply to us too.”

Roberts said supporters of gay marriage should “celebrate” the ruling and the “opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner.”

“But do not celebrate the Constitution,” he wrote. “It had nothing to do with it.”

Scalia and Thomas joined Roberts’s opinion and also wrote separately. Scalia called the ruling a “threat to American democracy.”

“Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court,” Scalia wrote.

Alito said the ruling “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” He faulted the majority for equating gay-marriage bans to the laws that once barred interracial marriages.

Almost 400,000 same-sex couples have already married in places where it is legal, and an estimated 70,000 more now will wed in the new states, according to research by the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute.

Republicans generally expressed disappointment.

“The Supreme Court disregarded the democratically enacted will of millions of Americans by forcing states to redefine the institution of marriage,” House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said.

“I’m very disappointed that the word of God hasn’t been upheld by #Scotus,” tweeted Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican.

The Supreme Court had hinted at support for gay marriage in a 2013 decision that struck down part of a law denying federal benefits for same-sex spouses. At the time, only 12 states had gay marriage.

The 2013 ruling created a broad sense that the court would soon take the final step. The justices reinforced that perception by repeatedly letting pro-marriage lower court orders take effect. Those orders increased the number of states where gays could wed to 36, plus the District of Columbia, and helped acclimate Americans around the country to same-sex marriage.

_ Contributors: David McLaughlin, Billy House and Rachel Adams-Heard in Washington and Esme E. Deprez in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Healthcare law critics, backers mobilize efforts before Supreme Court ruling

At issue in the court case is whether it is legal for the government to provide subsidies to consumers in the almost three dozen states that have not set up their own insurance exchanges and instead rely on the federal marketplace.


Many conservative critics say that the subsidies should be struck down and that such a ruling could be the first step in overhauling a flawed law. They would eliminate the law’s requirement that most Americans have insurance and call for a larger role for the states.

The American Enterprise Institute supports a temporary extension of subsidies for people now receiving them but not for new enrollees. The group also backs alternative ways to help people pay for insurance. Heritage Action for America, the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, opposes any extension of the subsidies.

On the other side, Families USA, a liberal consumer group, and hundreds of other consumer and patient organizations say that if the administration loses the case, the states and Congress should take immediate steps to ensure consumers continue receiving subsidies. They cite government data showing that 6.4 million people in 34 states would lose their subsidies, resulting in a rise in the number of uninsured.

Beginning Tuesday, Families USA is conducting regional media briefings and releasing a series of state maps that detail by congressional district how many people could be at risk.

The latest swirl of activity is not aimed at the justices, who presumably voted on the outcome of the case some time ago. Rather, it targets the American public, the media, and especially federal and state officials who may be confronted with the uncomfortable prospect of millions of people being unable to afford health coverage.

“A lot of what’s going on now among the groups and on the Hill is sort of pre-spinning the decision to try to get the upper hand in the debate that would ensue if the court sides with the challengers,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The decision in King v. Burwell, the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act to reach the nation’s highest court, is expected by the end of the month. The plaintiffs argue that, under a straightforward reading of the law, only residents of states that set up their own exchanges are entitled to government subsidies to help them pay for their insurance. The administration counters that the law obviously intended for the subsidies to go to anyone who qualifies based on income, whether they signed up through a state or federal exchange.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have created their own exchanges, but three of them — Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon — are having technical problems, so they are using the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov. The remaining 34 states rely to varying degrees on the federal exchange.

About 85 percent of those who have bought insurance on state and federal exchanges receive a subsidy, and the average amount is $272 a month, according to government data. Consumers who are receiving subsidies could see their costs for insurance almost triple, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That could lead to people dropping their coverage and an overall unraveling of the law, some health experts say.

Many Americans who may lose their subsidies are only vaguely aware of the case.

Bea Cote, 56, a Charlotte resident who runs an organization that works with domestic-violence offenders, signed up for health coverage in March through the federal exchange; North Carolina does not have its own marketplace. Cote, who makes about $25,000 a year, gets a hefty subsidy and pays just $66 a month for health insurance. Without the subsidy, her premium would be $578.

“There’s no way I could pay that kind of money,” said Cote, who needs medication for high blood pressure and arthritis, as well as a machine for sleep apnea that keeps her airways open at night. “I would have to drop insurance,” she said.

Many supporters of the law say they are optimistic that the justices will not strike down the subsidies but want to be ready in any case. And many in the healthcare industry say that even if the court disallows the financial aid, they expect it to allow payments through the end of this year, to give policymakers a chance to respond.

If the court strikes down subsidies in the federal marketplace, the simplest fix will be for Congress to pass a law saying subsidies are permanently legal in all states. But there is little chance a Republican-controlled Congress would do that; many Republican lawmakers want to dismantle the law.

For example, a bill by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that has 31 co-sponsors would extend the subsidies until September 2017 for those currently receiving them but not permit them for new enrollees. It would also repeal the individual insurance mandate and other federal requirements.

“We want to protect the people that are harmed by the president’s illegal actions if the Supreme Court rules that way, but we’re not going to protect the law,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said at a recent news conference.

Administration officials have said they have no contingency plans if they lose in court, and they have vowed to reject any proposal to wreck the law. “Something that repeals the Affordable Care Act is something the president will not sign,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell recently told a House panel.

In the face of a federal standoff, states could try to fix the problem themselves by setting up their own marketplaces. Pennsylvania and Delaware recently announced plans to do so. But in many affected states, there is strong political opposition to anything that would preserve Obamacare.

Even without the political hurdle, states face logistical obstacles — not enough time or money — in trying to get new state exchanges up and running before the next round of open enrollment in the marketplaces begins in November.

A possible remedy suggested by the consulting firm Leavitt Partners — run by Mike Leavitt, HHS secretary under President George W. Bush — would be for the Obama administration to drastically reduce the administrative and financial requirements for setting up state exchanges. For example, the administration could allow states to create exchanges without first setting up a governing board, the proposal said.

AEI’s longer-term remedy calls for a new system that would allow states without exchanges to provide subsidies — but ones based on a consumer’s age rather than income.

If the pending court decision represents a threat to Obama’s legacy, it also carries political risks for Republicans, who largely back the challenge to the law and could be blamed if coverage is made unaffordable.

“If you prolong this, there will be enormous anxiety out there in the country for people and their brothers and sisters and co-workers, and the Republicans are going to take a horrible hit for this,” said Robert Laszewski, a longtime health insurance consultant. Politicians can say they support or oppose the law, he said, but the average person’s reaction will be, “Why are you screwing these people, what did they do wrong?”

Families USA hopes its plan to single out the most-affected congressional districts will increase pressure on elected officials.

For example, Florida, which did not set up its own exchange, has 1.3 million people at risk of losing their subsidies, or about 20 percent of the total across the country, according to the government’s data. Topping the list is the state’s 25th Congressional District, which includes the Miami suburbs, home to 91,000 consumers who could lose the payments.

Meanwhile, Heritage Action for America’s four lobbyists have been spending the run-up to the court decision trying to discourage Republican lawmakers from passing even a short-term extension of subsidies. Much would be gained by an administration loss in court, the group argues — if, for example, it ultimately led to the collapse of the law and the repeal of federal mandates, insurance premiums could drop.

“What we’re advising is to go with a completely different approach, saying we’re not going to refund or put back in place these subsidies, but what we will do is allow the states that are impacted by the decision to be able to opt out of all the mandates and all the insurance regulations that have driven up the price of insurance,” said the group’s communications director, Dan Holler.

“There’s a lot of fear that this could go poorly for Republicans if they win, and we’re trying to encourage them to see it as an opportunity to really help make the case about everything that was wrong with the law,” he said.

Washington Post staff writer Niraj Chokshi contributed to this report.