December 7, 2010

Fight Hunger!

Posted: 07:12 PM ET

By Bill Ayres
Executive Director and co-founder of WhyHunger

Hunger affects over 50 million people in the U.S.  The chances are that you already know someone who is affected by hunger. Families with children, the elderly, and working people are in need of support, especially but not limited to the holiday season.

In response to this need, the National Hunger Hotline has been created.  It is a service of the National Hunger Clearinghouse, funded in part by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, and managed by WhyHunger. Below are just two of the recent stories we've we heard from people across the country in need of food assistance.

–A veteran of the United States Air Force recently called the Hotline in need of food resources to last him a month. The veteran had recently completed his four years of service and was set to join the Coast Guard in two months but was unable to provide the necessary shelter and food for his family of six in the interim. At the time of his call he was en route to a doctor’s appointment to meet his pregnant wife and was unable to write down the numbers. Instead, the Hotline advocate emailed him a list of food pantries that he would be able to access for the month as well as the commodities program at his local food bank.

–One of our grassroots partners, Lana, was trying to locate 50 meals a day for a low-income senior program. She made dozens of calls, including trying to enlist the support of a local politician, to no avail. We connected her to a model food pantry in the area, and they conducted a site visit. After the visit, the head of nutrition services passed away, and the case appeared to be in limbo. We re-connected Lana with the Executive Director and helped her to clarify details about the operation that had been an obstacle to her request.

A few weeks ago, we received an email from Lana stating that the senior center is now receiving 50 meals from the pantry daily. In addition, she contacted the local politician, who presented the pantry with a $5000 check for their work. She thanked us for “getting things done while others made promises.”

Need Help Finding Food?: Call the National Hunger Hotline 1-866-3 HUNGRY and 1-877-8 HAMBRE (1-866-348-6479 and 1-877-842-6273) to get connected to emergency food assistance, government programs, and model grassroots organizations that work to improve access to healthy, nutritious food, and build self-reliance. Help is available Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm and Saturdays from 10am-2pm EST.

You can help us help those in need by visiting

Filed under: How You Can Help • LKL Web Exclusive

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November 30, 2010

LKL Exclusive: Leeza Gibbons Offers Strength and Support to Alzheimers Caregivers

Posted: 04:49 PM ET

Leeza Gibbons is an Emmy-winning TV/radio personality, long-time Alzheimer’s disease caregiving advocate and co-author of the caregiving book “Take Your Oxygen First.” Her commentary is an LKL Web Exclusive.

Thank God for outspoken advocates like former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is using her considerable clout to underscore the urgent situation we face in our country due to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Back in October, she authored a striking editorial in The New York Times on the growing epidemic of AD in our aging population. Because of the widespread impact of AD, a devastating illness that robs people of their ability to relate, remember and care for themselves, O’Connor put out a passionate directive, asking that the United States “deploy sufficient resources, scientific talent and problem-solving technologies to save our collective future.”

YES! It’s time we all “own” this disease and recognize that we must push harder for solutions and support. Having lost my mother and grandmother to the thief of Alzheimer’s, I fully support Ms. O’Connor’s timely goal.

Today I put out a similar call to action and invite you to join a new campaign - “Stand Together for AD: Strength and Support for Alzheimer’s.” The campaign was created with support from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and is focused specifically on helping the caregivers of patients with AD – many of whom are stressed and depressed, isolated and afraid . Because of the overwhelming pressure of caring for someone with memory loss, caregivers are at risk for a host of health problems. It is not a path caregivers should walk alone, and surviving often depends on knowing your limits and asking for help.

I know firsthand that the caregiving experience can feel like an emotional, spiritual and physical assault – a journey that many people, unfortunately, face alone. That’s why it is so important to take several key steps if you are one of the many people undertaking this difficult, but brave job. Everyone knows CPR, but for caregivers I recommend BBR: Breathe, Believe, Receive.

• Breathe: You can’t take good care of others unless you take care of yourself. Caregivers sometimes need to slow down and prioritize their own needs in order to be in the best possible condition to care for their loved ones. We say “Take Your Oxygen First,” in fact, we wrote the book on it!

• Believe: Know that you can do it – and that your efforts will be enough. Believe that, while also challenged, others have achieved this before you, get strength from them and know that what you learn on your journey will also lift others.

• Receive: Everyone has limits, and there will be days when you feel that you just can’t do it anymore. That’s why it is so important to be surrounded by an encouraging community and explore the resources around you. Sometimes you need to stop achieving and start receiving.

Taking time to breathe, believe and receive is a great start to accepting strength and support.  Caregivers can find even more at, including tips and advice on coping and staying healthy, access to a new caregiver support program, and stories from fellow Alzheimer’s caregivers.

Larry has been a good friend and supporter of our message. He was kind enough to write the foreword for my book, “Take Your Oxygen First,” and many of those he serves through his cardiac foundation understand the caregiver struggle firsthand. Through his numerous interviews with leaders and advocates through the years, he has always focused the spotlight on ways to make it better. I thank him for the opportunity to share this message and introduce the new campaign.

I hope you will consider yourself an ambassador for “Stand Together for AD.” Every time we offer our understanding, we begin to change the reality for a caregiver who might be exhausted and depleted. We can help build an open and knowledgeable community that provides a way for all of us to offer strength and support. I believe caregivers are a national treasure. They deserve to be recognized as the heroes they are and to know that we can all march in lock step toward caring for the people who care for people. It makes life just a little bit easier each day for our noble and indispensable Alzheimer’s caregivers.

Filed under: Alzheimers • Leeza Gibbons • LKL Web Exclusive

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November 23, 2010

Operation Thriller: It All Started with a Conversation

Posted: 04:44 PM ET

USO photo by Mike Theiler

This series of LKL blog exclusives was written by five authors on their experiences from the recent USO tour ‘Operation Thriller’ in the Gulf to entertain our troops.

By Andy Harp

The USO “Operation Thriller” tour started with a conversation but ended up changing several lives.

Young Army Ranger James Webb enlisted in the military as soon after September 11th as he was able.  James served two combat tours in the mountains of Afghanistan.  I met James after a horrific motorcycle-truck wreck cost him the use of his leg and his Army career.  Actually, James would say that it cost him his Ranger career. As a former Marine I understood, at least to some degree, how devastating this had been for him.

I had just returned from New York and the International Thriller Writers’ annual Thrillerfest conference.  There, I had befriended such fellow novelists as Douglas Preston and Steve Berry.  Before saying goodbye to James Webb, on impulse I asked him a question:

“What would soldiers think of a USO tour with novelists – you know, like the creator of John Rambo?”

“Are you serious?”

“I think so.”  I couldn’t be sure whether David Morrell would commit to a tour, but I was curious to know if the rank-and-file interest for such a tour existed.

James Webb’s response was unequivocal. “Hell, yes,” he said. “We need a hero like everyone else.”

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Operation Thriller: Real Life 'Rambo'

Posted: 04:44 PM ET

USO photo by Mike Theiler

This series of LKL blog exclusives was written by five authors on their experiences from the recent USO tour ‘Operation Thriller’ in the Gulf to entertain our troops.

David Morrell
USO Authors’ Tour
Kuwait/Iraq 2010

“We joined the army because of your novel and the movie,” two wounded soldiers told me at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  The novel and movie they referred to are First Blood, in which the character of Rambo was created.

“Which means that I bear a responsibility for your being in this hospital,” I told them.

“Not at all,” they answered.  “Bad guys planted an IED that blew us up.  You didn’t do that.  We joined the military for the same reason Rambo did—to help our country.  We’re not as badly injured as some of the guys here. We leave the hospital in a couple of weeks, and we want to go back to our unit.”

Whatever I expected at the start of the first-ever USO authors’ tour, it wasn’t a conversation like that.  Our journey took us to bases in Kuwait and Iraq, where our group (the other authors were Steve Berry, Andy Harp, Douglas Preston, and James Rollins) emphasized that we wrote made-up action while the troops experienced the real thing, and all we could hope is that our inventions helped to distract them from reality.

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Operation Thriller: We Met the Real Heroes

Posted: 04:44 PM ET

USO photo by Mike Theiler

This series of LKL blog exclusives was written by five authors on their experiences from the recent USO tour ‘Operation Thriller’ in the Gulf to entertain our troops.

Douglas Preston
On Tour with the USO
Operation Thriller

The USO had never before in its history sent authors on tour. We were guinea pigs of a sort. I had my doubts it would work. Would the troops in Iraq enjoy meeting a tweedy, linguacious group of authors instead of, say, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, Jessica Simpson, or Kid Rock? And we couldn’t bring our books—the military had more important things to schlep around a war zone than crates of paperbacks.

Instead of going on stage before thousands, the USO wisely planned our tour to be different, friendlier, more personal. We mingled with the troops in small groups, at their places of work and recreation—the motor pool, fire stations, drone flight lines, bomb disposal units, mess halls and USO centers—to chat, thank them for their service, and answer their questions.

We were welcomed with tremendous warmth. I was surprised at how many had a strong interest in writing. The troops were full of questions on how to get published, how to find an agent and editor, and what the writing process was like. We urged them to write down their own stories, if not for publication, as least for their families, children, and grandchildren. “You are living history,” we said, “Write it down!” I spoke of my own grandfather who, at the age of 18, went off to drive an ambulance in France during World War I and kept a journal of his experiences. That journal is the most treasured heirloom in my family.

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Operation Thriller: There and Back Again

Posted: 04:44 PM ET

USO photo by Mike Theiler

This series of LKL blog exclusives was written by five authors on their experiences from the recent USO tour ‘Operation Thriller’ in the Gulf to entertain our troops.

by James Rollins

When I got the call asking if I’d be willing to participate in a tour of authors to the Persian Gulf, I immediately said yes.  Who wouldn’t want to give something back to the troops, even in this small way?  But after hanging up the phone, I was immediately plagued with questions.  Would anyone be interested in a group of thriller writers?  What exactly would be involved in the tour? I initially didn’t have much concern for safety issues.  I knew the USO paraded countless groups through various regions of conflict without mishap.

But then niggling worries began to arise, specifically following a checkpoint list we all received:

(1) Bring sunscreen

(2) Pack a camp towel

(3) Check with your doctor about vaccines and malaria preventatives

All well and good—until that list ended with a final ominous item:  Make sure your will is in order. Upon reading that, the concern among my family members (who were already uneasy) ratcheted up, but I reassured them that this was simply a precaution, nothing more.  But inwardly it raised a doubt:  what the heck am I getting myself into?

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Operation Thriller: The Images Remain Vivid

Posted: 04:43 PM ET

USO photo by Mike Theiler

This series of LKL blog exclusives was written by five authors on their experiences from the recent USO tour ‘Operation Thriller’ in the Gulf to entertain our troops.

By Steve Berry

The images remain vivid. The young translator from Sudan, now a U.S. citizen living in Minnesota; the one star general who taught at a small college; the corpsman who told me his mother had been a big fan of my work, but she’d died recently; the husbands and wives serving simultaneously in differing parts of the world, their children being temporarily raised by grandparents or siblings.

And the injured.

They were the most inspiring of all.

Lying in their beds, several with nearly half of their bodies gone, yet nothing voiced except optimism.   I visited 30 at Walter Reed Army and Bethesda Naval Hospitals.  I was told the first time you come for them.  The second time you return for yourself.

And I believe it.

I saw heroes.

Men who’d proudly performed their duty, now facing an unimaginable future with unflinching courage.   There was the corporal, minus his legs, who wanted to be a teacher; the medic, pierced by shrapnel, who might go on to medical school; the Marine with no lower extremities who still wants to repair cars.  All of them were young, barely into their twenties, their lives altered forever.

And one other thing.

Only one gunshot wound among them.

Bombs were their enemy.  IEDs.  Improvised explosive devices set in the sand, lying in wait for victims to draw close.  “A damn coward’s weapon,” one of them said.   I asked about regrets.  None had any.  Their wives, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers were the same.   Only positive thoughts.

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November 16, 2010

Larry King & Executive Producer Wendy Walker on LKL's Best Moments!

Posted: 07:31 AM ET


Filed under: LKL Web Exclusive

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November 10, 2010

LKL Web Exclusive: Jack Langguth

Posted: 11:19 PM ET
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November 5, 2010

Young Women Win in 2010

Posted: 09:06 AM ET

Susannah Wellford Shakow is the President and Founder of the nonprofit organization Running Start. She is also the founder of the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC) which supports young women of both parties running for office.  Here, she discusses the importance of young women running for political office.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Susannah Wellford Shakow.

It was the year of the woman (Round 2), then it was the year of the Republican woman, and now that the dust has cleared it looks like women will actually lose seats in Congress for the first time since 1979. But there is a glimmer of hope when we look at the youngest winning candidates.

In the under 40 set, only four young women won their Congressional races. But considering that only a handful ran, this is good news. I'm excited for the new young women entering Congress: Martha Roby from Alabama (34), Jaime Herrera from Washington state (32), Kristi Noem from South Dakota (38) and maybe even Ruth McClung (28!) who is still in a race too close to call in Arizona. And I am cheering the historic win of Nikki Haley (38) from South Carolina who is the first woman governor in a state that doesn’t often elect women. I'm disappointed, though, at the loss of one of the youngest women in Congress (Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (39) who ironically lost to Kristi Noem), and of the many inspiring young women candidates who lost their races Tuesday (Krystal Ball from Virginia (28), Heather Beaven from Florida (39), and Julie Lassa from Wisconsin (39) to name a few).

Why am I so interested in the young women candidates? Because I think they are the key to getting more women to run for office.

Young women don’t run. Ok, some clearly do, as you see above, but compared to men the numbers are paltry. It is common place for men to run young, their age hardly worth noting in the media unless they are also cute and single. For women, it is rare to run for Congress under the age of 40, and when women do they still face comments and press coverage related to their appearance and marital status, rather than the substance of their platform. In this election we saw attacks that went way too far. Look at Nikki Haley, with allegations that she slept with her campaign workers, or Krystal Ball who was pilloried over some harmless photos that ended up on Facebook. So maybe it is no wonder that young women so infrequently throw their hats into the political ring. But the result is that women run later in life than men, and this hurts women’s ability to rise to the highest levels of political power, since seniority still means political capitol in Congress.

These new young women entering Congress are our best hope to engage more women to run because they inspire the untapped women- the under 40 crowd.

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Filed under: LKL Web Exclusive • Women in Politics

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